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I Bought an Apartment Just to Rent Out on Airbnb
Mashable ^ | November 4, 2013 | Jon Wheatley

Posted on 04/29/2014 5:51:37 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet

I bought an apartment in 2012 specifically to rent out on Airbnb. I’ve been managing it remotely for the past year. Here's everything I've learned so far, as well as some revenue numbers.

Finding a Place to Buy

Each listing on Airbnb has a publicly visible calendar that shows which nights are booked and which nights are available. Using this tool makes it easy to figure out how much money hosts bring in—an invaluable resource when researching where to buy.

Simply find a listing located in an area where you’re thinking about buying and click on the calendar tab. Then count how many red squares there are in a given month:

There are a lot of places in the United States where housing prices are still very cheap. It’s possible to find a nice apartment in a major city for less than $50,000.

I found a place in Las Vegas for $40,000. It’s 750 square feet with one bedroom and one bathroom. There’s a shared pool with a hot tub and a tennis court, perfect for the weary traveler who wants to relax.

This is what the apartment looked like when Wheatley purchased it.

I spent roughly $10,000 to update the apartment, including all furniture, an Apple TV, new hardwood flooring and fresh paint in all the rooms.

Shortly before installing the hardwood flooring.

Unfortunately, there’s no IKEA in Las Vegas, so I spent a lot of time just waiting for stuff I ordered online to be delivered. If you’re planning on doing something like this remotely, I highly recommend checking delivery time or local stores before you make the trip to furnish the place. Order in advance where possible.

It took roughly three weeks to get the apartment ready for guests, but this could have been optimized.

This was Wheatley's bed, sofa and table for three weeks while readying the apartment for renters.

Getting It Going

Once your place is ready, it’s time to set up your listing. Guests are understandably reluctant to stay at a place that has little or no reviews, so I recommend lowering your nightly rate for a few weeks so you can build up credentials. Once you have a few positive reviews under your belt, you can increase the price.

You should also take advantage of Airbnb’s free professional photography service. They’ll send a professional photographer to your listing to take nice pictures of your place — no fee required.

It’s amazing how big a difference having professional photos of your space can make. A few months ago, I ran an informal experiment in which I listed my apartment for rent on Craigslist. They were both the same price, in the same area. One listing had photos taken with a high-quality DSLR and wide-angle lens; the other post had poorly lit pictures taken with my iPhone. I received 10 times more emails for the listing with the better photos.

By the Numbers

• Cost of apartment: $40,000

• Cost of redecorating and furnishings: $10,000

Revenue • November 2012 through November 2013: $19,613

• Average monthly revenue: $1,634

• Rough monthly profit: $1,134 (after cleaning, bills and other expenses)

• Yearly profit: $13,608

These numbers would be a little higher, but I’ve stayed at the apartment myself for a few weeks and also let friends stay for free. By these rough numbers, it should take a little under four years to completely pay off the apartment.

If You're Thinking About Doing This...

1. Find a great property manager or cleaner.

Without having a property manager or someone who cleans the apartment, doing this remotely would be impossible. I found a great local cleaner on Craigslist who charges a flat fee of $200 per month, which covers unlimited cleanings. She also now manages the Airbnb listing for me, replying to all inquiries and is the point of contact for guests.

2. Be smart about check-in and check-out times.

It’s not uncommon for new guests to check in the same day other guests check out. You need to make sure your cleaning person has enough time to prepare everything before the next guest arrives. I have a noon check-out time and a 3 p.m. check-in time.

3. Buy multiple sets of everything.

I have about three or four sets of sheets and towels. This way the cleaner doesn’t need to wash everything in the three hours between guest check in and check out. They can simply take all the dirty sheets and towels home to wash.

4. Buy a Nest.

Nest has a great “auto away” feature that activates when there is no one in the room for a predetermined amount of time. This turns off all heating and cooling so you or your guests don't have to worry about it. The cost of a Nest pays for itself in a couple of months with this feature alone. You can also log in to your Nest account to see if a guest has arrived safely.

5. Buy a Lockitron.

The biggest challenge with managing a listing remotely is handling the key transfer. Guests' flights are often delayed, or they just get in really late. Having someone meet them at the apartment can turn into a logistical nightmare very quickly. Lockitron allows you to invite guests to your lock for a specified amount of time, so they can unlock the door with their phone.

6. Bad reviews can kill you.

I live in constant fear of getting a bad review. Reviews are listed prominently on your listing page on Airbnb, so every potential new guest can read them before booking. It also means I don’t ever leave guests bad reviews in case they retaliate and leave me a bad review in turn. I don’t know how Airbnb can fix this, but the current review system is definitely broken.

7. This isn’t “passive” income.

A large percentage of guests are happy to arrive, stay in your place and leave before their check-out time, all without any contact. Often, though, guests will have questions, or issues that need your attention arise. So, you have to always be available to jump on a call and help them out.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; US: Nevada
KEYWORDS: airbnb; internet; investing; nevada

1 posted on 04/29/2014 5:51:38 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

So what’s the difference between this and buying a traditional vacation rental location in Las Vegas, Orlando or some other typical vacation location?

