I think the title of the post is wrong. It sounds very foreboding, but I kind of like it, so I think I’ll keep it!
As I already wrote, in my Side Gigs & Risk post, compared to our salaries, and the overall decreasing income we actually received from doing Airbnb with the rising costs of utilities and taxes, it’s simply not financially worth it for us to continue. I think it’s nice to know that we could use the experience we gained by doing this to run an Airbnb again in the future if we ever wanted to. With this in mind, I wanted to reflect on the experience since it was such a big part of our life for several years.
ECA and I started hosting on Airbnb in May of 2015 and it was immediately a runaway success. We had been using Airbnb when we traveled for a few years and we had an empty bedroom we weren’t going to do anything with. We had owned our home for a little more than a year at the time and we had no intention of getting a long-term roommate. Our reasoning was that it could make good money, and if we wanted to stop, we could at any time. We don’t have to share the kitchen, and the relationship is really clear. We’d be doing all the cleaning and the guests would be here to enjoy themselves and rest, no fighting over chores (something that has caused a lot of strife with roommates in the past).
Once we listed our place, we immediately we began to be booked up. In 2015, we had 204 nights booked considering we started in May, that means we were full nearly every possible day. 2016, the trend continued with 339 nights booked, 2017 was right on track with 338, and 2018 we had 303 days booked, mostly thanks to a big drop in November and December. Our revenues were quite good too, we made around $65 per night booked on average (before any taxes and expenses).
Not only were we successful financially, I think we were legitimately good.
About half of our guests elected to review us and out of that group, about 84% gave us a perfect 5-star score. Initially, we actively encouraged guests to leave a good review, but over time, we would only do that to those we felt really had a great time, and eventually, we stopped asking for reviews since we had so many. The worst review we got was one complaining about planes flying overhead, but the majority of our reviews were full-hearted, shining recommendations. When hosting, I often felt like we weren’t doing enough, that we could have provided a better stay, but I guess we did plenty, I think we made most of our guests really happy and they seemed to have a great time. My style was pretty hands-on. I always gave some time to talk with the guests each day they were around, although there were occasions our times didn’t quite work out for whatever reason. And besides a few rare mistakes, I think guests pretty much always had everything they needed.
One thing I think I will miss is that our guests usually did have great times when staying with us. It was a pretty common occurrence for the guests to come back and we’d ask how the day went and what they ended up doing. They would often ask us the same, and our answer was usually, “Uh, you know… work.” It was always kind of funny since they were in a very different mindset, they were in touristy vacation mode while we were just working, but it did raise our spirits from time to time. It was also a lot of fun for us to talk to guests who had traveled a lot, or those who were coming from overseas.
I won’t miss having to clean the room between guests. It was almost every other day that I was going in and cleaning the room, changing sheets, vacuuming, etc. The room stayed pretty clean, so it wasn’t very hard work, but it was about a half hour every day on average that was being eaten up by this (a very fair exchange of time when considering the compensation we received). One thing good about this is that we have developed a habit of cleaning, which hopefully we will stick to.
I also won’t miss the constant worry that I would have when we weren’t home for a night while we had guests, or if the guests were late coming in for check-in. We had a key box for self-check in, but I still lost a lot of sleep worrying about these things, although it very rarely actually caused problems. And of course, I definitely won’t miss the complications added at tax time!
But, my favorite thing we have from hosting is our guest book, (which is what these notes are coming from). I guess I should say “guest books” since the first booked was filled up and we had to start a second one. We initially started the guest book as a novelty, but we had no idea it would become an improvised guide book of Seattle with wonderful artwork from some very talented people. It was also filled with kind words of gratitude from guests who, unfortunately, I can barely remember amongst the sea of faces we hosted. We hosted about 1000 people in our home over the years we hosted on Airbnb, and despite my pessimism, most of the people we hosted were great. I didn’t make any long-term friends myself like ECA did (including at least one who moved to the Seattle area), but I did have a lot of genuine and deep conversations and that’s something I will probably miss.
All-in-all this was a highly successful, somewhat eccentric, occasionally frustrating, sporadically exhausting, but often touching chapter in our lives and I’m really glad we did it.