Air bnb business- anyone with experience ?

Vash01

Fan of Yuzuru, Three A's, T&M, P&C
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Hi,

I have never stayed at an air bnb, but someone suggested recently that I start one because I have a big house.

Has anyone started this business and what did you like or dislike about it?

What were the challenges in starting, and later running?

How much capital does it need to get started?

When you are a guest at an air bnb, what is important to you?
 

Spun Silver

Well-Known Member
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11,339
I had a friend who did it in her apartment (while living there herself -- it must have been a big apartment) before there was Air BNB. All I recall is that she made them breakfast and required a one-week stay. She felt that requirement made it easier to manage and weeded out undesirables. Of course, it might be easier to have minimum-stay requirements in some places than others - she lived on the upper W Side in Manhattan and mostly got musicians playing at Lincoln Center.

Also, FWIW, she did it as a sideline as her full-time job didn't pay enough. And she was pushing 70. My point being, she didn't find it onerous. She had a lot of repeat visitors and enjoyed it. I will just add that her executive experience in her day job (she ran an anti-hunger organization) was probably invaluable in helping her set up and manage the operation.
 

Aussie Willy

Hates both vegemite and peanut butter
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If you don't mind other people in your house, then it is a great way to earn some extra money. A friend of mine purchased a house which had a small unit as she specifically wanted to do the Airbnb thing. You can dictate if you just want single people or don't mind couples. People are reviewed so you can check them before letting them book. There is generally no capital involved but you might want to give the room a freshen up if the room is a bit dated.

My main desire with an Airbnb are my own bathroom. If it has a private entry that is even better. The list of other things I like to see in a room:

  • Clean - no dust anywhere. Bathroom being spotless is good too.
  • Comfortable bed with good pillows. A few different types is good as not everyone likes the same type.
  • Fresh sheets for a new guest
  • Bedside table and lamp
  • TV in the room
  • Access to Wifi
  • Hanging space just in case the person needs it
  • Tissues
  • Good towels and make sure there are two normal sized towels as well as facecloth and bath mat. I like to have two towels for when I wash my hair.
  • I don't use it but shampoo, conditioner and shower gel is handy for those who might need it
  • Options with blankets/quilts as some people like lots of bedding and others a light cover
  • Glasses for water. Maybe even facilities for tea and coffee if you don't mind.

Sometimes you can have things like water bottles and chocolates that people can buy if you want although they are not important to me. That is more like additional service but not expected.

I would check Airbnb listings to see what people offer.

Also personally I don't really like to engage too much with the host. Most people are just wanting a bed and bathroom to use. Be friendly but just read whether the person wants to keep to themselves or wanting to engage more.

Good luck with whatever you do.
 

hanca

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I have stayed in air bnb several times. Usually I go for air bnb if wherever I am going, there are no hotels, or they are already fully booked, or if the hotels are too far from the place I want to be visiting. Or if I am travelling on budget.

Air bnb is usually much cheaper than hotel. Some provide breakfast, some don’t. Personally, I didn’t care if breakfast was included or not.

What I liked - if there were towels and basic hygienic products (soap, shampoo), and bags of tea and sugar. Some air bnb provide that, some don’t. I would probably managed without, but it is a nice touch, caring to people’s convenience.

What I don’t like - I would hate if the accommodation wasn’t clean (luckily I don’t have such experience). I also don’t like that there is no safety box in the room and one can’t lock money and passport away. I hate carrying it with me (and we were mugged in France once and lost a lot of money), but leaving in in strangers’s house unlocked doesn’t feel that safe either. But I understand that air bnb is not a hotel so I have to manage without the safety box.
 

Zemgirl

Well-Known Member
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11,910
I would not start an Airbnb business unless I had a fully separate unit. If that's not an issue, I'd suggest paying attention to the following:
  • Airbnb ratings tend to be very high, so I screen based on specific attributes. If you don't have a perfect 5-star score for cleanliness, I'm out. Fix up anything that needs it and get a good cleaning service.
  • That means nice bedding, towels etc. too.
  • If you have people coming in for extended stays, laundry facilities will be a plus.
  • Wifi should work well and post the password where people can find it easily.
  • Having a kitchen is great. Making sure that kitchen is stocked with basics is even better. If you do intend to supply tea, coffee, condiments and the like, make sure they're not past their sell-by date ;) even the super-clean place I stayed in when I moved to Paris missed that.
  • You're going to need reviews to be noticed, because a lot of people don't like taking a risk on a place without reviews. If you know someone who can stay with you and write a review, consider doing that. Resist the temptation to have them gush; positive and informative is the way to go.
  • Good quality pictures - people like to preview the property. You don't need professional photography, but make sure you take pictures from different angles and that everything is well-lit.
 

