EP127: Airbnb Hosting Tips from a Superhost and a Side Hustler

EP127: Airbnb Hosting Tips from a Superhost and a Side Hustler


Jasper talks with Kevin the Financial Panther, an Airbnb superhost and expert side hustler. Kevin is a lawyer who has capitalized on the sharing economy to pay off $87,000 worth of student loans in just two and a half years!

Kevin shares his journey to becoming an Airbnb superhost and explains how he uses other platforms including DogVacay, Postmates and OfferUp to make extra money. Listen and learn how to incorporate side gigs into your life.

Some of the topics covered

The unexpected advantages of Airbnb hosting

  • Kevin has received freebies from companies looking to get their products in front of consumers
  • “Your house will never be cleaner”

How targeting a specific audience makes hosting easier

  • Consider who is likely to book with you based on location
  • Recognize what your target audience is looking for (i.e.: affordability, proximity to events)

Kevin’s advice for potential hosts who fear theft or damage

  • More people are normal than you think
  • His guests have been very polite and unobtrusive

Kevin’s tips for hosts who are just getting started

  • Just do it
  • Communicate with your guests
  • Keep your house clean

Kevin’s approach to communicating with guests

  • Do a walk-through to explain where to find and how to use appliances, etc.
  • Utilize the Airbnb messaging system to keep a record of your correspondence
  • Email a Hostfully guidebook upon booking and again a few days before the guest’s arrival

Why Airbnb is better than a roommate

  • Your house is still fully yours (rather than having to share ownership)
  • Kevin’s guests have been very respectful of the space and his privacy

Connect with Kevin

financialpanther.co

 Resources Mentioned

Nest Bedding Partnership

 

Connect with Jasper

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @GetPaidForUrPad

Instagram: @GetPaidForYourPad 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/getpaidforyourpad

This episode is sponsored by Hostfully.com where you can create a custom digital guidebook for your guests!

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Complete Transcript for Get Paid for Your Pad Episode 127

Jasper:

Welcome to Get Paid For Your Pad, the definitive show on Airbnb hosting, featuring the best advice on how to maximize profits from your Airbnb listing, as well as real-life experiences from Airbnb hosts all over the world. Welcome.

This episode is brought to you by Hostfully, a company that helps you make beautiful guidebooks for your listing. Make your own at hostfully.com/pad, and a special for Get Paid For Your Pad listeners, you’ll get a free guidebook consultation after you make your guidebook.

Welcome, everybody, Get Paid For Your Pad, another episode, and today we’re talking to a really interesting guest. He is a lawyer who paid off $87,000 in student loans in two and a half years by choosing not to live like a big-shot lawyer, and he’s also sharing all of his experiences on a blog that’s called the financialpanther.co. And he has a lot of side hustles, and one of them is Airbnb, so we’re going to learn all about that. So, Kevin, welcome to the show.

Kevin:

Hey, thanks for having me, Jasper.

Jasper:

Yeah, you’re very welcome. You told me you’ve been listening to the podcast quite a bit.

Kevin:

Yeah, it was actually one of the first podcasts when I started doing Airbnb and I kind of wanted to get some info on how to set things up and start things on the right foot. And, you know, I’ve been on a big podcast binge for a while, and so I just typed in, probably, typed in ‘Airbnb podcast’, and yours probably popped up somewhere.

Jasper:

Right.

Kevin:

And so, that’s when I started listening to it.

Jasper:

Awesome. And how long have you been hosting on Airbnb?

Kevin:

Yeah, so I started hosting in April of 2016, so it’s getting close to a year now. You know, we moved into our house in January of 2016, and then I was going to do it, and I kind of got into one of those things where people always say they’re going to do it and you just keep waiting for a while. And so, that’s what happened, and then I finally got around to doing it in April.

Jasper:

Right. And you were living together with your girlfriend or your wife?

Kevin:

Yeah, my fiancée. We got engaged last year, and so it’s just the two of us, and then we’ve got our dog, so three of us live here.

Jasper:

Okay, and that is in Minnesota.

Kevin:

In Minnesota, yup, eight degrees right now.

