While offering your own property on Airbnb can be lucrative, it also comes with challenges, such as high upfront costs, maintenance fees, taxes, and the need to navigate complex regulations.
Fortunately, the platform offers various opportunities for entrepreneurial individuals to tap into the Airbnb economy without the need to invest in real estate, allowing you to use your passion and skills to generate a rewarding income stream.
This guide explains the best of these strategies, providing insights and resources to help you find the right opportunity and get started.
#1. Airbnb Rental Arbitrage
Rental arbitrage works by signing a lease for an apartment, house or condo, and then subletting the space to others on a nightly basis on platforms like Airbnb.
The profit comes from the gap between your rental expenses and your Airbnb income once utilities, fees, taxes and other costs are deducted.
Rental arbitrage is legal, but it comes with certain conditions. The city where the property is located must allow short-term rentals, and the lease of the property must not explicitly prohibit subletting.
Pros: It has low upfront costs, avoids long-term ownership risks, and offers the potential for high returns.
Cons: It’s difficult to find agreeable property owners, you’re committed to the lease regardless of profitability, and you risk the loss of your security deposit if your short-term renters damage the property.
How to get started: Research local regulations to ensure short-term rentals are legal in your area. From there, it’s a matter of finding an arbitrage opportunity, which will take specialized knowledge of both the local long-term and short-term rental markets. We highly recommend reading our in-depth article on Airbnb rental arbitrage for a step-by-step guide.
#2. Crowdsourced Investment Platforms
Crowdsourced investment platforms allow you to buy fractional shares of rental homes and vacation rentals. Minimums for some platforms start as low as $10.
You can then earn passive income from the rental income and potential appreciation of the properties, while the platform takes care of the management and maintenance. Most platforms pay quarterly distributions and have required holding times of about five years.
Pros: Has a low entry barrier, carries no ownership risk, and offers hassle-free property management.
Cons: Your investment has limited or no liquidity, you have no control over the properties, and both fees and market volatility can eat away at your returns.
How to get started: Crowdsourced real estate investing offers two primary avenues: direct investment into properties and investment into funds that own properties.
Conversely, far more platforms allow you to invest in funds that may own vacation homes, providing a more indirect investment experience. For a comparison of the best platforms, see our comprehensive article on the best crowdsourced real estate platforms.
Co-hosting is a partnership where you collaborate with a property owner or host to manage an Airbnb listing.
Unlike full-service property management — where a company or individual takes complete responsibility for all aspects of property care and guest relations — co-hosting is like working as an assistant (although many co-hosts become property managers).
Specific responsibilities may include communication with guests and organizing maintenance and cleaning.
Pros: Provides a good learning experience for future property owners, has no upfront costs, carries no ownership risk, and is easy to start.
Cons: Many owners expect 24/7 responsiveness.
How to get started: Platforms like Upwork list multiple jobs for co-hosting roles, but competition for remote-based work is fierce, with many tasks outsourced to people overseas who will work for less money per hour. To stand out, consider focusing on local opportunities where you can provide hands-on assistance, such as maintenance, cleaning or property check-in/check-out services. To find potential clients, network with Airbnb property owners and hosts at local host clubs.
#4. Airbnb Consultant
Becoming an Airbnb consultant requires both a deep understanding of the platform and practical experience. Of course, without owning property, it will be challenging to command high fees as a general consultant if you don’t have the history to back it up.
A strategic approach is to specialize in a specific area, such as on-page optimization for SEO, and become known as an expert in that niche.
Areas of specialization can include:
- SEO optimization. Improving listing visibility through search algorithm expertise.
- Copywriting. Crafting compelling content to attract guests and increase your client’s conversion rates.
- Market data analysis. Using tools like AirDNA and Mashvisor for optimal pricing strategies.
- Customer service strategy. Enhancing guest satisfaction and reviews.
Pros: There are no upfront costs, and the market has a high demand for specialized skills.
Cons: Competition is tough and you’ll need experience.
How to get started: Pick a niche, such as Airbnb SEO optimization or copywriting, and immerse yourself in it. Read everything you can on that subject, and consider starting a social media account or blog that focuses on helping others improve in that area. This will build your expertise and establish your reputation as a specialist. From there, you might try arrangements where you work for free or at a reduced rate to develop case studies that showcase your success. Free consultations or audits can further demonstrate your value and be a good way to get your foot in the door.
#5. Renting Out Your Spare Room, Couch or Space on Airbnb
Renting out your spare room, couch or other space on Airbnb offers homeowners — and potentially renters — the opportunity to share their living space with travelers.
While you likely won’t earn top dollar for allowing someone to sleep on your couch, this is a great pathway to Superhost status.
Becoming a Superhost (a prestigious status achieved through excellent hosting practices) requires:
- Hosting at least 10 trips or having 3 reservations that total at least 100 nights.
- Maintaining a 90% response rate or higher.
- Maintaining a 1% cancellation rate or lower.
- Maintaining a 4.8 overall rating.
Achieving Superhost status can unlock significant benefits. Superhosts often enjoy increased visibility on the platform, higher booking rates, and enhanced trust from potential guests.
More importantly, becoming a Superhost can lead to other opportunities to make money on Airbnb without owning property. By bringing your Superhost status to your clients, you can enhance your consulting, co-hosting or property management offerings.
