- Sasha Im is a web producer and nonfiction writer based in Seattle, Washington.
- For three years, Im rented out a spare room in her home on Airbnb, earning about $16,000 each year.
- Im says it was “the easiest way” she ever made money as well as a great way to connect with others.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
From 2016 to 2019, I rented out a spare room in my house in Seattle through Airbnb. During that time, I earned the status of Superhost and made on average $16,000 a year. I could have made even more, but I had a full-time job and didn’t want hosting to feel like work. Instead, I focused on the joy of opening up my home to complete strangers, and although I’ve since stopped hosting, I’ve kept the lessons it taught me.
Hosting made me a better cleaner
Because I strived to get 5-star reviews with the “sparkling clean” rating, I stopped leaving jackets on the sofa or empty coffee cups on the table. Rather than putting off all the cleaning until Sunday, I did a few quick tasks every day. Dusting or mopping no longer felt like tedious chores but a rewarding form of self-care. It felt good to be living in a place that was always tidy and smelled like fresh-cut lavender.
Having guests made me feel more secure in my house
I’m a petite 5’2″ woman. I learned some karate as a kid but my best roundhouse kick might thwart a puppy, so friends wondered how I could let strangers into my home.
But here’s the thing: I actually felt safer in my house with guests inside. This is partly because the rented room is near the front door, so my guests would have been in the first line of defense had a break-in ever occurred. (I’m not sure they knew their responsibility.) In any case, I enjoyed seeing my guests, and at night, it comforted me to hear their soft snores coming from their bedroom.
I had only a few bad experiences, like one guest who claimed she could smell my cat who had died three years prior and tried to get a refund, and another guest who stole expensive items from my closet (totally my fault for not locking up my valuables, I did lock them up moving forward.) But overall, the positives of hosting outweighed the cons.
Hosting introduced me to interesting people from all over the world
One English couple surprised me with a five-course meal and told me about their bucket list. A Spanish couple cooked a hearty chorizo stew and invited me to visit them in Barcelona.
As a big fan of the late Tony Hsieh, whose mission at Zappo’s was to deliver happiness, I also made an effort to connect personally with each guest. I did things like ask which type of milk they preferred in their coffee and picked up a small carton of it at the supermarket, and once left chocolates and a bottle of Sapporo for a guest who looked tired.
I had fun meeting guests, which only led to more success as a host as several people returned for a second stay or referred others to my property.
Hosting reinforced the idea that money isn’t everything
I rented the room out between 140 and 170 days each year, and I blocked out two to three days after a guest left so that I never felt rushed in cleaning and turning over the room. I kept the house to myself for major holidays and whenever I wanted to have friends over for a party. Rather than trying to maximize my profits, I focused on giving my guests — and myself — a good experience, so I’ll always remember hosting as the easiest way I ever made money. It didn’t take a lot of my time, it gave me joy, and there were no office politics.
Now that I’m engaged, I’m no longer renting the spare room. My fiancé and I both feel guests would make our home feel crowded, but that might change if we ever move to a place with an ADU (accessory dwelling unit) or a separate floor.
I encourage anyone with a spare room who’s been curious about hosting to try it out, especially with post-pandemic travel plans heating up and sites like Airbnb and Vrbo making it easier for first-time hosts to sign up. But remember to focus on the quality of the experience — for both you and your guests — to get the best outcome.
Sasha Im is a web producer and writer based in Seattle. Her creative non-fiction has been featured on The Moth Mainstage and KNKX radio.