It never really occurred to me how much space in a typical house goes unused until Ms. FP and I moved back into her four bedroom house. As a renter, we never lived in an apartment bigger than 800 square feet or so. Our smallest apartment (where we found all of that sweet, sweet trash) was about 600 square feet. At the beginning of this year the two of us moved back into a 4 bedroom house that was double or triple the size of any apartment we’d ever lived in.
It seemed like a waste to have so much space for just two people. But we didn’t want to get roommates either. That’s when we decided to try out our hand at Airbnb.
Are You Really Using All Of Your Space?
Moving from our small apartment into a pretty big house really showed us how much of our home was basically going unused. When you think about it, most people probably need just a few parts of their home – a spot to watch TV, a spot to sleep, and a spot to eat and cook. Maybe you work from home and need a spot to work.
A few months back, the Money Wizard wrote about a UCLA study in which researchers plotted the location of family members in a typical house. The researchers performed a sweep of the house every 10 minutes, then plotted each family member’s location. Below were the results. As you can see, the majority of the time, people hung out in the kitchen or family room. Many other rooms basically went unused.
What this means is that, for most people, a house isn’t being used to its full potential. Most of the time, you’re not really paying to heat or cool yourself. Instead, you’re paying to heat and cool stuff that’s sitting in unused rooms.
And the absolute biggest waste of space has to be the guest room! It seems like everyone with a house has a guest room these days. People decorate them, keep them clean, and put nice stuff in them. And then these rooms only get used a handful of times per year. We were no exception.
If you have a guest room, you’re sitting on a potential income generating portion of your house! Your home is likely your biggest asset. Figuring out a way to monetize it, even just a little bit, is an easy way to put that asset to use and defray some of your living costs. It’s also a good way to fix the problem of having a house that’s too big for you.
I knew about Airbnb, but had only tried it out once as a guest, and never as a host. But I’d always been interested in the concept. And I hated that we had all this extra space sitting unused.
So, in April of this year, I took some pictures of the guest room, put up a listing on Airbnb, and Ms. FP and I began to welcome our first guests. And so far, we’ve been very happy with the experience.
The Advantages of Airbnb
As you can tell, I’m a big fan of the sharing economy. Airbnb comes with a lot of advantages that you can’t get from a normal roommate situation.
1. It’s Better Than A Full Time Roommate.
The traditional way of monetizing your home would be to find a roommate. The problem with having a roommate is that you lose a lot of flexibility. If you want your house for yourself, you’re stuck. With Airbnb, all you need to do is block out those dates on your calendar.
There’s also a big mindset shift with an Airbnb guest as compared to a roommate. One of the things that Ms. FP hated about living with roommates was the fact that her roommates had their stuff in her living room and kitchen. It’s not necessarily that her roommates were messy – most of them weren’t. But when you have multiple people living in one house, it’s really hard to keep the place free of clutter. A roommate sees your house as their house, basically.
It’s a totally different experience with an Airbnb guest. That’s because there’s a general understanding that it’s your house and the Airbnb guest is just that – a guest. When I’m a guest in someone’s home, I tend to treat the home with a ton of respect. I won’t walk around someone’s house tracking mud, or leave my stuff around, or make a ton of noise at night. I’ve found that most people are the same way. When they stay in your home, they’re super respectful.
Another big bonus with an Airbnb guest versus a roommate is the fact that Airbnb guests don’t spend much time in your house. Someone staying with you on Airbnb is typically coming to your city for a specific reason. Since we’re close to a college campus, almost every guest that stays with us is coming into town for a conference or for school interviews. We don’t see them very often. Most of the time, they only come home to sleep.
2. Way More Money For Less Time.
This is pretty expected, but renting out a room on Airbnb brings in much more income than renting that same room out to a traditional renter. If you’ve followed my side hustle reports at all, you know that, in months where I’m fully booked, I can bring in well over $1,000 in a month. A room in my house would probably rent for around $600 or so per month if rented out normally. I can bring in that same amount in about 12 days on Airbnb.
3. Overhead Is Low If You’re Renting Out A Room In Your Home.
One issue a lot of people have with Airbnb is that it takes a lot more time and overhead to run an Airbnb as compared to a traditional rental. This is definitely true if you’re renting out an entire house or apartment. It’s a time intensive process to clean a large space between guests and get a place ready for the next group. Not to mention that, if you’re renting out an entire home on Airbnb, you’ll probably need to invest some money in purchasing furniture.
