One of the most popular ways to make some extra side income right now is hosting a space on Airbnb. For those who are not familiar, Airbnb allows people to book stays at your home or spare space as opposed to booking a hotel or hostel.
I have, personally, used Airbnb extensively as both a guest and a host. It is my preferred way to travel, and I would always choose an Airbnb over a chain hotel. I find the locations to be a lot better, and the little touches the host puts into the space are wonderful.
Every day, more people are learning about this travel method and jumping on the bandwagon. So, if your question is how can you make money with this short term rental opportunity? As a host (and even a super host) I will show you the exact steps I followed to maximize my earnings.
Before we get into the earnings, let me tell you a bit more about my space and why I got into Airbnb hosting. Earlier this year, I ended up making my first real estate purchase. It is a 3 family property that has a main house and two apartments around back. The main house, which I occupy, is around 2,000 ft2 with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.
After I moved in, I realized how little I was actually using most of the space seeing as I lived there alone. The third-floor attic is completely finished, so that is where I spend most of my time. The master bedroom was, for the most part, not being used.
What a lot of people don't realize is that you can rent a bedroom in your home or apartment (assuming your landlord allows as a renter) as a private room. Since I own my house, I gave myself permission to do so. My Airbnb guests would have private use of the master bedroom as well as the master bathroom. I would occupy the third floor finished attic and use the first-floor bathroom.
You don't need to have a totally separate space or apartment to list your space. There are some spaces that you will share, like the kitchen for example, but you specify this in your listing. These private room listings are often cheaper than renting an entire place, so they are quite popular.
Superhost: The Holy Grail
The first step to maximizing your earnings is to become a superhost on Airbnb. Being a superhost carries many benefits, the most important being the badge. A large number of those who book stays on Airbnb exclusively book with superhosts. There is a filter you can add to your searches that will only show places available from this type of host. According to Airbnb, “superhosts are experienced hosts who provide a shining example for other hosts, and extraordinary experiences for their guests.”
So, how can you provide extraordinary experiences for your guests? Becoming a superhost is essential to maximizing your income, and I was able to do it in under a month. I listed my private room on Airbnb in August of 2019, and after I had 15 guests and a dozen 5-star reviews I received the official badge. Almost immediately, I saw an increase in my bookings.
To become a superhost, you need to provide exceptional experiences for your guests. Having stayed at dozens of places as a guest before, I knew what I liked and what I did not like about these places. Since I had done the research already, I was able to hit the ground running with my private room and fast track my way to superhost status. Here's what I did…
1. Phone Chargers
Here's the easiest way to be an exceptional host. What is the one thing that none of us can live without in the 21st century: cell phones. That being said, what is the most annoying thing to forget at home? Your cell phone charger. Get a basket, a few power bricks and the three most common cell phone charging cables out there. This will end up costing you around $50, but it is well worth it.
The most common charging cables (and power brick to charge it with) are:
- USB Wall Charger (power brick) with two USB plugs
- iPhone Lightning Cable
- USB-C cable for Android and other phones
- USB Outlet for replacing existing outlets with one that offers USB power
I put a guest book inside my private room, which is something I recommend doing as well, and one of the most common messages from guests was, “The cell phone charger saved the day!” If you can give your guests a sigh of relief by making their lives easier, you are an exceptional host.
2. Toiletries (And not just shampoo!)
Most places have the bare essentials, meaning toilet paper and maybe a bottle of shampoo or conditioner. I decided to take this a step further by supplying my guests with an array of different toiletries.
The funny thing I noticed is that most of the time these items went unused. However, that does not mean they went unappreciated! Throughout my reviews, the vast assortment of toiletries was mentioned numerous times!
Here's what I included…
- Miniature toothpaste tubes
- Extra toothbrushes
- Q Tips in a glass jar
- Floss sticks
- Bic razors
- Mini deodorants
- Body wash</li>
- Shampoo & Conditioner
- Mini mouthwash bottle
- Feminine products
The initial stock cost me about $50.
I went to Target and bought an assortment of different toiletries and duplicates which I stored in the hall closet. Part of my standard cleaning procedure between guests involved checking the inventory of the toiletries left out. Surprisingly, very few used the products. Even so, it is nice knowing that they’re there if they need them!
3. Light Snacks & Water
The next thing I did to set myself apart was providing guests with light snacks and water. For me, this was Nature Valley granola bars (in assorted flavors) as well as bottled water and a candy jar. I can't tell you how many times I have shown up to an Airbnb as a guest after a long day of traveling totally starving. Most of the time, I would find the fridge and cabinets to be completely empty! What a letdown.
The granola bars cost me around $2.50 a box, and a case of water was $4. The candy jar was over the top, but it is an option if you are trying to put it over the top. I would leave out two bottles of water and two granola bars. Total cost? $1.16! Not to mention, just like with the toiletries, guests often did not take them!
4. Professional Photography
This is an absolute must for maximizing your earnings. Nothing sells a listing like professional photography. You may think that you can do it yourself, but unless you have experience with photography, I would recommend hiring a professional. For my listing, this ended up costing me $100.
