Traveling for the Winter? Here’s How to Earn Money With Your Empty House

interior shot of an Airbnb listing in Aspen, CO
Photo courtesy of Airbnb
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I’m from Wisconsin, and I live in Florida now, so I’m quite familiar with the term “snowbird.”

If you’re not, it’s simple: A snowbird is someone who leaves a cold, snowy place — like Wisconsin — for the winter to travel to a warm, sunny place — like Florida.

In Wisconsin, we use the term with affection: “Grandma’s turning into a snowbird!” I’ve learned in Florida, not so much affection. It’s usually more like, “When will these snowbirds learn how to drive?!”

Regardless, the snowbirds make the trek every year, keeping Southern economies alive — and leaving Northern homes vacant for months on end.

Folks in the warm, sunny tourist spots have figured out how to cash in on these recreational migrants. But have you considered making money with that home you leave empty in the frozen North?

How Snowbirds Can Make Money With Airbnb

If you travel with the seasons each year, you might already be familiar with Airbnb. It’s a peer-to-peer app that connects travelers with people who have spare rooms or other available space.

When you’re a traveler, the app can help you save money on lodging, because you can often find a room through Airbnb cheaper than a hotel.

For hosts, it’s a pretty cool way to earn extra money.

Think about that space you leave behind when you travel every winter. Say you’re out of town from mid-December through mid-March — that’s three months you could potentially earn money for almost no work!

True, unless you live near a ski hill, your area probably isn’t the most popular destination this time of year. That’s why you’re leaving, right? But you can still cash in.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Offer your space by the month for short-term renters who need a temporary place to live.
  • Offer it by the night or week for people visiting family for the holidays.
  • If you live near a college, offer the space for visiting faculty or other campus guests who are visiting outside of the typical semester schedule.
  • Similarly, offer your space for students or faculty who are staying in town past the fall semester or coming early for the spring semester, to cover gaps in common apartment leases.

Bonus: Your house won’t sit empty, so you won’t have to ask your neighbor to stop by to water the plants and run the faucets every week.

How to List Your Space on Airbnb

If you don’t already have an account, here’s how to get started:

  1. Sign up as a host with Airbnb here.
  1. List your space when you’re going to be out of town (or when you have a spare room available).
  1. Be a good host, and make sure your place is stocked with the toiletries you’d expect at a hotel — toilet paper, soap and towels.
  1. If you have a desireable space, you could earn hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars a month. (Hosting laws vary from city to city. Please understand the rules and regulations applicable to your city and listing.)

Because you’re going to be out of town, consider hiring someone nearby (a neighbor, friend, family member or assistant) as a point person for your guests.

That will help you ensure good, prompt service if the guests have any concerns. That person can also pop in to clean and check on the space between guests. Offer to pay per hour or a percentage of what you earn.

Or, Airbnb has a feature called co-hosting that can help. Basically, you get to choose an experienced Airbnb host to handle the logistics of getting people into and out of your space and making sure they have a good experience. You can be as involved as you like.

How Much Money Can You Make?

Rates for Airbnb vary based on location, space and time of year. Like any other lodging, the greater the demand in your area, the more you’ll be able to charge for your space.

Browse other Airbnb listings around you to find out how much others charge. You can also check their ratings and reviews to find out what other hosts offer that make guests willing to pay their prices.

Ready to check it out? Here’s the link to sign up with Airbnb.

Dana Sitar ([email protected]) is a senior writer/newsletter editor at The Penny Hoarder. Say hi and tell her a good joke on Twitter @danasitar.