Why Airbnb’s Awesome: 6 Tips for Turning Your Extra Bedroom into Cash

A woman unpacks her overnight bag in an airbnb.
Getty Images

So you’ve decided it’s time to see what all the fuss is about and rent your space out on Airbnb. Congratulations, you’re about to earn some money!

I’ve used Airbnb to both rent out my apartment and stay in many others while traveling, and it’s a fantastic way to put your home to work for you. However, taking a few simple steps can make the difference between a great experience and a less-than-satisfactory one.

Whether you’re renting out a single room or your entire home, make the most of your Airbnb rental by following these tips. If you do it well, you could add hundreds or even thousands of dollars to your savings account.

1. Choose the Right Date

If you live in a popular location, plan to make your space available during high-demand times, when you can charge a bit more. Look for big conventions, concerts or graduations occurring nearby.

For example, my husband and I rented our place just a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol during President Obama’s first Inauguration, opting to stay with family a little further from the action. We were able to charge a premium that weekend since our place was in a prime location for a high-profile event.

2. Be honest

Listing your place for rent may feel a bit like posting it on an online dating site, but don’t post fake pictures or save surprises for when a guest arrives. Be clear about your expectations, requirements and what your home offers, from pets to overnight quiet time to the availability of hot water and towels.

Family travel blogger and Airbnb user Tamara Gruber explains that guests should be aware of what’s available. “Make a list of exactly what you require and make sure those requirements are met — don’t assume (e.g. sheets, towels, toilet paper, A/C, elevator).” The fewer surprises for everyone, the better.

3. Be Prepared

Get your place ready to host. Give it a good cleaning and make sure it’s stocked with supplies like toilet paper, hand soap, paper towels, etc.

Remember to put away valuables — which are more than just electronics and jewelry. Veteran Airbnb host and travel blogger Lillie Marshall warns against overlooking these items: “People often secure valuables like jewelry, but forget the documents. Lock up documents with personal information that could lead to identity theft.”

4. Protect Yourself

Airbnb recommends communicating solely through their message system to protect both the guest and the host. Don’t post personal details in your profile, and keep your contact information private until you accept a request. This gives you time to vet the guest before sharing your address and phone number.

5. Communicate

Let’s face it, no one puts up a bad photo of themselves on social media, but there’s more to look for in an Airbnb profile than just a picture.

Review a potential guest’s past stays, profile details and other social media accounts. Make sure you know how many people are part of the reservation and ask what their reason is for visiting. Besides just being friendly, these details will help you determine whether or not it is a good fit for you.

“Don’t be shy about asking for more information,” said Marshall. “I wouldn’t rent to one guy because he didn’t have a profile photo, and when I said that, he apologized and linked me to his Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, and I could see he was a respectable college professor. He and his family turned out to be great guests.”

6. Be a Host, Not a Landlord

Stop thinking about renting your space as just a money-maker. Sure, you’re doing it primarily for the cash, but you are also serving as a host for your guests.

Airbnb user Jessica Yurasek prefers to rent from non-commercial hosts for the experience. “If I wanted to stay in a commercial guesthouse I would look that up in a different way. One of the main benefits of Airbnb, staying in real people’s homes, is the interpersonal connection.”

On the other hand, I usually rent out a whole apartment or house, so I rarely meet the hosts, but I have a much better experience when the host takes the time to put together a list of local happenings or neighborhood restaurants and bars that won’t be in a guidebook or WikiTravel page. When I rented my place out for Obama’s Inauguration, we left a bottle of champagne and sparkling cider for the family who rented our apartment just to give their experience a special touch.

Hosting your place on Airbnb can be a great way to earn extra money, especially if you are traveling a lot or have other places to stay while your places is being rented. “I made a ton of money off it as a host,” said Marshall. “I think it’s a great and overlooked way for people to make extra income, as the security protections in place make it much less scary than people think.”

Still have questions? We put together a step-by-step guide to becoming an Airbnb host.

See Also >> 32 Ways to Make Money at Home