So You Wanna Be an Airbnb Host? Part 2: Setting It Up

Next comes the most expensive – and most fun – part of listing a home on Airbnb: setting it up!

You’re probably going to be in shock at how much it costs to get set up. But in my experience, you recoup all of the costs and get to pure profit in 8 to 10 weeks. I know of very few investments that provide a 100% return in such a short span of time.

airbnb hosting

It’s crazy how much “STUFF” people need

At the beginning, you’ll have seemingly innumerable things to set up and buy. But if you plan it right, you can have it ready in 3 to 4 days.

Airbnb Hosting Index:

This series is meant for peeps who want to list an entire home separate from their primary residence on Airbnb.

For best results, start with a theme

I feel a bit like your gay best friend telling you this, but have a theme in mind! It doesn’t have to be anything complicated.

For example, I had a place called “The Good Vibes House” that was 70s-inspired. Think tie-dye, flowers, and peace signs.

I have another one that’s Texas-themed. Rodeos, horse shoes, and the Texas lone star flag.

They can be simple. One of mine is simply “urban contemporary.” I have photos of the Dallas skyline, simple colors, and an industrial feel. Another I had was “The Crash Pad.” It was all about stop, drop, and roll out into the city, which meant the bare basics. And some travelers liked that – even preferred it.

The best themes are things you like because it reveals your hosting style and sets you apart. If you love to garden, have lots of fresh flowers or produce and floral prints. If you like the mountains in your town, make it a mountain home with lots of wood decorations and blankets and cozy things.

a couch in a room

Here was my fun beach-themed Airbnb

If you love the beach, have a fun sea theme with nautical signs, ocean prints, and bright colors.

Don’t just have “a place” – set yourself apart!

Set up services and start ordering

First things first, you need electricity, gas, and internet – or whatever utilities you want to have. Make those calls, set those appointments. I like to have the internet and electricity set up before anything else.

You’ll also want to either set your orders to where they arrive while you’re waiting for the internet tech to show up. Or go shopping and start setting up the furniture and keep the recliner protector on until they arrive.

I personally order nearly everything from Amazon or Kohl’s. And might make a Target run for starter groceries and a few “this n that” type items.

a kitchen cabinet with plates and utensils

Start with the basics and fill in as needed

Here are some absolute basics you’re gonna need (and a few I like that hold up, based on my experience):

  • Nice mattress – this one, this one, or this one
  • Bed frame – like this basic one or a fancier one
  • Futon frame and mattress for extra guests
  • Coffee table
  • Kitchen supplies (plates, silverware, coffee maker)
  • Dining table
  • Desk and chair
  • Towels
  • Comforters and sheets
  • TV and stand, if you choose to have cable
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Toiletries
  • Tons of little things that will pop up along the way

Once you get started, you’ll quickly realize how much utter stuff people need to be comfortable. There will be things like ice trays, coasters, sugar packets, hangers, wine openers, pans, rugs, and about a zillion other things you’ll realize you should have on hand. Part of that comes with simply setting things up and ordering as you go. The other part comes with working within your theme.

You’ll want to have a few large decorative items that go with your theme, like art prints, a cool shower curtain, or knick-knacks. You must have something on the walls – every place feels bare looking at a blank wall.

I love Amazon Prime for exactly this reason: everything you want is delivered within 2 days. I literally walk around with the Amazon app on my phone and line up orders for things I need. It might take a couple of passes at this. But if you start out with a clear head, you can get everything set up in a few days. And then fill around the edges as needed.

How much is all that gonna cost?

Probably more than you think with all the furniture, security deposit, first month of rent, and installation fees. And then little things will pop up like extra nails, key copies, and “Oh wait, the coffee maker needs filters. And coffee. And coffee cups. Argggh!”

This number will fluctuate based on many factors, so run the numbers honestly to come up with your own estimate.

I usually cross my breakeven point with the startup cost in about 8 weeks. I’m conservative, so I’ll say 8 to 10 weeks. But it’s happened as fast as 6 and as slow as 10. Either way, that’s not a long wait to get your money back – a couple of months max.

But during this time, you need to be able to float the cash. Or consider a o% APR card to give you a cushion.

In any regard, an Airbnb is a perfect opportunity to earn a TON of points and miles. Meeting minimum spending requirements is easy. And, you can click through shopping portals, use Amex Offers, maximize category bonuses, and generally make out like a bandit. I wouldn’t be surprised if you can get a couple of nice trips out of your endeavors. It’s a little balm on the high startup cost, anyway.

Experience your experience

This is your prime time to thoroughly clean, repair, and update. If a fixture drives you crazy, toss it and replace it. Sludge on the bottom of the bathtub? Gotta go.

For all my Airbnbs, I’ve stayed in them a couple of nights before I listed them. In one, the morning sun was so bright, I decided to replace the shades. In another, I realized I needed a huge disclaimer about the amount of street noise on the weekends.

One time, a shower wasn’t getting very hot. Another time, I hated the floor squeak next to the bed, so added a little rug. But I only knew these things because I dealt with the experience of actually staying there. You want to minimize complaints before you ever get them.

Bottom line

Now comes the most time- and labor-intensive part of the whole ordeal: setting up your place. And the most expensive!

This is the fun part too, because you get to set up a place according to your theme. And earn a lot of points and miles. But you’ll need to float the cash until you break even, which for me has been 8 to 10 weeks after getting everything set up.

I’d also seriously consider opening a new credit card because this is an easy, easy way to meet minimum spending requirements (thanks for using my links!).

Be open and be patient. Because lots of things you hadn’t thought of are going to pop up during this stage. But, if you get the basics down, you can fill in other things later. The most important part after this step is to get your listing up ASAP so you can start recouping some of those costs – which I will go over in the next part of this series.

Any questions about getting set up? Leave comment below and I’ll do my best to help!

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Memphis, traveling, and working toward financial independence.

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