Live in D.C.? See How Much Money Your Home Could Earn You This Summer
Look. We get it. Your home is your sanctuary. Your place to be alone. Some days, you don’t even want to have your own family over — let alone people you don’t know.
So, the idea of listing your place on Airbnb is daunting for a lot of folks.
But if you’re willing to give it a shot, you could be making some serious extra income. Just think of what you could do with it: home renovations, a vacation — anything you want!
You can share a spare room — or list your entire place if you’re headed out of town. Yep. You’d basically be making money for going on vacation.
If you’re starting to come around, see how much money you could make by listing your place.
D.C. is a top summer travel destination, and there’s a shortage of hosts.
“Part of what makes Airbnb so successful for me is the city,” says Synta Keeling, a 43-year-old Airbnb Superhost. “D.C. is great for home sharing because there’s something going on at every time of year.”
How Much Could Your Place in D.C. Fetch?
Listing your place on Airbnb is simple — but it does require some creativity and strategy. The good news is you can adjust or change your information and settings at any time, so you’re not committed to anything permanently.
Yep. You’re not locked in. Try hosting and see if you like it — if you’re curious, it’s worth a shot.
Use Airbnb’s price calculator to see how much money you could make in your area.
Between the cherry blossoms in the spring, the Fourth of July in the summer and the elections in the fall, there’s always a demand for space in D.C. — businesspeople, students, lobbyists, sports fans, activists.
We’ll walk you through the sign-up process and offer some pro tips, courtesy of Keeling.
How to Create the Best Airbnb Listing in D.C.
The first step to becoming an Airbnb host is to list your place. The process itself is simple, but you’ll want to exercise tact, so your space stands out from others.
We’ll show you everything you need to know, with some added insight from Keeling, a federal government employee and attorney who hosts guests in her three-bedroom townhome in Southeast D.C. She quickly rose to Superhost status when she started hosting back in 2015.
Answer Some Quick Questions About Your Space/Amenities
In this first part of setting up your listing, you’ll answer some basic questions about your space, which could be anything from an apartment, an extra bedroom or house to a campsite, yurt or RV, depending on your local laws.
Basic questions in this section include the number of guests your space can accommodate and the included amenities.
If you don’t have an entire place, list your spare room. That’s what Keeling, a D.C. Superhost, does. At first she was worried guests would be uninterested, but she’s found they love the hospitality.
Set the Scene With Photos
Keeling compared Airbnb listings to dating profiles — and she’s so right. If you come across someone who’s posted a bathroom selfie with the flash on, you’ll probably move along — even if they do rescue puppies and own a private jet.
The same idea goes for Airbnb; photos are everything.
The platform offers some basic photo tips, which include utilizing natural light, avoiding flash and shooting in landscape mode from the corners of rooms, so you add perspective.
In addition to internal photos, Keeling emphasizes the importance of external photos as well. “It’s important to do external photos, so you guide a person through how they’ll approach the home and what the surrounding community looks like,” she says. “If you live close to a metro stop, you’ll want to have a picture of that, for example.”
Think about what makes your space and your location appealing, and illustrate those elements through photos. In addition to metro stops, you might also include photos of the nearby neighborhood, any tourist attractions (ahem, the National Mall), or even a photo of the closest grocery or convenience store.
Write a Description
Once you hook people with your photos, continue to lead them through your listing with the description.
Here, you’ll be able to highlight what makes your space unique. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at other Airbnb listings in your area to see what other hosts highlight.
Keeling has a few tips you can follow when crafting your description:
Manage expectations. “You know the idea of putting your best foot forward?” Keeling asks. “No! What you do is put the blemishes out there, so your guests will have set expectations.”
Turn negatives into positives. Keeling’s townhome is located in a residential area on the easternmost point of D.C. That means it’s not central; you have to take a metro to get to the closest grocery store, which could be a downside for some guests. However, in her listing, she emphasizes the perks of free parking, which is difficult to come by in D.C. It’s also a quiet retreat after you’ve spent the day in crowds.
Add an element of surprise to your space that you don’t mention in your listing. For example, Keeling has a high-end Tuft and Needle mattress with nice pillows. Because she doesn’t mention it in the listing, guests are surprised and are more likely to rave
After you host several guests, you’ll get to know your audience, so you can lean into that. For example, Keeling quickly realized she’s not attracting club-goers and partiers; she gets guests who are looking to get away from the bustle of the city and value their sleep.
