We make around 50,000 euros a year as Airbnb superhosts – these are our strategies for setting up and pricing apartments


Hillary Huttenbach

Hilary Hattenback and her husband Jared became Airbnb Superhosts after receiving good reviews from guests.

He rented the vacant apartment in his semi-detached California home after his longtime tenants moved out.

In order for it to be a success, he set a low price, installed it with love and quickly adapted it to the new conditions.

I own a 1920’s semi-detached house with my husband Jared in a hipster enclave east of Hollywood. We live in one half ourselves and rent the apartment next door.

In 2014, I quit my marketing job to pursue a career in writing – much to my mother’s chagrin at the time. I recently teamed up with a chef to sell a cookbook to a publisher. That was the good news. However, most of our modest payments went to food photographers and stylists. You have to spend money to make money, right?

I thought to myself at the time: If the book didn’t become a bestseller (spoiler: not even close), I would work as a consultant – our rental income would be enough to pay off the mortgage.

We’ve gone from longtime renters to vacationers

Unfortunately, shortly after my departure, our tenants left. Instead of looking for new ones, we decided to try Airbnb.

So we could use the apartment in the middle for ourselves, for example to accommodate family members who come to us. We were new to the crack business, but the many travelers attracted us. We are outgoing and love meeting new people. And after staying at the first Airbnbs, we already knew what to do and what not to do.

First we had to get the apartment in shape and furnish it. The small bathroom had worn down over the years so we installed a new sink, vanity, new shower doors and re-tiled the floor.

For the well-known architects who designed homes in Silver Lake, I chose mid-century style furniture I bought from discount sites like Wayfair and AllModern. I hung artwork by Los Angeles artists. The process brought me joy and reminded me of the time I spent with my grandmother who ran hotels in Haiti.

To find the right bed — a sturdy mattress with a plush pillow — I’ve climbed beds at many stores and even risked my life to climb a 13-foot mattress tower at Costco to test quality. To the. Thankfully, my death-defying stunt paid off. The bed was fine.

I searched the internet for cheap towels, sheets and kitchen utensils. Houseplants and a shag rug completed the homey vibe. A Nespresso machine provided a wow effect.

After only one month we are in the profit zone

I wrote a compelling Airbnb listing that highlights the upgrades and proximity to restaurants and shops. I raved about our “oasis on the hill” and insisted we live on a quiet street with elderly neighbors.

Airbnb sent a photographer to take photos for the website, showing the best lighting and angles of the apartment – a free service Airbnb offers in select cities.

We looked at similar Airbnb profiles in the area and set our nightly rate at $100, about $50 less than the competition, plus a $50 cleaning fee.

We had to stay at least two nights. Almost immediately, we made a two-week reservation for $1,600 and celebrated with pizza. In that first month, March 2014, our first booking was followed by two more—a five-day stay ($689) and a three-week stay ($2,386), which brought us about $5,000 and recouped our initial investment.

Airbnb charges a 14 percent service fee from guests and a 4 percent service fee from hosts. By keeping our nightly rates low, we’ve spared our guests a post-fee price shock.

At first Jared thought he was the bouncer. He asked the guests in advance what they wanted for breakfast and filled the fridge accordingly. Challenging, yes – but not cost-effective. He later narrowed down his choices to milk or cream, a candy bar, and bottled water. Our guests ranged from Hollywood creatives to aspiring grandparents.

While most visitors have been very kind, we’ve learned our lessons and made adjustments

When a guest broke the glass bedside lamp, I replaced it with a fabric lamp. The white carpet showed every stain and was very difficult to clean. I opted for a washable version. The blue towels faded after several washes so I switched to the dark brown ones.

Essential practice for managing bookings. Check-in and check-out had to be scheduled so that we had time to clean, do laundry, and stock up on supplies.

We initially kept the cleaning costs down as we had planned to do the cleaning ourselves to save money. I won’t lie: Pulling a stranger’s hair down the drain always gives me nightmares.

Once we had a confirmed booking, we increased the cleaning fee to $150 to match the price of a professional cleaner and free us from all the tedious work. For the second year we have changed the minimum stay to three nights to attract more weekly bookings. Shorter stays require the same amount of work as longer stays and bring in less money. This allowed us to increase our revenue and reduce guest business.

After that we became Superhosts – Airbnb rewards you for collecting great reviews. When the pandemic broke out in early 2020, we took in former Airbnb guests for an initial six-month lease that was eventually extended. They are still with us looking for a permanent home. But if they leave, we will definitely list the apartment on Airbnb again.

Overall Airbnb was a great experience – and a rewarding experience

From 2014 through 2019, we made an average of $51,000 per year – $16,000 more than our full-time tenants pay. This enabled both of us to continue our writing careers. Not only that, we also formed a lifelong friendship. Former guests have invited us to stay with them across Europe.

And the best part is that I was able to convince my mother that I didn’t waste my life by quitting my job.

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