Here’s how we furnished and priced our Airbnb to become Superhosts

  • Hilary Hattenbach and her husband, Jared, became Airbnb Superhosts after guests gave great reviews.
  • They rented out the spare apartment in their California duplex after the longtime tenants moved out.
  • To make it a success, they priced it low, delivered it with enthusiasm, and learned on the fly.

Editor’s note: Insider verified Airbnb generated revenue with documentation

I own a 1920s duplex with my husband, Jared, in Silver Lake, California, a hipster enclave east of Hollywood. We live in one unit and rent the neighboring apartment.

In 2014, I quit my job in marketing to pursue a career as a writer, much to my mother’s chagrin.

I had recently partnered with a chef and sold a cookbook to a publisher. That was the good news. Our modest payment, however, went directly to the food photographer and stylist. You have to spend money to make money, right?

I figured that if the book didn’t reach bestseller status (spoiler alert: not even close), I’d do some consulting work and the rental income would help cover the mortgage.

We have gone from hosting long term renters to holidaymakers

Alas, right after I left my job, our tenants gave their leave. Rather than running around finding new tenants to share our thin walls, we decided to give Airbnb a try.

This way we could access the apartment for business meetings and allow visiting family members to use it between paying guests.

We were new to side hustle, but we were won over by traveler hosting. We are outgoing and love meeting new people. And since we had stayed with Airbnbs before, we already understood the do’s and don’ts.

It was first necessary to embellish and furnish the place. The small bathroom had years of wear and tear so we installed a new sink and vanity and new shower doors and also re-tiled the floor.

As a tribute to the legendary architects who had designed homes in Silver Lake, I chose mid-century decor purchased from discount sites like Wayfair and AllModern. I hung art from Los Angeles artists. The process brought me joy and reminded me of my time with my interior designer grandmother, who ran hotels in Haiti.

To find the perfect bed – a firm mattress with a soft pillow top – I climbed beds at several stores and even risked my life to climb a 15-foot mattress tower at Costco to test the quality. . Luckily, my death-defying Goldilocks stunt was worth it. This bed was perfect.

I scoured the internet for affordable towels, linens and kitchen utensils. Indoor plants and a shag rug completed the homey touches. A Nespresso machine added a wow factor.

After getting the place ready for Airbnb, we broke even in about a month

I wrote an enticing Airbnb ad, highlighting the upgrades and our walking distance to restaurants and shops. I loved our “hilltop oasis” and pointed out that we lived on a quiet street with older neighbors to weed out the rowdy types.

Airbnb sent a photographer to take pictures for the site, which showcased the apartment’s best light and angles — a free service it offers in select cities.

We checked similar Airbnb profiles in the area and set our nightly rate at $100, about $50 less than the competition, plus a $50 cleaning fee.

We required a minimum stay of two nights. Almost immediately we got a two week reservation for $1600 and celebrated with pizza. In that first month – March 2014 – our first booking was followed by two others – a five-night stay ($689) and a three-week stay ($2,386), earning nearly $5,000, reaching the break-even point of our initial investment.

Airbnb charges guests a 14% service fee and hosts a 4% fee. Keeping our nightly rate low has also helped customers avoid after-charge sticker shock.

At first, Jared thought he was the janitor. He would ask customers in advance what they would like for breakfast and stock the fridge accordingly.

Thoughtful, yes, but not profitable. He later downgraded the offerings to milk or cream of choice, a candy bar, and bottled water.

Our guests ranged from creative Hollywood types to grandparents visiting family.

Although most visitors were lovely, we learned lessons and made adjustments

When a guest broke a glass bedside lamp, I swapped fabric lamps. The white carpet showed every speck of dirt and proved too difficult to clean.

I opted for a washable version. The blue towels faded after several washes, so I switched to dark gray towels.

Managing reservations took practice. Check-in and check-out times had to be set in stone to give us time to tidy up, do laundry and restock.

We originally reduced the cleaning fee because we decided to clean to save money. I’m not going to lie: Pulling a stranger’s hair from the drain gave me recurring nightmares.

Once we had regular bookings, we increased the cleaning fee to $150 to cover the rate of a professional cleaner and freed ourselves from this hassle.

In year two, we changed our minimum stay to three nights to attract more weekly bookings. Short stays required as much work as longer ones and brought in less money. This change has increased our revenue and reduced customer turnover.

After that, we became Superhosts, an honor bestowed by Airbnb when you rack up great reviews.

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, we welcomed former Airbnb guests on what was initially a six-month lease that was eventually extended. They are still with us as they seek a forever home. But when they leave, we’ll definitely put it back on Airbnb.

Overall, Airbnbing was a rewarding and comforting experience

From 2014 to 2019, we withdrew an average of $51,000 per year, which is $16,000 more than our full-time tenants were paying. It allowed both of us to pursue writing careers.

Not only that, but we also formed lifelong friendships. Past guests have invited us to stay at their homes all over Europe.

More importantly, it helped convince my mom that I hadn’t ruined my life by quitting my job.

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