This Is What It’s REALLY Like To Be An Airbnb Host

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In March, my boss unceremoniously informed me that he wouldn’t be able to pay me on time – two days after my paycheck was due. One missing paycheck turned into one month, one month turned into two months, and so on. Eleven weeks after I’d received my last paycheck, I officially resigned. And because I know you’re wondering: no, I still haven’t seen a dime from the back pay that is owed to me. Ahh, the joys of #startuplife.

If you’ve never found yourself in a similar financial situation, let me tell you: it’s pretty incredible just how fast you can go from a nice salary and secure financial situation to fucked… really, really fucked. Because I’d (stupidly) wasted three months believing that my employer would pull through, I found myself in the position of needing an immediate financial solution.

After weighing my options, I decided to give Airbnb a try. Because I live in a nice building in a prime location in downtown Chicago and tourist season was well-underway, I knew I could fetch a pretty good rate for my apartment, and my parents live nearby, giving me a place to stay while people rent my apartment.

I’ve spent the last four months hosting on Airbnb, and while it’s generally been a positive experience, I’ll admit it: I’m burnt out. Thinking about renting your apartment on Airbnb and wondering what it’s like to be an Airbnb host? Here are 10 things I’ve learned – both good and bad.

1. Yes, you can earn good money on Airbnb

I’ll admit: had it not been for Airbnb, I wouldn’t have survived the last few months. The money I’ve made from being an Airbnb host has covered my rent and helped buy me time while I built my client roster back up. I’ve earned $7,500 by renting out my apartment for a total of 32 days over the last 3.5 months. However, these earnings are likely rare, and I assume that I’d have to drop my nightly rate pretty drastically once tourist season dies down.

make it rain cat


2. No, I’m not worried about people stealing from me

The #1 thing people ask me is if I’m scared people will steal from me. First and foremost, if someone rents my apartment with the goal of looting it, they’ll be sorely disappointed. I really don’t have anything too valuable (or interesting) in my apartment. I do take a few precautionary measures: only guests that have had their identity verified with Airbnb are allowed to submit booking requests, I typically only take guests that already have reviews, and I Google everyone. As an added safety measure, I put personal items at the bottom of my closet, throw piles of clothes on top, push a chair into the closet, and barricade it to the point where no one in their right mind would dig through the mess.


what it's like to host on airbnb


3. The experience can be incredibly stressful

Giving strangers access to your home is a nerve-wracking experience, and it starts before guests even arrive. I tend to spend the entire day obsessing over whether or not my apartment is clean enough or perfect enough, speculating if my guests be nice or unpleasant, etc. Throughout the duration of their stay, I find myself worrying over things like whether or not I’ll have issues with building management. My very first guest was incredibly nasty to my doorman and as a result I had to have an uncomfortable conversation with building management. Ever since, I’ve been nervous.

what it's like to be an airbnb host


4. Most Airbnb users are nice, honest people…

While I’ve definitely run into a few guests who have been incredibly high-maintenance and rude, I’ve yet to have a truly awful guest. In fact, most of my guests have been nice people. However, as many people have pointed out, because Airbnb is becoming more mainstream, the user base is (unfortunately) bound to change, which brings me to my next point…

Funny parody of Airbnb’s ads


5. Some people have completely unrealistic expectations

Guests that are new to the concept of Airbnb tend to be incredibly difficult. For the most part, “younger” (under 40) guests know the drill and as a result have been easygoing, empathetic (they know I’m not giving up my apartment for funsies), and more considerate with my time. On the flip side, people who aren’t well-acquainted with the sharing economy tend to be high maintenance.

For example, there was the older couple who asked for a refund an hour after they arrived because of a stain (1”, mud) on the carpet near the front door and a “weird smell” (neighbor’s cooking) in my apartment. Another time, I had an incredibly high-maintenance politician who caused me to miss an important meeting (which I alerted him to multiple times), text me at all hours, kept cancelling and rebooking my apartment during his stay creating tons of confusion, locked himself out of my apartment and didn’t even apologize when I had to drive downtown from O’Hare in Lollapalooza traffic to retrieve the key.


being an airbnb host


6. Host experiences seem to vary based on your location and apartment

My experiences with being an Airbnb host have been vastly different from that of a friend, who rents out a bedroom in his apartment in Chinatown, San Francisco. He said that by and large, his guests are really cool and easygoing, he’s become friends with many of them, and the only issue he’s had are people who are annoying and don’t give him personal space.

I think the differences in our experiences have a lot to do with the demographic our respective apartments are attracting – I tend to get business people and middle class travelers who want location and amenities but don’t want to pay $600 to stay at the hotel next door, he gets younger people on a budget who need a place to crash.


airbnb host


7. I have a renewed respect for hotel housekeepers

Even the most “polite” people are gross. It’s common to return home to “wet spots” on my sheets, and one particularly charming couple left their mark on my couch. Thankfully, I had the foresight to buy a waterproof mattress cover and white (aka BLEACHABLE) bedding before listing my apartment. And don’t even get me started on the amount of pubes I’ve had to clean up… *gag*.


airbnb host


8. You can ask for discounts

I’ve used Airbnb as a guest many times over the last few years, and it never occurred to me that it’s OK to ask a host for discounts. I’ve only had two guests not ask me for a discount, and I’ve never turned down anyone’s request. I asked around, and apparently this is the norm. Unfortunately, like anything in life, there are some people who will try to take advantage of your willingness to be flexible. I’ve learned that seemingly nice people who ask for too many favors from the get-go tend to turn into high-maintenance guests. See also: Mr. Politician, who I originally gave a generous $100 discount, and then had the nerve to ask me for a second $100 discount after he decided to extend his trip by a few days.


being an airbnb host gif



9. Returning home is slightly terrifying… and weird

Coming back to my apartment after a guest has left is a very strange experience. First, I try to read the expression of the doorman: does s/he look annoyed with me? When I unlock my apartment door, I never know what I’ll be stepping into. Again, the people who are better-acquainted with the concept of Airbnb are the ones that go out of their way to make sure the apartment is taken care of. The others do things like leave a sink full of dirty dishes, leave the coffee pot on all day, leave garbage lying around, etc. However, 80% of the time, my apartment has been immaculate and I can barely tell anyone has stayed in it. Nonetheless, the first night back in my apartment always feels weird. I realized I have a tendency to mess my apartment up as fast as I can so it feels like my home again. (Is this the modern version of territory marking?)


airbnb host



10. No, seriously… it’s a great way to make money

While I’m feeling burnt out from the experience and find myself hoping that my current guest will be my very last Airbnb guest ever, I’d definitely do this again if I had to, and I’d recommend it to others. It’s been incredibly easy to find people to rent my apartment and, had I decided to rent it on an ongoing basis, I could earn around a $6,000 profit (after paying my rent) each month. Unfortunately, I needed a break in between rentals. It seems as if there are a few people – particularly in the downtown area – that rent out multiple condos and use them for Airbnb income.

Of course, it’s important to note: there is an initial investment. In my case, I bought new towels, linens, a small dining table, and a few other things in order to make my apartment more comfortable for guests. Unless someone plays host to friends and family quite often, chances are good that there are at least a few investments they’ll have to make to become a good host.

Of course, my personal experiences may be vastly different from that of other hosts. If you’re interested in becoming an Airbnb host, I encourage you to read about others’ experiences with hosting. There are dozens of threads on this topic on Quora

P.S. I highly recommend Airbnb as an affordable alternative to hotels! If you’re interested in checking it out on your next trip, here’s a $25 credit towards your first trip

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Co-founder / Editor of Daily Urbanista. Kitten GIF aficionado. Will travel for... travel.

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