hanca

Well-Known Member
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9,108
I would not start an Airbnb business unless I had a fully separate unit.
I agree. I have only stayed in accommodations where the owner was not living in the same flat/house. I like my privacy and sharing a flat or house with a stranger just wouldn’t be pleasant for me. If the house is split into two independent flats and the owner lives in the other flat, that’s fine (as long as we don’t share facilities such as a bathroom or a kitchen) and as long as the owner understands that I have no need to socialise with strangers (that includes socialising with the owner). Seeing the owner twice per stay, once when I am getting the keys and once when I am returning the keys, is quite enough for me. I like having the owners’ phone number in case I need anything, but If I don’t need anything, I like to be left alone.
 

TAHbKA

Cats and garlic lover
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16,266
I stayed in airbnb a lot of times and hosted in my flat when I was abroad.
  • cleaning - I had to clean much more than I usually would
  • taking into an account that someone you've never met will be touching all your stuff (I had a locked room and rented my place as a kitchen+one bedroom with no living room, even though there was another bedroom. That one was kept locked with all my stuff. I would move say, all the dishes and toiletries I didn't want to be touched there before leaving)
  • easy way to get in/out - I had a grocery shop downstairs and would leave the key with the owner. So the guests could come whenever from 7:30am till 17:30. The same with dropping the key. However, if the grocery shop owner was not a rockstar he was I doubt passing the key would even remotely be possible
  • if you are in that flat while hosting - there might be parties (as far as I know my flat included not just the parties, but orgies) and you have to endure all that while sleeping in the next room. Decide whether you feel comfortable with that.
  • the way your stuff is treated - I would never get on the couch when coming from the beach - there would be sand everywhere and getting the sand out of the couch is hard. The guests, apparently, would and did.
  • stupid questions of any time of the day - one of my guests didn't speak any languages but Russian and through it was a wonderful idea calling me any hour day and night asking stuff like `where is the bus stop? what does this word mean? how do I get to X location?'. Needless to say I was not in Israel at that time, I was not available most of the time and after the 2nd call told him to go [email protected]#$ himself and well, google.
  • be ready to reply lots of idiotic requests - for example I only published the dates I was abroad (which that particular year was like 2-5 days every couple of months) and received lots of requests for different dates, for a longer stay and for what not. You have to politely explain everyone why no, you don't want a flatmate, no, you are not interested sharing a flat with a single mother and her child, no, you can't let them be there a week later etc. It's a lot of internet hassle
  • I ended up letting my flat on airbnb 5-6 times, deciding the money I was getting was not worth it and just offering an empty flat to my friends whenever I was abroad. I still do it, works out much better - the friends are happy, the flowers are alive.
 

Louis

Well-Known Member
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13,365
In addition to what others have said, here are some other things to think about
  • is it allowed in your city / municipality / HOA if you have one? Or are you running the risk of a fine?
  • how will the income be taxed? Do you have to pay hotel taxes on top of ordinary income taxes?
  • does it affect any deductions you currently take for your house? Will it affect your ultimate capital gains tax exemption for sale of a primary residence, if you eventually sell your house?
  • what kind of insurance will you need -- e.g., if an airbnb guest slips and falls in your home? Burns down the house while cooking? Or smoking drugs?
  • what will your neighbors think? If it's less than fully legal, will they rat you out? Even if is legal, is a bit of extra $ worth upsetting your neighbors if they're the type who don't like strange people coming in and out?
 

genevieve

drinky typo pbp, closet hugger
Staff member
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^ I second TAHbKA's and Louis's posts 100%

I have stayed in dozens of Airbnbs, both sharing living quarters with the host, and renting a separate unit either with host onsite/nearby or remote. If the space you are considering renting is private, you can charge more, but the more hotel-quality the expectations will be, for the space, their autnomy, and your responsiveness to guests.

The top priorities for an Airbnb for me are:
  • the listing is accurate. If you say you have something, make sure you have it. Don't say you're close to something if driving is required (or make it clear that car is nec in AZ that probably goes without syaing but others might not realize)
  • Wifi must be completely reliable and fast. If it goes down you need to fix it stat or be prepared to refund money.
  • Either roll your cleaning fee into your nightly rate or make it small/reasonable. Nothing like wasting time on a search by rate, finding a place that fits the budget only to learn they've got a $75 cleaning fee :rolleyes:

Airbnb is a business that requires you to have extremely high reviews to be competitive/profitable. The reviews are not only of your space, but of your interactions with guests, even if the space is completely private. You will get complaints even if your place is pristine. Airbnb can be very difficult to deal with if there are problems - both from the guest and the host side. Just think about whether you want to deal with that.
 