Name Your Listing
This might seem like a small task, but naming your listing is just as important as nailing your photos. Airbnb urges hosts to create a title that highlights what’s unique about the space.
For Keeling, one of the most appealing aspects of her listing is the free parking — a rarity in D.C. Her space is also green; it’s decked out with solar panels, rain barrels, vegetable gardens and composts. This is a unique draw, so she emphasizes it in her listing title. It also attracts like-minded guests, which is important when you’re sharing your space.
Set House Rules
Airbnb has a set list of rules you can opt into if you’d like them included in your listing. A few of these include: suitable for pets, smoking allowed, and events or parties allowed. You also have the option to write in additional rules.
“Don’t go crazy with the rules, but come up with some core rules that are important for you,” Keeling says.
Keeling, for example, maintains a shoeless house. That’s partially cultural, but it also just makes the space easier to clean. She also emphasizes no smoking of any kind, and no eating in the bedrooms.
Set up Your Calendar
Taking time to set up your calendar is important, because if you cancel on your guests, Airbnb will charge you a penalty fee.
A few questions you’ll answer include:
- How often do you want to have guests?
- How much notice do you need before a guest arrives?
- When can guests check in?
- How far in advance can guests book?
- How long can guests stay?
When starting out, Keeling suggests limiting guests’ length of stay to a couple of nights. That way you can get guests in and out and start racking up reviews, which will build your ratings.
Keeling allows for at least one day between bookings, so she can have time to reset the spaces, and she doesn’t let guests book more than three months in advance, in case something comes up.
You’ll be able to adjust these settings as you go, so you can find out what works best for you.
Price Your Space
Airbnb has a Smart Pricing tool, which you can opt into to automatically adjust the price of your listing according to demand. For example, when the demand during the Cherry Blossom Festival or Fourth of July spikes, Airbnb will likely increase the price of your listing automatically.
You can set price minimums and maximums, so your listing won’t dip below a certain amount or spike to something unrealistic. Although Airbnb will suggest these amounts when you’re signing up, Keeling urges new hosts to do their own research.
Here are a few tips to help you determine these numbers:
- Consider your expenses, i.e. utilities, cleaning and any maintenance requirements.
- Be realistic. “People tend to have an inflated view of their place,” Keeling notes.
- Search other Airbnb listings in your area and price just below those.
When you’re starting out, you’ll want to price your place lower, so you can get guests in, accumulate reviews and work your way to that Superhost status, which will help increase bookings in the long run.
Note Your Local Laws
You’re almost done setting up your listing! Now Airbnb will remind you to familiarize yourself with your local laws.
In December 2018, the D.C. Council passed a set of regulations that would limit some kinds of short term rentals. Check with the District if you have questions about current laws or when (and if) the pending regulations will come into force.
In addition to hosting laws, you’ll also want to check with your homeowners association or landlord to make sure short-term rentals are permitted.
Also note that short-term rentals could invalidate some homeowner’s insurance, so check these policies with your provider.
Airbnb also includes liability insurance for up to $1 million, but Keeling reminds us that this is not a substitute, so she suggests setting aside some money for damages. You can also set up a deposit with your listing and make claims, though Airbnb will only reimburse you for the repair value — not replacement. This has worked for Keeling multiple times.
As you start booking guests, you’ll also want to keep tabs on expenses and revenue for tax purposes.
Use a budgeting app to tag all your Airbnb-related transactions. Keeling suggest Mint. Then, when it’s time to file, she meets with a tax professional, who takes it from there.
She also reminds hosts to take advantage of tax deductions. Because she has guests staying in her space, she can deduct many charges as business expenses, including utilities, furniture, home improvement, even electronics — basically anything guests will also benefit from or use.
Ready to Try Hosting?
How are you feeling? Like we said, listing your place on Airbnb is simple.
Our biggest tip? Stay up on your listing and be connected to it.
Airbnb is constantly changing its features, so keep your eyes peeled. Don’t be afraid to tweak your listing description, prices and calendar settings. Plus, D.C. itself is constantly evolving, so stay in tune with your city.
Use Airbnb’s price calculator to get started.