How to get started, scale up, and maximize profits with Airbnb, according to people who've done it

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How to get started, scale up, and maximize profits with Airbnb, according to people who've done it
Genesis Hinckley, who works for Google, brings in $4,000 a month from her Airbnb property in Colorado.Genesis Hinckley
  • Airbnb has boomed as new hosts have flocked to make money on the site.
  • Hosts shared their stories of starting out, financing properties, and managing tricky guests.
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Airbnb hosts saw record profits as work and travel norms were scrambled over the past two years.

The company said that in 2021 the typical host brought in $13,800, an 85% jump from prepandemic levels. Vacation-rental hot spots have sprung up across the country, from the deserts of California to the mountains of Tennessee. The analytics firm AirDNA found that as of January the number of short-term rentals in the US had reached a high of 1.5 million, up from 1.2 million in August 2020.

But hosting can come with headaches. Competition is fierce, and some hosts worry about a slowdown in bookings this summer. Others complain that Airbnb tends to side with guests in disputes and say they've considered leaving the platform.

As Airbnb grows, its presence in some neighborhoods has rankled locals. Municipal governments in states such as Vermont and Hawaii have cracked down or pledged to regulate the short-term-rental industry in their cities, reconsidering its effect on disturbances or the overall housing stock. Like Wall Street's single-family-home investors, Airbnb hosts are also sometimes accused of preventing area residents from buying homes for themselves.

Here, we've compiled Insider's coverage of Airbnb hosts and related industries, from success stories to words of warning.

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Tips and tales from 5 successful Airbnb hosts

Several Airbnb hosts who've taken the plunge and rolled out the welcome mat shared their tips for finding the right properties, financing strategies, and generating bookings.

Bryce DeCora, a 30-year-old former engineer, owns 3 Airbnbs and used a home equity line of credit to finance his investment

DeCora left his job at Boeing to pursue real-estate investing, but it wasn't easy. At one point he took on $676,000 in debt. He was able to afford his first home with $0 down through a down-payment-assistance loan and financed a second home with an $80,000 home equity line of credit, or HELOC. DeCora said that while it was stressful, he now brings in more than $4,800 a month from his Airbnbs.

Read DeCora's story here.

Jennifer Prince, a freelance writer who rents out 2 homes, stresses the importance of finding the right property manager

Prince bought her first Airbnb near her daughter's college town for $115,000 and now rents it out for $110 a night. Combined with income from another rental property, Prince and her husband brought in $15,000 in their first six months. She credited much of her success to finding a local property manager.

Read Prince's story here.

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Genesis Hinckley, a Google employee who owns an Airbnb in Colorado, has tips for decorating on a budget

Hinckley said she spends about 10 hours a month working on her Airbnb, which brings in $4,000 a month. When purchasing a property, she chose one that cost $300,000 less than what she qualified for. Hinckley said small touches like automated check-ins and mood lighting make a difference for guests.

Read Hinckley's story here.

Chris Choi has over 100 Airbnbs but almost got evicted from his first listing for breaking apartment rules

Choi dropped out of dental school to pursue real-estate investing, growing his listings from one one-bedroom in San Diego to over 100 listings across the country. He used a strategy called rental arbitrage, in which he rents properties and then subleases them without ever owning them outright. As of March he was on track to bring in $10 million in 2022.

Read Choi's story here.

A millennial couple earn $100,000 in annual gross bookings from over 15 Airbnbs they own and manage in New England

Lauren and Chris purchased a Vermont vacation home and thought they would occasionally list it on Airbnb to cover their costs. The surprising success of their first attempt inspired them to quit their day jobs in product and market research. They now own six properties and manage nine others for other owners in Vermont and nearby states. In 2021 they brought in $115,000 in gross bookings.

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Read their story here.

Some people rent their primary residences on Airbnb for extra cash

You don't need to take out a second mortgage to capitalize on the hosting boom. Some Airbnb hosts have found success listing where they already live. They rent out spare rooms or their entire house year-round and for special occasions.

Tipton Sholes, a medical resident who rents out his Augusta home during the Masters, covers his mortgage for the year in just 8 days

Sholes rents out his home to multiple parties during the annual golf tournament in Georgia, charging $1,300 to $1,375 a night. He's usually booked by December for the early-spring event.

Read Sholes' story here.

Sasha Im, a web producer and nonfiction writer, rents out her spare bedroom in Seattle for 140 to 170 days a year

Im said she earns $16,000 a year renting out her spare bedroom to visitors to the Emerald City. She said that having guests makes her a better cleaner and even gives her peace of mind. Some guests have even become return visitors.

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Read Im's story here.

Reyes Corona, a construction worker, rents out his California home during Coachella

Corona's typical nightly rate jumps from $180 to $1,900 for the annual music festival. He's rented to contractors working the event and festivalgoers alike. While his house is in use, he stays with his parents — who charge him a nightly rate as well.

Read Corona's story here.

The boom in Airbnbs has sparked other successful side hustles

For hosts, finding the right house is step one; there is plenty more they need help with. As a result, cottage industries have sprung up around the business of hosting.

Some Etsy sellers, for example, cater to hosts with ready-to-go welcome signs, while interior designers help hosts stand out. Travel bloggers have created entire income streams from visiting Airbnbs around the world and sharing booking sites.

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Mary Dailey, a mom of 2, spends as little as 30 minutes a day on her low-lift Etsy side hustle and brings in $900 a month

Dailey created a simple template on the graphic-design site Canva for Airbnb hosts to use to make their own welcome signs. She has sold a single $4 template over 650 times on Etsy. Dailey, who had no design experience, said it takes her at most an hour a day to tend to her Etsy shop.

Read Dailey's story here.

Emily Warkentin, a designer, creates custom map murals to decorate Airbnbs

Warkentin leaned on her architecture-school background to decorate her first apartment with maps of her and her partner's hometowns. Now their full-fledged design business sells custom map murals for up to $900. Airbnb hosts hang the designs on their walls to show guests local sights and establishments.

Read Warkentin's story here.

Erika Martin, a travel blogger from Wisconsin, brought in $28,000 in one month by visiting Airbnbs and sharing affiliate links

Martin's blog, Everywhere with Erika, gained traction when she posted an account of her stay in a picturesque lakeside cabin in Georgia. Sharing links to Airbnbs with her followers, Martin is able to earn a small commission when they book through her post. She earned $59,000 in the first six months of doing this.

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Read Martin's story here.

The best places to invest in vacation rentals right now

Property-management companies and other firms crunched the numbers to determine where to buy vacation rentals for the best return on investment.

The 7 best places to buy a vacation rental and capitalize on Americans' fervent desire to get away

Earlier this year, the property-management firm AvantStay released a list of the best destinations for short-term rentals that included national parks and Southern cities.

Dreaming of owning an Airbnb? These are the 10 states where new hosts cashed in last year.

Airbnb said new hosts brought in a total of $1.8 billion last year, with short-term rental owners in southern states like Arizona and Texas among those netting the most.

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