Short Term Renting–Frequently Asked Questions

***An Update to My Adventures of Air BnB***

Well, it’s been four years since this last post and four years of doing short term rentals, in three different places plus helping a friend manage their rental as well, so I think I have this side hustle business down.

So I am going to try and touch on what I may not have answered below when I first started doing Air Bnb (VRBO or whatever short term rental term you prefer) and some frequently asked Qs.

(Side note I am all about Home Away as well-Support Local! However, Home Away doesn’t do shared spaces–aka guest rooms in homes you are occupying–so I have always been a supporter of Air BnB, because I can list my guest room(s) on their site).

Also, From a branding perspective, would you agree?: Home Away is to Uber as Lyft is to Air Bnb (and I have always been more of a Lyft gal, myself). hehe.

Q: Any bad Experiences yet?

A: Kinda but overall, not terrible. You clean up, leave a bad review, or charge for the issues and move along. So I would say it varies on your outlook and tolerance. You certainly can’t be too nit picky when opening up your home to strangers.

The worst experiences have honestly been younger people or new to Air Bnb, and overall I ended up charging them for the Orange Nyquil spilled all over my sheets that they rolled into a ball and threw into the corner (I can’t make this shit up). The other pretty bad one was at the condo I help manage. It is pretty low budget, but the location is fantastic–sooo, we get some characters. Those characters sometimes are from Mexico and people from there don’t often flush the toilet with toilet paper–they throw it in the trash. Yeah, it’s gross. They also couldn’t read our rules, I assume–because they left plates of food and didn’t clean up after themselves. #poopoopaper ew.

Q: How do you operate your calendar?

A: Personally my schedule is crazy, for the most part I do NOT allow auto-booking (which is an option on Air Bnb) because things change too frequently etc. I like to control my calendar. And let’s face it, sometimes I may not be in the mood to open my house up that week.

I have two listings. One for the whole home. And one for the guest room. You have to be careful to not have both dates on the listings open and block off accordingly. I rent my full place when I travel, so I usually know those dates well in advanced. When I am more than three months out, I put my “wishful thinking price” then as time nears, I will drop it. Obviously Fri and Saturday are the most expensive. I pay attention to what weekends are home games, COTA events, music festivals etc. I keep my calendar updated about 3mo at a time.

Q: Do you use Air Bnb’s suggested Pricing?

A: Nope. Although during slower times/months I will reduce to suggested list price.

I do take a look at the trends and then go from there. But I do recommend if you are newly listing your space-you start low. You need to build reviews, the more reviews you have, the more you are noticed when people are looking to book, as well as faster response time etc. You can test it out by changing the calendar

Your goal should be Super Host status!

Q: Who cleans your space?

A: Me.

Way cheaper and easier this way. After someone stays I always have about three extra sets of sheets and pillow cases (this cuts back when you are behind on laundry and busy with work). And I always bleach the tub, toilet and sinks, do a good wipe down of tables and night stands and honestly vacuuming. But I do have some maids that come for the deeper clean every other week if no one is staying and right before someone uses the whole space.

Q: How do you keep track of earnings?

A: I still pay taxes on my earnings and the best thing to do is open a separate checking account that all earnings are auto-drafted to through the site. I call this account: Air BnB.

When you purchase items for your guest room-ie toilet paper, sheets, the keyless pad for entry, maid services–they should all be paid out of that account. When it comes time to do your taxes-your life will be much easier too and you pay less in taxes after expenses (my CPA super appreciates this as well).  Also less for you to keep track of as well because all your spending is in one place.

As a side note (slash proud moment) I paid off my student loans with my earnings in 2017. If you have a financial goal–save for a trip, a house, pay down your car, you’d be amazed (especially if you rent your shared room) and “let that account ride” for a few months without touching it–how much you actually earn. My next goal is to pay off my car with Air Bnb Earnings. This is also a great way to help with bills, mortgages and other unexpected situations. Also, imagine if you took those earnings and invested it somewhere?

Q: Any tips?

A: Now that I have done this a few times, I have a framed “instruction manual” that I keep in my guest room.

Basically a one-sheeter with bulleted items for guests to read. This certainly helps with expectations. While Air Bnb has a check-in manual, not everyone looks at this (however it is a great tool to go over codes, access, parking, etc) I like having a sign in book and something printed out in the open for guests to refer to.

