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Live in San Diego? You Could Make Money With This Side Gig All Year Long

So you live in San Diego, the land of beaches, beautiful weather and a bunch of tourist attractions.

Have you thought about becoming an Airbnb host? In a region that’s so expensive to live in, home sharing can be a great way to supplement your income. Thousands of Airbnb hosts list places in and around San Diego, according to data from the home sharing platform.

“There’s so much to do here — the beaches, the harbor, all the microbreweries. Within one hour from here, you could be in the mountains or the desert,” says JoAnn Jaffe, a 60-year-old Airbnb Superhost. “It’s just a great place to be. There’s always something going on here.”

Between the beaches, attractions like SeaWorld San Diego, and annual events like San Diego Beer Week, there’s a demand for space year-round.

If you’re curious to see how much money you could make by listing your San Diego space, use the Airbnb calculator:

Then, follow our step-by-step guide to set up a listing in the San Diego area.

How to Create the Best Airbnb Listing in San Diego

Before becoming an Airbnb host, you’ll want to check your local laws and prepare your space for guests. (We’ll get into that later.) Creating a listing itself is simple, but you’ll want to put some thought into it, so your space stands out from all the others.

We’ll walk you through the process, plus share some pro tips from Jaffe, a yoga instructor and nonprofit organizer who lists a three-room suite in her historic home near the San Diego Convention Center. She’s been hosting since 2014.

Answer Some Quick Questions About Your Space/Amenities

In this first part of setting up your listing, you’ll answer some basic questions about your space, which could be anything — an apartment, an extra bedroom or house, a campsite, yurt or even an RV, depending on your local laws.

Basic questions in this section include the number of guests your space can accommodate and the included amenities.

If you don’t have an entire place, list your spare room.

Set the Scene With Photos

With Airbnb listings, photos are everything. “Have a good photographer,” stresses Jaffe, whose listing highlights the beauty of her restored historic Victorian home and its remodeled kitchen.

The platform offers some basic photo tips, which include utilizing natural light, avoiding flash, and shooting in landscape mode from the corners of rooms, so you add perspective.

Think about what makes your space and your location appealing, and illustrate those elements through photos. You might also include photos of the surrounding neighborhood and nearby tourist attractions. If you’re near the beach or the San Diego Zoo or the Gaslamp Quarter, include a picture of that! 

Write a Description

Once you hook people with your photos, continue to lead them through your listing with the description.

Here, you’ll be able to highlight what makes your space unique — in Jaffe’s case, it’s the historic nature of her home and the availability of a three-room suite. 

If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at other Airbnb listings in your area to see what other hosts highlight. In San Diego, hosts’ listings often make a point of noting exactly where in San Diego they’re located. So you’ll see titles like “Small Room Gaslamp/SeaWorld” or “RV near Mission Bay.” 

After you host several guests, you’ll get to know your audience, so you can lean into that. 

Name Your Listing

This might seem like a small task, but naming your listing is just as important as nailing your photos. Airbnb urges hosts to create a title that highlights what’s unique about the space.

Jaffe’s listing is named “San Diego Historic Victorian Private 3-Room Suite,” which highlights the most appealing things about her property. A three-room suite isn’t always easy to find on Airbnb, and the historic nature of her home appeals to certain travelers.

Set House Rules

Airbnb has a set list of rules you can opt into if you’d like them included in your listing. A few of these include: suitable for pets, smoking not allowed and whether events or parties are allowed. You also have the option to write in additional rules.

Jaffe, for example, prefers to be present when her guests first arrive. “I’ve chosen not to have anyone come here when I’m not here to greet them,” she says. 

Set up Your Calendar

Taking time to set up your calendar is important, because if you cancel on your guests, Airbnb will charge you a penalty fee.

A few questions you’ll answer include:

  • How often do you want to have guests?
  • How much notice do you need before a guest arrives?
  • When can guests check in?
  • How far in advance can guests book?
  • How long can guests stay?

You’ll be able to adjust these settings as you go, so you can find out what works best for you.

Price Your Space

Airbnb has a Smart Pricing tool, which you can opt into to automatically adjust the price of your listing according to demand. For example, when the demand spikes during San Diego Beer Week every November, Airbnb will likely increase the price of your listing automatically.

You can set price minimums and maximums, so your listing won’t dip below a certain amount or spike to something unrealistic. Although Airbnb will suggest these amounts when you’re signing up, Jaffe urges new hosts to do their own research.

Here are a few tips to help you determine these numbers:

  • Consider your expenses, i.e. utilities, cleaning and any maintenance requirements.
  • Be realistic.
  • Search other Airbnb listings in your area and price just below those.

When you’re starting out, you’ll want to price your place lower, so you can get guests in and accumulate reviews, which will help increase bookings in the long run.

Note Your Local Laws

You’re almost done setting up your listing! Now Airbnb will remind you to familiarize yourself with your local laws.

San Diego officials have long debated restricting short-term rentals in the city, but there currently are no clear restrictive rules. In the city of San Diego, you have to get a Transient Occupancy Registration Certificate, which you can do online. You also have to pay a 10.5% tax on your rental income, which Airbnb collects and remits on behalf of hosts.

Also Consider…

In addition to hosting laws, you’ll also want to check with your homeowners association or landlord to make sure short-term rentals are permitted.

Also note that short-term rentals could invalidate some homeowner’s insurance, so check these policies with your provider.

Airbnb also includes liability insurance for up to $1 million, but Jaffe suggests setting aside some money for damages. 

As you start booking guests, you’ll also want to keep tabs on expenses and revenue for tax purposes.

She also reminds hosts to take advantage of tax deductions. Because she has guests staying in her space, she can deduct many charges as business expenses, including utilities, furniture, home improvement, even electronics — basically anything guests will also benefit from or use.

Listen to Feedback from Your Guests

If there’s anything about your guests’ experience you need to improve, they’ll let you know. All you have to do is listen.

“Guests would tell me things, and I would accommodate them,” Jaffe says. “Someone would say, ‘You need a hook for the towels right by the bath,’ or ‘You don’t have enough wine glasses.’ So I went out and bought wine glasses.”

 “I didn’t take the comments personally. I used them to inform how I was going to be a good host.”

Ready to Give This Whole Hosting Thing a Try?

How are you feeling? Like we said, listing your place on Airbnb is simple — but it does require some creativity and strategy. The good news is you can adjust or change your information and settings at any time, so you’re not locked into anything permanently.

Jaffe’s favorite part of hosting has been all the interesting people she’s met.

“Everyone who comes here has been genuinely nice and joyful and happy to be here,” she says. “They always thank me for opening my home.”

Her income from Airbnb allowed her to leave her corporate job and launch her own nonprofit organization, OG Yoga, which brings yoga to at-risk populations in juvenile halls, jails, and boys and girls clubs.

“If I didn’t have some money coming in, I wouldn’t have been able to jump off the ledge and start this nonprofit,” she says. “It has just added value to my life.”

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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