Are you trying to think of creative ways to fund family travel? Have you considered renting your house on Airbnb, but are unsure? Learn more about our experience – the good, the bad, and some of our tips to make it work!
What drove us to rent our house on Airbnb?
Finding extra streams of income to pay for family travel can be tricky, but if you are determined you can find some creative ways! This was our situation last summer, and we were on a mission to find different ideas. While researching, we learned of a friend that had rented her house out on Airbnb while they were gone on vacations. It seemed like a pretty creative idea so we reached out to her to get insight and learn about their experience. She had been renting for 6 years and only had one bad experience. She gave us tips and told us she continues to do it because it allows them to travel more.
After that conversation, we were sold on the idea and were ready to try it out and see what would happen. Who would want to rent our house anyway?
How to get started with Airbnb?
Getting started was actually pretty easy, Airbnb makes it pretty painless to get started. The hardest part is getting all the content and pictures for your listing. Below are some general steps that we followed when we listed our house:
Below is a link below if you are interested in trying out hosting. This is how we started, we followed a link that redirected us to the Airbnb page, where you can start the listing process.
Next, you answer some basic questions… Home type, Room type (entire house or just a room), how many does your space accommodate, and what city is it located.
Account setup, basically here you need to create an Airbnb account. This is easy, you can use Facebook, Google, or your email to register.
After you are logged in, you have the option to add a user photo. We just added a family photo.
After that you have 3 steps left, First step: Provide basic information about the house; Beds, baths, amenities, and more. One thing we liked about this, is you could tell Airbnb that this was your primary residence and you are able to keep your things there.
Next, you need to add your photos and catchy descriptions for the page.
Last, you configure your booking settings. This is your available days, price, rules, fees, i.e. all that fun stuff.
Once you complete that you are ready to go, you request your property to be listed.
One thing that saved us a lot of time was all the photos. We had just bought our house, and had real estate photos that were still available online- score! So we used those initially (where relevant). When it came to coming up with descriptions, we honestly looked at other peoples listings that we liked or caught our eye to give us ideas.
Ready, Set, and Publish! What happened once it went live
We didn’t think we would get many bookings since we don’t live in a tourist destination.
We listed our house for a lot of dates to see if we got any bites.
Every Weekend in July: We figured if we got one or two bookings, those would be the weekends we would travel, and then we would close out the others.
First week of August: Previously we planned to go to California with family this week.
Thanksgiving week: We knew we wanted to take our family somewhere, so we listed it for the weekend before, week of, and weekend after Thanksgiving.
Christmas Break: Listed it the last two weeks of December, since we were going back to Utah for the holidays.
We finished the posting around 9-10pm one evening, the next day, we checked our email to find out that our house had been booked EVERY WEEKEND in July – in less than 12 hours! It wasn’t two days later that the entire first week of August and Thanksgiving week had been booked. Below are a couple of tips we learned after those two days.
List only the dates that you want to rent, in our case people booked all our dates overnight.
Make sure you price your house right, Airbnb has something called “Smart Pricing” make sure to use that 80% of the time, but if you know there are events in the area list your house higher.
Add a cleaning fee, so you don’t have to absorb the cleaning cost in the rental income.
After the quick realization that we were not going to have a house every weekend in July, we started planning. We planned trips to Utah, Arkansas, San Antonio, Austin, and a staycation at the Gaylord Texan hotel (which is a beautiful hotel).
How to prepare your house for your first guest(s)
There are many articles out there around preparing your house, Airbnb actually gives some pretty good articles (and rules). Here is what we found when preparing our house:
If you are renting your personal house, make sure you secure all of your belongings you might not want your guests to access. We did the this a couple of times by putting stuff in our garage and locking the garage. However, while staying in one Airbnb we noticed they put locks on specific closets and doors (on the outside). This was incredibly helpful, since we could stash our stuff inside. It also helped when cleaning in a hurry, we could throw stuff in the larger closets – making the cleaning much easier and faster.
Digital Door Locks
Digital Door locks, this was so helpful! You don’t want to deal with the hassle of keys, lock boxes, missing keys, and more. Having a digital door lock was great, we set up a pin for each customer that booked and only activated the code during their stay. Guests could go in and out, lock the doors, and worrying about a key was never an issue.
Smart Thermostats, this is a minor thing… but could save you some $$. In Texas, Summers are hot and your AC bill can be huge. Having a Smart Thermostat was really helpful. It allowed the guest to adjust the thermostat while in the house, but if they left (or went to bed) it would automatically adjust to the preconfigured energy saver preferences. The last thing you want is your AC running at full blast for a week, because your renters set it to 63 F!!
Bedding & Towels
Bedding / Towels, as much as we love our guests we really don’t love them enough to let them use our personal towels, bedding, and pillows. However, we didn’t want to break the bank buying new stuff. So we looked on Facebook marketplace, and found some great deals. This was a huge time saver, every time we had a guest we put our stuff in a closet that we locked and put the new bedding on and guest towels out.
Cleaning can get expensive. Initially we hired someone to deep clean the house before the first guest, then we worked to maintain it during the summer weeks. On each Friday morning prior to our guests arrival, we cleaned the house ourselves. While you can charge a cleaning fee, often times it doesn’t fully cover the costs of cleaning. For example our cleaners charge us $300 to clean a 2700 sq house. We don’t feel we can charge that to our renters. We charge $75 and pay for a deep clean once in a while and do the rest ourselves.
Our experience after several guests
We were very nervous with our first guest. We have a doorbell cam so we could see when they arrived and left. However, after coming home and inspecting the house, we discovered everything was perfect.
We have now rented out our house about 13 times, and have only had one semi bad experience where a guest smoked outside (when are listing was non-smoking). After that guest, we updated the listing to be more clear around the smoking policy and haven’t had an issue since.
When setting up your listing, you provide Airbnb the account information of where the money should be sent. The first money transfer takes a few days longer, but we got ours within two days of the person checking out. After that, we typically get our money a few days after the guest checks in to our house.
In the US, if you rent your house more than 2 weeks a year, you will get a 1099 from Airbnb. Be sure to keep track of any expenses you might incur when renting out your house (i.e. cleaning) as you can use them during tax season. We typically write off our security system, internet, Netflix, partial electricity for the months and/or weeks we rent.
In summary, are we glad we did it? Yes, it’s allows us to fund our hotels/Airbnb stays. There are annoying things like getting your house ready, but in the end it is worth it for us.
Below are links to articles that might be helpful when evaluating hosting. It will given you some ideas of what to do before you list your house. If you haven’t tried Airbnb as a guest here is a link to get you $40 off your first stay! We love it because it gives our family space, a kitchen, and more.