The Air BnB Post

As my original Freedom deadline approaches and I’m looking at yet another year of full-time employment and a summer of construction on my home and rental-income property, I have been re-visiting my goals and intentions a little more regularly of late.

La chela mas fina.

When I sold my home in Canada and soon after bought one in Mexico, the crux of my plan was living rent-free in a home that paid me. You might call it my own minimum basic income project, trying to find a way to have the basics – food and shelter – covered while I follow curiosity and work on projects that create a spark in me, whether they pay well or not (or maybe even nothing).

In my last post, I broke down the investment’s performance as well as discussed some of the FAQs and my own thoughts on the ‘project’ to date. A few years in, I have achieved this in some ways. In 2018, I brought in about $9,000 CAD after paying for everything associated with my house such as power, internet, HOA/Strata fees and any items needed to keep my guests comfortable like new towels and sheets. I definitely spent more in the year, but at the same time if I really needed to I could get by down here for the year on that amount of income, primarily by driving a lot less and eating almost entirely at home.

However, I have bigger aspirations for the place, such as adding another level on top to increase living and renting space and versatility, and to avoid the increased cost of construction in the future, so I continue to slave away in my day job for now.

Nonetheless, I have been running my two Air BnB units for a couple of years now, and have been a guest at several as I start to enjoy the freedom of location I am pursuing, and a chance to travel a little more than I had in previous years.

Thus, I am hereby labeling myself qualified to spout off about what I have learned and know about Air BnB and running a vacation rental spot so far. Strap in.

Get Your Sh*T Togther

Getting your shit together is more than just making sure it has everything your guest may need for their stay and is well decorated and furnished – these things should go without saying. Getting your shit together also means understanding the platform and using it to its potential.

If you’re like me and you’re using Air BnB in a country other than where your bank account resides, you’re going to want to make sure you’re playing the currency game correctly. List in your currency, not the local currency or a third party currency you think will be easy to work in because everyone there is using it (i.e. US Dollars in vacation areas of Mexico), and you will avoid currency exchange rates. Also, avoid Pay Pal. Set up your payments to be sent to your bank account. It takes a little bit longer than Pay Pal, but you don’t get dinged a couple of percentile to keep the lights on at Pay Pal headquarters.

Before doing anything, you have to make sure your place is ready to go. Like really, truly, ready to go. If you’re here reading this blog, I would hope you’re the type that believe or at least is learning that we’re playing the long game here. It’s very important to have good reviews and to become a Superhost as quickly as you can, as in a world increasingly driven by the reviews of others, you will only end up earning more and more if you start off with good reviews from the get-go.

To start off hastily without a real bed frame or nothing in the kitchen drawers to cook with is really not worth all the bookings you won’t get in the future due to those few negative reviews. Don’t forget, in this same world driven by online reviews, people are just dying for a reason to complain online these days – don’t give them one.

Find additional things to add-on

If you’re there in person, and able to prepare the suite yourself, don’t forget about the things people might want for their vacation. Rent them your beat up surfboards or bikes for cash if they’re interested and leave them a few local beverages in the fridge that give them a little sense of the place and/or who you are.

Last year, I stayed in an Air BnB in Canada in a house that belonged to a lady originally from Denmark. She left a great collection of basic staples, even if of the highly European kind (cream, butter, bubbly, bread and cheese). It was great!

There’s nothing worse than checking into an Air-BnB late in an unfamiliar place and finding out in the morning there’s no coffee and other basics to be had. If one were to also find what they needed to make a simple breakfast, or to enjoy a few sunset beers before bed after arriving, this can go a long way towards setting a great tone for their stay and earning you even better reviews and return customers.

Consider large discounts for longer stays.

I was hesitant at first to offer too large of discounts for longer stays. After all, it is easy to simply count out the number of nights available by the cost per night and assume every night will be full into eternity and make your financial plan accordingly. I suppose this would be akin to having a good month in the stock market and extrapolating that performance into eternity.

Ultimately, it is easier to keep you place full with longer stays, and you will make a lot more money keeping your place full than having it sit empty at a higher rate, so don’t be too picky about renting at only a certain price. If you have some free dates approaching and the chances of them getting booked are getting slimmer, reduce the cost a bit. Be proactive not reactive to optimize your results.

Also, you can’t underestimate the administrative and work burden of high turnover of short stays can be quickly alleviated by offering discounts of 20-40% for stays of a week or month or more, and, again, having the place full pays dividends, even if at a discounted rate.

Offer Listing in Multiple Languages

If, like me, you are listing your place in a foreign country, make sure to offer your listing in the native language and/or the language(s) of places where lots of visitors are coming from. The more the merrier!

I would suggest learning the local language at least to the level to be able to produce a small write-up about your listing, but if necessary you can consider using a translator if need be. In some places, it could be totally worth while.

Admittedly, I have some improvements to make in this area for my listings, but after having a few guests from Guadalajara recently, and having them correspond in and leave reviews in Spanish, I noticed an immediate uptick in the number of reservations and inquiries from other Spanish-speaking guests.

Admittedly, I have some improvements to make in this area for my listings, but after having a few guests from Guadalajara recently, and having them correspond in and leave reviews in Spanish, I noticed an immediate uptick in the number of reservations and inquiries from other Spanish-speaking guests.

Don’t charge too much for cleaning

The cleaning services available to me where my Air BnB is are way over-priced. However, I chose to build that cost into the main listing itself, rather than have people see the large fee and, like I do when I see it, get pissed off because it’s way too much (80-100% of the cost of one night’s rental?!).

Remember, you’re marketing your place on Air BnB and competing with all the other listings around you. Think of how it’s going to be perceived by people looking for the first time, a lot of whom are still transitioning over from hotel and resort travel, where ‘cleaning fees’ are included in the price you see.

Be Honest

One of the more obvious things that I did’t address directly here is the need for great photos. As good as you can make yourself or afford to pay. It really is worth it and there are a million-and-one tips available out there on the topic.

That said, don’t deceive people either. Make sure that your photos and descriptions match reality. It’s much better to maintain realistic expectations and then surpass them than the other way around. One of the only negative reviews I’ve ever received chose to point out that my description said the outdoor kitchen was ‘breezy’. Even though they came in mid-August to the Baja desert, she chose to review my description of the place as inaccurate in her review. So you can see how important it is to be careful with these things and not disappoint people. I removed the word ‘breezy’ from the description immediately.

In addition, make sure your maps and directions are clear. You can make a great layered map in Google Maps, MyMaps, or GoogleEarth that your guests can use as a guide to the area during their stay as well.

Ultimately, you are running a business, not a sleepover with pals. Don’t take it personally when people cancel. Customer experience should be your first focus. Remove yourself from the emotions that come with the ups-and-downs of both business and home ownership. This may mean short-term pain at times, but it should pay off in the long-term.


You can also be an Air BnB host and reach your desired level of Freedom even sooner. Just Click Here to get started.

Add some Freedom.