Putting Your Tiny House on Airbnb: Five Tips

I’ve had our tiny backyard cottage as a rental on Airbnb now since June and we’ve had over 20 visitors who’ve been both charmed and confused by the size of the cottage, awed by the location and inspired by the space planning and design. Airbnb is a social website that connects people who have space to spare with those who are looking for a place to stay. Our cottage (which we remodeled last year) has been enjoyed by people from all over the world as a quiet place to stay while in the Reno/Lake Tahoe area.

If things continue to go as well as they do, about 20 percent of our income could come from this rental and this great service, allowing me to not have to work full time anymore. However, it has not been without its ups and downs. Several people have felt that the cottage is too small, the water tank is limited in hot water and the location a little out of the way. Albeit, some visitors have found it perfect for their needs. It can be difficult to include every need and want, but I’ve come up with five tips that could help you rent out your own tiny house on Airbnb.

1. Location, location, location…but not how you think

Our cottage is centrally located to many places: Reno, Carson City, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco and Yosemite. It’s also out of the city, which allows our visitors to have a quiet getaway while still being about 15 minutes away from groceries and town. However, the majority of our visitors happen to be coming across the country — coming to or from San Francisco. If you market your tiny house as a way station to another location, you could bring in more visitors.

2. Offer a unique experience

A lot of visitors to the cottage were intrigued first by the name of our property and the bright colors of the house. Then they saw that we offered access to wilderness areas (complete with wild horses), a trampoline, plenty of parking, a giant vegetable garden they could peruse and their own kitchen and bathroom.

3. Be an expert in your area

Some of our visitors have been very happy with the advice I’ve given them about our area. I’ve told them the best places to go hiking, the best restaurants in the area and tips on how to avoid crowds. Be an expert in your own area and make yourself available for questions.

4. Check with your insurance and put it in writing

If you list your tiny house with Airbnb, your property is covered for loss or damage due to theft or vandalism caused by an Airbnb guest for up to $1,000,000 (in eligible countries). I also called our insurance company to make sure that we would not be liable for any injury to a guest as long as they were on our property. It turns out that bodily injury is covered under our insurance with any structure on the property. I have a small information packet in the cottage that outlines the rules of the property and for visitors to use our trampoline or swing at their own risk.

5. Be ready for last minute requests

Several of our Airbnb requests have been for that night or the next night. I’ve had to scramble at the last minute to clean the cottage and make it available for the next person. Be prepared for last minute requests and have extras of everything including bedding, towels and bottles of water and make sure the tiny house is heated or cooled depending on the weather.

 

By Christina Nellemann for the [Tiny House Blog]

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ET - September 30, 2013 Reply

Make sure you know the status of your property a with regards to property taxes and capital gains – is it now a commercial property?

Kimber - September 30, 2013 Reply

what are the going rates for tiny houses? Do you charge nightly or by the weekend?

    Christina - October 1, 2013 Reply

    We charge a nightly rate. The longest amount of time anyone has stayed is three nights. Tiny houses on Airbnb can range from several hundred a night to around $30 a night, depending on where you are staying. They are available all over the world.

jlbraun - September 30, 2013 Reply

Is your area zoned for multi-family housing?

Is your area zoned for short term rentals?

Is the building to code as a dwelling (not a renovated, repurposed garage)?

Not having a range hood in a single family dwelling is a code violation in some areas.

Are your neighbors on board with this and OK with multiple strangers in the neighborhood?

Sure, you can get 20% of your income from this but if a neighbor does not like you, they will go get a bureaucrat to come stomp the crap out of you.

    Christina - October 1, 2013 Reply

    Our area is an unincorporated part of the county with no HOAs or CC&R codes. People here live out of garages, barns, apartments over garages and barns, backyard sheds and guesthouses.

    Our neighbors love the idea and want to do the same thing themselves.

