How to Make Money as an Airbnb Host

FT Contributor
A smartphone screen displays the Airbnb app.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The gig economy has grown a great deal in recent years. Everything has become a side hustle, from driving to writing to walking dogs. One of the most popular trends is to rent out extra properties and living spaces as an Airbnb owner.

In fact, 54% of those who own their own homes say they’d consider renting it out as a side gig. The question that must be asked, though, is if it’s really worth the hassle. The answer, as is so often the case with gig economy jobs, is maybe.

The average Airbnb host typically makes just under $1,000 per month. This means you’ll likely need to list multiple properties if you’re looking to live off of your earnings. However, even operating a single Airbnb can still be a great side hustle and can even enable someone with low living expenses and a tight budget to live sustainably.

How Does Airbnb Work?

An extra thousand dollars each month is certainly nothing to scoff at, but it’s important to understand what goes into making that extra money. While owning property is often seen as a form of passive income, operating an Airbnb is certainly a hands-on experience that no one should take lightly. In a nutshell, becoming an Airbnb host consists of three fairly simple steps:

  • Begin by prepping and then listing your space for free on the Airbnb site.
  • Once you have your space ready, set your schedule, guest requirements, and prices.
  • Then, once everything is set up, begin booking guests.

Hosts are supported by a powerful Airbnb network that provides several distinct benefits, including:

  • Providing 24/7 support: Airbnb can help with things like booking, processing refunds, and other questions that may arise.
  • Ensuring your safety: The company verifies guests through phone number and email confirmation (and additional verification steps if desired by the host).
  • Maintaining a $1 million host guarantee: They also protect you from property damage and accidents.

Airbnb Host Requirements

As is the case with rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft, you must meet certain requirements before providing services through Airbnb.

The good news is that nearly any space can be listed — from full homes to spare bedrooms to a yurt and even a houseboat — as long as it falls under a few basic categories:

  • It must only be used for lodging.
  • If mobile, it must be semi-permanently located on private property.
  • It should be accurately represented in your listing.

In addition to these basics, Airbnb also requires their hosts to be able to meet a few core host standards including:

  • Being responsive to their guests’ questions and concerns.
  • Providing essential amenities like toilet paper, soap, towels, and a pillow.
  • Accepting reservations consistently and avoiding regular cancellations.

To help reinforce these rules, Airbnb allows its listed properties (and their hosts) to be rated. If you can provide quality service and lodging as a host, you’ll maintain a higher rating on Airbnb, which will help drive more traffic to your listing.

How Much Does Airbnb Take?

Airbnb charges hosting fees in order to help cover the company’s operating costs and continue to provide their listing and support services. While these fees are necessary, if you’re wondering just how much Airbnb takes from each reservation, it’s a fair question.

Fortunately, Airbnb’s cut is typically very small, especially when compared to other gig economy jobs. Uber, for instance, typically takes around 25% of its driver’s earnings. In comparison, most Airbnb hosts are charged a 3% fee, although a few regions — mainland China, for instance — can have significantly higher fees.

There are a few other exceptions to the normal host fee as well. If you’re operating a hotel or other hospitality business, for example, you will incur a “host-only fee” which runs between 14% and 20%. In addition, if you offer an Airbnb Experiences location the fee is a flat 20%.

How to Start an Airbnb Business

If you’re considering diving into the gig economy by adding your own space to Airbnb’s 7 million-plus listings, here are a few simple steps to help you get started: 

Take High-Quality Photos

It all starts with your photos. Poor photos will turn off potential clientele and leave you with perpetually empty lodging. Take the time to properly furnish your Airbnb spaces, stage photos with proper lighting, and focus on unique elements that will help your space stand out.

Create Realistic Prices

You can’t simply come up with what you think your space is worth. You may price your space too highly and get no traffic or too low and miss out on potential income. Take some time to research similar spaces in your region to see what others are charging.

Provide Little Surprises

One way to help your listing thrive is to provide small surprises for your guests. Decorating with distinct themes, providing sweets or local trinkets, or stocking a small fridge with beverages are all great ways to make sure that your guests feel pampered. You can also provide information for entertainment venues and restaurants nearby. This kind of treatment will boost your ratings and help your listing find greater success.

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