How to Make Money as an Airbnb Host

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Guest bed with towels
Hatchapong Palurtchaivong /

A bit of spare time and a spare room. That’s all you need to get started boosting your income as a host with Airbnb.

Whether you’re a retiree just hoping to earn some extra income or a millennial who wants to become an entrepreneur, Airbnb can help you realize your dream.

Sometimes one leads to the other: Boulder, Colorado, resident Zeona McIntyre joined in 2012 to earn some extra money while attending massage school. Now she owns properties in Colorado and Missouri and manages properties from Seattle to Spain.

“It ended up taking over,” McIntyre tells Money Talks News.

She no longer practices as a massage therapist because she earns so much more money hosting — and, thanks to technology, she can do the job from anywhere.

“With Airbnb, you could be sitting on a beach and have an $800 listing come in,” McIntyre says.

Of course, not everyone wants to deal with multiple properties. Some prefer the “owner-occupied” setup, in which you invite visitors to stay in your own apartment, condo or house. But no matter how you want to play it, joining the Airbnb movement is surprisingly simple. Here’s how to get started:

Create your listing

Putting your extra square footage to work is pretty simple. First, sign up with Airbnb.

To set up your free listing, write a description of your space and upload some great photos. Specify the dates you’ll be available to travelers. (You don’t have to be open every day of the year.)

Tell potential guests where you are: close to a trendy restaurant district, next door to a wilderness area with prime hiking trails, a short light-rail ride away from the city’s biggest convention center.

Is your place pet-friendly? Do you have an exercise room, well-equipped kitchen, luxury bedding, Wi-Fi, washer and dryer, covered parking, video gaming systems or a fenced yard with play equipment for younger visitors? These kinds of details make your listing stand out.

Learn how to host

Airbnb has tools to help you feel comfortable and confident about welcoming guests into your home. You can find hosting tips on the Airbnb blog, and over in the Community Center you’ll find experienced Airbnb hosts who have the answers to your questions.

Special touches don’t necessarily cost much, and they make visitors feel cared-for. These include snacks in the room, higher-end toiletries, breakfast (you aren’t required to provide it, but it’s a nice bonus), lists of great places to eat, books about the region or maps of historic or recreational areas.

San Antonio host Shannyn Allan invites visitors to use both her laundry facilities and her Netflix account, and she provides a “welcome basket” with bottled water and Texas-themed treats.

When describing yourself as a host, be honest. If you’re a super-extrovert who loves showing people around, say so. And if you’re not? Definitely say so.

“I put in that I’m cordial, but we’re not going to be buddies,” Allan tells Money Talks News.

Security issues

Nervous about the safety of your house and belongings when you’re not home? Airbnb’s got your back: In the rare event that an accident happens, your property is covered up to $1 million when you host, at no extra charge.

Everyone who travels on Airbnb needs to provide a profile photo and a confirmed phone number and email address. For extra assurance, you can also require your guests to submit a government-issued ID.

More than money

Who wants to stick to tourist traps when visiting a new place? As a host, you have the chance to showcase what makes your city great. Rather than lining up for an overpriced bus tour or a chain restaurant, your guests will have the inside track as they eat, drink and play like the locals.

Airbnb hosts pride themselves on providing tips on hiking trails, bookstores, gastropubs, music venues, little-known historical gems and other experiences that make visits truly memorable.

Bonus: This lets you drive business to your favorite independent shops and other hidden treasures that visitors might not find on their own.

Your earnings

The payment process is simple: Guests are charged when a reservation is made, and funds are typically released 24 hours after check-in. You can opt for direct deposit, PayPal or other options.

As a starting point, find out what other hosts in your area are charging. How much you’ll earn varies depending on factors like location, the size of the property, the amenities offered and what’s going on in your region.

For example, the San Francisco area gets a lot of business travelers as well as tourists — and interns, who can find it tough to get short-term lodgings in an expensive region.

Kendrick Bradley and Shiv Gettu put two beds in each bedroom in one of their Silicon Valley properties, making it more affordable for interns to room together.

“Our brand is a value brand,” Gettu says.

Airbnb hosts use their extra income to pay off student loans and mortgages, upgrade their homes, and pursue their passions.

Gettu and Bradley funnel their earnings back into the business. They plan to get three more properties within the year.

“We’ve had more success than we ever thought possible,” Bradley tells Money Talks News.

McIntyre reinvests most of her money, too.

“That’s how I own six homes,” she says.

Hosting made it possible for her to reach financial independence before age 30.

“It’s been a life transformational experience,” McIntyre says. “For me, I owe everything to Airbnb.”

Have you ever rented out space to make extra money? Share your experience and thoughts with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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