How To Make Money On AirBnB: 7 Steps To “Overnight” Success For AirBnB Hosts

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I didn’t believe in “overnight” success until I learned how to make money on AirBnB. My wife and I have been AirBnB hosts for several years now. In fact, we just achieved SuperHost Status which we believe is reflection of our hospitality. When we first heard about the service, we were skeptical. I didn’t think we could make money on AirBnB with the space we had. So before we became AirBnB hosts, I decided to use it for a work trip. I loved my experience for several reasons:mark
  1. It was a lot cheaper than a hotel…by 50%.
  2. I got a chance to stay with real people in a real neighborhood as opposed to feeling like a tourist.
  3. My host treated me like family, offered to take me out, and told me where to go for great food and entertainment rather than relying solely on technology.

I was sold on the experience. And I was sold that we could make money on AirBnB. Once I got back home, my wife and I moved forward with converting our extra room into an AirBnB room.

Over the past few years, AirBnB has:

  • Helped us pay our mortgage.
  • Allowed us to take more time off when our daughter was born.
  • Expanded our friendships internationally. We particularly love Germans and German chocolate.

Here are the exact steps we took to become AirBnB hosts.

Step 1: Check the Legality of AirBnB in your city

In some cities, the laws around AirBnB and bed-and-breakfasts are grey. It’s important that you do research first before hosting. You’ll likely find that people in your city are already hosting regardless of the laws, but that doesn’t mean it’s legal.

In most cases, if you’re a homeowner, you’re okay.

If you are a renter seeking to rent your spot out when you are on work trips or vacations, there may be a clause in your rental agreement that says that you can’t sublease your apartment or have guests for certain amount of consecutive days.

All I’m saying is double-check before you become an AirBnB host.

Step 2: Creating An AirBnB Room

AirBnB allows hosts list 3 types of spaces:

  1. Entire place: This can range from a studio apartment with a bathroom and kitchen to a hotel style room with just a bed and bathroom.
  2. Private room: This can be any room in your space with a bed. The bathroom may be shared.
  3. Shared room: This is more like a hostel where there are multiple beds, perhaps bunk beds, in a room.

If you’re a homeowner, there are several ideal spaces to use for an AirBnB room:

  • An extra room on the first floor that you really haven’t found a good use for yet.
  • A room that was meant to be an office and now you’re just storing stuff in.
  • Your college-aged kids’ bedroom that just sits there empty with Barbie or Superman sheets.

Here are some spaces that you can convert to a private bedroom:

  • A converted garage that has been carpeted and insulated.
  • A converted basement that has it’s own private entrance.
  • A converted den that is in a secluded part of the house.

Step 3: Designing Your AirBnB Room

Once the room was empty, my wife and I were able to start designing. We thought about everything we would want in a space if we were traveling. A good idea is to look at other rooms listed on AirBnB and jot down things that catch your eye in the pictures or the description.
To begin with, we got the basics:
  • A comfortable queen bed. (brand new)
  • A queen plain white queen comforter. (Ikea)
  • Two 1500 thread count black queen sheet sets. (Amazon)
  • A desk and chair. (Ikea)
  • Four black towel sets. (Ikea)

From there, after watching lots of HGTV, we decided on a color scheme for the room. In our case, we went for black and white with a hint of dark yellow.

To bring that vision to life we got:

  • Two identical duvet sets that had a branches design on them.(Amazon) This matched the trees in our backyard. The set also came with matching sheets and pillow cases. We use duvets because they are easier to wash than washing a heavy comforter every time a guest leaves.
  • A yellow cube ottoman that we found at a thrift store that we used as the night stand. (used furniture store)
  • A matching yellow tray to add to the desk. (Ikea)
  • A matching yellow jar to put toiletries in in the bathroom. (Ikea)
  • A sticker set of tree branches to add to the wall (rather than painting) that matched the branches on the duvet.

