In early December 2019 I got super exciting news, the house in Florida where we’d put an offer in had been accepted! We’d be moving across the country from Utah and putting our house up for rent as a short term rental. I thought I’d share the 10 things I learned from renting out my house as an Air BNB.
December is a busy time of year so we focused on work and enjoying the holidays. Then we took the two weeks after Christmas to prep for the move and to get our house ready for becoming an Air BNB and well, it was the most stressful few weeks EVER!
1. It’s a lot of work to prepare a house for becoming an Air BNB
For those two weeks we did all sorts of fixes around our house- we switched the glass door into a solid door on the bathroom (why it was ever glass, I don’t know), touched up paint, decluttered, removed our personal property, and did every miscellaneous task needed around the house.
It was non-stop work and we were working on it until the moment we moved out. It was stressful and A TON of effort! Pretty much, I wanted the house to be picture perfect and have everything in working order. With a 1905 house, that means lots of hours fixing small things in every single room.
2. You need to hire people to help take care of your house if you’re out of town
Since we’re in Florida and our Air BNB is in Utah, we needed to pay people to help take care of the house. The first person I hired was a cleaner. I used my city’s Facebook classified’s page to list the position. Then I had 3 people come in to interview. I told them I’d pay their rate for them to also clean for 30 minutes.
It was good to see how people cleaned and make sure they’d keep up the level of cleanliness I wanted. Plus I liked getting to know the people who’d be cleaning my house while I was gone. It was really nice to have a cleaner hired- I actually had them clean after we moved out so that was one last thing I had to do.
Now my cleaner lets me know if there’s any damage or issues with the house after each person checks out. She’s amazing and I’m so grateful that she is there to get the house ready and be my eyes for me.
We also have a lawn care company keeping up on the yard who we pay to mow weekly.
At first, I worked hard on finding a property manager and found a few I really liked. Then I didn’t feel right about it so I didn’t end up hiring one. That ended up being a good move for us (I’ll explain more below). If we have an issue, we pay a handy man or local person to go take care of it. I prefer to pay someone once to solve an issue than have someone take 10-20% of the profits (since that’s usually how property managers charge).
My in-laws are also kind enough to drive from their house an hour away to check on things as well.
3. having good photos for your listing is key
The first impression my guests have of my house, are the photos in the listing. I made sure that the first 5 pictures are the very best I have that show the prettiest views of my house. To get the photos, I hired a local real estate photographer to come in and take pictures.
Horizontal pictures take up more space on the screen on Air BNB’s website, so getting pictures in that format is best. I also don’t think you should have too many pictures or people will get bored clicking through them. I have 32 of my house up.
It might seem intimidating to hire a photographer, but I believe that it gets the house booked when you have good pictures! They’ll show your house in the best light when you have a professional take them.
4. price low to start
Without any reviews and not having any experience hosting, we rented our house out for a little below Air BNB suggested it to be at $85 per night for a 3 bedroom/2 bathroom private house. That’s about the rate to get a standard hotel room in our town. I wanted to start out priced lower than all of the other homes in my area to make up for not having any reviews and entice people to book.
That worked and slowly our schedule filled up. It was really great to get the Air BNB email that someone had booked our home.
I remember the first night our first guests came to the house. We have a Ring doorbell and it was SO exciting to see the family renting the house appreciate all the details we’d put into the house as they entered. They were literally jumping up and down as they entered the house! It was one of my favorite moments as a host. Side note, we disclose that there’s a camera on the front of the house in our listing.
5. Ask for a review and feedback
One of the very best tips I received was to leave a message after each person checks out asking for a review and feedback. Here’s what mine says-
Hi, I’m just starting out as an Air BNB host. I’d love if you could leave a review as it will help others feel comfortable booking. If you enjoyed your stay, and wouldn’t mind could you please write us a review about your favorite parts of our property? Also, if you had anything go wrong or suggestions on how we could improve would you please send them to me in this messenger as I welcome your feedback and love to improve.
I always personalize the message, but it’s helped me find ways I can improve the property. That feedback really is so valuable. Plus people have left amazing reviews and then sent me their suggestions. It’s a win win situation. I take the feedback to heart and if possible, try to solve it before the next person checks in.
6. Allow Pets
At our house, our dogs are an important part of our lives. We don’t always travel with them, but we have taken them on enough trips to really value places where dogs can stay affordably. When I first did my listing, I was so concerned about the risk of allowing dogs and cats. What if they ruined my sofa or chewed up my rug? But I still went for it and am SO glad that I did.
