Want to Make Money as an AirBnb Host? Here’s What You Need to Know

Thinking about becoming an AirBnb host? A superhost shares the scoop about the costs setting up your place, figuring out your price, and how to make money with your space!

The 411 About Making Money as an Airbnb Host

One of the big shifts we've had during this pandemic is how we travel.

We've pretty much gone with renting entire spaces on Airbnb if we're doing a family vacation or getaway so far, it's been a really good experience. The value we get from having a place with a kitchen and yard has been a game changer.

Now the personal finance side of me was looking around and. How profitable was it being an Airbnb host? Also how much work was involved as a guest?

Most of our hosts had wonderful local recommendations, and if we needed anything, there were only a text away, but pretty much they were hands off.

It almost seems like the perfect passive income stream, but is that really. What's going on behind the scenes. I wanted to find out and I discovered I didn't have to venture very far.

During our last trip to Asheville we went out to meet up with some good friends we hadn't seen in a while.

While we were catching up with Barb and Don, I discovered she was an Airbnb host.

Knowing her hospitality, I had a sense that she was a natural candidate for hosting . Airbnb also agrees because she's listed as a Superhost. In case you're not familiar with the term. It means she's experienced highly rated and committed to providing great stays for her guests.

I'm happy to have Barb on the show today to share her story about becoming a host.

In this episode, we get into:

  •  setting her place up, 
  • figuring out prices, and 
  • making her guests’ stays fun and relaxing. 

We have some fantastic tips and even better stories so let’s get started! 

Resources for Managing Your Money and Becoming an AirBnb Host

If you want to chat some more about creating better money habits, questions, or share your own tips please join us over at Thriving Families on Facebook.

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The Rewards and Risk of AirBnb Hosting

Elle Martinez: How long have you been an Airbnb host?

Barb Kelly: Let's see, this summer will be two years.

Elle Martinez: Okay. Nice.

Barb Kelly: Yeah. We ended up doing that because we were living in a little cabin in a really nice little neighborhood, but it's very scenic.

It's was a safe, good neighborhood with awesome neighbors. We built a smaller house in the same town, but we needed to downsize and get away from stairs and a steep slope.

We ended up having this little cabin afterwards and we're trying to figure out, should we sell it now? The market wasn't terrific. I came up with the idea of Airbnb, because I had been seeing, what everybody else sees, ‘oh, you can make extra money' and we're on a fixed income.

Extra money is always a plus if you don't have to kill yourself doing it. Anyway so I looked into it, my husband's like, ‘I don't know about this. You hate people'.

And I really don't hate people, but I just don't like to get involved in any kind of drama so I wasn't sure how that was going to work out.

I started to research it a little bit and I thought, well, we actually have the perfect setup for it. As long as I wouldn't have to really deal with people, face-to-face a whole lot. I mean, of course I would be available if they needed me. I spoke to him about it and he's like, well, as long as I have to do anything, he has his own stuff.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, so he didn't veto it.

Earning Money Through AirBnb

Barb Kelly: Yeah. I said, well, let's just try it. If we try it for a couple months and it completely stinks. I mean, we're not signing any kind of contract or anything. We can quit at anytime that we want to.

I guess it'll be two years ago this June. It was actually right after we moved. We had not taken all of our furniture with us because we were downsizing.

I thought, ‘oh man, I'm going to have to sell this furniture, get rid of it or do something. When I thought about the Airbnb, I was like, oh, I'll get a pass for a little bit. I won't have to move any of this stuff so it worked out good.

It's a two bedroom, two bath cabin that is entirely on one floor. It has a open concept of a living room kitchen. It has a huge front porch that goes the length of the house that has an, you know, really nice views and it's very quiet.

I just went on Airbnb and read everything I could possibly read and then I looked up everything that I could find about. What's the worst thing that could happen, which is usually my criteria.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, that's good to know. Yeah.

Setting Up a Place on AirBnb

Barb Kelly: be. I want to know what is the worst thing that can happen to me? So I can be prepared, but we listed it on Airbnb and I'm immediately like the whole Summerfield up because we are in an area that has a lot of tourists.

We have a tiny little motel that has like six rooms and the rest of everything in the entire two counties is Airbnbs so I thought, Oh, man, I'm not even gonna make it. Nobody's going to be interested in this.

And I didn't try to oversell it. I didn't say, oh, it's got two twin beds, but you can sleep 12 people. You know, like some of this stuff is ridiculous.

Elle Martinez: Yeah.

