Renting out part, or all, of your home on a rental platform can be a lucrative sideline. Just keep in mind that it can take an investment of time, effort, and money to create and maintain a welcoming space for guests. And, the plan could potentially backfire if you side-step some key legal and insurance steps.
To help ensure your venture is a success, here are some things you may want to consider before you start renting on Airbnb or a similar site.
1. Understanding Local Rental Laws
Before listing your home on a home-sharing site, it’s a good idea to research and make sure you fully understand local laws regarding renting out your home.
Laws that govern home shares vary around the country. In some cities, for instance, it’s illegal to rent a home as an Airbnb unless it’s your primary residence. In others, hosts can only rent out a portion of their home, and must be present during the guests’ stay. Laws about short-term rentals are also constantly changing.
If you own a condo or belong to a HOA, there may be other legal hoops to jump through, since you will likely need to get permission before opening your doors.
2. Checking With Your Landlord (if You’re Renting)
Looking to rent out a room in your home you rent? It can be wise to first carefully read through your own rental agreement.
Leases and agreements can contain language barring renters from subletting the home outright or without the express consent of the landlord. If you’re unsure even after reading the fine print, you may want to have a conversation about it with your landlord.
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3. Talking to Your Neighbors
While neighbors can’t tell you what you can and can’t do on your own property, they can make things difficult for you.
Prior to renting out your home, you may want to do the neighborly thing and pop in or give them a call to let them know what you are planning and do your best to ease any of their concerns. Who knows — they might even end up keeping an eye on the property for you while you’re away.
4. Being Prepared to Pay Taxes
Sure, renting your home on Airbnb may bring in a nice source of passive income. Like all income, however, this may be subject to state and federal taxes.
Generally, if you rent all or part of your home for more than 14 days in a year, you will need to pay taxes on the income. Vacation rental host sites typically send a Form 1099-K to hosts who had more than 200 reservations, earned over $20,000 in a year, or had taxes withheld from their payouts.
5. Considering All the Expenses Involved in Renting
While it may be more fun to think about the extra income that could result from your home rental, it can also be important to think about all the expenses involved.
For example, you may have to purchase items to get the space ready, along with any amenities you will offer guests (like toiletries or coffee), and cleaning supplies (or, pay for a cleaning service), and more.
You may want to make a list of all your potential expenses and consider how it will affect your potential profits.
💡 Quick Tip: If you’re creating a budget, try the 50/30/20 budget rule. Allocate 50% of your after-tax income to the “needs” of life, like living expenses and debt. Spend 30% on wants, and then save the remaining 20% towards saving for your long-term goals.
6. Finding a House Manager if You’d Rather Not do all the Work
Does managing your listing, bookings, and maintaining your rental property sound like a lot? You might consider hiring a manager to do it for you.
There are a number of property management companies around the country. that specialize in managing short-term home rentals.
These agencies will handle everything from writing (or boosting the exposure of) your listing to communicating with guests to cleaning and taking care of repairs. Some charge a commission (i.e., a percentage of bookings), while others charge a flat monthly service fee.
7. Making Space for Guests
Prior to accepting your first guests, it’s a good idea to make sure you have room for them — and that typically means more than just a clean, freshly made bed.
You may also want to offer some empty drawers so that guests can unpack their clothing, and possibly also a free shelf in the bathroom for their toiletries.
8. Putting Away Valuables
While it’s nice to think that everyone is trustworthy, that may not always be the case. It can be a good idea to safely stow away any valuables when you are opening your home to people you don’t know.
You can do this by getting a heavy-duty safe. Or, you might want to lock off one room of the home as an “owner’s closet” that guests cannot access.
9. Checking With Your Insurance Company
Airbnb offers its hosts its own insurance known as Host Protection . Though this covers a wide array of potential issues, including bodily injury to guests and any damage to the property, it may not cover everything. Plus, different home-rental platforms may offer different levels of insurance coverage.
It can be a good idea to also check in with your own homeowners or renters insurance to see what type of coverage these policies offer.
10. Writing a Detailed Description
Ready to list? When it’s time to write a description of your home, it’s a good idea to make your listing as detailed as possible, and even include the flaws of your home. A home need not be perfect to list on Airbnb. However, the company suggests that honesty is the best policy.
It can be a good idea to tell guests exactly what they’ll find when they arrive, as well as highlight your home’s special features, such as the location or unique amenities of your space. For more ways to make your listing stand out, you may want to check out Airbnb’s writing tips .
11. Taking High Quality Photos
Before taking photos of your space, you may want to spend some time arranging everything as if you were getting ready to welcome your first guest. This can help showcase your space to its best advantage, and also help set your guests’ expectations before they book.
It’s also a good idea to shoot in landscape format (photos in search results are typically displayed in landscape, so vertical photos won’t showcase your space as well), shoot in the middle of the day when there is plenty of light, and to highlight any unique features or amenities.
12. Creating an Information Binder
It can be helpful to make a packet of information for your guests which includes key information, such as the Wi-Fi password, your contact number, and house rules (such as check-out time and anything that guests need to take care of before they leave).
You may also want to include instructions on how to work on anything quirky, such as the television or coffee maker, as well as local entertainment and restaurant options.
13. Offering A Few Extra Amenities
There are millions of listings on Airbnb. If you’re hoping that your rental will make financial freedom a reality, you’ll want it to stand out from the crowd.
