You ever listen to Pandora on a particular station so long that you get tunes stuck in your head for days after? That’s one of the side effects from busting your ass to get a project completed in under 60 hours. My “stuck song” is “Big Poppa” by Notorious B.I.G. Let’s queue it up as we learn how to set up an Airbnb.
By now you might know that I’ve purchased a beat down condo in Northern Michigan with the hopes of transforming it into an Airbnb gem. After closing on Halloween, I flew out to install the new floors with the help of my very handy step-dad and complete a few other upgrades over a long weekend. Those were twelve-hour days of pretty intense labor.
Following that, the painter did his thing, and a sofa and chair were purchased. The kitchen got cleaned up spotless and stocked, courtesy of my amazing mother. Seemed like this place was about ready to go. Well, no it wasn’t. The bedrooms were empty. The living space didn’t have any tables or stands. No beds, no lamps, no towel bars in the bathrooms. Yep, I still had my work cut out for me.
How to Set Up an Airbnb
I was getting impatient. Especially after getting my first mortgage bill in December and association dues statement later that same month. “It’s a money sink!” I said to myself. I’ve got to get out there and finish the setup to start getting bookings. Mid-January, I’d make my move.
So, I used some credit card miles to book my flight and rental car. I prepared a long, super long checklist of things to buy and set about ordering furniture from Wayfair.com, and linens, etc. from Walmart.com and Target.com.
The first thing you do when you get off the plane and get your cheapo car rented (you know, the one with just enough room to fit all the crap you STILL need to buy) is head next door to the conveniently adjacent Costco. Proceed to purchase a 40″ LED smart TV. Stuff that huge box into rental car discreetly, before running back into the store for round two.
Keep that shopping list handy, boys, this is going to be an adventure. The shopping carts at Costco are relatively huge, so you should be fine. Of course, if your experience is anything like mine, you’ll wind up in the pain reliever section with a cart like THIS:
After making the rounds at Costco and getting to know the charming staff after two check-outs in one trip, I proceeded to head over to Kohl’s. I’m kind of freaking out because there’s hardly any room left in the car. I’ve managed to cram my luggage (which included some tools and supplies) and all the Costco purchases into every nook and cranny of that Elantra.
Fortunately, everything I needed from Kohl’s was soft and cushy. I was prepared. I had my 30% off scratch-off coupon with me, along with $5 in Kohl’s cash. Having perused Kohls.com before the trip, I knew what to look for. I snagged matching twin bed sets for $30 each (before the 30% off) and some sheets.
Somehow that full cart of crap fit into the car too. And I motored off to the condo, about an hour’s drive north.
Bracing yourself for what’s ahead
I was pretty stoked. I had a lot of anticipation built up to attack this project and knock it out in three short days. Yes, this is the kind of work (real estate and property management) that turns my crank. The kind of work I don’t mind putting in 12-18 hour days on. Nothing “cubicle” about it.
So I head up the single flight of stairs and am greeted by a sea of cardboard boxes. All neatly stacked and relatively placed in their proper destinations.
*I’m very lucky to have friends of my parents who live next door, and were willing to haul up my internet deliveries that arrived non-stop over the previous two weeks. It must have been back-breaking. I treated them to a very nice dinner and gift card for more for their trouble.
Even the most motivated and optimistic person might flinch at the sight of the many boxes and unfinished spaces to be tackled. I sure as F flinched. But I proceeded to dive right in. My rough plan was to start by getting the master bed set up so I could sleep comfortably that night. I knew I’d need good sleep to see me through 18 hour days of non-stop work.
After unpacking a dozen large Wal-Mart boxes, I got the laundry going with the new sheets and bedding. While I’m at it, I suppose I should re-attach the dryer vent ductwork. Thank you, painter.
One of the last stops I didn’t mention was the grocery store. See, I wanted to put this place through the paces. I was going to cook my own meals, not just to be frugal, but to test the kitchen. I’m glad I chose that route. Going out to grab food all the time would’ve cost me precious time.
There’s a lot of money being poured into this experiment. When I started, I estimated a start-up cost of $12,000. The final tab? $14,696.13. That’s going over by 22%. Ouch! The main areas I didn’t account for were travel, meals, gratitude gifts for helpers, and the professional painter’s bill. I’ll be painting the next one – assuming there is a next one of course.
As a result of going over on start-up costs, my cash-on-cash forecast dipped from 19.0% with $700 monthly net, to 17.8%, still with a monthly $700 net return. The monthly return doesn’t change at all since my monthly / ongoing expenses remain unchanged.
I expect returns will fluctuate a bit though. This is a short-term rental after all, and the volatility is a trade-off that comes with higher yields.
The Big Reveal
After emptying and breaking down countless cardboard boxes, and after assembling every solid piece of furniture, and hanging mirrors and prints and towel bars…. Here’s the before and after on the Airbnb Experiment:
The “before” is not bad, but you can’t tell all that well from the photos just how worn and unkempt the place had been….
Now, we have THIS:
So, if you’re looking for a really sweet pad to call your retreat, in the most beautiful part of the state of Michigan, check out the listing and mention Abandoned Cubicle. You’ll get a 10% discount (and I’ll get the added bonus of knowing people actually read this blog!)
And if you’re curious about all the “stuff” I had to procure to make this place ready for the first booking, reach out to me via email. I’d be happy to share my endless list there. If I put it all here, it’d be classic “cat litter trivia”, to quote Mr. Money Mustache. i.e., too much noise about toilet paper, dish soap, and napkins.
How to Set Up an Airbnb: Lessons Learned
In retrospect, I can’t say I have any major lessons to pass along, but there are a few tips that’d be helpful if there’s an Airbnb #2.
- Don’t pack your laptop in the hopes you’ll have time to blog. Hahahaha. That thing never left the backpack this weekend.
- It’s okay to assemble furniture with a power drill. I spent the first two days using just the screwdriver and man, that got OLD FAST.
- Be mentally prepared to be sitting at airports for hours on end. Sadly, my luck with flying out of the Traverse City airport hasn’t improved. This time instead of getting home at 11PM as planned, flight delays had me home at 4AM. I’m still trying to recover A LOT of lost sleep.
- Don’t overdo it on morning coffee. On day 2 I had a buzz that wouldn’t quit until noon, then I started to lose my mojo. Four cups when you’re used to one will do that to you.
- Change the Pandora station once in a while. Listening to my Beastie Boys station was a blast — Cypress Hill, Ice Cube, Snoop, Sublime, Bob Marley, and Notorious all made appearances. But Pandora likes to replay the same songs, and then, they get stuck in your head.
Overall, I think I planned this trip exceedingly well. I used miles to book my flight and car. I packed the right tools and was able to borrow what I needed from my neighbor friend. I had a well thought-out list for shopping trips and was armed with a few helpful coupons. I didn’t dawdle and didn’t despair. I just worked.
In the end, I’m pretty happy with the results, but admittedly still nervous about how well this experiment will do. Thanks to Financial Panther’s advice, I’m using BeyondPricing.com to help me manage prices.
The listing is improving, but I’ll need my first guests and some good reviews to build momentum. The icing on the cake was booking two more guests before I even had a chance to post the new “after” pics.