Pros: Low upfront costs, no additional ownership risks, flexibility in choosing when to host, a social experience connecting with travelers, and a potential pathway to becoming a Superhost.
Cons: Potential privacy issues, security risks, managing guest expectations, enforcing house rules, regular cleaning and maintenance.
How to get started: Begin by assessing the market in your area. Research if any hosts list single bedrooms, or even just a sofa to sleep on. You’ll typically find this opportunity in more touristy areas with high demand. From there, create an attractive listing on Airbnb, highlighting the features and benefits of your space, and set a competitive price. For a comprehensive guide to Airbnb hosting, including tips, best practices, and detailed insights, we highly recommend reading our in-depth article on Airbnb hosting.
#6. Offering Experiences on Airbnb
Offering experiences on Airbnb is a unique way to share your passion, hobby or skill with travelers looking to explore your city or area. You can host various experiences, such as cooking classes, walking tours, yoga sessions, art workshops and more.
You can set your own price, schedule and group size, earning money while doing something you love.
Pros: Limited upfront costs, no ownership risk, easy to start, flexibility in scheduling, and a creative outlet to share your passion.
Cons: Ensuring customer satisfaction is time-consuming and dependent on specific skills or expertise.
How to get started: Identify a unique and engaging experience that leverages your passion or expertise. Research your local area to find untapped opportunities or niches that align with your skills, such as local history, culinary traditions or outdoor activities. Consider offering friends or local community members a trial run to gather feedback and make necessary adjustments. Plus, take some pictures for your listing while hosting friends.
#7. Airbnb Photographer
Becoming an Airbnb photographer is about enhancing the appeal and visibility of hosts’ properties or experiences through professional photography. High-quality images can attract high-paying guests; your role is to capture spaces and experiences in their best light and angle.
Airbnb has a service called Stays, which contracts with local freelance photographers to help improve their listings. Another option, and likely a better one for those without a lot of experience in photography, is to get clients independently.
Pros: Offers the ability to leverage your creativity, and because photos are so important, you can make a meaningful difference to a host’s bottom line (and therefore be well-compensated).
Cons: Specialized equipment and knowledge are needed, and projects can be time-consuming.
How to get started: Becoming an Airbnb photographer begins with assessing your equipment and skills to identify how you can stand out. If you have specialized equipment like drones or expertise in a particular style of photography, leverage these to offer unique services.
A portfolio showcasing these specializations can attract hosts looking for high-quality, distinctive photos. Networking with hosts and offering free or discounted initial services can help you gain experience and build your reputation. Whether working directly with Airbnb or seeking clients independently, focusing on what sets you apart will be key to your success in this creative and competitive field.
#8. Cleaning Services
Offering specialized cleaning services for Airbnb properties is a way to leverage the platform without owning property. Hosts often seek professional cleaning services to ensure their spaces meet Airbnb’s cleanliness guidelines and provide a welcoming environment for guests.
Pros: Steady demand, opportunity to build a reputation within the Airbnb community, and flexibility in choosing clients.
Cons: Requires attention to detail, adherence to specific cleanliness standards, the potential need for specialized cleaning equipment, and the physical demands of cleaning.
How to get started: Start by thoroughly understanding Airbnb’s cleaning guidelines, which emphasize cleanliness and sanitation. Join local Airbnb host forums or groups where you can network and offer specialized cleaning services. Consider creating tailored cleaning packages for Airbnb properties, such as offering deep cleaning between guest stays or providing eco-friendly cleaning options. Offering introductory discounts or free initial consultations can help you break into the market.
How to Make Money on Airbnb Without Owning Property FAQ
Property management involves overseeing the daily operations of a rental property, including maintenance, guest communication and more. Professionals mostly do this with experience. Consider becoming a co-host first and working your way to becoming a property manager.
Yes, Airbnb experiences allow individuals to host various activities, tours or classes without owning property. This can include cooking classes, art workshops or guided tours.
Becoming a co-host involves partnering with a property owner to manage a listing. There are no formal qualifications. Platforms like Upwork often list co-hosting opportunities, or you can network with local Airbnb hosts.
Rental arbitrage is legal, but it comes with certain conditions. You must ensure that the city where the property is located allows short-term rentals, and the lease of the property must not explicitly prohibit subletting.
Yes, you can rent out spare space even if you’re a renter, but you must check your lease agreement and local regulations to ensure that it’s allowed.
Making money on Airbnb without property ownership is possible and offers diverse opportunities that suit different skills, interests and investment levels.
Here’s a recap of the strategies we’ve explored:
- Airbnb rental arbitrage: leverage the difference between rental expenses and Airbnb rates.
- Crowdsourced investment platforms: invest in fractional shares of rental properties.
- Co-hosting: assist property owners in managing listings.
- Airbnb consultant: specialize in areas like SEO optimization and copywriting.
- Renting out spare space: utilize extra room or couch space to host travelers.
- Offering experiences on Airbnb: share your passion through unique experiences.
- Airbnb photographer: enhance listings through professional photography.
- Cleaning service: clean property thoroughly after guest visits, preparing them for the next visitor.
If you’re also interested in broader real estate investment options, take advantage of our comprehensive guide on how to invest in real estate.