We started renting to our house at the end of February on Air BNB. By March, our house was fully booked, but then something horrible happened. The pandemic. As events cancelled, so did our guests. The people who had booked our house were coming in town for events- all of which could no longer happen. It was terrible seeing everything cancel. Of course, we understood, but it made the uncertainty of the moment feel even more real and scary to us.
Then the luckiest thing ever happened, a family decided to quarantine at our house. They’ve been in Fairview Cottage from early March and will be with us until late May. One family! It was a miracle! When most Air BNB hosts saw empty homes, ours was full for 3 straight months. I am SO grateful. What was the key reason they booked with us? Because we allow pets and they have a dog and cat.
7. be flexible when you can
Whenever you can, choose flexibility and kindness. If you have an empty house and don’t need to do a quick turnaround, let guests check in early or late. Our guests that have been with us since March where driving in late at night so I said that whenever they arrived they could come in. It made no difference to me, but I wanted to do everything to make them feel welcome.
8. fix any issues as quickly as possible
The only thing that has broken on our house while we’ve been renting it out is the back door lock. It got jammed and would no longer open. We called a locksmith and paid for it to be fixed ASAP. We communicated with our renters about when it would be fixed. The locksmith ended up coming without letting us know (which was annoying) and we apologized about that.
9. as you get 5 star reviews, increase your price
As we’ve received three 5 star reviews, we’ve increased our price to $100 per night and our minimum booking length to 3 nights. We’re still priced a tiny bit low for the size of our house. And, of course, I think our house is cuter than anything out there- lol. I like the idea of being priced a little big higher to attract people who will pay for a nicer house in the hopes that they’ll treat it nicer too.
10. renting out an Air BNB can be profitable
When I was first buying everything to get our house Air BNB ready- 2 sets of sheets per bed, 2 new towels per guests, toilet paper, a pack n play for babies, and more it was so scary. Would this pay off? We spent over $1000 on items and what if our place didn’t even rent out? I’m super frugal so throwing all that money at the unknown was hard.
But it did pay off! And I know that was crazy lucky during these past few months. We’ve been able to cover all expenses and have a little extra too. When we bought our home, the mortgage was nice and low so it’s not too hard to make enough renting it out to make that monthly bill.
what kind of things will you upgrade?
We have enough money from renting out the Air BNB to be able to go and do some upgrades this summer like putting in air conditioning. Which is good because in July and August it gets way too hot to rent it out without it. That’s the main reason we’ll be heading back.
I’m also thinking about upgrading the kitchen countertops. Since they’re painted, I worry about them holding up. I want everything to be hard wearing so we’ll probably replace those and the backsplash.
I’m also thinking about adding 1-2 beds in Don’s room. Maybe a bunk bed? And if we add more beds, I’ll need to figure out a better dining situation since our current table only sits 4 at the most.
in which house do you plan to live when Don is in school?
We’re planning on living in Florida during the school year. I’ll be 100% honest, it’s SO hard to plan ahead with the pandemic. Who knows if in-person learning will happen in the fall? Right now the plan is to spend June-August in Utah, but that can always change. I doubt it will, but I’m open to doing what’s best for our family. There’s lots of considerations that go into that.
who normally rents it out?
Mostly, it’s been people coming to Logan for an event- so tourists. Our little town has some great events in it, but isn’t considered a super touristy place. I don’t think any blog readers have rented it so far. A few people have booked just as a place to getaway and recharge. Which I think it’s great for too. The house is equipped with everything to stay home and relax.
how has the pandemic affected your Air BNB?
Like I mentioned above, we’ve been fully booked since early March. Which is super lucky! We don’t take that for granted. Cache County, where our house is located has had zero deaths and only 40 cases. They haven’t had any new cases for 3 weeks. Because of how mild the pandemic has been there, things are starting to open back up and it continues to be booked.
what would you do different if you were starting over?
The one regret I have is that we didn’t have a great plan for putting out our patio furniture. Logan gets a ton of snow, and it isn’t until recently that it’s been good enough weather to put out the swing and outdoor dining table. After our current guests check out, we’ll try to hire someone to set up that furniture.
I also regret that we tried to pack to move across the country and turn our house into an Air BNB in 2 weeks. It just isn’t enough. I should have been working on it for at least a month.
aren’t you scared someone will steal something?