Jasper:

Yeah, we were just chatting a little bit. I’m in Santiago and it’s extremely hot here, and people don’t have AC in their houses. So, I’m staying at an Airbnb here and I didn’t realize that the houses here don’t have AC, so I’m kind of sweating a lot.

Kevin:

It’s the opposite problem we’ve got here.

Jasper:

Yeah. You know, I’ll survive. So, you moved in with your fiancée, and then why did you decide to rent out a spare room?

Kevin:

Yeah, you know, so this house here has like a little back story. So, this house, my fiancée got this house before we met, and she actually used to live here with roommates. She was in the school here and she rented out the other three rooms, and then a few years back, we moved out, got a tiny apartment, and she rented the place out to her mom, so the whole house. And then, in January, her mom moved out and we were like, “Well, we could try to go get tenants, but you know, beginning of the year, let’s just move back in here,” and so we did that.

And so, we went from a 600-square foot apartment we lived in, now to a four-bedroom house, and so we set up one room as an office, we set up our own room, we set up a guestroom, and then another room we set up for our niece for when she comes to visit. So, I’m kind of looking around, like, “This guestroom is never getting used, ever.” And so, that’s kind of when I had the idea, “Well, we don’t want to get a roommate, so why don’t we just try out Airbnb and see what kind of people we get?”

Jasper:

Awesome. And I’m just looking at one of your blog posts. You list a bunch of advantages of Airbnb, and one that interests me is, you list, you could get freebies as an Airbnb host.

Kevin:

Yeah, yeah. That was actually one of the unknown perks when I started. You know, I was kind of doing some research and I found some Airbnb forums, and there are companies that are always trying to get their products in front of customers, and I guess they figure Airbnb’s a good place to do it because you’ve got a lot of people coming and going. So, one thing I’ve gotten, my big score, was a free mattress from this company called Nest Bedding. And they just gave me a free mattress for the room.

Jasper:

That’s awesome.

Kevin:

Yeah, it was like… You know, it’s one of those mattresses that come in a box and they mail it to you, and then when you cut it open, it expands out. But, it’s good. I just kind of put up a little sign in my room there that says, “You’re sleeping on this mattress,” so it kind of makes the guests wonder what kind of mattress they’re sleeping on because it’s a nice mattress.

Jasper:

Yeah, I imagine. And it says it’s a $2,000 mattress.

Kevin:

Yeah, that one there was like a $1,000 mattress, or maybe a little… Yeah, and then, I’ve actually gotten some other mattresses from another company.

Jasper:

But, wait, do those companies resell to you or do you resell to them?

Kevin:

So, no, they put up a thing on some of these forums and they just said, “We’re trying to get these mattresses in there,” and just email them a link to your listing to ask for a mattress, and then they kind of look over the listing and if it looks like a good one, I guess, then they offer it to you. So, you know, I’ve had good reviews and a lot of people coming in and out, so I think that’s why they thought, “Well, this is a good spot to throw a mattress in there.”

Jasper:

That’s pretty cool. That’s pretty cool. I’m sure there’s lots of people out there who wouldn’t mind having a $1,000 mattress shipped to them, as well.

Kevin:

Yeah. I mean, it’s pretty sweet.

Jasper:

Yeah, absolutely.

Another advantage of using Airbnb that you mention in your blog post is that your house will never be cleaner, and I think that’s an interesting one because I agree. It’s funny, because when you rent an apartment and you ask the landlord if you could do Airbnb, most of the time they respond negatively, but I’ve always argued that allowing your tenant to do Airbnb is probably the best thing you can do for your apartment, right, because you have to maintain it really well because it’s your business. And so, it makes a lot of sense to me.

Kevin:

Right, no, that’s definitely a way you could ask the landlord to do it, and that’s the thing I noticed, and you mentioned this before too, is that you care a lot more about your place that you’re renting out on Airbnb than your own place. And so, kind of an advantage when you’re renting out just a room in your house, like I do, is you’ve got to keep your whole house clean. So, I’ve noticed that whenever I have stretches where I don’t have people around, my house starts getting way dirtier, and it’s because I’m just not cleaning it as much as I am when someone’s actually here.