But when you’re renting out a room in your house on Airbnb, the overhead is minimal. There’s very little extra utility use, at least not enough for me to notice any real difference in our electricity or water bill. We’re also just using furniture we already had.
The only costs we really have are the cost of washing sheets. To minimize these costs, we have multiple sheets that we’ve earmarked for our guest room. Doing this allows us to stagger our laundry so that we can wash most of our sheets with our regular laundry.
4. Your House Will Never Be Cleaner.
I think this is the most underestimated impact of renting out a room on Airbnb. Ever look around and realize that your house has gotten pretty dirty? I know that’s what happens to us when we go through long periods where no one is visiting our house. Clothes get left on chairs. Dirty plates start piling up in the sink. Dust bunnies start collecting in the corner.
This all changed once we started renting out a room on Airbnb. Suddenly, we needed to keep our house clean! Sure, there’s some work involved in cleaning up our house when guests are coming. But the thing is, cleaning gets so much easier when your house is already clean to begin with! I really only have to sweep up our guest room, change the sheets, and make a quick sweep of the bathroom between guests.
I will admit that cleaning is work. I’d rather not do it. But it’s work that doesn’t just benefit our guests. It benefits us too! Our guests get a clean place to stay, and as an advantage, we get a clean house to live in.
5. You Can Get Freebies!
You can probably guess that I love free stuff. And the great thing with becoming a good Airbnb host is the ability to snag free things from companies looking to advertise their products. If you just keep an eye out on some of the major Airbnb forums, you can often find companies offering to give free stuff to Airbnb Superhosts. As an example, I’ve received boxes of travel sized toiletries, USB plugs, and smoke alarms.
My absolute best freebies are the two free mattresses I’ve received from startup mattress companies. These companies are super popular in the startup world. Instead of buying a mattress in a store, you can purchase a mattress online and the company mails it to you in a box. There are so many of these companies out there that there’s even entire blogs and YouTube channels dedicated to reviewing mattresses.
Since I’m an Airbnb Superhost, I’ve been lucky enough to receive $2,000 worth of free mattresses and pillows from these companies! I guess the idea is that a guest will sleep on the mattress, then consider purchasing it later. I have no idea if that will actually work out, but who cares, free mattresses for me! Even if I stopped doing Airbnb right now, I’d still get to keep the mattresses, which are definitely better than our old mattresses.
I didn’t expect to get any freebies when I first started hosting. But it’s been a nice bonus and I’m always keeping an eye out for other freebies!
But What If Some Crazy Guy Comes Into My House?
The biggest fear that anyone has when it comes to renting out a room on Airbnb is the fact that you’re inviting a stranger into your house. This is a definite concern for sure. but I think it’s an overblown fear. I feel like most people in the world are normal people. And with the way the internet works, it’s pretty easy to figure out who’s coming to your door.
You also greatly diminish the chances that a crazy person comes into your home when you’re renting out a single room on Airbnb. Anyone looking to throw a big party or steal from you or do any other number of bad things is probably not going to do it in a house where the owner is also living in it.
There are other precautions you can take to avoid problem guests. I require all of my guests to verify their identity with Airbnb. Basically, guests that want to stay in my house have to take a picture of their ID and give it to Airbnb. Below is what you can see if you look at a typical Airbnb profile.
I also always do a little bit of background research on each guest that messages me. If they have good reviews already, then that’s great. They’re probably less likely to be crazy. I’ll also do a quick Google search and see what type of internet presence they have. A professional LinkedIn profile or some sort of work profile is definitely something I like to see.
Finally, you can limit the crazies just by chatting with your potential guests! I can almost always get a feel for the type of person coming to my home based on the type of messages they write. If the message is written professionally and explains why they’re coming into town, I’m much more likely to accept the request.
In the end, you’ve got to trust your gut. Most people who are crazy won’t be able to hide it. You’ll probably be able to tell.
More To Come!
My Airbnb experience is far too much to write in a single post, so stay tuned for additional updates and information. I plan to share some more information about the type of money we’ve made and the tools we use as Airbnb hosts, along with other tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.
If you’ve got a guest room collecting dust, seriously consider giving Airbnb a try. It only takes a little bit of time to set up and really, if you don’t like it or find it to be uncomfortable, you can just delete your listing. You can’t get that same flexibility with a roommate
There’s really no reason your house can’t bring in a little extra income for you.