We made $5,985.38 renting out our two-bedroom aparmtent on our last vacation.
This post is how anyone and everyone should try to rent out their house on Airbnb (or Homeaway) while they travel. We both plan our travel during peak weeks ($3,939.17 of that was from the event SXSW alone) and we try to rent out our home when we know we’re going to be gone.
People often are concerned about the same things or have the same objections to renting out their own home (for which we have basic answers):
- “I have too much valuable stuff in my home.”
- “I’m worried about partiers / bad people.”
Then there are problems you might not have thought of for which we already have solutions:
- Why you need to have multiple reservations throughout your vacation (and therefore a cleaner and our automated system).
- How to strategize your travels and bookings.
We’ll go over all details of renting out your place, but if you need more detailed info, check out our Complete Guide To Making Money On Airbnb.
Why Not Doing This Is Absolutely Crazy
To me, it is crazy how many people scoff at renting out their home – which involves no work whatsoever… Yet, they’ll spend hours going from WalMart to WalMart to buy gift cards just to earn miles to hopefully find award availability with low fees – all that to get a flight that Norwegian is selling for $200 all-in.
I personally would rather make $4,000 in one week doing nothing than have to stand in the money-order line anywhere.
But the real crazy part to me is that this unwillingness to try it once isn’t just giving up thousands of dollars one time… It could be giving up thousands of dollars every year.
Let’s assume there is some event or peak weekend in your town that could make you ~$4,000 in a week (some places more, some places less), or even half, $2,000. If you do that every year for the next 10 years (-Airbnb demand is growing, btw-), that’s $20,000.
Or for me, $40,000.
Like… you’d really trade finding out the potential of making $40,000 because you don’t want a stranger using your home when you’re not there?
Yes, we still lock up our valuables in a closet (with a $10 deadbolt), and use basic screening (which I’ll talk about). But the one-time we had something break because of a guest, Airbnb paid us for the full cost of the repair guy (a reason not to fix things yourself) and for the canceled reservation caused by the repair (even though the week got rebooked).
We’ve never had any personal loss and we made $6k on our last vacation alone, and I definitely plan to be doing this in 10 years.
Because, as I discussed in our Guide To Making Money On Airbnb, nearly the entire process is automated.
And guess what? $6k can buy you a new set of sheets. Heck it can replace your TV (even though insurance would as well).
A Profitable Vacation
We spent the last 24 days in Mexico City for the majority of it, New York (briefly), and New Orleans. All together we spent something like $400 in flights, a good 50,000 points, and close to $1,000 in lodging.
I doubt we spent more than $1,000 in food (and Mexico City food is amazing).
And our rent is $1,600.
We probably spent a little over $3,000 and made $6,000.
People around here are trying to figure out how to get their travel expenses to as close to $0 as possible, and we’re making money on vacation.
- Buy a deadbolt. We dedicated a walk-in closet to stuff we are protective of. Documents, a laptop, cards, and that’s really it. We didn’t always do this, and haven’t had problems with any of our stuff… But the deadbolt was $10.
- Settings for accepting guests:
- We only accept people with a verified id.
- We sometimes have our setting set to only accept people with positive reviews from other hosts. For those of you who are paranoid, that might be a “must”. However, if you’re in a slower time, it might help to be one of those who instant-approve new guests.
- Set a 3 day minimum. Most partiers are booking 1 night stays.
Strategies For Planning Travel Around Bookings
Ideas For Finding Big Events
- Check average Airbnb prices for each major event in your area.
- Check event calendars to do so, but know that most people book within 30 days.
- Join a Facebook group for your local airbnb hosts and ask.
- Find a friend who lists on Airbnb and ask which are the big weekends and if there’s anything booked way in advance.
Many people think the town they live in won’t do well. But just list it and find out. It costs you nothing.
To me, the most important part is indeed being in a place that will sell out. But that could be a small town with one event and no place to stay! It happens all the time.
And the second most important thing is having a clean house in good condition. If people are going to complain that your house isn’t clean or in good condition, take the time to really clean your house, especially before a stay.
If you do have any issues, be very transparent. We are overly transparent in our listings so no one is surprised. But if you have issues with essentials (heat, plumbing, cleanliness), people will complain regardless. you shouldn’t rent out your house if someone can’t be comfortable there.
1) Only keep your calendar open for dates when you’re available and wanting to leave.
Only have off a week in July? That’s okay, list your place and open up the calendar in a time you can take a vacation.
2) List your place when you’re going to be on vacation at a relatively low price.
