Honey, we’re giving up our home to strangers.
I’m going to start with a disclaimer… Because this is not a story with the deets of what it took to turn our primary home into a temporary AirBnB, nor is it intended to be an analysis on whether or not it’s worth it. That will come later, I promise. For now, I just want to talk about the act of actually taking the plunge and trying something new. Because you can grow. Because you can learn. Because you may stumble upon something really freaking amazing. Because if you really step back and look at life, there’s so much to gain, and little to lose by following your passions and your dreams. end. disclaimer. Here we go…
Complacency killed the cat. Then… curiosity brought it back to life.
That’s right folks. I’m not dead, but I am a little bit crazy.
This blog post is a tale about how two (partially insane) people got sick of talking about an “idea” and just did it. It starts with coveting thy neighbor.
About a year or so ago, Matt and I realized that our street was becoming some sort of vacation rental hot spot. At first this seemed a bit bizarre. We are located in central Boca, about 15 min from the beach and while our neighborhood is AWESOME, it’s not exactly a hot spot for tourism. Or so we thought. But given some funky circumstances, like the fact that our street is one of the only ones around here without an HOA to restrict short-term rentals, and our proximity to an Orthodox Synagogue, out of nowhere, four of the 50 or so homes on our street were suddenly listed, and very booked on AirBnB. Some people on the street were reasonably disturbed by this for so many reasons. Neighbors started asking a lot of thoughtful questions abound how having strangers lodging in the neighborhood would affect things like property value, safety, etc.
I was not one of those people. Maybe I’m money hungry. Maybe I’m insane. Maybe I’m simply too curious for my own good. But when I realized renting my house out for a week could cover the whole month’s mortgage (and more, some months), I only saw opportunity. I quickly shifted my mindset from my house being “a home,” to my house being an asset.
For months, Matt and I observed the AirBnBs on our street, paid attention to their occupancy, average nightly rates, and began researching what it would take to get in on the party. I’m going to say up front that while AirBnB makes listing a home look like a cake walk. It’s not. This is not a story about how to make EASY money. This is a story about following through on a vision and putting in the work (the hard fucking work) so that THIS isn’t one of those stories we tell when we’re older about the time we almost did a risky thing, but didn’t because (insert excuse here), ultimately ending in a bittersweet summary of “what could have been.”
Note to my future great grandchildren of 2110… I sincerely hope you’re reading this with the lens of “how it all began,” vs. “look at all the great ideas they had but didn’t follow through on.” Fingers crossed.
Anyway, after months of thinking, talking, researching, talking, talking, and admiring (coveting), we decided that this would never be a thing unless we just did it. If you’re a planner, this is probably making you squirm. One day, the day right after our house cleaners came and made the house look like we weren’t a complete mess, we took pictures and posted the house on AirBnB. We chose to open our home for the summer months since the kids would be out of school. No amount of research could have prepared us for this.. Suddenly we were putting our home out there, opening up the potential that all of this talk may actually become a reality.
Within two days, we received our first serious inquiry. It was like Christmas for me. I’m an instant gratification junky so with every text response, I got a rush of adrenaline that allowed me to ignore any uncertainty I had about this plan. Within a week, we had our first booking. A few days later another. Then another. Before we had even come to terms with what we were doing, we had 23 days booked throughout June and July.
When we shared this with friends and family, they asked the inevitable question, “where are you going to go?” To be honest, we didn’t really know. That was sort of the charm. Eventually we made plans to do some family visits (something we try to do each summer anyway) and stay in and around South Florida in places smaller (and cheaper) than ours. The vision became less about profit, and more about how we could take advantage of this adventurous idea to immerse ourselves in new experiences and different communities, even ones that are less than an hour away. I became fixated on the idea of building our AirBnB brand, knowing that 5 star reviews are a requirement for longer-term profit. (Winter is the tourism season in South Florida, so this is when the real potential is.)
At the time I write this, we’re back at home after our first guests. Again, not getting into detail on the logistics, but long story short was that there was a very stressful period of prep that felt a lot like moving. It involved purging, packing, a massive honey-do list, deep cleaning, and buying stuff. I wrote a pretty bad ass house manual, and I crossed my fingers that the house would stay standing and these people would love their time here.
The first news: Our house did not burn down. Nothing is broken, Nothing is missing. And thanks to some proactive work we did to hire a house manager and cleaner, after a really lovely week away to visit family and celebrate my mother-in-law’s retirement, we are home to a beautiful and clean house. And yes… we got our first 5 star review.
So far so good. One down, two to go this summer. So I’ll keep this updated. To the best of my ability, I’m keeping a spreadsheet with earnings and expenses. I’ll share later.. We’re not becoming millionaires at the moment, but we’re definitely covering the costs of travel and adventure for the summer. And we’re learning.
Sometimes I wonder how this crazy summer of giving up our home will affect our kids. They are at the forefront of nearly every decision I make. In this case, the goal of course is to broaden their perspective, teach them to take risks, give them exposure to different ways of life, cultures, andvalues. But I can’t help but worry if I’m screwing with their sense of stability by forcing them to pack up their bedrooms in their cush Boca pad and trade it with a form of summer homelessness. Naturally, I have strong sad feelings for kids who don’t grow up with the luxury of a stable, dependable home. After working so hard to make sure we provide this for our kids, I have a sense of guilt, wondering if we’re sacrificing this thing we owe them to quench our own thirst for adventure. I find comfort in the fact that we’re ALL screwing our kids up in one way or another. If this is a topic between them and their therapist, at least they’ll have a world view that helps them appreciate our less controversial parenting decisions.
At this point, though, I’m just proud of ALL OF US for taking the plunge an doing something unconventional that just might lead to something awesome.
More to come. But I’m done writing for now 🙂
Pictures from our first “earned” adventure:
PS: Here’s our AirBnB Listing if you know anyone looking for a nice place to stay in Boca 😉
And if you’re as crazy as we are, consider hosting.