The number one question I received was asking about how I was willing to rent the house with all of my stuff in it and projects. When we left the house, I was SO sad. I’d put my heart into this house and love it. I still miss it. But I knew I was making the right choice for my family and self. So I let it go. I removed all personal stuff or things that’d I’d be really sad if they got broken or stolen. The only things that are in there are replaceable.
I truly love hosting. I like welcoming people into that special house. Really, I’m a little jealous that I wasn’t the one quarantining there. Seeing the house go from dreary winter to blossoming spring is the BEST part of year. And I love that someone else got to experience it and feel safe! It’d be sad to me to have the house empty. People are supposed to be in there.
And generally, I believe that people are good. Our house has been left in great condition by our renters. The only damage our cleaner has found is that the wire on one picture had broken so it doesn’t hang on the rainbow stair gallery wall. Totally fixable and not a big deal! It helps that my job is to fix up houses too. I just figure, it something breaks, we’ll fix it.
will it be weird to go back and stay there after others have slept in your bed?
Maybe a little! But I’m not weird about that kind of thing. We’ll have the house deep cleaned before we come back. It’ll be interesting to see what’s held up with my DIYs (I’m a little scared to see the handle on the rainbow fridge– I’m guessing it’s worn off). It’s just the price we pay to have two houses. Right now I think it’s worth it, but I’ll keep you posted when we get back.
do you think your house rented out more because it’s cute?
Yes, I do think that the design is why lots of people booked it. Personally, if I have the choice between two similarly priced homes in good locations, I’d choose the one that’s prettier. For me, staying in a good looking place just makes vacation so much better!
which house is your favorite- Florida or Utah?
I love both houses for different reasons. The Florida house is smaller (890 square feet) and I LOVE the size- it’s more manageable and all the space we need. It’s great how close we are to the beach- a 15 minute bike ride. Of course, that’d be better if the beach was open (it hasn’t been since March 20). This house is more expensive, so that’s a downside. The mortgage isn’t so bad, but the insurance and taxes are brutal. When I grow old, I hope I can spend every winter here.
In Logan, that house is super affordable with a low mortgage and smaller expenses. We’ve lived there longer and I feel like I know the soul of that house better. That sounds so lame and cheesy, but as I worked on that house I really felt like I was reviving it to the glory it was meant to be. I feel super connected to that house. I can’t wait to go back and sleep in the beautiful master bedroom and soak in my claw foot tub. Plus we’ll be closer to friends and family.
For different reasons, I love each house. I’ll forever miss one when I’m not in it. It’s a weird lifestyle to try and live. We’re still figuring it out the “snow bird” thing and feel grateful for the chance to try and design our own life. It’s really fun to have two different houses to live in with two totally different lifestyles.
what is air bnb’s commision
I love the way Air BNB is set-up. They collect taxes and pay them for you. Air BNB gets a 3% service fee from each booking. It feels fair to me!
do you need special insurance?
You need to make sure that your insurance covers short term rentals. If it doesn’t, you need to change insurance that does.
with the pandemic, are you sad you moved to Florida?
When the pandemic first hit, I played the “What if” game a lot. What if we had known about this, would we have moved? I worried the answer was no. It was depressing to think about what could have been. To think of everything that could go wrong. We took on a ton of risk right before this huge downfall of the economy and it was (and is) crazy scary.
In early December, we of course, had no clue what was coming. Who did? But in March, when the sh** hit the fan, I got worried (like I’m sure everyone else did) and I questioned my huge decision to move my family across the country. I’m sure lots of people felt the same about their decisions and I wasn’t the only one asking what if…?
After awhile, I got sick of “should-ing” all over myself. Questioning my decisions when there was no way of knowing about this crazy pandemic, that’s no good for anyone.
So I quit second guessing myself and tried to make the best of my situation. I chose to move here because I believed it’d be best for our family. It was my dream for years and I worked really hard to make it a reality. So I did all I could to choose my choice and make it great. Who knows what’ll happen? I don’t, but I do know that I’m scrappy and a hard worker and will do my best no matter what.
I’m so grateful that the whole gamble with renting out our home has paid off so far! I’ve learned a lot from the experience of becoming a host and hope that the things I learned from renting out my house as an Air BNB was helpful or at lease interesting to read about.
Let me know if you have any more questions in the comments!
if you loved it, pin it!