How to Get Started as an Airbnb Host

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How to Make Money as an Airbnb Host

Plants and trees around house
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The modern sharing economy offers more ways than ever for people to make money from home. Beyond that, now you can actually make money with your home. Airbnb (and other home-sharing apps and sites like it) have opened the door to this home-based money-making opportunity.

Take, for example, the story of Baltimore English teacher Jay Trucker. He  did not have home-sharing via Airbnb in mind when he bought his city rowhouse near The Johns Hopkins Hospital. “This came up organically. It was not something I really planned. My roommate left rather quickly, and I thought of this as a temporary solution,” he explains.

Faced with paying the mortgage and utilities without his roommate’s share, Trucker decided to give Airbnb a try, offering a private room and bath in his home to paying guests. As it turned out, the income and the flexibility of this arrangement has proved better than having a roommate full time. Now a year later, home-sharing is very much on his mind has he shops for a new home--one with even more potential for the Airbnb marketplace.

Trucker's experience in sharing his city townhouse is just one many. Airbnb is an option for people with a garage apartment, duplex, vacation property, finished basement in their primary residence or a home that is no longer their primary residence. Some of these arrangements might offer the kind of privacy needed to let a family with young children or pets try home-sharing. 

If you are investigating how home-sharing might work for you, the main question is whether you can make enough money to offset the costs, risk, inconvenience and time. You’ll need to consider not only your lifestyle and desires, but also the marketability of your home and its location for potential guests.

Read through the rest of the slides to learn more about:

  • How Home-Sharing Works
  • What to Consider Before You Host
  • Getting Started: Tips and Strategies

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How Airbnb Works (for Hosts)

Elegant bedroom
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The basics are simple:

You, the host, make available for rent a space in your home (a shared or private room or the whole place) and list it on Airbnb. Guests then use the Airbnb site to contact you to book that space, making payment through the site and being charged a commission ranging from 6 to 12 percent. Guests arrive and stay in your home, and you receive their payment electronically minus a 3 percent booking commission. When the stay is over, both the host and the guest have the opportunity to review one another.

And while the basics may be simple, it gets more complicated. So let’s take a look at some of the elements more closely.

Types of Spaces 

A shared room means that the guest shares the “bedroom and the entire space with other people.” This could be a sofa bed in the living room. A private room means that the guest does not share the bedroom with anyone. However, other spaces like a bathroom might be made available exclusively to the guest or not. A private room may or may not have its own entrance. The entire home means that the host and the guest never share any spaces (and perhaps never meet). This could be a basement or garage apartment or a whole house.

Pricing and Payment 

While the location and amenities of your home are important, the type of space you offer is one of the biggest factors in determining the price. Obviously, people are not willing to pay as much for a shared space as a private one. And the levels of extra private space added, i.e. private bath, entrance, sitting room etc., will increase the value of your space. 

Airbnb’s host sign-up page  has an income estimating tool based on location and type of rental, but this could vary based on what you actually have to offer.


Reviews are an integral part of home-sharing. The trust between a host and a guest begins with the reviews each sees about the other. Hosts use the reviews to decide who can stay in their home, and in turn they need good reviews to raise the demand for their space.

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What to Consider Before Becoming an Airbnb Host

This room is amazing! / Getty Images


This is probably a first thought for anyone considering going into home-sharing. With Airbnb, both the hosts and the guests ago through a verification process. Guests identities are confirmed using a government ID and a recent photo. Host can require to see ID as well. Hosts must undergo a background check. Additionally, reviews of both parties give more information and provide an incentive for all to behave has expected.

Your Time

Unless you plan to outsource tasks like cleaning and managing your schedule and bookings (something Airbnb can facilitate for you), hosting will take up some of your time. Hosts are expected to respond to requests for booking within 24 hours. Will you be able to do that with your day job? Meeting guests and cleaning between guests can also be time consuming and require flexibility in your schedule.