Barb Kelly: four people can sleep great and there is a queen size air bed, but I'm just telling you the truth,

Elle Martinez: It's appreciated, as a family that's embraced in Airbnb, we've done them before, but in the pandemic really, that's how we've been taking our vacations.

I appreciate it because sometimes I'll see these and they're beautiful photos, so kudos to the photographer, but I don't know what kind of special lens they use, but I get there.

Huh there's the wall. It just, it felt so great. Then when you have two kids, I'm looking for space and I don't mind paying for that because I just need to have them decompress and relax.

Barb Kelly: Yeah, and you don't want to have to blow up the air bed every single time. Or you don't want to have one with a slow leak in it and the kids are complaining in the morning that they were cold and slept flat on the floor.

I think too, because we like to travel and so we have stayed in Airbnbs and whatever the name they're called all over the world. So we've stayed in enough to know what not to do.

Elle Martinez: Yeah.

Barb Kelly: Like I don't want to take a shower outside unless it's something I specifically asked for, you know, I would go to hip camp if that was the case.

I guess that's the other thing having stayed in the number from really super nice, to just super simple and traveling with other people, you really do want to have a real firm idea of what you're getting, because one place we stayed in Italy, the two bedrooms. They were big and everything, but they were so low. It was like a loft, but it wasn't, it wasn't advertised as a loft. And I got a six foot, three husband that kept banging his head up against the ceiling every time he got up

Elle Martinez: Let's see that makes a memorable trip. Just the wrong reason.

Barb Kelly: Yeah. Or you want to know a place that has really tiny narrow steps or a spiral staircase or whatever, because, you want to know what you're getting. A lot of times I've seen that it's kind of buffed up to look better than it is. And I don't like that.

I rather people come in and Look at it and it's actually better than they thought it was going to be. That's where really good reviews come in so that's, that's kind of the angle I'm going for you get more than you paid for.

Elle Martinez: So kind of rewinding back to when you were first starting, what were your initial goals like? Was this money for maybe your vacations or did you have a particular goal or were you very let's just wait and see, I don't want to budget that money out yet?

Barb Kelly: Like I said, we built a smaller house and so, but that gave us a mortgage so when we did the Airbnb we could pay the mortgage with the Airbnb money.

It wasn't coming out of savings or it wasn't requiring one of us to get a, you know, a full-time job or something like that or go into money that we didn't want to mess with.

But we weren't sure how much it was going to be or how much it was going to cost us to do it. Those were all kind of out there. It was just one of those things where you just had to just jump in there and try it and see how it worked out.

We got through with that.

Elle Martinez: That leads into my next question because yeah, I can see some people say, Hey, you know, I can rent out this room. It's easy to set up and I'll just but realistically, there has to be some costs upfront, to fix it up and get it ready for Airbnb. Do you mind kind of taking me one through what you needed to do to get the place ready?

Then also how complicated or not complicated is it to get on Airbnb and list your place?

Barb Kelly: The getting it ready part was not that hard for us because when we were building our new house we were already doing well and we're good about maintenance anyway. I mean we like a house to be maintained while we were living in it. Mainly it was we had to put in a new parking area.

The slope that we live on was really steep but we did have a pave drive, which was unusual in this neighborhood because most of it is gravel. It's a paved road, but it is in the mountains.

It was pretty, and people will comment on that every once in a while now, but at least it's paved. So you're not sliding and gravel if you're not used to it. It doesn't require you to have an all wheel drive or a four-wheel drive, which a lot of places do.

So we did have to spend some money on that. We, at one point we had to replace our backstairs because they just weren't really up to par. I don't know, we just weren't comfortable that they were completely safe. So we made them a little bit wider and, and the treads a little bit bigger.

We went around and because this is a two story, the front of the house is two story, and it's a rather steep slope. We just made sure that the railings were all in shipshape.

Elle Martinez: As a mom. I'm grateful for that. Thank you.

Barb Kelly: Yeah. We don't want to lose any kids or anything. I went around and I made sure that you, I hate to use this phrase idiot proof, but you do have to kind of idiot proof it.

I put in those little plugs for babies. Cause I don't know if people watch their kids or not. I mean, I'm not there. Really it just updating some things.

The furniture was already really nice so I kind of just added some touches to it, some pictures, some nicer stuff than I've normally seen, but it wasn't expensive because goodwill shopper

Elle Martinez: Oh yeah. You're here. Talented

Barb Kelly: It was those things just made it look a lot nicer; like you just stepped into your home

Elle Martinez: Yeah.