In addition, we included:

  • A 30-inch flatscreen TV, TV stand, and basic antenna
  • A space heater for the Winter
  • An air conditioner and fan for the Summer
  • An iron and mini-ironing board
  • Hangers
  • A mini-refrigerator
  • A broom and dustpan

After getting several request from our first few guests, we added:

  • An umbrella
  • A European power converter
  • A hair dryer
  • A scale to weigh luggage
  • A roller for lent and hair

Step 4: Listing Your AirBnB Room

Naming: You have to name your room on the AirBnB platform and you only get 35 characters to do so. This is the name that comes up in the listings when someone searches for a room in your city. Your room name should communicate the amenities (i.e. Private 1BR+1BR), the greatest feature (i.e. Near Subway, Near Beach, Near Nightlife, Near Stadium, Gorgeous View, Rooftop, Spacious, Sunlit), and the neighborhood (Bed-Stuy, South Beach, etc.). The cover photo you use should align with the name you choose.
Photos: This is the most important element when you initially list your room. Once your space is ready to go, AirBnB will send a professional photographer to your home for free to take high quality photos of the room. Until then, do your best using a digital camera and interesting angles. The more pictures the better. The higher quality pictures, the more booking. When an AirBnB photographer takes pictures, those images are watermarked as “Verified by AirBnB.” This lets the guest know that the pictures are accurate.
Description: Your description should have a short overview paragraph that captures the essence of the room. The first 6 lines of this paragraph will appear on the room’s AirBnB page. Many people don’t click the “+ More” link, so you need to say what you need to say in 2-3 sentences. I like to use this space to clarify exactly what they are getting, for example:

A sunny, clean and quiet private bedroom and bathroom suite in a convenient location in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. It includes a queen size bed, desk, plenty of closet space, and your own keyed entrance. It’s only a 2 minute walk from the A & C trains. You’ll be on the top floor with lots of natural sunlight & a clean bathroom.

You should also clarify, what else they may have access to beyond the room such as your backyard, parking, the swimming pool, or the laundry room.
Share what the interaction with you will be like. Will it be hands on or hands off? Will they see you daily or not at all? Are you a talker or not? Will you show them around? Will you invite them to dinner? You aren’t obligated to do any of these things, but some of them may set you apart based on what the guest is looking for.
You can also talk about the neighborhood. I like to list the essentials like grocery store, pharmacy, gas station, restaurants, etc and how many block they are away from the home, so that they get a sense of how close the things they may need during their trip are to them. Also specify what kind of transportation is available if any, so they have an accurate expectation of how mobile they will be.
Pricing: You can set daily, weekend, weekly, and monthly pricing for your room. The best way to figure out a good price is to look at “comps” in your neighborhood just like realtors do when selling homes. What are the other 1BR+1BAs going for within a 5 mile radius of you? When you’re just starting out, you want to start lower than similar rooms and over time you can increase the price when you have a substantial amount of reviews.
Guidebook: AirBnB allows you to create a Guidebook for your neighborhood. Before this feature existed, I created a Google Map of all of the attractions, monuments, restaurants, etc for my guests. I even print it out for them as their own little personal map when they arrive. This is great because then they know they aren’t staying in the middle of nowhere. They know that things are around that they can get to.

Step 5: Marketing Your AirBnB Room

You will naturally start to appear in AirBnB search results if your room is available in a particular city on a certain date. But there are other things that you can do to enhance the ranking and click through rate of your room.

After you get your first few bookings, the #1 thing that matters is reviews, reviews, reviews.

Getting reviews from guests will boost your bookings. The best way to do this is to ask them to review you when they check-out. 24 hours after they check-out, AirBnB will ask you to review them and them to review you. If you review them and they don’t review you back after a few days, you can send them a reminder message.

The stars they give you and the words they write about you matter to future guests. Guests aren’t required to write reviews, but AirBnB does a good job to encourage them to because it helps future guests make better decisions.

One strategy to get lots of review quickly is to reduce their minimum stay to one night and have a low price. Once 5 guests experience you over the course of a few weeks and you get great reviews from them, then you start to inch up your price to the market rate.

