We rented out our house on Airbnb and used the earnings to fund a kick ass summer for $15 per person per day
This is the 2nd post in a multi-part series about renting our house out on Airbnb to fund summer travels. The first post focused on the sense of accomplishment and reward you get when you go out on a limb and do something a little crazy. This post focuses on the ROI you can expect to see if you trade your home for this kind of adventure.
When we mention to people that we rented our house out last summer to travel instead, the first question is usually, “Was it worth it?”
This is the post that answers that question.
And here we go…
If you would have told me five years ago that I’d someday be tracking every one of my summer expenses in an excel spreadsheet, I would have laughed at you. I would have thought you were insane. Sorry. I would have seriously rolled my eyes… because… I’m a person who thrives on being unstructured. I consider it an important part of who I am.
But there’s this other thing that’s just as central to who I am. I am fiercely competitive, and I hate being told no… My husband is kind of the same way. So when most people around us thought our idea to rent our house out on Airbnb to cover to cost of summer adventures was crazy, we had to do it. And to be practical and budget conscious, we had to do it in a way that was worth it.
In today’s data-driven world, you can’t really know for sure if something is worth it unless you have numbers, so I caved and became absolutely obsessed with tracking every summer transaction on my handy dandy spreadsheet. Every earning. Every single travel expense. Every special night out. Everything that fell outside our normal living expenses. Turns out, it was kind of fun and I became a bit obsessive about it.
What were our goals?
Before getting into the numbers, it’s important to be clear on what we were looking to accomplish with our Airbnb summer. It was not about vacation; it was about immersion. Both my husband and I work primarily from home, but we still had to work. Our goal was to maintain as much of our normal schedule as possible, but to do it with different surroundings. We sought out to immerse ourselves in different communities, different cultures, and different lifestyles.
Living in Boca Raton, within an hour of Miami, Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, you may sometimes get away to these amazing places for dinner, for the day, or even overnight in a swanky hotel for a special occasion. When you do things this way, you get a taste, but you never really get an understanding of what life is really like. Our goal was to experience LIVING in these places.
Our next goal was to spend more time with family. When we moved to South Florida four years ago, we moved very far away from family. By renting our house out on Airbnb over the summer, we were hoping to get some serious family time in without it having a major toll on our bank account. Our family happens to live more than 2,500 miles away (some, more than 5,000 miles away) and the cost of airfare for five adds up quickly.
Finally, we were hoping to establish an online reputation that could open more doors for us later down the road. Summer is low tourist season in Florida, so the rates we could charge each night were good, but not great. By building up our home’s online reputation in the summer, we set ourselves up for even more opportunity during high season. (TEASER, we have REALLY cool plans for Christmas break!)
The breakdown: How our family spent 27 days exploring for about $15 extra per person per day.
- Payout: Our total pay-out for renting our home on Airbnb for 27 days over the summer was $5,141. Our average pay-out was $190 per night. Note, this is quite lower than what we’ll expect moving forward for two reasons.
- Airbnb encourages you to discount for your first three bookings to allow you to build your reviews. We did that, and yes, we have four 5 star reviews!
- As mentioned previously, summer is low season in Florida. For comparison, we already have our home rented over Christmas break for a payout of $439 per night! MORE THAN DOUBLE!
- Expenses Considered: When pulling together the view below, I focused expenses that I consider to be beyond our normal spending. So, while you’ll see line items for dining out, or the Gwen Stefani residency show in Las Vegas (BEST NIGHT EVER), you won’t see line items for standard groceries, gas, etc. Note that, when we travel, we RARELY stay at hotels. We love staying in vacation rentals because we need the extra space and we love having a kitchen with the ability to cook most of our meals at home. If you try to replicate our experience but eating out every meal… your costs will be much higher. You’ve been warned.
- Airfare: The view below DOES include the airfare and expenses for two cross-country trips that we were planning to take regardless of whether we did this. One was for my mother-in-law’s retirement and family reunion. The other was an annual family visit to see my dad, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents in Las Vegas. For that reason, I struggled with including them in this analysis. Ultimately, I decided to because in both cases these trips correlated directly with Airbnb guest stays.
- Pet sitting…. Am I the only one that always forgets that we need a pet sitter until the last minute? Pet sitting is expensive. End. Point.
- Supplies: I’m all about opening my home to strangers, but I draw the line somewhere – and that’s in the bed. To prepare for our guests we invested in a handful of special supplies like new sheets and pillows, soap, laundry soap, dish soap, shampoo, conditioner, towels, etc. for the guests. That was about $500. The good news is that a lot of this stuff was an investment and we’ll re-use them for future guests. Even though I represented the full amount against the four stays below, the costs should be reflected as depreciated costs spread across many future stays. Alas, I’m not an accountant so there they are.
