4 Tips for Keeping Your Sanity When You’re Hosting Airbnb Guests

A woman smiles for a portrait in the kitchen of her home.
Kristine Dowhan spent 18 months as an Airbnb host. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

When Kristine Dowhan bought a four-bedroom, three-bathroom home, she planned to fill the extra rooms with roommates.

Dowhan had spent the previous year researching real estate in St. Petersburg, Florida, working with a real estate agent and improving her finances to buy her house. She paid off debt, negotiated raises and looked for every discount that would help her get approved.

By the time she finally closed on her home, she had a special connection to it.

Her first roommates, not as much.

The tenants took poor care of the new appliances and complained about the rent before their first payment was due. Dowhan gave them an eviction notice and started looking for other options, which led her to become an Airbnb host.

4 Things She Learned as an Airbnb Host

In the 18 months she hosted, Dowhan had her share of amazing guests… and some she’d like to forget. She’s also learned some universal truths that anyone who’s thinking about becoming an Airbnb host should know.

1. You Don’t Have to Spend a Fortune

A bed is reflected in a mirror.
Kristine Dowhan decorated the rooms in her home with furniture she found for free on Craigslist. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Buying a house isn’t cheap. Dowhan’s bank account was completely drained after her closing, so how was she going to afford furnishing an extra three bedrooms and two bathrooms?

She decided every piece of furniture she brought in would be something she found for free on Craigslist.

She waited patiently to find good-quality free furniture. She found a free bunk bed, two twin beds, two king-size beds and a crib. It only took six months to fully furnish the house.

The lesson: Don’t feel pressured to have everything perfect. You can start simple and grow with your business.

2. Expect the Unexpected

Some guests are really cool, but some not so much.

People have broken her pool tiles, overloaded her washing machine — which she had to negotiate to get reimbursed for — and left Jolly Ranchers in her carpet.

She’s also met some great people who left their mark via nice notes in her guest book. She was able to surprise some smaller guests around the holidays by mischievously moving around their Elf on the Shelf; they wrote an apology note for his “bad behavior.”

Every guest is different, so you have to be prepared. Always have backup linens, don’t take on too much at once, and leave yourself a buffer between guests to make hosting easier and more predictable.

3. Expect to Clean It Yourself

A woman cleans her kitchen table.
Kristine Dowhan cleans the kitchen table at home. When she was an Airbnb host, she saved $150 a week by cleaning her home herself. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Dowhan tried to find a cleaning company, but no one would work around her hosting schedule. They wanted to come at the same time every week and were asking for $150 to clean, plus even more for laundry.

So she got really good at cleaning it herself.

The three bedrooms and two bathrooms took her anywhere from six to eight hours to clean. If guests left it pristine, she could be done in four hours. The one time college kids trashed her house, it took her four days.

But thanks to her buffer, she had that time.

4. Make a Plan

Airbnb was never her long-term plan.

Over 18 months, Dowhan received several raises, and she recently got married. They no longer host because now, with her husband’s income, they can afford the mortgage payment without Airbnb — and being confined to the master bedroom.

Dowhan knew she could put up with the inconveniences of hosting because she saw the bigger picture. And now that she’s retired from hosting, she enjoys things like using the front door and throwing pool parties on the weekends.

“At the end of the day, you do what you have to do, but if you’re strategic about it, you can make it work,” she said.

Jen Smith is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She gives money-saving and debt-payoff tips on Instagram at @savingwithspunk.