Your Personality and Lifestyle

If you plan to offer a room in your home (shared or private), you will want to consider what this means for you personally. Do you have the desire to be friendly and helpful to your guests? Can you keep the shared spaces clean and tidy while you have guests?  If you have pets or children, you may want to only consider renting an entire home or a room with a private entrance, rather than sharing your space with guests.


Some of the ongoing costs of running your home, like utilities, may increase to a degree. Or, you may want to upgrade services like Internet and cable, to please your guests. One-time costs might include new locks, furniture, repairs, or painting. And then there will be occasional costs, like new linens and cleaning supplies.

Local Regulations and Taxes

If you are home-sharing, then you are running a business and will have to file the appropriate income and self-employment taxes. You may also have to pay local sales or occupancy taxes. Consulting a tax professional can help you not only with filing these taxes but understanding what costs might be deductible and what documentation you need.

Also keep in mind that many municipalities have regulations and/or registration requirements in regard to these kinds of short-term rentals. It is your responsibility to know what they are and to follow them. Find information about rules for hosting where you live.


If you rent your home, you can still rent it out via Airbnb, but you will need to get your landlord’s permission. Also if your property has a homeowner’s association, you should check its rules regarding sublets, rentals and home-sharing.


Airbnb offers its hosts both property and liability insurance as part of its 3 percent fee. However, it is secondary to the host’s own homeowner insurance, so check your policy before your begin.

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Getting Started: Tips and Strategies

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Research the Market for Your Home 

Begin by asking some questions about your home. Not everyone’s home is a good fit for home-sharing: Will people want to stay in your home? Would  the condition and layout of your home be appealing to travelers? What is the competition from others who are home-sharing in your area? Is your home in an area that people travel to?

Having a particularly appealing setting on a lake or in the mountains or being near a popular tourist destination, college, medical institution or urban center is helpful. In Baltimore host Trucker’s case, his location is in an area where patients and their families, students  and professionals come to visit Johns Hopkins for short-term stays, and it is close to the tourist destination of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. All this keeps a steady stream of guests booking his place.

Compare your home to similar ones on Airbnb. What do they charge per night and what kind of conditions they set in regard to the number of nights?

Prepare Your Home

Good reviews are key to building your business. Don’t let your first guests torpedo your chances by giving you bad reviews because of conditions that you hadn’t yet gotten to correcting. Don’t start accepting bookings until you are ready.

Begin by making any major or cosmetic repairs your home needs before you start. Be sure the bed you are offering is comfortable and that all amenities you advertise are in fact available and working. Add any additional amenities that you think worthwhile, such as a television for the room, cable, or Internet access. Spruce up the space by with eye for a design that is uncluttered and functional but stylish. Be sure that all is spotlessly clean. Even if you intend to do the cleaning between guests yourself, hiring a cleaning company for a deep clean before you begin can be a worthwhile investment.

Make upgrades to your security. You may want to have a locking closet for your valuables or add locks to the bedroom doors. Trucker recommends a reprogrammable combination lock for your exterior door.

List Your Home

Listing your home on Airbnb’s site is fairly simple. And in many cases Airbnb will send a photographer to take pictures of you home. The trickier part is to decide the parameters of your rental listing.  

Determine what you will offer. This includes the type of space and levels of privacy, access to shared space and amenities.

Choose a minimum stay. Trucker recommends a one-night stay at the beginning because your lack of reviews will make you less attractive to prospective guests. Taking one-night rentals, though inconvenient, will build your reviews. Trucker eventually raised his minimum stay to five nights because he has a lot of business travelers looking for longer stays. However, whether that is possible for you depends on the market in your own area. 

Decide on your house rules. These might include:

  • Number of guests
  • Pets
  • Smoking
  • Children
  • Check-in and check-out time
  • Events/guests allowed

Set your price. Again, your lack of reviews at the beginning is a handicap. A low starting price, relative to your competition, can help you build a clientele. Airbnb has a smart pricing tool that will automatically set rates for you based on demand in your area. However, Trucker found that eventually the price it set was too low to make it worthwhile for him.

Determine any fees or discounts. Many hosts offer discounts for weekly or monthly stays. Fees might include cleaning, pets, extra guests.