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How to Get Started on Airbnb as an Older Adult (the Fastest Growing Group of Hosts!)

By Sixty and Me January 01, 2020 Managing Money

Would you be surprised if I told you that the fastest growing group of hosts on Airbnb is seniors? You shouldn’t be! After all, older adults own the lion’s share or properties throughout the world. They also have the time to dedicate to being fantastic hosts and the life experience to avoid painful mistakes.

As a result, over 200,000 seniors have already signed up to rent their properties on Airbnb. Among these, are 120,000 older women!

There’s just one catch. While most of us are technology savvy, we are not a part of the “always on” Millennial generation. And, unlike Millennials, we didn’t grow up with the “gig economy.”

So, I thought that it would be useful today to dedicate some time to helping my fellow Boomers to understand exactly what it takes to get started as a host on Airbnb. I’ll also give some suggestions that relate specifically to older adults.

Before You Set Up an Airbnb Account

Renting your property on Airbnb can be lucrative and fun. But, it also involves time, money and effort to do properly.

So, the first step you should take is to examine your reasons for wanting to join the service… and then get real about what being a host will really be like.

What is the Short-Term Rental Situation in Your Area?

For example, I always recommend that new Airbnb hosts take the time to get to know their local real estate market.

What kinds of people visit your area? Do you have a lot of business conventions? Do you live in a family-friendly resort area? Where do people stay when they come to your city?

What are the kinds of guests that you can expect looking for? What are their expectations?

Who is Your Competition?

Are there plenty of hotels? How much do they charge? This information will help you when it comes to positioning your property and deciding how much to charge.

Are Their Any Regulations (or Taxes!) That You Need to Be Aware of?

Along the same lines, it’s not a bad idea to brush up on your local laws and regulations with regards to property rentals. Which taxes will you be responsible for? What rights do short-term renters have? And, do you need a special license to rent your property.

In the past, many hosts on Airbnb were able to get away with a “hope for the best” approach to regulations and enforcement. But, as Airbnb has grown and become a legitimate service, it has had to comply more closely with local rules. So, don’t assume that you can just fly under the radar.

Why Do You Want to Be a Host? Do You Have the Time to Do it Right?

Renting your property on Airbnb can be as hands-off or involved as you want it to be. Some hosts rent a single room in their home and see their role as being limited to welcoming their guests and making them comfortable (basically “check-in and check-out.)

On the other end of the spectrum are hosts who want to provide “experiences” to their guests. These hosts have specific skills or adventures that they want to share… and, in exchange, they expect to make more money. You can find out more about Airbnb Experiences here.

What State is Your Property in? Does it Need Any Work?

Chances are, you have lived in your property for a long time. Perhaps you purchased your home when your kids were still living with you and now have a spare room or two to rent. Or, maybe you purchased your dream retirement home, only to find out that it was a bit more expensive to maintain than you expected.

Regardless or your personal real-estate story, you know your home like the back of your hand. And, chances are, you have a good idea of what would need to be fixed to make it rentable.

Some of the changes that you might want to consider are cosmetic – a good coat of paint can make a room much more inviting (and good pictures are essential to success as a host on Airbnb). Other changes might be more safety-related, like installing anti-slip mats in your bathroom or putting locks on any doors that you don’t want your guests to use.

Once you have done an assessment of your property, you will be in a better position to decide if it is worth the trouble to rent it.

Create an Amazing Listing

A few years ago, you could get away with having an average looking listing on Airbnb. Now, in most areas, guests have hundreds (if not thousands) of homes to choose from. So, creating a listing that is well-presented and accurate is essential.

Airbnb Can Help You to Get Started

Once you’re ready, head over to Airbnb’s “Get Started” page. They will ask you to sign in with Google, Facebook or your email.

Now, let’s talk about a few things to keep in mind as you create your listing.

Be Focused with Your Target Audience

As someone who spent decades in marketing, I can tell you that one of the biggest mistakes that advertisers make is trying to sell to everyone. In an attempt to make their product appealing to the largest possible group, they lose track of what is actually unique about their product or service.

Instead or trying to appeal to every guest on Airbnb, focus on what is unique about your property and the type of person that would benefit most from staying with you. Sometimes, it even helps to imagine a real person who would be a good fit for your property. This way, your description can be written just for them.