Throwing in some extras can help encourage guests to choose your home over others. Are you near a popular beach? You may want to consider keeping some beach chairs and sand toys stored in the garage for guests to use.
Simple add-ons, like the use of your bicycles or a parking tag, may not cost you much (or anything) to offer, yet significantly increase the popularity of your listing — along with your earnings.
14. Making a Decision about Pets or No Pets
Before you list your property it’s a good idea to decide if you want your home to be a space for pets or not.
This is a personal decision, but you may want to consider whether or not your space is well-suited for pets (a light suede couch, for example, might not last very long). If you do decide to make your home pet-friendly, you could add in an additional fee for cleaning.
15. Learning How to Price a Property Right
You may think your home looks and feels like a million bucks, but that doesn’t mean travelers will pay a premium.
To understand how to price an Airbnb listing correctly, it’s a good idea to comb through comparable listings in your area to get a sense of what other people are charging.
You can also use a free calculator like airDNA . You just need to input all your data, including home size, if it’s pet-friendly, location, etc., to get a recommended price for your listing.
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💡 Quick Tip: An emergency fund or rainy day fund is an important financial safety net. Aim to have at least three to six months’ worth of basic living expenses saved in case you get a major unexpected bill or lose income.
16. Deciding How You Want to “Screen” Guests
It is against Airbnb’s nondiscrimination policy to decline a booking based on “race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status” or impose different standards for specific guests.
What hosts can screen for are people who may not be a good fit for their property by being as descriptive as possible in their listing. If your home is not a good fit for children, you may want to make that clear in your listing.
Do you want to limit the noise after specific hours to respect neighbors? You may want to be specific about that in your listing so you bring in the type of customer you are hoping to attract.
17. Learning About Enhanced Cleaning Standards
Airbnb, along with other rental platforms, now require hosts to use an enhanced five-step cleaning protocol to help curb the spread of Covid-19.
The protocol includes special measures, such as using disinfectants approved by your local regulatory agencies for use against Covid-19 on all high-touch surfaces (and letting them stand for the amount of time specified on the label) and washing all dishes and laundry at the highest heat setting possible.
18. Thinking About Turnover Time
Before you rent all or part of your home on a rental platform you will want to think about not only when you want to rent your home out, but also how long it will take you to get it properly cleaned (using the five-step protocol) and ready for the next guests.
Will you need 24 hours between guests or can you get the home ready in just a couple of hours? This will determine exactly what dates you are able to accept guests, as well as what check-in time you want to put in your listing.
19. Testing Your Rental With Friends
When you’re getting close to listing your space, you may want to try testing out the system with a few friends.
Inviting people you know and trust to rent your space (free of charge or for a low fee) won’t do much to get that extra income stream flowing, but it can help you work out the kinks, as well as garner you some (hopefully positive!) reviews.
Friends can also tell you honestly what you might do differently or change to improve the rental experience. This way, you’ll feel confident once people you don’t know arrive.
20. Being Ready for Bookings Right Away
With millions of users all over the world, it may be a good idea to go into listing your property believing you’ll receive guests right away.
While this may not happen, it’s better to be prepared for visitors, than wait to see how your listing performs before readying your space for guests.
21. Looking At Your Reviews
After guests depart they may leave you a review of their stay. It’s a good idea to not only look at the reviews but to take them to heart. Reviews can make or break Airbnb rentals.
While it can be tough to digest criticism of your home, if guests complain about something that can be easily fixed, it can be in your best interest to fix it.
Reading positive reviews can be a good way to see your rental from an outsider’s perspective and make changes to improve your listing.
22. Accepting the Fact You Can’t Please Everyone
Sometimes, people are just difficult, or nitpicky, or just aren’t the right match for your listing and will leave a nasty review that feels unwarranted.
If you see a review that falls into that camp, it can be wise to just forget it and move on. This can often be a better approach than starting a fight in the comment section, which may only end up making you look bad to potential future guests.
23. Working Toward Superhost Status
Becoming an Airbnb superhost can increase your earnings by giving your more visibility and letting guests know that they can expect the best when staying with you.
Superhosts are featured in search results and get a Superhost badge on their profiles and listings to help them stand out. After each year as a Superhost, they’ll get a $100 travel coupon.
To become a Superhost, hosts must complete at least 10 stays in the past year (or 100 nights over at least three completed stays), have a 4.8 or higher average overall rating, respond to 90% of new messages within 24 hours, and cancel bookings less than 1% of the time.
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24. Deciding If Airbnb Is the Only Platform for You
After deciding to list on Airbnb, it’s then time to decide if that’s enough. There are, after all, a number of other home rental platforms to choose from, including Vrbo, Booking.com , and Flipkey . It’s up to you how many different listings you’re willing to maintain.
25. Keeping Your Calendar Up to Date
Once you list your home on Airbnb (or any other rental platform), it can be wise to keep your rental calendar as up-to-date as possible. This way, guests don’t accidentally book a stay when you have your in-laws visiting or when you otherwise want to use your own space.
If a date looks to be free to a potential guest but you forgot to mark it as unavailable, it can become a frustrating experience for both parties.
If you have an extra room, or your home is vacant for several months out of the year, you may be tempted to list it on a home rental site.
But before you start posting photos on Airbnb, there are several things you may want to think through — from legal and insurance issues to the time and expense involved in getting (and keeping) your space ready for guests.
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