Steve and Annette Economides of Money Smart Family are empty-nesters with a large home in Arizona.
“It’s about 3,500 square feet,” Annette says. “With the kids grown and gone, the empty rooms could have just become junk rooms.”
Looking for ideas for how to make money, they decided to try listing their extra space on Airbnb. Their first year, they made a decent amount of money. But five years later, their side hustle is on target to bring in a whopping $30,000 in additional income. That's got to be one of the best side hustles ever! Here’s how they did it.
How they got started with Airbnb
As the parents of five children, Steve and Annette are no strangers to a busy home. With so much extra space in their house, hosting paying guests seemed like a natural fit for them.
“We started out by listing just one room, and we really liked it,” Annette says.
When they first got started, there was very little competition in their area. As one of the few Airbnb listings in their city, they could charge higher rates and had a large demand.
Annette estimated that they made between $5,000 and $10,000 during their first year as Airbnb hosts.
The experience got them hooked. When their last child moved out, Steve and Annette decided to list more of their home, too.
“Two years after we got started, we added a second room [to Airbnb],” Annette says. “And just last fall, we added a third room with a shared bathroom.”
Steve and Annette used their Airbnb earnings to remodel their home.
“We’ve been here for 25 years, so we used the money to renovate the bathrooms, redo the flooring, and we have done improvements to the landscaping,” she says. “Airbnb-ers really enjoy our pool, so we resurfaced that, too.”
What it’s like running an owner-occupied Airbnb
Many Airbnb hosts don’t live in the house they list full time; instead, they live elsewhere and use the Airbnb listing as investment income. The Economides are different. Their Airbnb listing is their home, and they live alongside their guests.
“We do everything ourselves,” Annette says. “I clean the rooms and wash the linens. [Airbnb hosts] aren’t required to offer food, but I do provide tea and coffee, instant oatmeal, eggs, and toast, and guests have access to the kitchen cabinets.”
Annette stressed that running an owner-occupied Airbnb requires detailed organization; it’s not exactly a passive income stream.
“I do have to keep track of when people are coming and going, and it can be a lot to handle,” she says. “The good thing is, if I want to take a vacation, I can just block those dates off on my calendar.”
Hosting advice for others
The Economides were able to grow their Airbnb side hustle and earn a significant amount of money in just five years. They’re Airbnb superhosts, which means they have high guest ratings, a low cancellation rate, and a 90% response rate within 24 hours. Their superhost status entitles them to benefits such as bonuses for referring new members and extra visibility to guests looking for listings.
Here are their top tips for getting started with Airbnb:
1. At first, underprice the competition
When you’re starting out, it can be difficult to get your first reservation. Annette recommended looking up what similar-sized listings in your area are charging per night.
“See what the competition is charging, and then charge $5 less than what they’re charging per night,” she says.
The slightly lower rate will encourage guests to book your listing on Airbnb. As you get reviews, you can raise your rates.
2. Allow one-night guests when you’re just getting started
Annette typically has a two-night minimum for guests staying at her home. But for her Airbnb hosts, it may be a good idea to open up your listings to guests who need a place to stay for just one night.
“You only need 10 trips to qualify for superhost status, so allowing one-nighters can help you reach that level,” she says.
3. Encourage guests to leave reviews
When you do have guests, make sure you talk to them when they’re in your home. Reviews are pivotal for your success as an Airbnb host, so ask them to write a review before they leave.
4. Be very clear in the listing description
Be as clear as possible in your listing description. Make sure you list the bed’s dimensions — no one wants to find out at the last minute that the only bed available is a twin — and whether the bathroom is shared.
If food is the guest’s responsibility, or if they won’t have access to cabinets or a refrigerator, make sure you explain that too.
5. Screen guests carefully
“My biggest mistake early on was not pushing people to read the full description well enough,” Annette says.
Now, she screens guests by asking them questions to ensure they read the listing description. This way, she can ensure they know what bed to expect, that a hot breakfast won’t be served, and that they won’t be disappointed when they arrive.
6. Set up a check-in window
Although some Airbnb hosts allow guests to check in whenever they like, Annette prefers to use a check-in window. That can be especially useful if you’re renting out multiple rooms or will be staying in the home with guests. It prevents someone from accidentally walking into another person’s bedroom late at night while they’re trying to find their bed.
If you decide to go this route, set up a reasonable check-in window that works for your schedule and stick to it.
7. Come up with an organizational system that works for you
Organization is key to being an Airbnb host. Besides keeping track of check-in and check-out dates, you also need to continuously check the site for new messages.
You also need to establish a schedule for cleaning the rooms or home, switching out linens, and grocery shopping if you provide food. Figure out a schedule and organizational system that works for you.
The final word on Airbnb hosting
As the Economides family found, Airbnb can be a great source of supplemental income. If you decide to become an Airbnb host yourself, focus on charging a competitive rate, communicating with guests, and providing a positive experience.
With a little extra work — and customer service — you can develop a new income stream with the unused space in your home.
Looking for other ways to make money? Here’s how to earn cash without ever leaving your couch.