Barb Kelly: just stepped into a hotel room or something like that. We did spend a little bit on really nice linens. I don't like linens that peel up, you know, that get little pills on them.

I bought they weren't real expensive. I got them from Amazon, but a hundred percent Egyptian cotton so that they could be. every single week and they still look like they're brand new.

The same things with towels. I like a hundred percent cotton they're much softer and thicker. Things like that.

We stuck it with hand soaps and things like that and I try to use things that nobody's going to be allergic to. We try to get like organic if we can, but just really Nice things that maybe people wouldn't buy.

Now I can refill a lot of things because we have a little place called Fillmore and it's bulk refills for laundry detergent and all that. They're all organic. We're trying to keep people from breaking out in a rash when they come.

Elle Martinez: Well, I love that. You're being thoughtful with. Both from your own experience, did you do any research, like looking at other in the area, other AB Airbnbs, whether online or , chatting with them?

Barb Kelly: Yeah. What I saw really made me think I could do it because a lot of it was just, I mean, it just, I would have been disappointed if I paid that amount of money to stay at a place that looked like grandma's living room and grandma's bedroom and there were doilies everywhere. I mean, sometimes people would just overdo it or either it was so bare bones that you look like you need to bring your own stuff.

I wanted people to just be able to walk in there and just go, wow, we can just stay here. We don't even have to go out because what I did too in the kitchen, because my husband is a huge foodie. If you come to the cabin, you can make stuff with a blender. There's a crock pot, there's a toaster, there's a there's a french press. There's a drip coffee maker.

Those things weren't expensive to get but people have raved there's even the ice cream maker and a waffle iron. You can do anything that you want to do while you're there.

We've had people really thank us for having such a well-stocked kitchen. You don't have to go out and buy. We keep coffee, tea, and breakfast items really good oatmeal and really good breakfast bars and stuff, because I hate for people to come in. If they come in late, at least you'll be able to have a cup of tea and a power bar before you go to bed.

You don't have to go right to the grocery store. And if we know it's a special occasion, like somebody says, we're coming for our anniversary or we're coming for. Blah, blah, whatever family reunion. I don't know what it is, but anyway, if it's an anniversary, we always leave a bottle of wine and a little bag with candy or something in a card or flowers or whatever.

People flip. I mean, I don't think it's that big a deal, but they think, they think it's

Elle Martinez: Oh, oh for sure. I mean, as a guest, I completely agree and especially like we've been around Asheville during the pandemic, when we go on break and something is relatively simple, you say, like to prepare is such a big help with the coffee.

Sometimes we're not in town and then you have to go like, where's the nearest coffee place and then I got to drive in the morning and I need coffee to get coffee. That's not working for me.

Barb Kelly: I know and that's what I don't want you because we're like seven minutes from town, but there's a most amazing coffee shop, but I want you to be able to get up, have some coffee and sit on the porch in your pajamas and enjoy it.

I don't want you to have to go out and so I do leave the coffee mate creamers, but then I'll leave milk creamers for the people who really want milk like me.

It's just, I have found it really fun because I'm not always dealing with people face to face, but the feedback that I get is. I mean, it's a real ‘attagirl' because it's like, you're doing a great job and you're like, what you enjoyed that?

Oh, that makes me want to do more, that's good part of it. Those are all the good things about it.

I really, I only have one horror story and it was just I would say any horror stories can probably be avoided by making sure that your description that you put on Airbnb has no holes in it because it was somebody who could have, who really did want to make a terrible scene.

It was just, it was awful. And it was because she was trying to say that we're misleading in our listing. And she went to Arabic about us. And they looked at it and they were like, Nope.

She's like my money back. And I don't want to pay for cleaning and I'm going to stay anyway. And then I'm going to leave. And we were like, Nope, you better try this scam on somebody else.

But it's very disheartening. I was really hurt about it because we had had all these good reviews.

And then she left us one that was like, You know, I would give you less than 10. would give you a 10.

Elle Martinez: Well, it's funny. Cause sometimes people reveal themselves because like everybody else before I stay, I look at the reviews and I look at the general tone. Like there's things I'm looking for are the same things broken in every review. Are they like, yeah, the shower

Barb Kelly: my

Elle Martinez: working, you know?

And then the other side is, is most of the reviews, you know, positive. And then there's this one review that doesn't even sound like the same place. And then you click on them and then you're like, other reviews. They just seem angry.