Already have a vacation planned? Perfect, just price it to get booked during your days of travel.
My pricing philosophy to get the most amount of money is to be the lowest price in my area and house type (i.e. 2 bedroom vs 4 bedroom) one month out. Most bookings are made within 30 days of arrival. If you’re frequently booked earlier than that, your prices are too low.
But often waiting til the last week to lower your prices means missing out.
Rule of thumb is that the bigger the place, the further in advance people book. If you have a 5 bedroom, you might want to be the lowest price in your area 3 months out. Depends on demand and your market.
3) Keep your prices high, and only leave if you get a booking.
Our personal place can often get booked for $299 a night in spring because Austin is so busy.
If you’re not sure it’s worth it, set your prices high enough that you’re happy with the amount.
There are two problems problem with this strategy.
First, few people book places at really high prices for a week-long stay (unless it’s SXSW). Most of the time it’s a weekend booking. But maybe it’s a good chance to get paid to take the family to the beach or whatever.
Second, most high bookings are last minute bookings. That’s fine with me because I only keep my calendar open during times that make sense for us to travel. Usually, Airbnb just determines what date we leave on.
However, this is a strategy for picking your travel date, and not filling in your travel dates with bookings. For that you don’t want the large chance no one will book, and you want to be the cheapest.
4) You can put your house on request only, see how much money you’d make, and then decide.
Personally, we keep all of our places on instant-book- I think most people prefer it or are filtering by it.
However, for those of you using strategy #3 of keeping your house at a high rate, you might not want to get kicked out last minute. Put it on request and decide once you see the booking.
I wouldn’t just leave dates open that you know you don’t want booked, because your approval rating and response rate may affect your search ranking.
Again, if your strategy is to fill in dates you know you’re going to be gone, go ahead and put it on instant-book to increase your chances of getting a booking. You can always use basic filters to make sure you get a real person with positive reviews. What else would you be screening for?
Automating Everything While You’re Gone
We wrote a giant section in our Guide To Making Money On Airbnb on automating everything, including pricing, messages, check-in/out, and cleaning. This is super helpful for us when we’re in remote areas or in different time zones.
Check that post for details, but I’ll give a small summary here.
The most important part (besides the electronic deadbolt) is a competent cleaner who has your schedule and door code.
We found our cleaners on Craigslist and tested every one out when we were here to see the work. Although an interview goes a long way. My big take away here is that if they don’t have their own supplies, skip!
Also, try asking on your local facebook group for Airbnb hosts. Most big cities have one and cleaners will promote on there.
This is also important because it is way easier to get multiple 3-night bookings than it is to get someone to book your entire trip length. (If you’re leaving for 3 weeks, don’t expect someone to magically want to book 3 weeks in your place.)
I love this deadbolt. Love it. I wouldn’t live in a house without it. I love going on a jog and not taking a key.
But it certainly also makes everything possible for cleaners and check-ins.
As a guest, I also hate having to meet people to get a key on Airbnb. So many times that person is late or there’s a miscommunication.
We use a tool called YourPorter app to send messages after booking, before checkin, and before checkout.
For more details see the bigger Airbnb post.
We include anything someone might want to know, including check-in details and code.
This app also allows you to text your cleaner a schedule ahead of time.
Conclusion / My Opinion
My opinion is that as long as you can take the time away from work, you should open up your Airbnb calendar. If you’re flexible enough, have the entire year open at $299 a night and leave if it gets booked.
SkyScanner.com has a great feature where you can search flights from your city to “everywhere” on specific dates and it will show you the cheapest roundtrip flights. From Austin there are often weekends with super cheap flights to New Orleans, Denver, Vegas, Cancun, etc… I can search for flights to everywhere for the dates I need to be out of my house and it will tell me the cheapest flight options.
Or you can use miles to get anywhere and look for a hotel deal (read: 9 ways to get Hotel Deals).
Really, it’s a chance to get away to wherever you want to go and make money while you’re gone.
As those of you who have been following us for years now, when we traveled full-time without a home base, we were able to spend under $700 a month on luxury hotels using the tricks I post about on this site.
Now that we “live” somewhere and have a lease, we made about $4,000 profit in the 24 days we were gone in March (that’s $6,000 minus our rent, utilities, and paying the cleaner).
We’re using this new Airbnb knowledge as an added skill to the hotel deal tricks we use while traveling full-time. Now, traveling is not just cheap or free… It’s profitable.
And again, there’s no reason not to list your house. Just list it and put your prices high for now, or close off all dates except your vacation.
And if you signup and list now, use our link here. 😉