What is unique about your property? Is the building itself special? Is it romantic by design? Is it close a local attraction, beech, convention center or major business? Do you plan on offering anything special to your guests?

These are a few of the questions that can help you to write a great description.

A Picture is Worth… Well, You Know the Rest!

And, of course, make sure that you have amazing photos. If you don’t feel comfortable taking amazing pictures yourself, reach out to someone who can help. Trust me, your kids (or grandkids) have spent enough time on Instagram to know exactly what makes an amazing image.

Other factors to consider when becoming a host on Airbnb are your listing’s description, title and host profile. A simple Google search for how to do any of these well will return plenty of free advice.

Select the Right Price for Your Listing

One of the best places to start when deciding how much to charge for your listing is actually on Airbnb. Finding comparable properties in your area will give you a good idea what you are up against and can form the basis for your own pricing strategy.

Also, keep track of how the prices in your area change over time. It is possible that there are factors that you may not even be aware of – such as a business conference or annual event – that drive up prices.

In the very beginning, you may want to consider charging slightly under what you consider to be the market rate. This will accelerate the process of gathering reviews.

But, once you have an established listing, there is no reason to try to undercut the competition. Don’t be lazy. Instead of competing on price… try to create a better experience than anyone else. Aim for a premium feeling (and price).

Take Your Pricing Strategy to the Next Level

Once you have established yourself on Airbnb and feel comfortable with the rental process, you may want to consider a price optimizing service like Wheelhouse. Among other things, Wheelhouse helps you to adjust your pricing over time in order to maximize your profits.

Avoid Headaches Before They Develop

By now, you have probably heard plenty of horror stories about hosts who had to deal with party-animal tenants or destructive guests. The good news is that, while minor annoyances are common, truly serious situations are quite rare.

But, just because most people never encounter a nightmare tenant doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do everything you can to avoid problems. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

So, what can you do to avoid Airbnb headaches? Here are a few ideas…

How Long a Stay is Too Long?

Especially when you are new to Airbnb, consider renting for shorter periods of time. At the very least, make sure that you understand any local rules regarding when renters have squatting rights.

In some cases, this can be as short as 30 days, so, get informed and then plan accordingly.

Don’t Rent Your Property Blind… Get the Information You Need to Make Good Decisions

Take the time to screen your tenants before approving their stay. While discrimination based on gender, race, sexual orientation and other protected characteristics is strictly forbidden on Airbnb, behavior-based screening isn’t.

As Airbnb says on their website, “If you find that a guest is breaking one of the House Rules you’ve set or has made you feel unsafe through their actions, you can decline their reservation request or cancel the reservation.”

Create Reasonable but Firm House Rules

And, speaking of “house rules,” don’t forget to set some! Not only does this set expectations with the majority or guests who are respectful and kind. But, it also gives you a legitimate reason to let go of the ones that cause trouble.

Is There Anything Special About Being a Senior Airbnb Host?

For the most part, being a senior host is similar to being a host at any other age. But, there are a few things of which to be aware.

Understand Your Tax Situation

First, any money that you make on your rental property will be treated as income and may be taxable. You should check with a financial professional to make sure that you understand any potential impact on your Social Security or other taxes.

Of course, people of all ages need to consider the tax implications of renting a property, but, when you have retired, it’s easy to miss this until it’s too late.

Be Extra Careful of Scammers

Second, while most people have a great experience as a host on Airbnb, there is no denying the fact that older adults tend to be at a higher risk for scammers than other age groups.

So, make sure that you do your due diligence – make your house as safe as possible, document your conversations, watch out for renters with a poor (or no) history on Airbnb and, when in doubt, reach out to Airbnb if you have any concerns. They are there to help.

I hope that this article has inspired you to find out more about being a host on Airbnb. People our age are the fastest growing group of hosts on the platform. So, we need to stick together!

What has your experience been with Airbnb (either as a guest or a host)? Would you ever consider renting your property on Airbnb? Why or why not? Let’s have a conversation!

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The Author

Sixty and Me is a community of over 500,000 women over 60 founded by Margaret Manning. Our editorial team publishes articles on lifestyle topics including fashion, dating, retirement and money.

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