Barb Kelly: Yeah. well, Yeah, hers was like five paragraphs and she only, she stayed less than 24 hours. So and that was because there wasn't a chain lock on the closet door. But anyway, And then they moved all the furniture in front of the closet door. And I was like, oh man, I don't know. And then rated the the neighbors yard and brought in tools and stuff and left them.

I don't know. It w it w I just didn't even want to go over there.

Elle Martinez: yeah.

Barb Kelly: die down. But I did realize when that happened, that Airbnb will support you if you're in the right. Now, if you're not, because he kept saying, do you want to give her a refund? I was like, no. I'm not giving her a read on this is crazy. This is a scam. She just wants to stay for free.

There is nothing broken, but I guess I, she took all my toilet paper when she left. So I don't know. That was kind of ugly because paper was to use that stuff.

There is a reason why they give you a review, but there's also a reason why you give them a review. And she had one review. That was one sentence. It was like, they were good. And I'm like, should I take a chance on his? Oh, sure. This, I mean, somebody with kids, how bad. How bad could it be?

Elle Martinez: You gotta have one memorable story, but I'm glad that overall it's good. I'm kind of glad to hear that story, to know that Airbnb will have your back, should something like that happen.

I do want to ask you with the setup. How does that work on Airbnb when you are listing your place? Because I mean, at some point they have to verify that's actually your place, right?

Barb Kelly: Yeah. Well, All I had to do when I did my own pictures. So I didn't have somebody come out and do it. I have a little experience with it and I didn't want it to give false hope either. Like this place looks, but it's only 1200 score.

I really want it to be very honest about what people were getting, but just a little bit of staging. I mean, I'd just leave it like it is. Like, you're going to see it when you walk in there. It's not got any extra stuff, but yeah.

Going on Airbnb, I just, they verify who I am. I had to verify who I am and then putting the pictures. I don't remember that I had to show like a property record card or anything like that. I think they just go off of my personal information as the host.

Elle Martinez: Okay. Did you have to do like a driver's license?

Barb Kelly: Yeah, you have to have two forms of ID and so that wasn't hard to do. And you know that and normally a host will provide a picture too, that goes on there on their little site that will assure people that, you know,

Elle Martinez: It's a real person.

Barb Kelly: That is a real

Elle Martinez: Yeah. Some of those pitches will kind of worried me. I'm like, maybe I'll stay some other place.

Barb Kelly: I know, right. It's like, I don't know. This looks a little

Elle Martinez: They don't look happy to be on Airbnb, but

Barb Kelly: no. We actually stayed in a place that the people did not look happy to have people staying there. And so Don and I were like, yeah, I don't think so, I don't think we'll come back.

Figuring Out How Much to Rent Your Place on AirBnb

Elle Martinez: So you set it up and fixed it up the way you like it and for guest. Okay. Now the part I am curious how people even figure this out. It was like your rate. How did you figure yours out initially? And did you have to adjust it pretty quick?

Barb Kelly: What I did was because there are so many Airbnbs in my area. I had the advantage that that it was a standalone place in a very safe neighborhood and it's on the side of town that's nearest to Asheville so if you're staying like where I live now, it takes me 20 extra minutes to get to Asheville.

On the other side of town, it's a straight shot, 30 minutes and it's interstate.

Elle Martinez: Very nice.

Barb Kelly: What I did was just did a comparison to what was similar to what I've got and my setup and the proximity to where people want to go. I started out with that and my calendar immediately completely filled.

Elle Martinez: Wow.

Barb Kelly: I've thought, whoa, wait a minute, wait a minute. Then I saw where you could do there's a thing on the, on Airbnb called smart pricing so if you if there are holidays or there are like in the mountains, people want to come in the summer and they want to come in the fall.

Elle Martinez: Yeah.

Barb Kelly: winter, not so much unless it's a holiday. What it does is it raised, raises the rate slightly. You give them the criteria you can go from here to here. This is the lowest you can pick, and this is the highest you'll charge.

Some of them I've seen are ridiculous. I mean, they're asked for crazy amount of money, but mine fluctuates about $25. You're not going to pay a whole lot, even for a special occasion. I do give a discount for longer stays which is nice.

I just had one in December, which was great. The people were awesome. That's nice because you don't have to have it cleaned every week, then for a longer stay, they just do their own cleaning and we provide everything, but, I don't want to come in while they're there.

That's how we did and we're still kind of tweaking it because it just depends there. People have shown a lot of interest in it, but I don't want to make it so expensive that it's out of people's range because I don't need to make that much. I'm not trying to, you know, ream people out.

