Ed Devlin and his dog Melita enjoying the outdoor hammock he used to rent on Airbnb.
As far as side gigs go, Airbnb is one of the best-paying ones: By one estimate, hosts make an average of $924 a month, more than those who side gig through TaskRabbit, Lyft, Uber or Etsy. Not too shabby.
But what if you could make enough to cover your next big vacay, pay for your rent — or even quit your day job? To see what it might take to up your hosting game, we recently spoke with Seattle sales manager Ed Devlin, an Airbnb Superhost (experienced hosts who receive special recognition on the site), to share how he turned his spare rooms — and his outdoor hammock! — into a lucrative side gig.
How did you become an Airbnb host?
I own a few other properties — a condo in Chicago, a duplex in Arkansas and a townhouse here in Seattle — and everything’s rented to great tenants and bringing in positive cash flow. So when I bought the four-bedroom house I live in now, I thought it would be good to create an additional revenue stream.
So in April, I decided to rent out one of my bedrooms on Airbnb. It did extremely well, and I instantly met fantastic people. So I listed a second bedroom, and that did well too.
The Seattle home that Devlin rents out on Airbnb.
How did you get the idea to list your hammock?
During my 40th birthday party a friend was out on my hammock, which was attached to a railing that started bowing. The next morning, I came out and saw the railing was screwed up. My friend offered to fix it, but I started laughing and realized I needed to actually list the hammock on Airbnb!
When I posted it, a lot of people were immediately interested. Come to find out, it was the first hammock ever rented on Airbnb. About 15 people, mostly international guests, rented it throughout the summer. My price ranged from $45 to $65, and it included inside use of the house. If you do Smart Pricing on Airbnb, it will base the price on supply and demand, but I would say the hammock was probably 25% cheaper than a room. Even when I changed the listing to read “Hammock, weather permitting, or couch,” the hammock was always in high demand.
I took the hammock posting down in mid-September when it started getting cooler. But then I added my third bedroom and put my unfinished basement up, too.
Ed’s dogs, Melita and Myles, taking a rest in the hammock.
How much side income do you get from renting out your rooms?
When I first bought my home, I thought the income potential was $1,500 to $3,000. But in September, I exceeded $9,000 a month. My goals now are to have a great group of guests, hopefully help reduce my payments and invest the residual funds in cryptocurrency.
What does it take to be a successful Airbnb host?
The Airbnb community is about trust and connecting with others. I feel I have the personality for it, love what I’m doing and am very comfortable in my home with my guests. It’s a little like communal living. I’ve taken guests skydiving, surfing, hiking, skiing and wine tasting. I’ve taken them on boats, to football and baseball games, and to concerts. I’ve had visitors from China, Japan, France, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Vietnam, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina. This is my way of getting culture and to continuously learn.
But also remember that if you don’t get good reviews, your Airbnb is a tough sell. I’m building a brand on Airbnb, and to do that I have to get great reviews. Those reviews enable me to increase my frequency of stays and avoid having to discount my pricing.
So I make sure I’m there to greet my guests and get a sense for how engaged they want their host to be. I make it a point to have their towels and washcloths out, and I always have beer, wine and Champagne in my kitchen. Everything has keyless entry, you just need codes to get in the front and back doors. I also have two dogs, Melita and Myles, that are friendly, cute and lovable. They are like my bread and butter. More times than not, guests come and say, “Where are the dogs?” Many guests graciously help me feed and walk them, which is great because I travel often for my career. I also have five healthy hens, which guests also really love.
I can tell pretty quickly who will be a good guest, too. I have it set so anyone who wants to book with me has to have good reviews themselves. And every review I have except for one has been five stars. I got Airbnb Superhost status after just five months — and was informed by Airbnb that it was one of their quickest timelines. Suffice it to say, this is a hobby I take seriously and have plenty of fun with.
Any plans to make Airbnb hosting your full-time job?
I have a lot of passion for my primary job in sales and operations management, but this is a wonderful hobby and a great way to connect with awesome people.
It’s also a great way to make money on the side and take care of utilities, car payments or any other bills you have. I also have an amazing girlfriend who is a super host and appreciates guests as much as I do. So I do think that this can be a great way for couples to work together as a team and help pay for the mortgage. It’s easy and fun. I’ve had a fantastic experience and being a host has been an awesome way to meet people from all around the globe.