Prior to getting your first booking, you can improve your marketing by doing the following:
  • Add a great and fun profile picture along with a nice description of who you are, what you’re passionate about, and how much you love people.
  • I already mentioned this before, but schedule a free AirBnB professionally photographer to photograph your space. It takes a few days to schedule and a few days for them to upload the new photos to your account.
  • In the “Trust and Verification” portion of your profile, link your Facebook account to your AirBnB account. This offers social proof because it shows how many Facebook friends you have and it shows if you have a Facebook friend in common with a potential guest.
  • When you’re just starting our, get references from friends who have used AirBnB as hosts or guests to vouch for you and your hospitality. If you’ve linked your Facebook account, AirBnB will show you which of your Facebook friends are already using AirBnB and you can send them a reference request.
  • Verify your email address and phone number. These won’t show publicly, but the fact that they have been verified lets people know that you’re real.
  • You can also link your Google+ and LinkedIn accounts.
  • Once your personal profile and room profile are ready, AirBnB has buttons on the listing that make it easy for you to share via Facebook, Twitter, email, or Google+. Use that to get the word out among friends that you have a room available. When people’s family’s come into town, they will trust them staying with someone they know versus a stranger.

When someone inquires:

  • Before you accept, ask them “What’s the purpose of your trip?” and “Who are your guests?”
  • If they don’t have a profile picture, ask them to add one so that you know who they are when they arrive.
  • Once you’re comfortable with who they are, go ahead and accept the reservation.

Step 6: Hosting Your AirBnB Guests

Before becoming AirBnB hosts, we loved hosting. We would have potluck dinners at home. Once we became homeowners, we finally had the opportunity to host people overnight–not just for meals.
Before the guest arrives: 
  • Thank them for booking with you. They could have chose to stay anywhere and they chose to stay with you. Be grateful and express that gratitude.
  • Setup your AirBnB confirmation email to include directions from the airport via car or public transportation, taxi cab phone numbers, and instructions to get into your home.
  • Ask them what time their flight lands so that you can get an estimate of the time they will get your house and you can make arrangements to make sure someone is there to greet them.
  • If you’re not going to be home, give them instructions for a MasterLock Lock Box.
  • Ask them if they have any questions as their arrival date approaches.
  • Provide them with water, snacks, and fruit in case they happen to come in late and end up hungry.
  • Make arrangements for early checkin if their flight lands before 4pm.
When they are there:
  • Greet them with a smile.
  • Carry their luggage to their room.
  • Give them a tour of the room and the home.
  • Show them how to use the keys to the front door and their room door.
  • Show them a map of the neighborhood so they know how to get to important places.
  • Give them the internet code and your phone number.
When it’s time to leave:
  • Give them a heads up about the check-out time the day/night before.
  • Let them know where to leave the keys when they checkout.
  • Make arrangements for late checkout if their flight leaves after noon.
After they leave:
  • Write a review.
  • Follow up to thank them and remind them to write a review.
  • Read their public and private feedback and make adjustments accordingly.

Step 7: Cleaning Your AirBnB Room

AirBnB allows hosts to add a cleaning fee to your reservations. We want our guests to have a hotel-quality experience and cleanliness, so we outsource our cleaning to professional cleaning service such as MyClean.com, Handy.com, or Proprly. Rather than try to clean the room ourselves and pocket that money for our time, we just charge enough to cover the cost of a professional cleaning service. This is also our way of serving our guests at the highest level and creating jobs. We provide the supplies and they come at scheduled times around our guests’ checkout times.
The cleaning service has it’s own checklist, be we created our own specifically for the room as well to cover the nooks and crannies in the room where dust may collect, etc. In terms of cleaning supplies, we provide Ajax, Comet, Swifter for the floors, and What-EVER from Shark Tank.
We send the duvet, sheets, pillow cases, towels, and rags off to a pay-per-pound laundry service. Since we have a little one at home, we prefer not to mix guests’ linens and towels with our own, so we don’t use our personal washer and dryer. We have two or three of everything in case another guest is arriving the same day one checks out, so everything is in rotation.

Other Things To Consider As An AirBnB Host

  • Use AirBnB’s calendar system to decrease prices by 25-40% during Winter months when less people travel.
  • Create a general email template for initial inquiries and reviews and customize them accordingly.
  • Ask why people chose not to stay with you. This will give you vital information about what you’re missing.
  • Respond to inquiries and messages quickly. Seekers are in decision-making mode and AirBnB tracks this.
  • Grab your unused soap bars, shampoos, and conditioners when you travel to provide to your guests.
That’s it for now.
Good luck making money on AirBnB and becoming an “overnight” success (pun intended).