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Vash01

Fan of Yuzuru, Three A's, T&M, P&C
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Thanks everyone. I will have to do a lot of thinking. I have a big house and I could make my guest room which is upstairs air bnb. My master bedroom is downstairs. I normally enter/exit through the garage. So the front entrance could be used as a separate entrance.

Cleaning shouldn’t be an issue because I have a cleaning lady once a month.

I think my biggest concern would be people having a party while I am in the house. I have a very quiet house and I like my quiet. I will need to decide if the money is worth giving it up.
 

Aussie Willy

Hates both vegemite and peanut butter
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I think my biggest concern would be people having a party while I am in the house. I have a very quiet house and I like my quiet. I will need to decide if the money is worth giving it up.
That is one of the reasons you scrutinize people before accepting their booking. And also just set the rules as to the types of bookings. Most people are wanting a bed while they are in the location to do their thing.
 

genevieve

drinky typo pbp, closet hugger
Staff member
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I think my biggest concern would be people having a party while I am in the house. I have a very quiet house and I like my quiet. I will need to decide if the money is worth giving it up.
You can designate in your listing 1) no parties and 2) no bringing anyone not included in the booking to your home. Since you'd be there too, it would be very easy to know if they're having a party. But your definition of "quiet" may not match that of your guests, and if you host you will need to accommodate more noise than you're used to living alone, even if it's just the noise of people coming in late.

Also think about and be very clear in your listing whether your guests would be allowed to use your kitchen.
 

overedge

Mayor of Carrot City
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26,575
If you've never stayed at an Air BnB, one way to find out what they're like would be to stay at one. Find some in your city and stay for a night at each. Then think about what worked and what didn't work for you as a guest, and how you could do the same or better as a host.

I have never stayed at an Air BnB, although I have stayed at VRBO properties. I second @Louis point about insurance and neighbours. Regular household insurance usually won't cover commercial rentals, short term or long term, in a residential property. And if you're in a neighborhood where Air BnB guests would have to drive to get there, and then park, neighbors might not appreciate the extra traffic and cars.

Personally I would never even think about getting into a type of business that I didn’t have some experience with, even as a customer.
 

once_upon

New condo owner
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12,570
I would also think about the real estate implications for sale and/or taxes. When we sold our house we had to declare if in the past 10 years it had been used for a business (Air bnb is certainly a business). Zoning is another thing. I know the HOA here allows leasing but no Air bnb or VRBO activities. The neighborhood we left had zoning issues. Cleaning is a must before and after guests.

I know the VRBO that we stayed in Vancouver was used totally as that. The woman who owned it had several condos in that building that she used as VRBO. We not only paid per night, but paid a cleaning fee.

it's a lot of work, not just that "I have extra spaces that I might be able to make some money with" venture.
 

Vash01

Fan of Yuzuru, Three A's, T&M, P&C
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I don't have an HOA so at least that problem is not there. All other things sound quite challenging though.
 

genevieve

drinky typo pbp, closet hugger
Staff member
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it's a lot of work, not just that "I have extra spaces that I might be able to make some money with" venture.
Actually, AirBnB started as the latter, and can still be used that way. it's just that even that is a lot of work.
 

overedge

Mayor of Carrot City
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26,575
The VRBO that we stayed in Vancouver was used totally as that. The woman who owned it had several condos in that building that she used as VRBO.
Which is now illegal under Vancouver's new policies. Owners can only rent part of a house or condo they're currently living in, or all of a house or condo that's their permanent residence but that they're only absent from for a maximum length of time.
 

AxelAnnie

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Not that this applies...but I had over $2000.00 in false charges by an aie bnb
Never stayed in one. Never booked one. Never even looked for one...nor would I. But someone managed to rack up all those charges on my AMEX card.
Be careful.
 

Japanfan

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22,030
You can designate in your listing 1) no parties and 2) no bringing anyone not included in the booking to your home. .
#2 could be prohibitive if one was staying at an Air BnB to visit with family. If family members picked the guest up or dropped the guest off, the guest might want to offer them a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. And the structure of the Air BnB might be such that the guest wouldn't know when someone had come to pick them up. That someone might need to knock on the door - not everyone has a cell phone to use when they travel - and might need to use the washroom.

I think I'm basically just not comfortable staying on private property. We rented a cabin for a few days (cute space, oceanfront location) that was located on the edge of a large property. The owner lurked about a bit, interfering with our privacy, and even the audacity to complain about the discount she had chosen to give us.

I don't want someone hovering over me while I'm on vacation, it feels likes being policed.
 
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Louis

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Actually, AirBnB started as the latter, and can still be used that way. it's just that even that is a lot of work.
It's also usually(?) legal this way, without the types of complications that renting out a full house brings. Municipalities have a harder time banning this outright.