- Cleaning costs: These costs can add up quickly. Luckily, we found an amazing house manager/cleaner who charges by the hour. She cleans professionally and beautifully. Our home looked like a 5-star hotel for every guest. The fact that she charged hourly helped us because it meant we were able to save money by helping. For example, we helped with things like laundry which can be a major time suck for a cleaning crew. Ultimately, with the help of our cleaner, we were able to earn all 5-star reviews. As a side note, I’ve been a guest in vacation rentals that were NOT kept at 5-star cleanliness standards and it was a bit off-putting. Making the house spotless was VERY important to me.
- Hard ass work: I did not quantify the hard ass work we put in to make this happen. If I did, this would prove to be a very expensive venture. This was like Spring Cleaning on major steroids. It involved a lot of cleaning and purging and packing our personal belongings up into storage bins as if we were moving. It involved finishing home projects we’d put off for a long time, ensuring we fixed anything that could be a liability or safety risk (e.g. we finally mounted our flat screen TV). I don’t want ANYONE to look at these numbers and think this is a way to earn easy cash. It wasn’t easy. Period. But it was very rewarding.
And here they are… the numbers:
Amazing Summer Experiences
Trading your house for a staycation is a super cool thing to do. Especially in a place like South Florida, you don’t have to go very far to get an amazing growth experience.
Our perspective is forever changed from staying four days in the heart of Wynwood, waking up to the crow of a rooster, strolling among artists, creatives, lively Puerto Rican and Cuban communities, and a happening laundry mat. Our hearts expanded when we enjoyed a community theatre performance without knowing a single person on stage. I couldn’t believe the talent of these local teenagers.
We saw so many beautiful things when we woke up overlooking the intercoastal in Fort Lauderdale. The water is so good for the soul. The yachts were gorgeous, and my son had the time of his life fishing off the intercoastal bridge.
We felt beautiful community warmth in downtown Lake Worth. It has all the beautiful things you expect from a small town. We had the best tacos from a hidden culinary gem disguised as a roach coach. We had a blast at the local beer garden soaking up the live music. We went to museums, markets, small restaurants, and we talked to our neighbors. We really got a special taste of how unique and beautiful life can be a short distance away.
Finally, we had amazing family time. We spent more than two weeks with family, playing with cousins, celebrating milestones, laughing and loving. There’s nothing quite as cool as seeing your kids bond with their cousins. Even though they only see each other once a year, they’re bonded and connected in amazing ways. It’s beautiful! And it’s totally necessary.
BUT renting your house out on Airbnb is not for everyone
People have a lot of reasons to shut down the idea of renting their own personal home on Airbnb. Most people are naturally uneasy about the idea of letting people into their personal space. It makes sense to worry that things will get broken or stolen, or that guests will be partying, destroying your home or disrupting neighbors. These are all valid concerns. In fact, the first two nights we spent away, I had perpetual anxiety. The anxiety eventually went away when I realized that the people in our home were vetted, established Airbnb guests with good reviews, and good people that I got to meet myself. In many cases, they kept things cleaner and took better care of our home than we usually do. But still, it’s an uncomfortable thing that most people find unappealing. This is another thing I could write a LONG post about.
And even if you want to, you may not be able to. There was a lot to figure out as far as regulations, taxes, and insurance. I’m not going to get into that here, but just be aware that these are things to consider. Again, another LONG post. 🙂
For us, we looked at pros and cons and determined that we could gain a lot by freeing ourselves up for new experiences. The simple act of kicking ourselves out of the house for the summer meant that we’d have to be somewhere else. It meant we HAD to be learning and growing and expanding our awareness. This made it worth it to us.
Would we do it again?
Yes, in fact, as I mentioned, we already have another reservation on the books. And it only gets better. After earning four 5-star reviews over the summer (slow season in Florida), we are set up for success to charge more than double our summer rates over the winter.
TEASER FOR FUTURE BLOG: We will be spending Christmas exploring beautiful Puerto Rico (and contributing to rebuilding their tourism industry). The cost of our lodging AND airfare is fully covered by our Airbnb payout for the same week! It’s amazing. I’m so excited. And most importantly, this is allowing my family to contribute to getting Puerto Rico back on its feet. They need tourism more than ever and renting our house out is giving us the means to help.
So, do I recommend it?
The answer is YES, but only if you’re up to a challenge. It wasn’t an easy experience, but we would do it over and over again.