Today we have a guest blog post from John & Jill Jacobs, a couple that not only loves to travel with Airbnb, but has completely paid off their mortgage by hosting Airbnb guests in their own space. If you’ve been wondering how you can become debt free earlier in life, Airbnb is a great resource for generating income and paying off your home. Continue reading below to hear their story.
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WHO ARE WE?
We are the Jacobs family, and we became debt free last year at the ages of 32 and 33. This was a result of hard work, a good budgeting system, and the extra income we earned as Airbnb hosts.
We got the idea after a couple fabulous weekend getaways to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where we were able to stay in some beautifully-decorated, fully furnished apartments in the heart of the city for under $100 a night. We did the math, and we quickly saw how much extra income we could be earning in our own property.
LOCAL MARKET RESEARCH
Although we had never stayed in an Airbnb right inside our small community of Westchester, we wanted to see exactly who our competition would be. So, we got on our Airbnb app and started searching.
Luckily, we live in a college town, which creates a higher demand for accommodations. Additionally, we are located just 20 minutes from a major airport, great shopping, and restaurants. There is a river within five miles of our home where kayakers and nature enthusiasts gather. All of these things make our location a great money-maker.
Private rooms with shared common areas in our town were going for $45 – $90 per night. That’s great, but we actually have a better setup than that.
Our home has a finished mother-in-law suite in the basement, with a completely separate entrance. There is a living area, two bedrooms, a full bath, and a kitchenette. It is a walkout, with easy access, and it’s own private patio.
That’s the good. The bad, is that it was quite dated when we started our journey. We had a few improvements to make before posting our listing on Airbnb.
There were a few essential things we needed to do to make our Airbnb listing one of the best on the web.
First, we painted the entire basement with a creamy white paint, top to bottom. This made the space feel clean, open, and new.
Next, we had to make sure our mechanicals were up to code, and that we had safety equipment in check. We replaced smoke alarm batteries, hung a fire extinguisher on the wall, and added a carbon monoxide detector.
We also spent about $125 on changing out the existing door knob and lock for a simple key pad system to make check-ins easy for both us and our guests, eliminating the need to let our guests in in person or keep track of keys.
INVESTING IN SOME CREATURE COMFORTS
I know how I like to travel, and the types of Airbnb properties I enjoy staying in the most, so when I decided to become an Airbnb host, I went about outfitting mine as if I were creating my ideal retreat.
We kept expenses down by shopping at places like Walmart, Amazon, and Goodwill. Anything we needed we would first check out Craigslist or ask family and friends. However, we did use high quality furnishings, whether new or pre-owned.
A few of the splurge items we put into our Airbnb listing were: (these are affiliate links)
- Goose down duvet
- High-quality, over-stuffed pillows (I LOVE the “My Pillow” brand)
- A large, flat-screen TV with Amazon Firestick for streaming and Netflix
- Fluffy towels
- A Keurig coffee maker with several teas and coffee k-cups to choose from
- A water cooler
We added throw pillows, colorful rugs, and DIY art on the walls for an artsy, polished, cozy, yet eclectic feel.
All in all, we spent under $500 to get our Airbnb property ready to go.
PRICING YOUR LISTING
As an Airbnb traveler, I’ve seen single rooms priced as low as $20 a night, and whole homes priced as high as $1,500 a night. My tip is to research similar listings in your area, and don’t price yourself out of the market.
Competitive pricing, especially as you are building up your Airbnb hosting experience and reviews, is essential. A low price will almost guarantee some guests and as long as you are a great host, rave reviews.
Overpricing may lead to no one booking your place. Price low at first, and then when you become an Airbnb Superhost, you can increase your prices a bit.
You can also use the Smart Pricing feature that Airbnb offers its hosts, but I have found that it is not always ideal. Sometimes it just plain prices things too low or too high.
LISTING THE ENTIRE HOME GETS YOU MORE MONEY AND MORE BOOKINGS
Traveling via Airbnb has really helped me to be a better Airbnb host. I know what I like and what I don’t, and I have adjusted my hosting techniques accordingly.
As a traveler, I typically always prefer an entire home or apartment over a single room or shared space. Staying in a strange place can be hard enough without having to co-mingle.
The most money your are going to make as an Airbnb host is by listing your entire house. Don’t get me wrong, if you have an extra guest room, by all means, list that puppy! You’ll still be able to make great extra income.
But we have found that being able to list our finished basement apartment as an “entire home” has helped give us the optimal income potential, and is ultimately how Airbnb paid off our mortgage.
HOW BUSY DO YOU WANT YOUR CALENDAR TO BE?
A lot of people only want to host their Airbnb listing during special local events where accommodations are in high demand. And that’s fine if you’re just looking for a little extra side hustle money.
It’s easy on Airbnb to block off chunks of time when you do not want to host any guests.
However, for us, the goal was for Airbnb to pay off our mortgage entirely, so we attacked it like a boss. We took as many opportunities as we could to host guests and make money. We never blocked off time, and we ended up hosting about 112 times in 2016 alone.
BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR AIRBNB ACCOMODATIONS
If you have a small, private bedroom with only one shared bath, don’t try to make it sound like something it’s not, or you will have upset guests.
Be sure to let your potential guests know if you have pets, are a smoker, live right next to a loud train, or have small children that get up every morning at 6am.
Being clear about your Airbnb listing leads to your guests setting realistic expectations and less disappointment.
If you have a finished basement that is private and has it’s own entrance, it is fine to list it as an “entire place,” just be sure to be up front about those logistics in your listing so your guests know that you’ll be up above them.
TALK TO A TAX PROFESSIONAL
When we started getting tons of Airbnb bookings and the money really started rolling in, we were excited! But, we were also quickly overwhelmed. We didn’t know how taxes worked on Airbnb income, or what was tax deductible.
It’s complicated! That’s why we went to our tax person and they gave us the scoop on exactly how to run our new Airbnb business like a, well, business.
THAT’S HOW WE DID IT!
This, in a nutshell, is how we were able to become Airbnb hosts and pay off our mortgage in our early thirties. If you’re an empty nester, or even a single person just starting out, I highly recommend Airbnb as another stream of income.
My advice to you is to take a good look at your space to see what kind of cozy guest accommodations you can carve out to make some extra income. An extra room? A basement? Even a couch? Just list it! Doing this has changed our life for the better.
Thank you, Jacobs Family, for sharing your motivating story about paying off your mortgage by hosting your space on Airbnb! What do YOU think? Do you love Airbnb? Would you ever become a host? Share your stories below!
*names have been changed at the request of the author.