Jasper:

That’s pretty funny.

Kevin:

Yeah, yeah. And the good thing, too, about that is, you know, cleaning is kind of like, “Oh.” When you think about it with Airbnb, cleaning is kind of like work that you might not have to do normally, but when it’s your own house, it’s actually like you’re helping your guest out, but you’re also helping yourself out because, yeah, I’m cleaning the room which I’m not sleeping in, the guestroom, but then I also am cleaning the bathroom which I do use. I’m cleaning my kitchen, which I do use, and my living room. And so, it’s like I’m also directly benefiting, so it’s like I’m getting paid and I’m cleaning my own house.

Jasper:

It’s a win-win situation.

Kevin:

Exactly.

Jasper:

Awesome. So, you’ve been renting out for about a year, and another thing I read on your blog is that you sort of target a specific audience. Can you tell us about that?

Kevin:

Yeah. You know, this is the thing that a lot people get nervous about when they rent a place, when they put up a room on Airbnb, is you’re sharing a space with a stranger. The good thing is, I think, with depending on where you live, you can kind of figure out the type of guest that you’ll get. So, for myself, I’m near a big university, and so… And I didn’t know this when I started, that this was the type of guest I would get, but in retrospect now it makes a lot of sense.

But, basically, all the guests I get are college students coming into town for conferences at the school, or they’re coming for interviews, residency interviews, grad school interviews, those kinds of things. And those guests are exactly the type of guests I enjoy because, you know, I’m young, they’re young, we have a lot in common because we’re both professionals, I guess. And so, it’s like those are the type of guests I’ve been targeting and it’s just very good, I think, when you figure it out because then you kind of know what to expect from all your guests when they’re kind of all the same.

Jasper:

Yeah, makes sense. And, also, you probably know exactly what those people are looking for because you can kind of relate to them.

Kevin:

That’s exactly right, yeah. And the thing that those kinds of guests, you know, these students, they’re just looking for a place that’s affordable, and clean, and comfortable, and close to the school, and so, that’s exactly what I give them.

And another bonus with those kinds of guests is, they’re not in my house very much. So, most of them come, they’ve got their interviews that are all day long, and then they’re gone, or they’re at their conference and they’re gone the whole time. They just come back to sleep. So, it’s kind of a nice bonus because I still make use of that room without really giving up that much of my privacy because they’re only around for a little bit.

Jasper:

Right. So, you don’t typically spend much time with your guests?

Kevin:

Yeah, not really, and I can kind of get a feel of whether the guest wants to hang out with me. I’ve had some guests where, you know, I’ll just go and grab a burger or a beer with them at a restaurant across the street or down the street from us, but most of the guests, it just seems like they’re just here, they just want to get to their interviews or whatever they’re doing the next day, and so they just come and then they just go into their room, and I don’t even see them at all. You know, no one ever uses the kitchen. No one really ever hangs out to watch TV or anything because everyone’s got their phones and computers anyway, so they just watch stuff in their own room, is my guess. So, yeah, I guess that’s kind of what’s been happening.

Jasper:

Right. Have you had any really memorable experiences?

Kevin:

Yeah. So, we had, in August of last year, we had two dental students staying with us. They were just about to start dental school and their lease was coming up. Their lease was starting in September, but their school started in mid-August, so they needed a place for like two weeks. So, Airbnb is exactly perfect for that kind of thing because they, basically, you know, they can’t find a place for two weeks, otherwise.

And so, my fiancée actually went to the dental school here and is a dentist, so it was like we became friends with them, really. These were people kind of very similar to us, and honestly, even if they weren’t Airbnb, we probably would have been friends with them, and we still are friends with them because they still live in Minnesota. So, I guess that’s kind of a memorable one. And, you know, they were very sad when they left, too, because they like hugged us and thanked us for letting them stay here for the two weeks.

Jasper:

Yeah, that’s very cool. Do you ever have any issues with guests, or not?