Some Items to include on your one-sheeter for your guests:

  • WiFi password
  • Where to find extra toiletries, towels etc.
  • Where to eat/grab coffee nearby
  • Best transportation nearby
  • Your favorite places
  • Any reminders or quirks about your home (how to use lock, “don’t use bottom lock” etc)
  • Tips on do’s and don’ts etc.

Q: Should I buy a place for the Air bnb Potential?

A: You have to be very careful STR (short term renting) your home.

Most condo home owner associations in Austin do NOT allow rentals less than six months, let alone short term. READ THAT AGAIN. CONDOS DO NOT ALLOW STR. There are maybe 4 buildings in Austin that allow short term rentals in their HOA rules. The reason being is many condos cannot get insurance, therefore would be harder to finance, plus up-keep if a building allowed STR. Have people done it? Sure, but the fines are hefty. Same goes with many centrally located apartment buildings these days. Singe family homes are more flexible, but must check permitting on the CoA site, though there have been talks of rules changing soon…we shall see. No your neighborhood/building restrictions. One of the safer routes to go would be a single family home in a neighborhood and purchasing a back house for separate rental income if the lot allows/hood allows for it.

Check out: KangaRooms.


As some of you know, if you follow me on Insta and the like…I bought a home this year.

I had no intentions of getting a roommate really (I have lived alone for so long, there sure are a lot of perks to living solo!) But then a friend of mine was relocating down here, so I said she could stay with me until she found a new job.

Welllll, her home hasn’t sold yet (Sorry Amber!) so in the meantime I thought–hmm. I should put my house/room on Air BnB and see what happens.

airbnb logo

Well, a lot has happened, actually. And here’s my experience…In a nut shell.


Q: Aren’t you afraid of getting murdered or someone stealing your stuff??

A: No, not really.

If you know me, I am pretty trusting aka naive-whatever adjective you prefer. I approve who stays by seeing their profile photo, their reviews from other hosts, how long they have been a member and how many verifications they have. They pay a $500 deposit (this can be altered based on the reservation) if something were to happen and I make a claim within 48hrs, however most people are visiting and just need a place to crash. To be honest-I think the kitchen has been used maybe four times since I started renting it out back in October.

Q: Don’t you have to have a permit or something in Austin?

A: Yes, yes you do.

You can find the STR permits here on the City of Austin website. FYI they are still issuing permits for people who are the primary resident, but if you own an investment property and don’t have one yet-I hear there’s a wait list until 2017, but that may be hearsay. Because I live by the Domain, when I checked the map, mine was in the area AND there were 46 permits left-so I was golden.

Q: How much do you make off Air Bnb?

A: It varies, really.

December I only made around $350, but I also didn’t feel like renting out my space, I was swamped with work, holiday crafts and hosting my own friends. However, in November because I was gone for 10 days I rented out my home three different times, paid a friend to check on it in between guests and change sheets (what a peach!) and rented out the bedroom here and there-that month I made $775!

Q: So, wait-you rent out a bedroom WHILE you live there.

A: Yep.

Again, I like people, I don’t mind it. I like giving people tips on where to go and what to do. If I get the creepy vibe–(which I haven’t yet)–I have my own office, my own huge master with attached bath, so it’s not like we are on top of one another. And again, I have found most my weekday guests are contracted to do work, they’re gone all day as I work from home most the day. Then when they come back to the house in the evenings, I am usually showing properties, at the gym, grocery shopping our eating with friends, so I don’t see much of my guests when they are here.


Q: Aren’t you worried about your dog?

A: Only her getting stolen.

Everyone loves #GoodGollyMissMollyMaltipoo. I have a disclaimer before I rent it to ANYONE–“I have a dog, she does not shed, she is super sweet, but if you leave the door open she will come in and steal a sock or lick you to death-she is a puppy still. You can feel free to play fetch with her and pet her or just ignore her.” I think after people check out they like her more than me, but Molly has never had a bad review, thankfully. Once, a guest got to my house before I did, I texted him asking if everything was ok. He texted me back a picture of him on my couch on his laptop and Molly snuggling next to him. Another guy from Louisiana came to stay a few nights. I never say him the first day, but the second evening when I got home he helped me string lights for my Halloween party in the back yard, we talked about everything and he took about 4 photos of Molly and sent it to his wife saying “we need to get a dog like this.” haha. I love it and honestly I think it is good for her! She is so social and loving. Ever since installing the doggy door-that is a nice big help too!


