Airbnb hosting in Washington, DC?

12 Replies

So I recently purchased a studio condo unit. The unit is quite small (327 sq/ft) but it's in a pretty hopping part of town being close to U and 14th St.

I didn't pay too much down, meaning the mortgage payments make it pretty tough to make a return on a traditional lease, so I was thinking Airbnb.

It appears similar units are listed on Airbnb for over $100 per night.

I was hoping to get some local recommendations, or if you're not familiar with the area, just some Airbnb hosting tips in general would be much appreciated.

- Cleaning: Airbnb lets you charge a one-time cleaning fee. What do you think is a reasonable price for cleaning? And does anyone in the area have a recommended service, preferably those familiar with Airbnb rentals? I don't plan on making my cleaning fee any more than what the cleaning service I use charges.

- Key dispensing: It seems like using a lockbox with a keypad is the most straightforward solution. But I'd *love* to hear thoughts on remote door unlocking technology, like via apps and such. The unit has a private entrance, so there are some options here. I've also heard of key delivery couriers that deliver keys in person for a flat rate to add a "personal" touch.

- Amenities. I'm not much of a caffeine guy, but I've heard putting a coffee machine in your unit can go a long way. I've also heard providing a "welcome basket" or something like that with wine, chocolates, etc. also helps. What other amenities do you like to provide your guests?

- Internet / TV. I already have Comcast internet and cable set up. I could set up a purchase pin code to prevent guests from buying movies and stuff on my account. But I was thinking something like "Don't see a movie you like? Feel free to buy one on me." Plus "owned" movies could be watched by future guests for free. I also have a Chromecast which makes it easy to stream Netflix from the TV as well.

- Meeting guests. I work full time, so I'd rather not spend too much time on this. I don't live that far away from the unit, so it is doable. Many Airbnb guests are first-timers, so a personal meeting may put them more at ease.

This might sound like I'm going a bit overboard, but I'm a big believer in the review economy and want to make sure I go above and beyond to build up my reputation, even if it means a slight reduction of cash flow.

Regulatory wise, I'm not too concerned. Planning on getting proper business licensing and other required paperwork taken care of ASAP, and I also believe Airbnb automatically collects and remits the required hotel tax for DC. Someone correct me if I'm wrong on this or missing anything.

I can't speak about DC specifically, but I briefly used my rental as a vacation rental earlier this year.

I was meticulous about setting up my unit so all the "little" things were taken care of to make it more of a home, rather than a hotel feel.  For example, I had towels, a bath mat, extra blankets and pillows.  Toilet paper, Paper towels, garbage bags.  Toiletries (toothpaste, soap, hand soap, shampoo/conditioner).  Pots, pans, dish soap, silverware, plates, cups.  I even had one of those "picnic" salt and pepper shakers you can buy for $1-$2 in a grocery store.

For me, I think a coffee maker is almost mandatory, lol.  And with mine, I also included a bag of coffee, the little creamers, sugar, and sweetener.  With that said, none of my vacation renters ever used the coffee/coffee maker.  They actually used very little of any of the "disposable" types of items like the toiletries, but it's a small expense to keep your guests from the possible hassle of spending all day traveling and then say...oh no, I forgot toothpaste...and they need to run out at 9PM trying to find a store in an unfamiliar city that sells what they need.  Because I've been there!

The other thing I did for my vacation renters was I created "two" sheets of paper and both e-mailed them and left copies on the kitchen counter.  The first sheet of paper had basic information about the unit (alarm code, using the A/C, etc.) along with addresses/basic directions for the closest grocery stores...restaurants within walking distance...transportation company phone #' #s for food deliveries, etc. 

The second sheet of paper was my "local's guide".  I outlined some of the highlights to hit in town and made sure to include cool stuff that the typical tourist would not normally run into.

People LOVED that info I created!  It took a little time to put together but, once I did, I can send it out ad nauseam with no additional work.  Free to create, but added value to the guest experience.  In fact, I often get asked by out-of-state friends and friends of friends what to do/where to eat while they are in New Orleans, and now I just send out my handy-dandy flyer.

And, yes, to any BPers out there thinking about heading down the Big Easy way...PM me and I'd be happy to send you my locals guide also :).

I met my guests in person, but then I lived next door.  I don't think it's necessary...but it IS a really nice touch if it is not too inconvenient.  For example, I had a friend who stayed in an AirBnB for the first time a few months ago.  She never met the owner in person and that did not seem to bother her.

Hi @Jennifer T. , thanks for your response.

I'd love to take a look at your locals guide, just for inspiration. I was thinking of doing something similar, including a web-based version so guests could get a feel for things before their arrival.

Hi Leland,

I have three AirBnB rentals in Washington DC and I'm a huge fan of their system.  I'd be more than happy to give you the contact information for my cleaning service.  They do a great job of cleaning my units and keeping the consumables stocked (toilet paper, paper towels, dish detergent, coffee, etc).

Does your condo association allow short term rentals like AirBnB?  Some condo buildings in DC do not so you should definitely review your condo bylaws to see if they have any rental restrictions.  


Hi @Robert Williams ,

Small world, I actually bought this particular condo through your agency. This building does not have rental restrictions. I'll shoot you a private message for the cleaning service details.

@Leland F

I have a friend that does airbnb rentals in dc. He has a service handle everything for the renyal.  you inbox me I'll ask him when I see. I'm on my cell now, so I will probably forget about this on the forum. 

@leland F, Any update you could share about this? Did you list on Air BnB? Interested in the same market and doing my research.


Hey @Leland F. think about installing digital locks. Text a customized code to Airbnb'er when you're ready for them to enter.

By all means, move away from keys.

Hope that helps.

We have a short term rental on air bnb and traditional rentals we have digital code locks on all the doors. I can change codes whenever I need to. Let contractors in without me being there as well as guests.

These are great ideas!   

I'd probably backup the electronic door combination lock with a manual combination lockbox, "just in case".  If you lived far from your rental you don't want to have a customer call you at 11pm and angry that they can't access their rental.

Has anyone researched (guesstimated) what yearly occupancy rates to expect?  (factoring the price & location, of course)     Anyone have examples they can share?

leland, im curious to know how it has worked out for you thus far. I just bought a two unit building in the u street corrider and debating whether to have long term tenants or furnish it and rent it out for short term use. 

What have your occupancy rates been and, if you dont mind sharing, what are your ball park monthrevenue and net income figures?

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