The idea of renting a place to stay from someplace cheaper than a hotel (and probably more likely to let you use a kitchen) is attractive, and home sharing has been around probably since there were homes: the Greeks felt a duty to let travelers stay in their homes for the night, and some of us are familiar with the time-honored tradition of couch-surfing. The internet, and especially Craigslist, made all that easier. But today, home-sharing has gone commercial, interactive, and centralized, thanks to our new obsession with the “gig economy.”
So what needs to happen to make money by renting out your space? How well could it work? It all depends on the city. I used Airdna, a popular Airbnb scraping service, to figure out what a booming, normal, and slow Airbnb economy looks like in cities about as big as Birmingham. Birmingham’s Airbnb scene is about 150 units over 30 days. That probably doesn’t seem like much. Tallahassee, FL, has close to 300, and Salt Lake City, UT, has over 1,300!
But another city close to the ‘Ham’s size, like Amarillo, TX, has only 47 listings. What’s happening? My guess is simple: “location, location, location.” As Birmingham’s status as a destination increases, so will opportunities to let strangers sleep in your home for money. Right now? The average price per night is $80 and starts at around $40.
You probably don’t need me to tell you that making money just means taking in more than you pay in upkeep, but others’ experiences might surprise you. Anna from Charlotte, speaking to the Charlotte Agenda, actually lost about $15 after factoring in expenses from cleaning, internet access, utilities, and the like. Justin Gaither thinks that “when you factor in all the real costs, you’d be hard-pressed to come out with an actual profit.”
So should you try renting through Airbnb? I might only be some dude on the internet, but you, dear reader, have stuck with me so far, so here’s my last word of advice: think about whether you want to, before you decide whether you’re going to. And really, pay attention to how much you’re spending.