(I know, I am ridiculous, but how can you not like that lil fur ball?)

Q: You are a single female and you rent your spare room to men? Are you nuts?

A: I do. And maybe?

I didn’t want to at first, but truth is, more of them are traveling for work. I usually get a “they aren’t a murderer” vibe and check reviews, then rent to them. I once got an inquiry from a guy to stay a few days and he didn’t have a photo nor reviews. I wrote him back and said, “I am sorry at this time I do not feel comfortable renting to you but best of luck.” It’s as simple as that. And honestly, I didn’t have to even write him. I could have just hit “decline.” But maybe my note will make him realize he needs to get a profile picture and more on his profile! He did write me back saying he had two daughters and he understood.

Q: Do you have to keep your home all clean?

A: It helps with reviews.

The good news is renting out the room and house to various people helps keep me in check. I do keep cleaner, but I like it! I will say renting out your home before you leave on vacation can be a bit extra stressful. Laundry, packing, making sure biz is covered AND cleaning up house, taking out trash, leaving directions, re-making beds and locking up my items–it’s a lot to do.

packing stress

(This isn’t me, but let’s pretend it is. Thanks Google images-a girl stressed from cleaning and packing, like me…before a trip)

Q: So, you let strangers sleep in your bed?

A: Yeah, it’s not that weird to me.

Not in my sheets though. I bought some extra sheets, blankets, pillow cases and throws for my guests and so I can keep my own for me. I installed a key lock on my master closet, office and pantry (hey, can’t have the guests getting into my Tito’s), with that I keep valuables, my sheets, work stuff, and for some reason toilet paper and paper towels all locked up (hey I can’t have them stealing more than what they need). I realize some people think that is weird, but ever stay in a hotel? Remember your dorm room mattress? Wonder how many people slept in that thing before you…

Q: Do you have to pay taxes on the money you make?

A: Yep!

If you rent out your home for more than 14 days in a year you do have to pay taxes. I fortunately have a CPA, she told me to save ALL my receipts related to the rental. I am already used to paying a shit ton of taxes, so this is nothing new. I keep track of my Tuesday Morning and Marshall’s purchases (where I buy all my bath towels, sheets, blankets etc). And yes, sometimes I go there just to buy guests items because shopping for home stuff is fun.

Q: Any bad experiences yet?

A: Actually, nope!

I went to a short term rental seminar/class a few years back and a I picked up a few pieces of advice that I use(d).

  1. I keep the house really clean upon arrival, fresh sheets, vacuum, clean dishes, dusting even.
  2. I personalize it some but not fully. {For example: If you were renting my home you’d know what I look like, where I traveled and see a few family pics. You will not find the pics of me partying, with my friends on a boat or at ACL–I take those down. Reason being, people tend to respect someone’s space when they get a feel for who they are/what they are like and that someone lives in the space, which I already make known in my replies to an inquiry
  3. I leave little notes for my guests everywhere! {Notes such as “help yourself to anything in the fridge but eat at own risk!” or “feel free to use any travel toiletries in bottom drawer, extra blankets and sheets are in trunk in living area.” I also instructions on how to use the remote/ TV in living area, reminders to turn off back patio lights, etc. I also write a note to the guests when I leave wishing them a good time, etc. with my cell in case they need anything. I think it helps.


Q: Do you use professional photos or anything?

A: They aren’t “professional” per say.

I used my camera and flash one night after having the place all cleaned up. I took a bunch of photos and used those, then if I set up an air mattress or something I take a photo and add to the folder. It’s been a slow and steady process. The more you have, the more likely people are to stay with you. I also have photos of things near my home (Domain, metro, etc) and I used the fact it was on HGTV as a selling point!





Q: Isn’t it weird having people use your stuff-has anyone taken anything?

A: Not that I am aware of.