Here's the thing though, most people on Airbnb are not going to take this seriously. They will take dimly lit photos with their cell phones and have so-so listings.
In contrast, you will have a glowing listing with beautiful images of your space. Your listing will automatically look better! It is just like trying to sell a house; some people will always make the unfortunate mistake of taking the photos themselves to save a few bucks.
5. Clear Check-In Instructions
Do you know what is really frustrating? When you finally show up at your Airbnb after a long day of traveling and on top of fumbling around with your luggage, you can't figure out how to get inside. Maybe there are two entrances or multiple apartments on the property!
For example, I just recently stayed at a place in Seattle. The check-in instructions told me to enter the code “0429” to get my key to enter the building. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. As soon as I got to the door, I found that there was not 1, but 5 lockboxes affixed to the outside of this building. I had to put my luggage down and start fumbling with all the lockboxes trying the code. After my third attempt, I found my box. Something as simple as labeling the box or putting a sticker on it and mentioning it in the check-in instructions would have made that experience so much better!
Here's what I recommend doing. Write your check-in instructions as clearly as possible. Then, ask your friend to come over and follow those instructions to check-in. Your guests may not even tell you about these little annoyances, but these issues could ultimately lead to them leaving no review or anything less than 5 stars.
6. High-Quality Linens
One area where you do not want to be cheap is your linens. Now, I will say this, one area where I went wrong with my Airbnb listing was towels. I ended up purchasing high-quality Egyptian Cotton oversized bath towels. The guests loved them, but the laundering became a huge bottleneck in my operation. It would take two drying cycles to dry the towels (not good for turnover)!
I ended up going with some quick-dry towels that I purchased on Amazon. While you don't need to go for the most luxurious sheets and towels, the bedding that you have had for the last 10 years isn't gonna cut it.
I recommend spending about $50 on a sheet set and purchasing a duplicate. That way, when you clean the place between guests, you always have a clean set ready to go on the bed. Some hosts recommend only using white like hotels, as it is easy for guests to tell whether or not they have been cleaned.
7. Politely Asking For Reviews
Your Airbnb should include some kind of welcome letter that introduces yourself and gives them your contact info and other necessary information like the Wi-Fi details. At the bottom of my welcome letter, in bold font, I also wrote: “I am brand new to Airbnb, so reviews are very much appreciated!” Now there is no way to prove this, but I believe that simply asking people to write a review in a nice way resulted in more reviews.
Superhosts must maintain an overall rating of 4.8 or better, so positive reviews are a must.
8. Guest Book
Another thing I left next to the welcome letter was a guest book. This allowed guests to share things with me that they may not have shared otherwise. For example, one of the guests mentioned that the door did not have a lock, and this made them a little uncomfortable. My Airbnb was a private room, which was part of the house where I lived as well. A lock on the door for guests was very logical, so that day I installed one. Little tweaks like this constantly improve the listing and provide a better experience for the guests.
9. Use Smart Pricing
Unless you have a very unique place, you should enable Smart Pricing to maximize your earnings. Be warned, however, that this will also maximize your occupancy. This may be good or bad, depending on whether or not you are looking to host full time or part-time.
Smart Pricing is a feature that automatically adjusts the price for your listing based on the demand in your area. When demand is lower, the price drops. When demand is higher, the price goes up. You simply set a minimum price and a maximum. Airbnb will also give you recommendations on what that minimum and maximum price should be based on similar listings in your area. Maximum earnings will result from high occupancy, and that is accomplished with Smart Pricing.
Airbnb has data on millions of listings; thousands of which could be right in your area. Trust me when I say this, they know exactly how to price your listing.
It was a Thursday night in August, and I was putting the finishing touches on my Airbnb listing. I found that I was both nervous and excited at the same time. I was excited to see who would be booking my place and coming to my home. On the other hand, I was nervous because I did not know what it would be like having a stranger sharing my home with me.
My first guest was what I call a “ghost guest.” This is someone who comes in late at night and leaves early in the morning, meaning you never see them! I set up my Airbnb with a door code, so the check-in process did not involve me at all.
Over the next few weeks, I had guests in and out like a revolving door.
I even had two guests who came into town for a concert, and they invited me to go with them because we were around the same age!
It seems like a lot of people have this irrational fear that guests are going to be disrespectful and trash your place. While I cannot speak for all guests out there, I did not experience anything close to this. I almost never had to do the dishes, as they would do them before leaving. Some of the guests even stripped the bed before they left to make it easier on me!
At the end of the stay, you review the guest and the guest reviews you. If someone trashed your place, you would give them a horrible review and it would be near impossible for them to book a stay again on Airbnb with that bad record. So, irrational fears aside, let's get into the earnings strategies!
It is important to remember that once you are a superhost, you have to keep up the good work to maintain that status. This includes having a low cancellation rate of 1% or less, an overall rating of 4.8 or higher and a response rate of 90% or higher.
By far, the two biggest things that affect your earnings are pricing and superhost status.
If you are providing an exceptional experience for guests as a superhost, and following the Smart Pricing, the earnings will follow. At the end of the day, making the most money simply comes down to providing the best possible experience for your guests.
Simply look around at what everyone else is doing and ask yourself, “How can I do better?”