Making a hosting business plan
Create a mission statement to get started
Check out local listings for inspiration
Make a budget to stay on track with your hosting goals
Have a friend stay over to give feedback before your first guest arrives
Explore technology, like apps and smart locks, to help you host
Nick and Sarah Roussos-Karakaian are a husband and wife Superhost team (@nestrs) who have turned hosting into a full-time business in Columbus, Ohio. After listing their New York City basement on Airbnb in 2012, they became hooked. Since then, they’ve made it their dream job. Sarah also co-hosts the podcast "Thanks for Visiting,” a resource for experienced hosts and newcomers alike. Here, they share their knowledge and tips on how to launch an Airbnb business.
Sarah: “For us, it started in Queens, New York. I was an actor. I was also bartending a lot.”
Nick: “And I was an intern with a master’s degree in architecture who was barely able to feed myself…”
Sarah: “And we both really wanted to own property but didn’t know how. One day, I saw this tiny house—it was the smallest one on the block and was expensive for us—but I was determined to find a way to get it.”
Nick: “With the right financial education, savings, and support from family, we were able to get a loan.”
Sarah: “And as all of this was all happening, I learned that my friend was listing a room in his apartment on Airbnb, which was helping him pay his rent in New York City—it was so wild to me. Not many people knew about Airbnb at the time. I told Nick about the potential for us to list our property, and he was hesitant—but I was intrigued. We jumped in and that was the beginning of it all.”
Nick: “I remember scrubbing toilets and being so happy to do so. It was paying for our mortgage so I thought: ‘Yes, this is amazing! How can we do more of this?’”
Sarah: “I was able to bring a lot of my hospitality experience working at luxury hotels—and I loved it. After four years of hosting and homeownership in NYC, we were fortunate enough to get a knock on the door from a developer who wanted to buy the place from us, furnishings and all.”
Nick: “After some soul searching, a long spreadsheet of places we could go next, and road trips around the country talking to locals, we found ourselves in Columbus, Ohio.”
Sarah: “To be able to blend design, hospitality, and real estate—and have the freedom to make our own creative choices—has been a dream come true. It’s why we’re so passionate about helping others learn how to host.”
1. Start with a mission statement
Sarah: “Before you get started, we recommend creating a mission statement for yourself. This will be your ethos and your north star, which is especially helpful during those moments when you might be uncertain about a direction or a decision. Your mission statement can help steer you in the right place. It’ll also inform how you create and craft your space.”
Nick: “When creating a mission statement, take the time to ask yourself a few questions:
- What motivates you?
- What are your values?
- How do you want to operate?
- What’s your vision?
- What are your goals?”
Sarah: “For us, our mission is to transform spaces that transform lives. And we try to remember that in all that we do.”
2. Survey the market
Nick: “Before you jump in, it’s important to do your research and look at the competitive landscape in your area. This initial research will inform how you design, brand, and market your own space.
- Consider your demographic. Who is likely to book a stay with you? For example, for us, Columbus is such a college town so we’ve catered our spaces to visiting parents.
- Assess your amenities. Do you allow pets? Do you have a parking spot or a pool? Is your space uniquely decorated? Anything that elevates your space a little bit more is a possibility to also charge more.
- Search online and look at other Airbnb listings, hotels, and short-term rentals nearby. What’s available? What do they charge? Is there a way that you can differentiate yourself?
- Create a pricing strategy. To help increase your occupancy rates when you’re just getting started, use Airbnb’s Smart Pricing tool, which lets you change your rates automatically between weekdays and weekends.”
3. Price it for profit
Sarah: “Creating a budget, while it may not be very sexy, is super important. We recommend using a spreadsheet and categorizing your costs into three buckets:
Upfront costs: These are the initial investments you pour into your space before anyone experiences it, such as renovations, decor, furniture, and photography.