Kevin:

No. That’s the biggest fear I had when I started, you know, the big fear everyone has at Airbnb, is someone’s going to come in and steal your stuff or break something, or whatever. And the good thing is, I think when you’re renting out a room in your house, that kind of thing is just so much less likely to happen because you live in the house, too. And, you know, I think more people are just normal than we think. We just hear so many horror stories sometimes because the media likes to pick up on that stuff, and my friends say, “Hey, how can you let some stranger in your house?”

Really, I mean, it’s just, everyone kind of knows, they kind of understand, you know, “I’m just coming here, I’m staying in someone’s room.” It’s kind of being a guest in someone’s house. They’re really very nice. People tiptoe around. They don’t really make a ton of noise. They always ask before even just using things like the microwave or something. People always ask me if they can use them. I’m like, “Of course you can!”

Jasper:

But, I guess that’s one of the most important parts of hosting if you’re renting out a room and you’re sharing stuff with your guests, like communicating to your guests what they can use and what they can’t, I imagine. I’ve always rented out an entire room, so I don’t really have any experience with this, but I just imagine that if I’m staying in somebody’s house and we’re sharing, then that would be one of my biggest question marks, would be, like, “Okay, am I free to just grab whatever I need and use whatever I want to use, or should I kind of keep to myself in my room?” So, do you let your guests know up front?

Kevin:

Yeah. So, you know, I always do a kind of walkthrough with them when they get here, kind of explain where things are and how to use things. Most of the time, people don’t really want to use any of my stuff because they’re here for a pretty short time.

The other thing I do is, I have a guidebook that I actually use through Hostfully, which I always email to everyone right before they come here, and so it tells you what you can do, and here’s stuff in the kitchen, and here’s stuff in the bathroom, and so forth.

And so, yeah, I mean, I probably could get better at communicating exactly what people can use, but I think people just kind of… Like, no one ever eats any of my food or anything. I mean, they always ask before they do anything, which, I guess, is just kind of lucky, I guess, that’s happened.

Jasper:

Well, apparently, you’re doing a pretty good job because I’m looking at some of the reviews and they’re all like glaring five-star reviews, and everybody talks about how you and your fiancée are such good hosts, how you’re taking care of everybody, and somebody even mentions that burger joint that you were talking about earlier.

Kevin:

Oh, yeah.

Jasper:

So, it seems like you guys are really doing a terrific job, and so, what would be your top three tips for people who are, maybe, in the position that you were in a year ago, where you’re thinking about starting but you’re kind of a little bit reluctant? What would be the three tips for people to get started and become a Superhost as quickly as you did?

Kevin:

Yeah, well… So, first tip is, yeah, just get started, you know, because a lot of people are just so scared of all the things that could go wrong, and that’s understandable. Yeah, stuff can go wrong, but most of the time it probably won’t, and if you’re nervous about that, you can always kind of just do it a little bit, try it renting out just one time, see if it’s for you, and if it’s not, then it’s not. So, that’s my first tip, I guess, just get started.

Number two is having good communication because that’s one thing that my guests always like, is I always… Because I’m not always home, I work. Both of us, my fiancée and I, we both work a regular day job, so I’m always contacting my guests in advance, letting them know how to get into the house if I’m not here, and I always send them a link to the guidebook, and I have a guidebook in the room, as well. So, I’ve got a lot of stuff that shows that I’m there to help them and that I’m a normal person, which I think someone booking a room in a house really appreciates because, you know, for the guests too, they’re kind of a little bit nervous probably if they are staying with a stranger. They don’t know, so it’s kind of good to talk to them beforehand, make sure that they know that you’re there to help.

And the third thing is probably just, yeah, you’ve got to keep your house clean. I know, around this area here, there’s a lot of other people doing Airbnb too, kind of the same way as me, and when you kind of look at some of their reviews, you can see that people complain about the house not being clean or something, and that can kind of impact whether someone wants to stay at your place because people want to stay in a clean place. And, you know, I can kind of understand because a lot of the other people who offer Airbnb here, they’re like college kids offering up a room. So, you’re in a room in a house with like four other college kids, so no doubt your house is going to be a little dirtier. So, yeah, whatever you can do to keep your house clean, I guess, is probably the third tip to really get good reviews.

