Weighing the Pros and Cons of AirBnB in Today’s Market

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Airbnb has exploded in the last few years. And now with all the aspirational Instagram accounts, local government policy and Airbnb’s new *verified* MVP listings (Airbnb+), it’s easy for the whole thing to feel overwhelming before even getting started. Many newcomers might be wondering if they have missed the boat and if the market is already too saturated.

That’s what I thought, too.

Having lived in Nashville for the past decade, I’ve seen major growth and change throughout the city. Five years ago I took the plunge and made the biggest investment of my life: I purchased my first home! The house I bought was far from my dream living space and — at the time — wasn’t in the most desirable area. (Fast forward to now and East Nashville is considered the place to be.) Thankfully I was able to see past the 1990s kitchen design and terrible paint color choices. I saw that the house (and neighborhood) was as full of potential as it was character. That investment paid off, and I’ve since been able to conquer some home renovations and my neighborhood is now full of some of the city’s best restaurants and coffee shops. Today, my street looks completely different (for better or worse).

At the beginning of 2017, I started thinking about the possibility of transitioning from having roommates to using the Airbnb platform. I had officially started my own full-time marketing/consulting agency and, along with a few other life changes, that transition enabled me to work remotely, which made for an easy Airbnb side gig.

Within the past nine months, I have traveled to Haiti, Morocco, all over Europe and road-tripped across the southwest, renting out my home in the process. And when I’m back in Nashville, my house has become more than a fixer upper-turned-design-passion project (though it definitely serves as my creative outlet). I use it for my agency’s styled shoots, brand partnerships, events and Instagram projects. I have absolutely loved my Airbnb experience, but I’ll be the first to say that A) It’s not for everyone and B) It comes at a cost.

If you’re considering opening up your home to Airbnb in today’s market, here are a few tips before diving in:

cozy casa

1. Style and decor are more crucial than ever.

Great style (and great photography) can really set your home apart. This is how you land the coveted Airbnb+ listing and how you land more bookings. And while this might seem obvious in our design-conscious society, less obvious is how quickly the decorative poufs and framed art can add up.

For me, my home is my creative outlet, so I don’t mind putting much of the money I make from renting back into my house. Airbnb+ hasn’t made its way to Nashville yet, but I hope to be accepted into the program when it does. When you have a carefully curated and styled home, you also open up your pool of renters. I’ve had local and national brands book my space for photoshoots and partnerships, and I’ve even started helping friends design the interiors in their own homes.

Note: It also helps that I market my place on its own Instagram account and website, and I use the professional photos from the photographer on my team and other freelance photographers we work with. A note on that note: It can be easy to go down the self-promotion rabbit hole (after all, the house stuff is fun). My team and I make sure to treat it like a client: The revenue has to cover the time it takes to produce and maintain the content.

2. Make sure you know your local government policies and requirements.

Nashville has become a lot more strict in recent years with their Short Term Rental policies. A lot of people in Nashville don’t realize that you’re required to obtain a Short Term Rental Property permit and pay an additional separate hotel tax fee if renting on Airbnb. Different cities do this for various reasons as it relates to their own needs and systems.

Thankfully, Airbnb has helpful links through their platform to direct you to the exact information for your specific city. If you don’t obey the rules, you could receive a significant fine and won’t be able to apply for a permit for a certain number of years.

For me, getting the permit was a month of arduous paperwork. While I did get the brunt of the bureaucratic hullabaloo, I am personally grateful that Nashville has these strict policies in place. It’s a hot topic in the local news, but I believe these policies will help protect the city and prevent residential neighborhoods from becoming oversaturated with investment properties.

3. Talk to your neighbors and respect their wishes.

Community is the heart of Nashville and the last thing I want to do is compromise my community and make my neighbors feel like we’re adversaries. Their opinions matter. It is their neighborhood too.

I talked to each neighbor and while everyone gave me the green light to Airbnb, there was one unanimous request: zero bachelor or bachelorette parties. I’m on their team and I respect their wishes. I just include this in my listing and communicate that with guests when they book the house. Luckily only a few people have had to cancel their reservation upon learning about that information if they did not see it on the listing, and those who did were understanding. In the end, my neighbors’ trust and friendship far outweighs a few less bookings.

In your neighborhood, consider the overall community environment and demographic. If you live on a street with a lot of children and you want to do Airbnb, a suggestion would be to set your quiet hours a little earlier and tailor your listing to target more families. If you live in a bustling city, you can target your listing to reach business travelers.

I have absolutely loved my Airbnb experience, but I’ll be the first to say that A) It’s not for everyone and B) It comes at a cost.

4. Consider how often you’re willing to travel.

This is the trickiest one for me. Obviously it’s a non-issue for big trips, but when I’m in Nashville, it can be exhausting to have to leave my house for a booking. I’m an introvert and love being at home to host my friends. In order to stay relevant on Airbnb, I’ve found that it’s necessary to keep my house available even when I’m in town and wouldn’t otherwise choose to rent it out. To me, this is worth it to maintain superhost status and stay relevant on the platform.

I’ll admit, it has been a little awkward to ask a friend if I can crash when we both know I’m actually making money for renting my house out. Thankfully, I now have a few places I can go where boundaries are clear, communication is open and all has been discussed. There’s no guilt on my end or resentment on theirs. There were definitely a few hiccups last year that my hosts (aka my best friend) and I had to address (don’t worry, it made us stronger). Sure, I could rent out a bedroom and sleep in my own bed but if I’m being honest, that’s just not how I want to roll. Remember, I’m an introvert.

So, consider your pool of contacts and figure in how often you might need to stay someplace else. Let your friends know that you are open to house-sitting when they are on vacation. You could also trade some of your own services like helping a friend decorate a room in their house, agree to cook all of the meals while you are there or babysit whenever they might need help.

5. Budget time to manage your listing (or hire a management service).

I decided to not use an Airbnb management service but as I mentioned above, I treat my Airbnb like a client. It usually requires about 5-10 hours a week depending on how often it is booked. This includes communication with guests, hiring and managing cleaners, logistics for ordering toiletries, writing welcome notes, creating a list of recommended places in the neighborhood, replacing damaged items (thankfully I have not had any issues with this) and making sure the house is spotless the day someone arrives (which includes packing up all of my food). These are the little things that don’t seem like they’d take much time, but they sure do add up.

Overall, Airbnb allows me to connect with so many people that I otherwise would never get to meet while also traveling around the world in an easier way. It’s given me a platform to flex my decorating muscles and sharpen my design eye. I get to share the beauty that inspires me with those who stay and those who follow on Instagram and acozycasa.com.

I absolutely love Airbnb, but all of the glam comes at a cost. To me? Worth it. A hundred times over. To you? Well, that’s for you to decide.

Would you or have you rented your living space on Airbnb? 

Images via Carrie Radford

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Katie has worked around the world creating digital marketing strategies and producing creative content for her clients that range from freelancers to Fortune 500 companies. When she's not traveling, she can be found in Nashville, Tennessee, designing and renovating her home/Airbnb @acozycasa.

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