- Take time to invest in your decor. You don’t have to buy from the most expensive retailers or have the most luxurious everything. Just make it welcoming. Browse the thrift store or get creative and do something different with color or a theme—these are what’s going to attract people's eyes to your listing.
- We always tell first-time hosts to invest in comfortable mattresses, couches, and sheets. Everyone does the bed plop when they first enter a hotel room—so make sure yours is a good one. Sometimes we’ll get a 5-star review just from the bed alone, which will help you get those occupancy rates up.
Ongoing costs: Core items consumed by the guest that will need to be replenished, including toiletries, toilet paper, paper towels, batteries, and lightbulbs.
- Are you including any extras such as bottles of water or coffee?
- Make a list of all the amenities you need, and make sure you’re happy with the prices you’re finding
- Buy in bulk six months at a time, and keep track of your quantities in a spreadsheet
- With items such as sheets, remember to take into account about how many times you’d like to buy them throughout the year. You want to always make sure you have nice, clean sheets for your guest.
Maintenance and management costs: This covers everything needed to keep your space safe, warm, and livable, including lawn, outdoor, and exterior spaces. Will you be hiring a cleaning person to help you with turnarounds or a co-host?
Add these numbers up and make sure you’re comfortable with your investment numbers and your realistic goals. If they don’t, then maybe you need to do a bit more saving upfront so you can create a space you’re proud of.”
4. Think like a guest
Sarah: “This is one of my favorite tips to share with hosts, and that’s to enlist an honest, blunt friend to stay at your space. You’re so close to it day in and day out that you might forget the things that a traveler might need—such as a toothbrush or toothpaste—or a design flaw that you’ve overlooked. A friend can help provide feedback on those pesky but important details. You don’t want a paying guest to be the one to point them out.”
Nick: “We like to include a ‘Forget something?’ basket of toiletries and items that guests may need last minute. Having a hospitality mindset has to be at the core of your business in order to succeed. It’s the reason people go to the different brand hotels they love—because they know what to expect: a space that feels like they’re the first people to ever arrive in it, the towels have been folded with care, and they know they can count on all the details such as having a phone charger next to the bedside table. You want to bring that same level of service to your guests so they want to come back again and again.”
5. Automate it
Nick: “Hosting is challenging, but it’s also a different game now than it was when Airbnb first arrived. There’s a lot more technology, tools, resources, and support to help you organize the process and make your life a little easier as a host.”
Sarah: “When hosts are starting out, we recommend doing the end-to-end process of each stay: from the initial booking message, to greeting your guests, to doing the cleaning and turnaround. Once you’ve understood the ins and outs, then you can automate it in a number of different ways, for example:
- Web-based apps: There are apps you can use (such as IFTTT) to program event triggers and connect digital tools. For example, when you get a booking confirmation in your email inbox, it can send an automatic calendar reminder to you, your partner, or a cleaning person.
- Smart locks are a game changer. Guests can be sent a unique code that lasts only through the duration of their trip. They allow guests to check themselves in, which means we don’t need to coordinate time to let them into the apartment. We can just touch base with them in the middle of their stay.
- The good old-fashioned list: I’ve made a quarterly checklist for every home with the things I need to do for safety and maintenance, things like checking the furnace filters, making sure the batteries in the fire alarms are working, sweeping underneath the beds. I print out the list and hang it in a side closet—so if I’m visiting a property, I can know its status for the year.”
Nick: “Creating an Airbnb business takes hard work. But we really hope to show people that owning a home and doing it full-time is possible—and that there’s more than one way to do it.”
Sarah: “You know I went through a career change, and I was terrified that I would never find anything as much as I loved performing. But Airbnb has been life-changing for us. We can make our own creative choices, be our own boss—and that just makes it so much more special.”
Nick: “It allows us to remain flexible and enjoy our lives a little bit more. We hope that you can find a way to launch an Airbnb business and make it yours. If you need any more advice, you can find us.”
Nick + Sarah, Nestrs
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