So, communicate and keep your house clean.

Jasper:

Hosts, I can’t emphasize how important it is to share recommendations of things to do or eat near your listing beforehand. Your guests won’t have to go through TripAdvisor, Foursquare, or Yelp. They won’t have to scratch their head and think about possible places right in the moment. I’ve been using Hostfully to create an online and printable guidebook to show my guests my favorite coffee places in Amsterdam. They use my recommendations, and I’m getting fewer questions from my guests as a result. I’ve also included screenshots of my guidebook on my Airbnb listing as a way to differentiate my listing from others. So, make your own guidebook at hostfully.com/pad.

Right. I’m glad you mentioned communication. I think that’s a really good point. How do you communicate with your guests? I know you send them your Hostfully guidebook, and so do I, but what other means of communications do you use? Do you use Skype or WhatsApp, email, or the Airbnb messaging system?

Kevin:

Yeah, so I try to do all my communication through the Airbnb messaging system. It’s just, you know, in case anything were to go wrong, you always kind of want to have stuff going through Airbnb so that you’ve got a record of it. That’s the main place I talk to them, and then I always just send an email with some directions and a link to the guidebook beforehand, maybe like a day or two before they arrive. So, those are kind of the two ways I contact people or I talk to them.

Jasper:

Okay, so you send them the guidebook a few days before they arrive.

Kevin:

Right.

Jasper:

Okay, interesting. I always do it the moment that I get the booking.

Kevin:

Oh. Oh, yeah. Well, you know, the thing is, it depends on when, because sometimes people book so far ahead and I just figure it’s, you know… So, I always tell them, like, “Hey, I’m going to send you some stuff as we get closer to the date that you’re going to arrive,” just because, you send it right away and I feel like people just will forget about it, whereas, when you send it just like a day or two before they come, they will take a look at it and will remember.

Jasper:

Right. Yeah, that’s an interesting point. I hadn’t thought of it. But, you know, another thing we could do is, we could send them the guidebook when they book and then send them another email a few days before they check in just in case they missed it.

Kevin:

Yeah, that could be another way to do it too, right. That’s not a bad idea too, and maybe I’ll think about doing that, actually, yeah. I don’t know. I probably could just do it right away because it’s easy enough to automate it. You could just automate an email out right away, basically saying, “Here’s a link to the guidebook.”

Jasper:

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Wait, can you put links in the messages in Airbnb?

Kevin:

No. I think links get blocked there, so that’s why I always had to send it through an email, so I’ll send it to their Airbnb email. So, I’ll just send one right from my own email to their Airbnb email.

Jasper:

Yeah, that’s exactly, that’s what I do too, yeah. Awesome.

And when you started with your Airbnb, I’m sure you had certain expectations. And I’m just curious, how did your expectations compare to the actual experience of being an Airbnb host, and are there any big differences?

Kevin:

Yeah. So, you know, one thing is, I thought people would be more up in my space. That’s one thing we just… The reason why we’ve kept doing it for long is because when you rent out a room, it just seems like… At least with the type of guests that I’ve been renting out to, it just seems like people just kind of hang out in their room, and they come out just to leave. And so, it’s totally different because I kind of thought it would be more like a random roommate every day, basically, or every couple of days.

And it’s just so much better than a roommate because it’s like the house is still your house when you’re renting out a room, which is way different than when you have a roommate, because when you have a roommate, the house is their house too because, you know, they live there. Whereas, the guests who stay with me on Airbnb, they know it’s my house, so that’s why they’re so respectful, I think.

Everyone who’s stayed with me is super-respectful, like they’re always asking whether they can do this and that, and they’re always being very careful with everything. I think it’s just because it’s kind of like they’re in someone’s house, and we try to keep our house nice, so I think that helps to have people treat our stuff right.

Jasper:

And was your fiancée cool with the idea of renting out from the get-go, or did you have to talk to her?

Kevin:

Yeah, well, you know, she’s always been kind of… Like, I’m a total weirdo. I like to do all this sharing economy stuff, and so she always knew that this is something that I was going to try to do, and she gave me a chance. She was like, “Yeah, let’s try it out a few times and see.”

