If you’ve got a spare room (or a spare house) and want to generate some extra income, you first have to choose between short-term rentals (STRs) like Airbnb, and traditional long-term, lease-based rentals. I’ve experimented with both for the second bedroom in my two bedroom home, and wanted to share the advantages of each across various categories.
In terms of generating the most income, STRs are generally going to result in the highest monthly earnings. Exploring local short and long term rental prices, anecdotally it seems that you can expect to earn 25-50% more on a site like Airbnb, after vacancies, fees, and taxes are taken in to account. It would be odd if this wasn’t the case as you are generally providing a furnished room and are responsible for providing a lot more amenities and effort.
Long-term rentals are the clear winner here. You don’t have to regularly change sheets, refresh/replace amenities, or clean the house. You can set a minimum stay on STRs as you figure out what duration of stay is worth it for you. Consider making your minimum stay at least 2 nights or setting a very high one-night stay cost. It is worth noting that you can accomplish a decent middle-ground by setting your minimum stay on Airbnb to 30 days, which typically also avoids the need for an STR license or paying hotel taxes.
If you are living in the house you are renting, you want to consider how the renter is going to impact your daily life. One huge advantage of STRs is that you can block off dates in your calendar, allowing you to still use that room (or house) as a guest room for friends and family when you need, and vacancies can serve as refreshing periods of having the home to yourself. Airbnb guests tend to not have lots of visitors or parties (if your rules even allow this in the first place) and of course aren’t cluttering your home with their items or decorations, so the house can feel more like “yours” when doing STRs, if this is important to you.
Issues and Problem Solving
In my experience, both short and long term renters are very respectful of homes and spaces, with one huge caveat: the owner has to live there. All of my negative experiences with Airbnb guests have been when I was away on vacation and rented out the entire place. When this happens, guests feel like the place is completely theirs, and also don’t have a face or person to associate with the owner, and tend to be significantly less respectful of your home.
STR guests also have a much higher bar for their expectations and it is unpleasant to be travelling while a receiving messages that your guest demands you buy them a better mattress or that they can’t figure out the thermostat and are freezing. A long-term guest doesn’t have the expectations that they are in a hotel, and also is familiar with your home, less likely to have urgent issues, and is more invested in keeping it nice for themselves. If you travel, your roommate probably doesn’t mind watering plants or being available for any appointments, but an Airbnb guest will likely not feel happy about being asked to do this.
Airbnb really shines in a case where you have spare room that you want to earn extra money from, while still giving yourself flexibility and privacy when you want it. It will also encourage you to keep your place tidy and have nice amenities and appliances, which also benefits you in this case. You’ll meet new and interesting people and make new friends. If you are going to rent out an entire place on a site like Airbnb, make sure to be prepared for the effort and be prepared emotionally to deal with disputes over damages, guests ignoring rules, and other issues from the occasional bad guest.
If you really enjoy meeting new people and providing great experiences for them, STRs can’t be beat. However, a long-term renter will provide the most stability in terms of income and ease of effort. Finally, there is a rapidly growing market of Airbnb home managers (they even have very nice integration for this) so if you want to avoid long-term guests without lots of added effort, you can simply give someone else a cut of the profits to handle most of the communication, cleaner scheduling / sheet changing, and other tasks on your behalf.
What did I miss and what has your experience been?