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How to make money with Airbnb and Vrbo

Making money as a vacation rental owner has become a commonplace way to add to your monthly income. Here’s how to get started on Airbnb and Vrbo.

Catherine Collins
November 30, 2023
Updated:

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When looking for a source of supplemental income or a side hustle, many homeowners turn to their properties. One way to monetize your home is by listing it as a short-term rental on Airbnb or Vrbo. Whether you use your primary residence or an investment property, making money on Airbnb as a vacation rental owner is a popular way to add to your monthly income. Here’s how to get started on Airbnb or Vrbo.

Assess your property's hosting potential

Before listing your property on Airbnb as a short-term rental, you’ll need to take an honest look at your home. Is your house in a travel-friendly location? Does it have charm or historic appeal? Does it have space for a couple, or could you host a large family as potential guests?

Next, think about your lifestyle. Are you comfortable having guests in your home? Can you afford the expense of a second home, adding a guest house, or building an ADU? Would you need to pay for significant renovations before your home is ready to list?

Finally, is the city you live in friendly to short-term rentals? Many cities across the country regulate short-term rentals, making it challenging to earn an income.

Prepare your property for hosting

While you can always opt to rent out your property as-is, many property owners renovate or add unique features to their properties to maximize their renting potential. 

After suffering a stroke, David S., a retired architect, wanted to create a new income stream by listing his home on Airbnb. To do so, however, he needed to update his property before hosting. Renovating involved significant updates to make his home unique to attract guests.

To afford his upgrades after enduring several health issues, David received a Home Equity Investment (HEI) from Point. The HEI enabled him to tap into his home equity to improve his space without having monthly payments.

While you might not opt to do extensive renovations like David, it might be wise to do simple upgrades like buying new bedding, new towels, and deep cleaning.

List your property effectively on Airbnb and Vrbo

To make your property stand out on Airbnb and Vrbo, consider investing in high-quality photos. When you are a brand-new listing, it’s also a good idea to strategically price your rental. 

Starting with a lower nightly rate can attract renters initially and enable you to collect reviews quickly. Once your property listing has several reviews and steady bookings, you can slowly raise the price to optimize revenue. This is how to make money on Airbnb and increase your earnings over time.

Your photos should highlight each bedroom, the kitchen, the bathrooms, and unique amenities like a coffee bar or a balcony. Make sure your space is clean and decluttered before pictures. For example, remove shampoo bottles from the bathroom and put all laundry away. Your home should ideally look like a serene and comfortable space your guests can book to relax. When in doubt, hire an Airbnb photographer with experience shooting marketing photos for an Airbnb listing.

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Build a team

Many people who own a Vrbo or Airbnb listing manage it themselves as a side hustle. They create their listing, manage reservations, handle the upkeep, and solve issues as they arise. However, if you already have a full-time job or live out of town, it helps to build a team.

Your team should consist of a handyman who can quickly make repairs. Also, hiring a cleaning company that you contract to come as soon as guests leave to prepare for the next booking is helpful. Hiring a handyman, cleaners, a property manager, and even naming an emergency contact besides yourself can ensure a smooth experience for your guests.

Ensure a smooth experience

Your guest’s first impression of your short-term rental will be at check-in. Offering flexible check-in options and providing clear instructions will help make that first impression great. Short-term rental guests typically enjoy checking in on their own. Providing a way for them to get a key or having a lock with a code they can enter themselves helps.

Vrbo and Airbnb hosts can house long-term guests as well. If you choose to allow extended stays, be sure your Vrbo or Airbnb offers amenities that support prolonged trips — such as a washer and dryer or working space. 

Making the checkout process easy is helpful, too, especially when guests leave reviews that can help encourage more guests to book a stay with you. Give your guests a few easy steps to complete before checkout, but don’t overwhelm them. Guests might complain if there are too many steps to complete upon checkout.

Build a strong reputation

As mentioned, reviews are crucial when listing a short-term rental online. To encourage positive reviews, find ways to give guests a little extra. That could mean a stocked coffee station, a guide to the area, or checking in to see if they need anything during their stay.

When your guests check out, leave them a review to encourage them to reciprocate. Guests also like getting good reviews because it encourages other Airbnb owners to rent to them in the future.

You can also leverage social media for vacation rental marketing. Create a page that showcases your rental. Market it, collaborate with local influencers, and regularly share pictures and videos that showcase your home’s unique features.

Dealing with challenges and managing risks

When renting a property, there are bound to be occasional challenges. You might encounter difficult renters, renters who damage your property, or renters who have safety issues. 

One way to mitigate risk and ensure an exemplary guest experience is to communicate clearly with your renters. Let them know ahead of time what to do if they have concerns or if they accidentally damage something. 

Make sure to have a handyman or contractor on call if you live in a different area from your rental.

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Final thoughts

Now you know how to get started on Vrbo and Airbnb. Having an Airbnb rental can be lucrative and even turn into a full-time job if you use the right strategies to prepare your home for guests. It’s also essential to develop a business model for handling guest inquiries and issues as time goes on. Having a rental property does come with risks, but if you’re aware of them and plan accordingly, it’s possible to create a successful rental business with your Vrbo or Airbnb property.

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