Cost of Setting Up Our Airbnb Rental


We already share exactly what we earn and spend in every category of our family budget.  Now we’re also sharing details for our Airbnb rental.  You only see the net income from Airbnb in our monthly budget updates, and if you’re thinking about hosting with Airbnb (or have no plans to ever host, but are just curious), that’s not the whole story.  Today we’re sharing exact costs for setting up our Airbnb.

If you’re thinking of renting out your place as a short-term rental you’ll want to think about the start-up costs.

So far we are having a great experience (and earning a nice side income) as Airbnb hosts!

When we bought our house, we looked for a property that had a separate unit that we could rent out as an additional source of income.  We’ve stayed in Airbnbs many times and thought it would be a fun way to earn some income on the side.

We were already looking for a property that had at least 5 acres and it’s not uncommon for properties like this to have a mother-in-law suite or an additional small home on the property.  We were excited that the property we fell in love with had an additional 1-bedroom unit.  We didn’t plan to rent it out right away, but a friend connected us with someone who was looking for a place and before we knew it we were landlords, just a few months after becoming homeowners again.

When our renters moved out at the end of July 2018, we decided that it would be a great time to give Airbnb hosting a try.

When we first started renting, we set aside the first $2000 in income as a “rental emergency fund” so we could handle most repairs or maintenance without dipping into the family budget.  When we decided to go from long-term rentals to short-term rentals on Airbnb, we planned to just use that $2,000 to spruce up and furnish our Airbnb rental.  We already had some furniture and planned to buy the rest used, so we thought we could do it all for relatively cheap.

Spoiler: It cost us about twice as much.

Looking back there are only a few things I would have done differently.  I’ll tell you what those were in a minute.

First, let me go through all of the things we purchased and what we paid for them.

If you are thinking of renting your place out through Airbnb, you’ll definitely want to look through the list to get an idea of what you might need to get started.  Of course it will depend on what your space is like before you start getting it ready.

Furniture $1,255

  • $25– Queen bed frame/headboard (used)
  • $493– Natural fiber mattress (bought new from a local dealer)
  • $70– Loveseat (used)
  • $297– Dresser, desk, 2 nightstands (used, but refinished from a local botique)
  • $35– Table, chairs, end table, comfy chair (used)
  • $335– TV and wall-mount (new)

Basics $1,179

  • $202– Handrail, moulding, screen kit, paint, painters tape, keys
  • $168– Bathroom window reglaze
  • $30– More screen things, outdoor pest control spray
  • $20– Aspen bark pads for evaporative cooler
  • $24– Curtain brackets, command hooks
  • $286– Blackout window shades
  • $78– Bedroom wall paint
  • $22– Closet door replacement
  • $20– Fire extinguisher
  • $30– Outdoor lights for road
  • $20– Luggage rack
  • $65– Oil-filled heater
  • $78– Vacuum
  • $22– Smart bulbs for outside (love the convenience of these!)
  • $114– furnace repair call, parts

Linens $662

  • $60– Cotton sheets (queen) x 2
  • $20– Microfiber sheets (queen)
  • $26– Mattress encasement
  • $12– Pillow protectors
  • $17– Pillow set
  • $165– Quilt (x 3), matching pillow shams (2 sets)
  • $98– Mattress pad, fleece blankets x 2, slipcover for sofa
  • $84– 3 air mattresses, 2 twin blankets, fleece blankets
  • $100– 8 pillow protectors, 2 twin fleece, 2 twin sheets
  • $65– Fleece blanket, iron, ironing board cover
  • $15– Extra set twin sheets

Bathroom $109

  • $20– Towel set
  • $44– 4 Bath towels, hand towel, shower liner, shower rings
  • $15– Bath mat set
  • $25– Ruffled shower curtain (my family teased me about this one, but I think it’s adorable!)
  • $5– Trash can