And, at first, because we didn’t have a roommate or anyone living with us for about four months, so it was like we’re just living in this big house by ourselves for a couple of months, and then when the first couple guests came, she was kind of like, “Enh, I don’t know if I like having a stranger here.” And then, after a little bit of time, we kept doing it more, and then we just kept realizing, “Well, it’s like they’re barely here, so we’ll just keep doing it.”

And so, it took her a few stays, I guess, a few guests before she realized, “Oh, this is not so bad, actually. We actually kind of like this.”

Jasper:

Awesome. And your blog, the Financial Panther, you want to share a little bit more about why you started the blog and what it’s about?

Kevin:

Yeah, yeah. So, the blog was basically just, like, I’ve been really into personal finance for a while, and so the blog is just kind of talking about my story of paying off, like, I graduated law school with a ton of debt and I paid it all off, and my fiancée’s got a lot of debt also, and so when she’s done with her… She’s in residency right now, so when she’s done with that, we’re going to have to pay off her debt.

And so, it’s just kind of a blog about that, about investing, and then about the sharing economy. So, I just do so many weird things that lawyers aren’t supposed to do, like a lawyer isn’t supposed to rent out a room on Airbnb because if you’re a lawyer, they make plenty of money, they don’t need to do that. You know, I do it because I think it’s fun. I don’t necessarily need the money so much. I mean, it helps, but I just find it fun to do, and so I do a lot of those kind of sharing economy gigs.

I also do a little bit of dog-sitting on the side, sort of like, there’s kind of these services, they’re kind of like Airbnb for dogs, and so I do that too. Yeah. So, I’m actually dog-sitting a dog right now, so it kind of helps.

Jasper:

Yeah, I could hear it.

Kevin:

Right. That’s what my dog was barking at, because my dog was barking with the other dog. So, we do that.

I do a little bit of Postmates, which is kind of like a delivery service, kind of like an Uber for food.

So, I do a lot of these weird kind of side gigs I just have a lot of fun doing, so that’s what I blog about and write about.

Jasper:

Yeah. Yeah, that’s cool. You’re kind of like a micropreneur, I think is what they call them, people who use all these different platforms to make money.

Kevin:

That’s exactly right, and that’s one of the things I blog about a lot, is how easy it is nowadays to make some side money like that, and I actually always share what I made every month from these kind of little things. And, you know, it’s surprising because it doesn’t take up very much time. When you kind of incorporate it into your life already, it’s not like a huge time spend on all these things.

Even with the Airbnb, it’s like, yeah, it takes up some time, but it’s like time I’m using for myself, too, because I’m cleaning my house for me, and so it’s kind of like I just incorporate what I’m doing already to make a little bit of extra money. And, for a lot of people, especially with guestrooms, like so many people have these big houses with guestrooms sitting around doing nothing, so it’s nice if you can just make a little bit of money off of it.

Jasper:

Absolutely, yeah. What I really like about your blog is you’re sharing a lot of figures. I’m looking at a graph of your net worth, I’m looking at very specific reports on how much you’ve made with all your side hustles and stuff, so I think it’s very insightful and very useful for people.

So, if you’re interested in learning how to get out of debt, how to make some extra money on the side, go to the financialpanther.co, and then I’m sure there’s lots that you can learn.

All right, Kevin, well, thanks a lot for coming on the show. I really appreciate it, and I think you shared some cool stuff with us, so thank you very much.

Kevin:

Yeah, thanks a lot, Jasper. I’m glad to be on the show.

Jasper:

Absolutely. So, Kevin’s been listening to the podcast for a while. If you are listening right now and you’re thinking, “Hey, I kind of want to share my story,” feel free to just send me an email at [email protected], and most of the time I’ll be more than happy to get you on the show. That’s what Kevin did, as well.

Again, thanks Kevin, and thanks everybody for listening. And, of course, every Monday there’s an episode where I interview a host, but also, on Thursday you can listen to an overview of the news in Airbnb land. So, everything that’s the most interesting things that happened in the world of Airbnb, I will discuss every Thursday.

So, thanks everybody, and see you next time.

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