Earlier this summer, upon learning that my roommate was moving back to New York City, I launched a side hustle as an Airbnb host here in Miami Beach— here’s how it went.
With a new roommate moving in soon, my time with this experiment is coming to an end. (UPDATE 6/12/16: My ‘new’ roommate only lasted a couple months, and I quickly returned to Airbnb to make the rent payment for the remainder of my lease. This article has been updated to reflect my cumulative experience and some of the details have been changed.)
I wanted to share the experiences I had with others since there is so much controversy surrounding Airbnb and I got a lot of questions about it when I told people I was an Airbnb host. Even if you don’t have the time or means to travel, I encourage you to consider hosting on Airbnb even if it is just to expose yourself to different cultures— and maybe like me, you’ll even make some decent money on the side.
- You meet a wide range of interesting people— I had visitors from over 10 different cities in August 2015 alone. Some have even become friends and have asked to stay with me again in the future.
- You can charge whatever you want. In my case, I just had a small spare bedroom in my apartment and charged very little. For my condo in Miami Beach, I charged an around $75 a night x 30 nights = $2250 per month in potential income (minus Airbnb host fees and taxes.)
- Pricing features are highly customizable. You can price each night differently, add a cleaning fee, hold a security deposit, or add an automatic charge for additional guests.
- You can decide who to host based on star ratings and custom reviews by the community which fosters a sense of accountability.
- Some guests will offer cash to extend their stay after their initial booking (once again, breaking the the law, but also saving us both money.) I even had one guest buy my portable steamer with cash.
- Airbnb isn’t exactly legal. I mean it is… but between city-zoning laws, bed-and-breakfast regulations, and the IRS, it’s pretty easy to break a rule without even knowing it. Ideally, you don’t get caught— but if you do, you may face a cease-and-desist order, citations from the city or condo association, or an IRS audit. Not fun, so do your research and don’t get caught!
- There are going to be some language barriers. I got a lot of traveling students at first who luckily all spoke at least some English. Irina from Russia booked the night before for 2 nights, along with a friendly broken english message, but I wasn’t able to be there to let her in to the apartment at check-in the next day. After a fruitless exchange, I sought the help of Google Translate to give her specific instructions as to where to find the key and how to let herself in. Thank goodness for Google Translate!
- You have a lot of strangers coming and going. Things can go missing, or get broken. Fortunately, I haven’t had any trouble with my guests trying to steal or wrecking the place. Airbnb takes your credit card to complete bookings and there is an accountability factor for those who plan to use the service moving forward, so people are mostly well-behaved. The most I can complain about are a few less-than-tidy guests and certain people leaving the front door unlocked.
- Competition is fierce. With users given access to highly customizable features comes a rapidly changing market for the aspiring Airbnb host.
- Expectations can vary among Airbnb guests. Some guests offer to take out the trash or feed my cat for me. Some guests want me to do their laundry and do their dishes. Involvement between guests and hosts varies, but I do my best to create a reasonable expectation in my listing.
I didn’t know what to expect with Airbnb hosting but I hoped I could at least make back a little bit of the money I was missing out on without a roommate to share the expenses.
When I set up my listing and looked at the competition in the area, I was floored by how lucrative it could be. I could place my prices around $59 a night and still be the cheapest spot in the area.
Assuming no vacancies, I realized I could earn quite a nice supplement to my income in this way… without even owning the property.
For a cumulative period of about 8 months, I earned over $8,000!
You read that right. Airbnb deducts taxes from your earnings and reports to the IRS, but beyond that there is very little red tape to go through in getting a bed and breakfast set up on the Airbnb service. My landlord and condo association had no idea, though I did worry about it all the time.
Technically, there are local laws surround bed and breakfasts but because of the temporary nature of my operation I just decided to take a calculated risk… and I would say it’s certainly paid off. I made up for my missing roommate (and then some!) And I even made some new friends in the process.
Not too shabby, right?
Use this link to get a $20 discount on your first Airbnb booking as a guest or a host. (If you use it, I’ll also get $20, a win-win!)