My understanding is that the owner can’t stay at the property more than two weeks if they claim it as a rental property on taxes. Isn’t doing this on Airbnb subject to the same condition?

2 posted on 04/29/2014 6:03:57 PM PDT by Incorrigible (If I lead, follow me; If I pause, push me; If I retreat, kill me.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
The #1 item on the list of recommendations should be:

Make sure you're not violating any zoning codes, condo/co-op regulations, or any other legal restrictions that might prohibit you from running an apartment rental business like this.

Personally, I think it's only a matter of time before more and more states follow New York's example and file lawsuits against companies like Airbnb. If that happens, your investment may be at risk.

3 posted on 04/29/2014 6:03:59 PM PDT by Alberta's Child ("I've never seen such a conclave of minstrels in my life.")
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

As a board member in a complex in Golden, CO; we had to threaten legal action on an VRBO using owner. We have a 6 month minimum lease restriction.

However, good luck finding decent units outside of LV, that will pencil out this way. LV is on sale. In Colorado, our condos are 300 per square foot, so 50K gets you 167 SF. In other words, a walkin closet.

4 posted on 04/29/2014 6:16:45 PM PDT by cicero2k
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To: Alberta's Child

Yep, I checked out my hoa rules on this because I was considering renting out my place on Airbnb... But no rentals less than 30 days.

5 posted on 04/29/2014 6:19:18 PM PDT by ponygirl (Be Breitbart.)
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To: Incorrigible
"So what’s the difference between this and buying a traditional vacation rental location"

Airbnb is hip. That's the big difference. In the past Geocities was hip. Now it's not. Then MySpace was hip. Then FaceBook was hip. Then Twitter was hip.

What's important is not whether it's a good idea, but whether it's hip.

Amazon got away without having to collect sales tax for a long time because it was hip. Forcing them to do the same thing as their brick and mortar competitors would have been SOOOO unhip.

Forcing Airbnb renters to follow the same rules as motels and hotels would also be unhip.

Until, of course, something even hipper comes along.

(BTW, I saved hundreds of dollars on a recent trip to Europe by staying at an Airbnb apartment rather than paying outrageous prices for a tiny hotel room, but it's OK for me because I am the definition of hip!)

6 posted on 04/29/2014 6:24:26 PM PDT by who_would_fardels_bear
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To: cicero2k

$39000 / 1br - 880ft² - $39,000 Condo For Sell (Dallas Tx)

$38000 / 1br - 650ft² - condo for sale, rent, lease purchase owner finance no residency is ok (75 north and park ln)

$28900 / 1br - 683ft² - 9811WF208~2nd Floor Rented Condo, Investor Special, FP, W/D, Balcony (Richland College Area)

$66500 / 2br - 1122ft² - ASPEN RIDGE CONDO (Clive) [Iowa]

$39000 Liquidating 13 Condos $39,000 ea (Gautier) [Coastal Mississippi]

7 posted on 04/29/2014 6:24:48 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet (I will raise $2M for Cruz and/or Palin's next run, what will you do?)
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To: who_would_fardels_bear

8 posted on 04/29/2014 6:34:18 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet (I will raise $2M for Cruz and/or Palin's next run, what will you do?)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet


9 posted on 04/29/2014 6:50:32 PM PDT by SunTzuWu
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

I checked into airbnb before renting a vacation apartment. Was not impressed and used VRBO instead. Not a fan of paying the highish fees.
That said, glad it worked out for you.

10 posted on 04/29/2014 6:55:53 PM PDT by ozaukeemom (Is there even a republic left?)
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To: who_would_fardels_bear

Thanks! I have no doubt regarding your hipness!

So really, all the rules that apply to traditional rental homes/condos applies to Airbnb users but they are skating around those rules claiming ignorance.

So it’s just another way for people thinking they can disintermediate the middle-man and stick it to the man at the same time.

Until the man catches up with them and they cry in tax court.

Got it.

11 posted on 04/29/2014 6:59:12 PM PDT by Incorrigible (If I lead, follow me; If I pause, push me; If I retreat, kill me.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

For further research.

12 posted on 04/29/2014 7:26:42 PM PDT by Oratam
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To: Incorrigible
Even before they end up in tax court some of these DIY hoteliers might have other things to worry about...

Airbnb becomes AirBBW

13 posted on 04/29/2014 7:31:21 PM PDT by who_would_fardels_bear
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Absentee land lording isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. This guy is heading for a real disaster down the line.

14 posted on 04/29/2014 9:33:48 PM PDT by headstamp 2 (What would Scooby do?)
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To: Incorrigible

This isn’t about how he bought the property or the tax matters of renting, it’s about how he uses Airbnb as the system for getting renters.

15 posted on 04/29/2014 11:05:01 PM PDT by jiggyboy
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To: jiggyboy


16 posted on 04/30/2014 6:58:24 AM PDT by
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