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How to Make Extra Income on Airbnb

Your vacation rental could help finance other expenses

A screenshot of the Airbnb homepage

sjscreens / Alamy Stock Photo

En español | Since last year, Debra Walton, 64, a Louisville, Kentucky, retiree, has made more than $5,000 by renting out her house while she stays with a friend two miles away. She's not alone: 41 percent of Airbnb hosts 60 and older say that offering their homes as occasional vacation rentals has helped them pay their housing expenses. Ready to post your property on a service such as Airbnb or VRBO? Read these tips first.

1. Hire a photographer. According to Airbnb, homes shot by pros can earn up to an additional 40 percent. In larger cities, the company will even send someone to take photos for free.

A model home set up for AirBnB visitors

Nicholas McGinn

Walton Manor Airbnb in Louisville, KY

2. Reviews beget guests. “Price up to 20 percent below market rates until you have at least five reviews,” says Leslie James, vice president of marketing at AirDNA, a pricing tool for short-term rentals.

3. Neutralize your space. One piece of feedback that gave Walton pause: “Your place is too personal.” Adds Brian Ferrick, design director at home-staging company Meridith Baer Home, “Preparing a house to rent is similar to preparing one for sale. Removing items such as family photos helps guests not feel like intruders in a stranger's home.”

4. Personalize the experience. Take it from James and In Ja Yates, 81 and 80 years old, respectively. They earn some $75,000 annually from renting out their Los Angeles home. “We love to greet every guest as if we're greeting a relative of ours,” says In Ja, whether it's providing a hand-delivered breakfast or individualized advice about their city.

5. Respond ASAP. Airbnb's search engine rewards not only good reviews but also hosts who answer queries quickly.