I could eat my words in the future here, but it’s just “stuff” at the end of the day..then again my place isn’t super decked out in anything crazy expensive or nice, but things are things and they can be replaced (some of them anyway). Would I be upset if something happened? Absolutely, but I try not to focus on the bad and the “what if’s.”

Q: What about home owner’s insurance?

A: I spoke with my insurance agent, I am good.

I heard crazy stories and started thinking absurd things that could happen to my house while out of town…so I gave her a call and between that, the Air BnB policy and the fee I charge to hold for damages etc, I am good…maybe not totally covered if something crazy happens, but are we ever in life??

Q: How do they get in once in Austin?

A: We keep in touch, but I usually shoot instructions over just once.

After you accept them as a guest on Air Bnb you then have their phone number etc. I usually text or keep messaging through the app, but I have a key pad on my door. The code will get them in the door and then I have a spare key once here in case that doesn’t work. I really want to get the new August locks. You can get in with your phone, it is bluetooth and I can easily change the code when I want, I don’t have the best method right now. But I do have an alarm.  I also have a Nest so I can monitor thermostat from my phone (not that I would change it on my guests, but good to see!)

August locks

Q: How do you know what to charge?

A: Honestly, Air BnB has some suggested pricing, so I typically go by that.

After the first three guests stayed with me they had all made comments about my place being nicer than other places they stayed and how I should charge more. So I bumped up pricing a few bucks here and there and then I definitely increased it for heavy weekends like SXSW, ACL etc. Sometimes if I have an inquiry for a weekend that I wasn’t planning to go out of town (ie graduation weekend in May) you can write them back a “special offer.” It has worked for me twice now. I explain why I want more and that I am still cheaper than a hotel. Boom, Booked. Maybe those are my real estate negotiation skills coming into place

Q: Where do you stay when your home is rented out?

A: Well, I stay with friends or I am out of town/the country.

I will say I stretched myself last year (weird, I never do that–sarcasm) thinking it wouldn’t be a big deal to crash with friends for a few days. I even worked out a deal with my best guy friend, offering him a cut when my place was rented and I could crash on his couch. After the second weekend rental I decided that’s no way to live! What was I… 22? I felt like I was burdening my friends and living out of my car and it’s not like I was making a mortgage payment in two days or anything. In fact, a cold front blew in one weekend and I had to go back to my house to get the right clothing, fortunately my guests didn’t care. So, my new 2016 method: Only rent the house on weekends I plan to go out of town and keep my calendar up to date. Which is difficult. I already have it rented out two weekends where I have no plans to leave town (but all the more reason to book a weekend trip, right?!) I will say it was really nice in November when I was in Central America getting Air BnB texts that money was being transferred into my account and my friend telling me the home was spotless. Yay!

Q: Are you planning on using Air BnB as a traveler?

A: Absolutely!

I find having a bunch of reviews, as a host or traveler is beneficial. I had inquired about a condo in Tahoe, asking a question and the woman approved me off the bat, so that helps. Portland, Seattle and Vancouver I used Air Bnb and I really enjoy staying in the neighborhoods, visiting local spots in the area, it can be better than staying in a hotel downtown (and cheaper) depending where you are going.


(the darling neighborhood we stayed in Portland, on Air BnB)

Overall Air BnB has been a positive experience for me, but I also enjoy meeting new people. Some people are so nice, text me on their way in “do you need anything, I am grabbing ice cream.” And leaving nice little notes in my little notebook I have on the entry table. I like to talk to people that travel, see where they have been (though most aren’t that far away and looking for a little getaway) and I want people to enjoy Austin (but please don’t move here, haha). I like to tell them where to go, what to do and I recommend Localuer to them as well, as I like to travel. Is it always the most convenient? Now, at times I remember I have a guest and can’t blast the music as I get ready in the morning, or I tip toe in late at night so my shoes aren’t loud on the wood floors, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s been good to me. It’s like the perks of having a roommate sometimes, without having a full time roommate-it’s pretty awesome. They pay you. They aren’t home all the time, they typically leave it pretty clean, never use the kitchen or WD and have loud music playing etc. and you only have them in your home when you want them. I’d say it’s a pretty sweet deal!


(Localeur logo–which actually was created before Air BnB updated their logo, FYI).