I'm just, I want them to enjoy it too. It's worked for us so we're trying to keep it real reasonable.

Elle Martinez: Well, that's fantastic. I know for a lot of families that are watching their dollars, that's always good.

Barb Kelly: Oh, yeah.

Elle Martinez: Speaking of expenses, you mentioned making sure for every booking there's cleaning. What other extra expenses including maybe wear and tear or any stories about guests that you've had an unexpected expense after visit?

Barb Kelly: Yeah. We have leather furniture in the cabin, and then we have mean like a leather recliner, that's a nicer one. It's not one that looks like at your grandpa's house, but in a nice leather sofa, which to me is better because people I've heard horror stories of ruined upholstery.

So I thought, well, the kiddies have scratched a few places on this, but it still looks good and it's still super comfortable.

We tried to go with furniture that was couldn't really be killed too much, you know? Like I said, anything that needs to be replaced, I'll replace it with something really nice, but I'm going to get that piece of furniture at habitat. If I need to paint it, I will. But so far there hasn't been too much damage.

Like we had these, a young couple that had a couple of kids and I think the mom and dad just decided to party and just let the kids like run wild with blue cake icing. Let me tell you something, you cannot get it out.

It was just like they had a cake fight, know, and that the tequila bottles, I know they had a good time over there. That's one of the, one of two experiences that were terrible.

Everything else, I mean, I haven't had like people ruining my towels and things like that. And a lot of people do because Ladies that wear makeup and don't use a makeup remover wipe they'll that stuff gets out.

You just have to make it into a cleaning rag because you cannot get that stuff out. But so far we've been really fortunate to have people be pretty careful with it, pretty nice to our house.

Elle Martinez: It sounds like overall it's been a good experience with Airbnb.

Barb Kelly: Yeah. I mean, Airbnb takes their cut, not on don't get me wrong and cleaning during COVID is more expensive because we don't play would that.

We wouldn't do it if we could not make it safe for people, because I don't want to go anywhere that people are saying, oh, we clean to the certain protocol and they don't do it.

It takes longer to do it because we go in the first day, spray everything down with a micro band type thing and leave it. We don't even clean that day. We just leave that everything anybody could touch. And then if it's during warm weather, we'll just open the house up and just let that house air out for a solid day.

In the winter, we'll just turn the fan on and it's yeah you don't want to be in there with micro band sprayed everywhere. It's pretty rough, but, but I feel good that people are safe when they come here.

I provide cleaning the cleaning stuff, like masks and gloves and things like that, because I don't want my cleaner to get sick either. She doesn't want to get sick either, so that's going to work,

Elle Martinez: I'm glad you have a system in place in it. I think everyone feels good when you put the effort upfront, do the right job. Everyone feels taken care of and you get repeats. I know we feel that way. If we find a place that they put that care that you're putting in, that's going to be our go-to place. The first place we look for, you know, if we come back to a certain city or anything,

Barb Kelly: We feel that way too. I mean, there are some places that we have stayed that were just so I mean, the host just went out of their way and we could tell it.

We definitely go back there just because we've actually gotten to know the host. That's kind of cool. He feels like you've made friends all over the world just by and I actually have had some guests that were just so they're so funny and nice.

One lady it snowed while they were there. No, no, not snow it was The leaves, it had, the leaves had just all come down on the driveway and it made it so slippery that they could barely get up the driveway. So Don and I went over to clean the driveway off and as soon as we got there, she ran out, she's going to be here. Let me help you give me that. Right. And so we were all standing out the driveway, just, it was, it was really Nice.

I mean, they were just super nice people. Those are the kinds of people you're going to tell it the really good places to go and.

Elle Martinez: Nice.

Barb Kelly: Give him a discount knock on wood. Yeah. It's kind of fun. It like my husband said, you know, I'm not a, I'm not a real people person.

I'm kind of quiet and introverted unless I really know you, but some of the people we've met have just been so nice that you feel like you made a friend and we've had international travelers, even in our little town, we've had a lot of people From everywhere.

I was really surprised like who comes here, but they do. Where we live is kind of unique. So I'm not going to say that, but I often wonder how in the world you hear about it,

Elle Martinez: I'm glad that overall it's been a good experience for you, and I appreciate you taking the time sharing, like the good side and the bad, and also the investment that it takes to make it work in sustainable so I appreciate it.

Barb Kelly: Oh, you're quite welcome.

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