Is an AirBnB side hustle worth it?

Welcome back to Rebecca Megson-Smith from Ridley Writes who recently gave AirBnB a try with her own home. I have always wondered if its worth it, the hassle, the income, the time. Rebecca shares her thoughts on this potential money making AirBnB side hustle.

With the cost of living crisis hitting hard we’ve been looking into additional side hustles to increase cash flowing into the house.

Back in the autumn we put our house up for rent on AirBnB. We’re often away at weekends and for extended periods over the holidays staying with my husband’s family. The notion that our house could be earning money for us whilst we’re not there was a pretty enticing one. After a little hesitation and a lot of faffing, I finally got our house up and on AirBnB at the beginning of November.

Setting up as an AirBnB Host

Setting up on the app was simultaneously really straightforward and quite complex. AirBnB help you through it in bite-sized stages. This is good but I never felt I had a complete handle on all the steps I needed to take. It’s only since going live and going back into the app that I’ve been able to get more comfortable with the different places to post different types of information on our property.

It’s also worth noting, you have to have your details vetted by AirBnB once you’ve put the initial information in and it isn’t until that has happened that you can add extra information, such as your payment details.

I suspect if you’re renting out part of your property or another property you don’t live in and you’re doing it more regularly, it’s really straightforward. The more time you spend in any app, the more it becomes second nature. As what we’re doing is much more sporadic there is a bit of needing to get our head back into the space.

Eventually, however, we were set up enough to go live with our booking information page. Just shy of three weeks later we got our first booking through for a couple of days over Christmas. It was very exciting.

Our guests had booked to stay for two nights over Christmas, when we were due to be away staying with family. Previously I had had misgivings about the wisdom of having people stay over the especially stressful Christmas period, but I soothed myself with the thought, ‘is there ever really a good time to do this?’

What we learned from the experience

  • Timing – It was extraordinarily hard preparing the house for guests on the back of Christmas planning. Whilst there may never be a good time to do something new like rent out your house on AirBnB, I think my misgivings about doing this over Christmas were spot on.
  • Communication – Assume nothing! I had included information about our cat on the booking page and in my first email back to our bookers which I sent to them on the day they booked. Weeks later however, when I finally called them having not heard back from them via the email within the AirBnB app, the existence of our cat was entirely new news to them – and not good news at that!

I’ve subsequently updated the information on our booking page AND included a picture of the cat in the gallery of images about our house. I will also call our next booker as soon as I can once the reservation comes in. I completely understand if you’re not a cat lover having a super fury ginger cat hosting your stay away is not everyone’s idea of a good time…

It’s also good practice to have a conversation with your guests early on in the booking process generally, irrespective of cat issues!

  • Family home challenges – Renting out your family home is incredibly difficult – especially when you have younger children too. As a family we have a lot of stuff and, rather foolishly in retrospect, we made the whole house available. For future bookings, we’ll keep the office out of bounds and it will be a useful room to hide any excess ‘stuff’ in.
  • Cleaning – It’s well worth paying a professional cleaner to come in and clean ahead of any booking. Yes, you need to knock it off the money you are receiving but you can offset the cost by charging a cleaning fee. Fundamentally it’s far better than spending days trying to clean the house yourself – especially if you have kids running around unintentionally undoing all your good work!

Pricing – the bottom line!

It’s easy to get carried away on the headline that putting your property up to rent via AirBnB is a great way to earn a few extra quid whilst you’re away, but that’s really only a tiny part of the story.

AirBnB suggest a price range for your property based on the property itself, the time of year and the area. We went slightly below the mid-range suggested to us as it was our first time and so we charged £190 per night plus a cleaning fee of £30. We then paid AirBnB £14.76 in ‘Host service fees’ (which equated to 3% +VAT) so the total we received was £395.24, though our guest paid £479.46.

We’ve since revised our pricing down and are using the ‘smart pricing’ function on the app and are charging £104.00 per night with a reduced cleaning fee for short stays. Currently a two night stay would cost £255.00 and we would receive £210.00.

One thing to note is that although our guests paid promptly we didn’t receive payment until the end of January. Apparently for your first guest AirBnB hold the money for 30 days. I’m not entirely sure why but I believe for future bookings we’d get paid sooner.

Would we do it again?

I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in an AirBnB that was also lived in as someone’s home (and we use AirBnB a lot when we travel). I think it makes it a very different type of offering. Making that clear to your guests beforehand is important, but so is thinking about the implications of that for you personally too. Whilst on the one hand we were really happy to have people come and use our house as their home, the reality of us coming home from a trip away and seeing the records had been rifled through and the record player used was an unusual and slightly uncomfortable sensation.

Putting our house on AirBnB was a lot of work and quite a lot of stress but as with anything never previously attempted, we’ve come out the other side of our first rental with heaps more knowledge and understanding about the whole deal. We’re carrying on for the time being in the hope that we can apply our new-found knowledge to future rentals and keep making the experience better and better – both for ourselves, but most importantly, for our guests.

This is an article created by Rebecca Megson-Smith. A writer, writing coach and feminist, fuelled by books, tea and time by the sea. You can find her on her website, Instagram @ridleywrites and lurking on Twitter @ridleywrites.


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