Regular household insurance usually won't cover commercial rentals, short term or long term, in a residential property.
Strangely enough, my building insurance (arranged by the management company/freeholder) in London has an addendum specifically covering Airbnb. I guess the management company decided it was better to protect against it than fight it. E.g., the management company did not want to take an insurance risk if an Airbnb guest burned down the entire building. I was surprised by this. I think it must be the case that either the leasehold agreement does not allow the management company to ban short-term rentals; and/or the management company would face some liability if someone's Airbnb guest destroyed the property. (I would have thought that the offending person would bear the responsibility, but maybe not or not fully.) In any case, this highlights some of the unclear insurance questions re: Airbnb.

Two units in my building are obvious Airbnbs, with lockboxes mounted to the outside wall of the common entrances to the property. (I'm sure the management company could do something about the lockboxes, if it wanted to, as that's definitely not allowed.) The Airbnbs are not bothering me, and it seems to be legal within limitations in London (certain number of days per month), so I have no complaints. One of the units is the only studio in the building, which limits the airbnb guests to two, so I understand why the owner wants to use it as an Airbnb. (In this expensive market, you get a lot of studios that two non-coupled people want to share, and you can't really say no.... it's safer to use the property as an airbnb than deal with the drama that comes from shared long-term tenancy, e.g., when one moves out unexpectedly and the other can't pay the rent.) Plus the two lockboxes are on other entrances that do not directly connect with mine. I may feel slightly differently if the unit next to me was an airbnb, or if a two bedroom unit was renting to six people.
 
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PRlady

Nerdy flack
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Our Jerusalem apartment is listed with AirBnB as well as bookings.com and one other specific to Israel. Because our 2 BR, 1.5 bath apartment is close to the Ramat Gan campus of Hebrew U and on the light rail, we get a bunch of quiet visiting professors which our neighbors appreciate.

But I could never lease part of a place I was living to strangers. Our DC apartment has a nice guest room with its own bath and is strategically located on a Metro line in a trendy neighborhood, but after three days of even having my closest friends around I'm ready for them to leave!

@Vash01 -- we have a manager who manages the bookings, cleaning, negotiations with guests etc. As others have posted, it's a lot of work (he gets 20% of the booking profits) and you don't get to be picky about your guests once you've booked them and they show up. You might want to consider a long-term roommate about whom you can check references, see if you're compatible etc, if you'd like to lease the extra space you've got.
 

genevieve

drinky typo pbp, closet hugger
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#2 could be prohibitive if one was staying at an Air BnB to visit with family. If family members picked the guest up or dropped the guest off, the guest might want to offer them a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.
So one does not stay at an Airbnb that prohibits guests. Problem solved.
 

Vash01

Fan of Yuzuru, Three A's, T&M, P&C
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#2 could be prohibitive if one was staying at an Air BnB to visit with family. If family members picked the guest up or dropped the guest off, the guest might want to offer them a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. And the structure of the Air BnB might be such that the guest wouldn't know when someone had come to pick them up. That someone might need to knock on the door - not everyone has a cell phone to use when they travel - and might need to use the washroom.

I think I'm basically just not comfortable staying on private property. We rented a cabin for a few days (cute space, oceanfront location) that was located on the edge of a large property. The owner lurked about a bit, interfering with our privacy, and even the audacity to complain about the discount she had chosen to give us.

I don't want someone hovering over me while I'm on vacation, it feels likes being policed.
I would feel exactly the way you did.
 

Spun Silver

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11,339
I wonder if it would be simpler to become a landlord and just rent out part of your house. If the layout is not conducive to that, maybe you'd consider remodeling to make it conducive, or selling it and buying a two-family home. There's a lot of landlord-tenant law you'd have to be familiar with but overall I think it would be a lot less work. My husband and I almost became landlords - after a lot of research about the regulations we decided we could handle it and bid on a two-family house. We were turned down though. We didn't try again - our interest was really in that particular house and neighborhood.
 

Vash01

Fan of Yuzuru, Three A's, T&M, P&C
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I wonder if it would be simpler to become a landlord and just rent out part of your house. If the layout is not conducive to that, maybe you'd consider remodeling to make it conducive, or selling it and buying a two-family home. There's a lot of landlord-tenant law you'd have to be familiar with but overall I think it would be a lot less work. My husband and I almost became landlords - after a lot of research about the regulations we decided we could handle it and bid on a two-family house. We were turned down though. We didn't try again - our interest was really in that particular house and neighborhood.
This sounds easier than air bnb. There can be problems with tenants but one could screen them before renting. I may look into this.
 

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