Katie - September 30, 2013 Reply

We moved out of our main house this summer/fall and have been living in our fairly rustic studio. Then renting our main house on airbnb. We have also loved it, especially the great people this site attracts. We have a small cob house which we will also list next summer, no kitchen, outdoor shower, outhouse.
This potential income source has also really turned our life around. I’m hoping to finally primarily work at home on our farm. Something I’ve tried to do for the last four years.
We need to update our narrow minded codes and rules. Our area zoning allows vacation rentals in our primary house. Especially where it’s also part time like it is with us.
Thanks for your insights

carol grant stevens - October 1, 2013 Reply

How do I find your tiny cottage on Airbandb? My daughter lives in San Fran and we are looking to take a trip out.

    Christina - October 1, 2013 Reply

    Hi Carol. You can click on the words in this post that say “tiny backyard cottage as a rental on Airbnb” and it will take you to our listing.

carol grant stevens - October 1, 2013 Reply

Opps sorry did not see the link…it is a bit far for our visit to San Fran but will file this away for future! Great Location.

brydanger - October 1, 2013 Reply

thanks for the writeup.

my wife and i are about to start the process of converting our garage into a tiny studio apartment for us so we can rent the house out to (hopefully) cover rent.

its good to know we could also rent the tiny studio while we’re away traveling! =)

    D. Whit - October 3, 2013 Reply

    I would not do this if you have any mortgages on your property.
    All mortgages are pretty straight forward about the owners using mortgaged property as a primary residence.
    The insurance can be cancelled for commercial use.

      D. Whit - October 3, 2013 Reply

      Also, you absolutely CANNOT rent out any part of property that you yourself are renting.

Valerie - October 1, 2013 Reply

I think it’s cute. I would not want to either rent or rent out anything (been there). These city folk have to realize that they stay in something like this it is not the ‘delux’ accommodations they may be used to. Not enough hot h20? Try a two minute shower instead of 20.

Benjamin - October 1, 2013 Reply

I’m surprised you chose the rear view for this article. I like the front view on your site much better. The colors show better and it looks much more cozy without so much blank wall.

Anyone reading this should click on the link to the site in the first paragraph of the article.

Susan J. - October 1, 2013 Reply

Excellent tips, thank you. I’ve thought of doing the same on my rural property. Like the hint about selling the rental as a way station.

    Kent Griswold - October 1, 2013 Reply

    Not in this one anyway. Check with Andrew as I think it may vary from workshop to workshop.

Ellen - October 1, 2013 Reply

My tips for doing this–DON’T. In many areas real, licensed bed and breakfasts are aware of the business they are losing to AirBnB rentals. There are B&B owner forums where they discuss this, and after reading a few to see their side (and talking to a B&B owners who is a friend) it made me realize the shaky legal ground and unfair competition of the whole thing.

However, I did that AFTER I had rented a room via AirBnB three times. THREE TIMES. After the last customer’s grumpiness (I was charging a whopping $35 bucks and she didn’t like the breakfast offerings or something…) I made the decision to discontinue (for that and the aforementioned reasons) and took my ad down off of AirBnB’s website.

About a week later, I happened to talk to my homeowners insurance company on an unrelated matter and asked if my insurance would cover this activity. They dropped my policy that day. I did not tell them I had done this, I ASKED about it.

This started an incredible downward economic spiral. Since I had been dropped by one company for ASKING about whether doing AirBnB would be okay, I found it almost impossible to obtain homeowners insurance from ANY company. I was apparently labeled a criminal with an illegal business in the rating system they use, and “inquiries” on your file are available to agents and companies with a few keystrokes. When I finally was able to BEG for homeowners insurance from a local company, my rate was almost quadrupled. About $500 a year to $1900. UP FRONT IN FULL.

Not having homeowners insurance on a property with a mortgage is something that your bank will find out about immediately. I was threatened with foreclosure, legal action, all kinds of nasty things.

As I was hoping to do this for much needed income while underemployed, the whole thing spiraled into my not being able to pay bills and was a contributing factor to losing my home.

Think carefully. There is a reason the B&B industry is regulated and good reasons for the (mostly modest) prices they charge. I know my experience says more about the corrupt insurance industry, but look into it and consider this angle.

Stephanie - January 20, 2016 Reply

Hi Christine.

I am about to start renting out my mountain house on Airbnb, but am very concerned about accidents that may happen on my trampoline. Can you tell me how exactly you have protected yourself.

Thanks so much!

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