Kitchen $265

  • $17– Silverware tray, various large utensils
  • $8– Cookie sheet, 2 pyrex baking dishes (thrift store)
  • $23– Salt shakers, cutting boards, can opener, knives
  • $10– Mugs, plates, kettle (thrift)
  • $10– Glasses
  • $8– Hot pads, dish towel set
  • $115– Coffee maker, dishes, silverware, wine glasses, toaster, slow cooker
  • $29– Pitcher, dish mat, wooden spoons, peeler
  • $35– Wine opener, decorative utensil holder, paper towel holder
  • $10– Griddle

Decor $313

  • $30– Wire baskets
  • $49– Fabric for kitchen curtains, throw pillows
  • $8– Welcome door mat
  • $30–Curtain rods
  • $12– Plants for porch
  • $7– Guest book, welcome binder
  • $80– Bedroom curtains, bathroom curtains,
  • $43– Welcome sign, wall shelf, shelf decor
  • $22– Frames
  • $9– Mirrors
  • $23– Local history book

Consumables $149

  • $13– Coffee filters, spices, tea
  • $45– Dish soap, hand soap, handsoap refill, toilet paper, paper towels, trash bags
  • $25– Instant oatmeal
  • $66– Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, coffee

TOTAL= $3,932

Yeah. That’s a lot of stuff.  When we first thought about furnishing and decorating, we were mostly thinking about the big purchases, but there are a whole bunch of smaller things too, and they certainly add up.

What we would have done differently

Microfiber sheets instead of cotton sheets

I wish I had gone straight for microfiber sheets instead of messing with fancy cotton sheets that cost twice as much and are ten times the headache.  The cotton ones come out of the dryer so wrinkled, and don’t smooth easily!  I don’t want our guests pulling down the covers to find wrinkly sheets.

I’ve tried taking them out still slightly damp and putting them straight on the bed, which works a little better, but they still don’t look as good as microfiber.  I don’t also don’t want to have to get the timing perfect with getting them out of the dryer at the right time and putting them right on the bed.

Our place is nice, but it’s not high end (well, we don’t charge high-end prices).  People are cool with microfiber.  That’s what we’ll be getting from now on.

Shop smarter for furniture

We bought our desk, dresser, and night stands at a cute boutique where consignors sell shabby chic furniture and decor, so we spent more than we normally would have.  We didn’t want to spend the time looking at all the thrift stores and Facebook groups to find furniture that went together.  We were in a hurry to just be done, so we overpaid.

If I were to do it again, I would have saved money by being a little more patient.  When I’m buying used, my normal rule of thumb is that I won’t pay more than I could get if I were to turn around and resell the item.  Actually, I usually figure on making a profit if I wanted to (or had to) turn around and resell the item.

Related article: How we essentailly furnished our first house for free (and even made money)

For what it’s worth, my husband says the time and hassle saved by just buying everything in one trip to the botique was worth the higher prices.  He was just glad to have it done!

Just paint once

First we color matched the paint that was already in the bedroom so we could do some touch up work.  Then we repainted the accent wall that was oddly colored when we bought the house.  After choosing to make it a different accent color we decided that we didn’t like it, so we repainted the entire room a color that we already knew that we loved.  It was extra work and extra expense, but we are both happy with how it turned out!

I had forgotten all that we went through with painting, but Mike didn’t (can you tell who did most of the work?).  When I asked him what he would change, this was his first response!

Was it worth it?

Oh, yes!  The place looks beautiful.  One day, our own house might even look as good.  We really had no idea how an hosting an Airbnb short-term rental would go in our area, but the apartment has been nearly completely booked since we opened it up.  We covered our initial outlay in the first three months.

As for prices, this first year, we are just gauging the demand and keeping our prices on the low end.  As we see the ebbs and flows in all seasons of the year, we will likely be able to raise our prices and still hopefully fill the place.

Are you thinking about doing a short-term rental?  Whether it’s renting out a spare room in your house, or occasionally renting out your house or apartment when you’re out of town, Airbnb has really made the process seamless.

I’m happy to answer any Airbnb-related questions in the comments (and perhaps write future posts on the topic, if it’s something our community is interested in hearing about)! Let me know!


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