6 steps to make your home Birmingham’s next best Airbnb

Could you be Birmingham’s next Airbnb entrepreneur? Ahem. Rentrepreneur? Photo via Airbnb.

Attention downtowners Have extra space? Need cash? You might be sitting on Birmingham’s next hospitality cash cow – your guest bedroom.

Urban dwellers, you’re in a potentially glorious spot to put some extra jingle in your pocket. Between the influx of new attractions, giant BJCC expansion and impending 59/20 highway construction, more people are headed downtown and less people are wanting to leave after having their fun.  (Let’s face it – nobody, and I mean NOBODY wants to navigate construction detours after a night out.)

The number of customers flocking to Birmingham Airbnbs continue to rise each year – a sign that people are looking for cheaper alternatives to traditional hotel rooms.  In 2018, Jefferson County Airbnb hosts raked in $2.7 million in revenue, making Birmingham the second most sought after Airbnb destination in Alabama.


Airbnbs In Alabama

According to Airbnb, the average host in Alabama earned $6,100 in profit last year. That, my friends, is the kind of easy extra cash that could allow for extra guac on your Chipotle EVERY TIME.

Local resident Kelsey Sizemore has been running an Airbnb in Avondale with her husband since April 2018. Only ten months into their journey, the Sizemores have already claimed their spot as one of Birmingham’s top hosts by Birmingham Magazine. She credits their success to two things: increased interest in Birmingham Airbnb and customer satisfaction.

“We’ve seen that the demand for Airbnb in Birmingham is high,” she said. “There are lots of people coming in for work, reunions, weddings and simply to visit the city. That’s been so encouraging to us!”


On attracting renters, she said good reviews were key. “It’s been super helpful to build up good reviews over time try your hardest to make your space somewhere that you would want to stay if you were traveling.”

Check out Josh and Kelsey’s Avondale cottage here.

Unless you’re still sporting the Zack Morris phone, setting up your Airbnb can be done completely by the phone in your pocket. Photo by Christine Hull.

Interested? Here are six steps to get you started on your hosting journey:


Step One: Analyze your situation.

Could you move that forgotten dusty treadmill in your spare room (existing solely to hang your drying laundry) and create a guest suite? Is your home empty on the weekends while you’re out traveling the world? Airbnb gives you the option to rent out any extra space, ranging from a single guest bedroom to an entire home. Camper? Treehouse? Also legit to rent out through Airbnb.

Step Two: Calculate expenses vs. potential profits.

Stay with me here.

Initial investments, insurance and cost of cleaning and maintaining your space, can all add up quickly if left unchecked.  There are plenty of online resources and blogs to help you maximize efficiency in your home sharing budget. Airbnb also hosts an online smart pricing estimator to help you find the most competitive pricing for your rental based on similar listings in your area. 


It’s also important to note that many of your expenses home utilities, use of cleaning services, home repairs and property taxes are tax deductible as long as you rent your space out for more than 14 days of the year. (Uncle Sam requires renting out your space at least 14 non-consecutive days of the year to consider it an official side gig. But then again, if you rent it out less than that you can side-step paying income tax all together.)

Be sure to include these factors while calculating your profitability. Look at you, adulting like an rentrepreneurial pro now!

Fortunately, Airbnb recently started collecting and paying out city (6.5% in Birmingham) and state (4% in Alabama) lodging taxes from guests on behalf of hosts, making the process seamless.


Step Three: Trudge through the boring part

Now is a good time to make sure you’re obeying the law and covered under insurance.  The City of Birmingham suggests obtaining a business permit  to operate your Airbnb. You can expect that to cost somewhere between $100 to $150, depending on how much money you bring in the first three months.

You will also need to double check zoning laws there are a few areas in town, such as Homewood and Mountain Brook, that prohibit or restrict home sharing. Also, make sure you’re within your rental, HOA, time share or any other contract you’ve signed for your home.

Airbnb automatically includes a $1M host protection liability insurance for each booking to protect against liability lawsuits and structural damage to your home. However, it’s not a bad idea to check your homeowners or renter’s insurance to see if they offer additional coverage for things like damaged personal property just in case your guests decide to rage during their stay.


When setting up, it’s important to think like a guest. What would you need for a comfortable stay? Photo via Airbnb.

Step Four: Channel your inner Marie Kondo

Take inventory of your home to make sure the space is comfortable, clean and free of clutter. Airbnb provides a handy hospitality checklist to help. Your goal will ultimately be happy guests, as customer reviews will be a determining factor of your success. 

Step Five: Place your ad here

Step Five: Take photos and write an appealing (and accurate!) description of what you have to offer. Be your own hype man, and really focus on the best attributes your home has to offer. Don’t be afraid to add those special quirks, either. Is your cat cool? Do you live next to a house full of single hot firemen?  Extra points for adding your favorite local bars and eateries for out of towners.

Take AMAZING photos — potential renters opt for the most visually appealing spaces. If you aren’t capable of taking high quality photos, you can outsource the task to a professional Airbnb photographer, who will take their fees out of your first few rentals.


Step Six: Sign up via Airbnb

Answer a few questions about your home, upload those awesome photos and schedule your availability. Push the publish button, and you’re set! This last step takes about five minutes to complete. All you have to do now is sit back and wait for the reservations to roll in.

Now is your time, downtown Ham-ers. Go forth. Buy some new throw blankets, maybe a few scented candles and claim your spot in Birmingham’s golden age of home sharing.