5 steps to making money by renting out a spare room: Airbnb

The World Athletics Championships wrapped up Sunday in Eugene, but the 10-day competition isn’t the end to tourists racing to TrackTown USA.

Lodging is needed year-round as the city and other parts of Lane County lure visitors to experience art and nature, craft beer and covered bridges as well as top-tier sporting events.

In addition to promoting traditional hotels, bed & breakfast inns and campsites, the Travel Lane County tourism office encourages residents to list short-term rentals, from a room to an entire house, on peer-hosted sites like Airbnb and Vrbo.

“High-demand, peak travel times, like for Eugene over the 2022 World Athletics Championships, offer a great starting point for many prospective hosts,” says Airbnb spokesman Haven Thorn.

New Airbnb hosts in the U.S. saw an increase in income in 2021, earning more than $1.8 billion, up 34% from pre-pandemic 2019, according to Thorn.

“In 2021, hosts in Eugene earned over $13 million, with the typical host earning nearly $11,000,” he says.

To help first-time hosts rent their place during the Oregon22 track and field competition and beyond, Andy Vobora of Travel Lane County reached out to Mike Grudzien of Eugene. The retired telecommunications salesperson is so good at renting his second home to people on vacation that he’s earned the ranking of Airbnb superhost.

As an Airbnb superhost ambassador, he also mentors new hosts, helping them from setting up their rental space and creating an online listing page, all the way through their first checkout and payment.

“Most folks commonly ask, ‘What do I need to provide?’” Grudzien says. “Simple answer: Everything.”

A short-term rental space is expected to be fully furnished and stocked for day and night comfort.

“You are in the hospitality business; you’re running a hotel with new guests and constant turnover,” Grudzien says.

Answering questions and resolving issues promptly builds your reputation and boosts the number of referrals and returning customers.

The reward? “Our guests are interesting and awesome people to meet,” he says.

Grudzien could sign a longterm lease to rent his two-bedroom house, which is an eight-minute drive to the University of Oregon campus, for about $2,300 a month, he says.

After building his vacation rental business for nine years, however, he says his property generates more than $4,000 month.

To make a profit, income should be more than expenses for rental supplies and amenities. Some hosts use the added revenue to pay for their mortgage, property taxes, homeowners insurance and utilities.

The nightly rate for Grudzien’s 1,400-square-foot rental house starts at $199. The total cost for the two-night minimum stay plus fees to cover cleaning and hotel taxes could add up to $600 or more.

For that, people expect to find everything promised in the listing.

Hosting is not for everyone, says Grudzien. Owners managing the process have to be responsive to the guests, comfortable maintaining the online listing, adept at handling the reservations, and efficient at communicating through emails and texts.

Grudzien also reaches out to guests with a phone call soon after they book a stay.

Oregon short-term vacation rentals range from a room to a floating house or even an architect's tree house.

Oregon short-term vacation rentals range from a room to a floating house or even an architect’s tree house.Airbnb

Here are five tips Airbnb ambassador Mike Grudzien gives people considering renting their home short-term:

It’s a business based on good customer service and your reputation. Your guests’ experience and their posted reviews will make or break your business. “These aren’t people ordering something off a website,” says Grudzien. “It’s a 24/7 and a very personal business.”

He takes arriving guests on a tour of the house and lets them know that the place is their home while on vacation, but when they check out, it’s like a hotel and they should leave the cleaning to him. He collects unopened food and recyclable beverage containers to donate to people who are homeless.

Test out your new rental: Stay in the rental space for a day or two to discover what’s missing. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who just arrived: what do they need to be comfortable?

Exceed expectations: The quality of each item builds or detracts from the overall aesthetic, ambiance and experience, Grudzien says. The rental should be staged and stocked to inspire an experience. He leaves two bottles of wine with glasses and an opener on a tray for incoming guests. In the morning, they receive a basket of fresh fruit.

Guests want to relax: The living room should have a flat screen TV with cable or multichannel video programming like DirecTV, a DVD player, small selection of DVDs, high-speed Internet and comfortable furniture. The bedrooms need an above-average mattress, pillows, blankets and sheets. There should be a TV in the primary bedroom.

Have help. A handyman and people who service the pool or hot tub must be available on short notice to address functional issues and return your guests to a five-star experience as soon as possible.

You also need a reliable cleaning crew ready to sanitize and reorder the place to look like the reservation photos.

“Turnover cleaning is different than a regular cleaning service,” Grudzien says. Paper goods and amenities need to be restocked. Everything has to be wiped clean, with no streaks, each time. Dust cannot be under dressers or beds.

Grudzien has advantages: his wife, Terry Lee Sears, runs a residential cleaning service, and he’s a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who knows how to conduct a white-glove inspection.

If the on-call, hands-on job of running a vacation rental is more than you can handle, you can pay a management company that specializes in short-term rentals. The commission is about 20% of the booking revenue plus expenses. Portland-based Vacasa manages high-end vacation rentals across the globe. And Airbnb can connect you to a co-host to manage the property when you are traveling.

— Janet Eastman | 503-294-4072

[email protected] | @janeteastman