It's Tax Day! How We Made an Extra $7000 With Airbnb

This year, when Sebastian and I did our taxes, we filed $7,000 in additional income. That income was generated by hosting strangers in our apartment when we went away, using the travel website Airbnb. 

Airbnb is a community marketplace aimed at connecting people who need a place to stay with those who have unique and desirable space to rent. The service offers travelers an alternative to hotels and traditional bed and breakfasts, while giving hosts the opportunity to make money off of available property. Using the site, one can list a couch to sleep on, spare bedroom, full home, even a tree house or boat, as a bookable rental. The company will send a professional to photograph a space for free, and the photographer’s visit earns the listing "Airbnb Verified" status (a stamp of legitimacy), so it that can be trusted by wary renters.

Since listing our three-bedroom Brooklyn apartment on Airbnb (as a two-bedroom rental– we keep one room private) a year ago, we have rented our home to 12 different groups of guests for a total of 31 nights. We have an "Overall Guest Satisfaction Score" of 5/5 stars, and have collected a nice set of positive reviews to support our listing. Each positive review improves our apartment’s ranking in Airbnb search results, which prompts more reservation requests and bookings.

Because we use the service so regularly (we host almost every time we go away, which is often), we are regularly asked for advice. The following is a list of some of the extra things we do for our guests, as well as a few tips for streamlining the hosting process.


Leave a bottle of wine, some coffee, and a few baked goods. Getting into New York City can be tough. I imagine that after a long day of travel, all anyone really wants is a drink, and, maybe a snack. For this reason, we always leave our guests a bottle of wine, and I try to leave a few baked goods as well. Airbnb suggests providing breakfast. We always set out coffee mugs, beans, and a French press, but I tend to think that because we live in Cobble Hill, visitors will go out to brunch, or at least grab a fresh croissant across the street. So instead of focusing on the morning, we see to it that weary guests will have a treat waiting for them upon arrival. I like to buy local baked goods (such as whoopie pies from one of our favorite neighborhood bakeries), or, when I’m feeling especially nice, I whip up something for them myself.

Bring in fresh flowers. We always get a few fresh bouquets before a new reservation. We like to get cuts that are seasonal (like sunflowers in the summer or daffodils in the spring), and will usually break them up so there are a few blooms in every room. Guests have made it clear they really like this detail. Think about it: most hotels don't even provide fresh flowers in guestrooms anymore. For the price of a seedy hotel/motel room in NYC, Airbnb members can get two bedrooms plus a kitchen, and fresh flowers to boot! (Note: We have also found that guests are more than happy to help water houseplants during their stay as well. Just ask nicely.)

Leave personal notes. We like to leave a welcome note with the bottle of wine, and we try to make it as personal as possible. If we know that someone is in town as a tourist, we wish them well exploring the city. When a couple was in town for their daughter's wedding, we congratulated them on the union. We also like to put little handwritten notes around the apartment with helpful tips – a sort of "user guide" to our home. If something in your place is quirky (for instance, our kitchen sink's hot and cold knobs are reversed), leave a note. Airbnb gives hosts the option of providing a "House Manual" which can include these items, but I find these personal notes to be more effective. They will prevent you, the host, from receiving a confused text, and save your guests the frustration as well.

Provide a Google Map of your favorite local spots. Recently, Airbnb added the option to include a "Guidebook" with a listing. The Guidebook is a personalized Google map that a host can load up with local recommendations and suggestions. When Sebastian and I began hosting, this feature was not available, so we actually created our own Google map to send to members who inquired about our space. We listed everything from our favorite coffee shops and restaurants, to the best corner nearby to hail a taxi. If a guest asked for an opinion about something not already on the map, we added it. The map we have now prevents us from needing to repeat similar suggestions to multiple guests, and provides visitors with an abundance of helpful information about the neighborhood we love and know well.

 It is a great supplement to the neighborhood guides that Airbnb recently added to the site.


Buy an extra set of Airbnb-only bedding, towels, etc. Many people (myself included) don't like the idea of handling strangers' bed linens or towels. Sebastian and I work around this by keeping a set of white Airbnb-only linens. We leave a laundry bag in each bedroom, and a note asking that before check out, all beds be stripped, and linens and towels put into the bag. When we return home, our beds are bare and ready to be remade with our own sheets. And the laundry bags containing the used linens can easily be dropped at the laundry for a good crisp bleaching.

Add a cleaning fee. Airbnb gives hosts the option to include a cleaning fee in addition to the nightly rate. While Sebastian and I like to clean our own apartment, we use the fee to cover the cost of other amenities. We add a $40 fee on top of each visit, and that covers the cost of the wine, pastries, flowers, and laundry.

Choose your guests wisely, and remember your neighbors. My final piece of advice is to be deliberate in choosing who you open your home to. The greatest advantage of Airbnb is that it gives hosts the opportunity to accept or decline reservations as they wish, and does not penalize for declining a reservation request. When you consider a booking, take into account not just yourself, but also your neighbors. If you live in an apartment, other residents in your building may not like the idea of strangers coming in and out of their complex. Choose guests who will live well with the existing tenants of your building (even if it's just for a weekend). We took the time to speak with our neighbors, and looped them in on our set up and how Airbnb works.

Of course, their only question was: "How do I sign up?"