Two Years as an Airbnb Host

November 12, 2015 • 

After a break-up with my partner, I ended up with a mortgage I could afford but not comfortably. The idea of a roommate didn’t appeal to me so I decided to give Airbnb a try. This is what the next two years looked like financially, some advice for new hosts and how Airbnb has impacted my life so far.[1]

First Year

I furnished the guest bedroom at the cost of $878.00. I invested enough to keep the space friendly and inviting but didn’t splurge as I wasn’t sure I would make any of my money back. When Airbnb’s initial site was up, their on-site calculation told me I would make $0/month.[2]

My first guest didn’t arrive until about a month in. I went out of my way to make the first two bookings feel comfortable and happy. With their glowing reviews, getting bookings afterwards wasn’t hard at all. I played around with rates all year ($65–$95) to find my sweet spot. I didn’t say no to any reservation.

Income by Month

November—$0
December—$413
January—$270
February—$787
March—$1,501
April—$2,405
May—$1,705
June—$1,480
July—$1,639
August—$2,669
September—$1,683
October—$1,746

Expenses

Furnishings—$878
Bank Fees—$547.76
Hydro—$465
Internet—$245.50
Repairs/Plumbing—$450.56

Summary

Gross Income—$16,028
Expenses—$2,586.82
Total—$13,441.18
Average per month—$1,120.10

Second Year

I had learned a lot from the first year. Airbnb was starting to take a toll on my personal life and I wanted to reduce the impact. It was stressful balancing Airbnb along with work and my personal life.

I delayed or even cancelled plans because guests were coming into town at unknown times or the apartment had to be cleaned for my next guest. I even had an extremely stressful couple of days while on vacation in another country. I take obligations very seriously and I hate to let people down. I couldn’t let go of what was happening back home, which led to an extremely panicked person abroad.

To fix the impact, I opted for a minimum stay of 2 nights and hired a cleaner to clean after every listing. I settled on a flat rate of $80/night regardless of season and cut guests a break for staying longer in order to entice bookings with longer stays. While I make more when turnover is high, it requires much more effort on my part and I chose time over money. It didn’t end up being that bad:

Income by Month

November—$1,811
December—$1192
January—$1654
February—$873
March—$1,502
April—$1,727
May—$1,875
June—$2,094
July—$1,690
August—$1,723
September—$1,371
October—$1,827

Expenses

Paypal Fees—$648.35
Hydromdash;$290.20
Internet—$387.18
Repairs/Plumbing—$669.86
August (turned out to be terrible)—$484.86
Cleaning—$542.40

Summary

Gross Income—$19,339
Expenses—$3,022.85
Total—$16,316.15
Average per month—$1,359.68

If you’re looking to host too

I have hosted 80+ guests from over 30+ countries (exact numbers are fuzzy now as I no longer keep track) and have maintained a 5-star rating for those two years. In addition to Airbnb, I work full-time and part-time (don’t worry, I have two jobs by choice) and lead a fairly busy personal life. Here’s what I’ve learned about hosting so far:

  • Face-time matters.
    I’ve never had a bad review from a guest who has met me. If guests don’t know you and anything goes even slightly wrong, they’re going to be harsh about it (and unfairly, occasionally.) Customer service is a fine art form which has definitely made me a generally more empathetic lodger now when I travel.
  • Decide what your priorities are at the beginning.
    When I started, I accepted any booking and any request. Juggling this alongside the rest of my life was challenging. There were some unnecessarily stressful days I could have done without.
  • Get some support.
    You’ll inevitably need someone as a back-up for when you’re not there. This person has to be chosen incredibly carefully or be given extremely detailed instructions on how to be a good back-up host. It’s either face-time with you, or someone just as good as you.
  • Say no.
    Say no to unreasonable guest requests, say no to unprofitable bookings, and say no to guests you don’t feel 100% comfortable with especially if you’re staying in the apartment with them. If you’re unsure about anything, just say no. Over time, you’ll get better at identifying when it’s ‘no’ time.
  • Promise what you have.
    If you are over-extending yourself and guests pick up on stress, all that’s been created is a negative experience for both parties. Give and promise only what you have and can deliver.
  • Over-communicate always.
    Set expectations in the listing about yourself and your listing. When they get to your place, tell them everything about everything. If they notice you’re out of toilet paper, and you don’t tell them where more is, don’t be upset if they note your listing was low on toilet paper.
  • Do your research.
    I use the product both as a host and as a traveller. Staying at other peoples’ homes gives me a good perspective on where I rank in terms of hospitality. I come home with ideas on how to get better every time I stay at a new place.

Sharing has been good so far

I tend to be conservative about what technologies I lean on however Airbnb has undeniably made a huge impact on my life. Financially, it’s given me the freedom to live my life relatively stress-free. I do not worry much about my mortgage knowing I have a fairly steady flow of guests staying.

That being said, the most important part of this has been that it has grown me on a personal level I never imagined. The travel experiences I have been able to afford due to the financial boost compounded with the guests I have met have undeniably been a big part of my personal growth over the past two years.

Taking on the hospitality industry is an ambitious plan, and so far, Airbnb has been a wonderful product for me to watch evolve. Both as a Designer who is fascinated by the social impact of technology and also as someone who is using it on a day-to-day basis. Kudos to the team!


↩︎ [1] All numbers are in CAD.

↩︎ [2] This must be a bug↗︎.

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