Airbnb in San Diego - Looking for some advice!

31 Replies

Hi Everyone! I'm currently renting out my home in Pensacola on Airbnb, and its going very well so far. I'm moving to San Diego this Fall and I plan on purchasing a home there to list on Airbnb. 

I'll be traveling for work (Navy) very often - 1-2 weeks per month plus a 6 month deployment at some point - and I'm looking for some insight from people that are successfully doing Airbnb in San Diego. I know I want to be in a neighborhood close to Balboa park, like North/South Park, Univ Heights, Hillcrest, etc, and from the research I've done so far I think a 2br/2ba home would be a good configuration for Airbnb. I plan on hiring a company to manage the rental while I'm traveling. 

I still have my VA loan since I did a conventional loan for my Pensacola house, so I'm planning to use that since the home will likely be in the 400k-600k range.

Are there any SD airbnb-ers out there with some advice? I'm also happy to share info about my current listing in Pensacola, and I'm open to any feedback on my listing as well 


Hey @Douglas Spence your post caught my eye immediately because of this post I made two months ago.

My son is a Lt. in the Navy currently stationed at Coronado....they transferred from Pensacola, FL last February. You might even know him! He was an helicopter pilot instructor while he was in Pensacola and is now assigned to the U.S.S. Portland while living in San Diego.

He & his wife (a Marine veteran) are expecting our first grandchild. They live in the North Park area.

We are looking for a landlord who is open to the idea of leasing their property to us so that we can spend as much time in San Diego as we want, but also allowing us to short-term lease the property when we aren't there to help offset the cost of the rent. So far we have found it very difficult to find such an open minded landlord.

I don't know if there is a way for us to work together, or maybe you might end up knowing someone in the San Diego area (North Park preferably) who is looking for a tenant for their long-term lease property who might be open for an arrangement like I've described.

As for your post, I don't have any experience in the San Diego area (yet!) but I have been in the STR business since 2002 and my husband & I own 5 STRs in different areas of the county. I also have a small marketing/booking business for owners of STRs so maybe at some point you might want to talk. Feel free to private message me if I can be of any assistance or help answer your questions about STRs in general.

Best wishes and thank you for your service!

Forgive me for taking this conversation a different direction, but I have a rental in the Pensacola area. I've considered turning it into an AirBnB, but it doesn't look like it would do very well. Where in Pensacola is yours? Near the beach? Is it more of a vacation rental?

@Douglas Spence I dont know much about the airbnb world here in San Diego but welcome to the area! I just moved back here after being gone for 15 years. I live in the Normal Heights(right next to north park) area which is also a place you should look into. You're going to have to look quite hard for a 2br/2ba in the 400k-600k range.  

Let me know if you ever want to grab a beer and talk shop. Or if you need any recommendations for food when you get here

@Valerie Rogers I definitely do know your son and daughter in law, and I'm meeting up with your daughter in law for dinner next week! Small world. I'm not sure I will be able to help provide exactly what you're looking for in a sub-lease, but I'll send you a PM and we can chat more about STR and Airbnb and SD :)

@Jeremy VanDelinder My Pensacola home is in East Hill and its about a 15 minute drive to Pensacola beach (no traffic of course). I just started renting the entire home in June, so there are a lot of summer vacationers but not exclusively so. I'm confident I'll be able to keep it rented in the winter months to cover expenses and then some. 

@Gabriel Farfan A beer and shop talking sounds great. I'll be moving out there in October!

AirBnB in SD is controversial, however, I do not believe it is “off limits” as stated above.

Tourism is one of the pillars of the SD economy. While many non-Beach residents don’t like AirBnB in their neighborhoods, I find it unlikely the city will ban AirBnB altogether.

Instead it would make sense to map out where in the city Properties can be listed as vacation rentals (IB, MB, PB, OB, La Jolla, etc) and where they can’t (North Park, Balboa, Hillcrest, etc).

Only time will tell as this has been an ongoing debate for years.

Google is your friend.

Good morning @Douglas Spence

Thank you for your service.

I heard a radio commercial driving into work this AM. 

The message was from a mother who lives near 3 different AirBnB's.   She was distraught about the "parties, the noise, the strangers and the safety of her children..."   She was urging the city council to crack down on AirBnB. 

There is an ongoing campaign to restrict short term rentals. So far the city has demanded owners pay a hotel tax if they rent their house or even rent a room. 

So as of now, you can AirBnb in SD, but to remain in compliance with the city, a hotel tax needs to be collected. 

Best of luck! 

Originally posted by @Lucas Carl:

Last I heard AirBnB was off limits in San Diego. Google will help!

It is not off limits (yet).  The mayor has a proposal floating around that would allow each host to own two airbnb properties, which has some support, but the anti-airbnb crowd is up in arms over this proposal.  There is a City Council meeting July 16th for more discussion on the issue.  

I'd say what OP is suggesting is not really what is controversial since this would be his primary residence and only rented out part time.  This type of arrangement will likely be allowed under a compromised resolution.  Possibly with time limits.  Worst case scenario would be a 90 day limit per year.

I live in the Mission HIlls area of San Diego.  I see "no VRBO!" type signs all the time.  I've thought about buying one but too much risk IMO. 


I did almost exactly what you're thinking about with the Airbnb, only I did it when I was finishing out my career on shore duty and managed it myself. Its a great option, but there are some challenges depending on the neighborhood and the property. Feel free to shoot me a PM or lets grab a beer when you're here and talk it through.


@Jonathan Phillips Thanks for sharing the article. That will definitely create a challenge for local investors using airbnb to generate income, but the regulations thankfully will not negatively affect my airbnb income plans in SD. However, as a capitalist, I am discouraged by the result of the city council vote. 

@Jonny Phillips Thank you for the update! I'm creating a database of Airbnb regulations by city, so I'll have to edit San Diego. The unfortunate thing is in 5 years time EVERY city is going to be making it nearly IMPOSSIBLE for STR Investors to make any kind of profit. Sad but true. I tell all my clients, if you want to start investing in STR's, do it now! Before the tides turn...


As you know the new vacation rental rules are passed in San Diego recently on July 16, 2018.  Are these rules applicable to properties under HoA CC&R s which does not allow short term vacation rentals less than 3 months or so.

Originally posted by @J.W. S.:

Hi guys, any updates per the regulations in San Diego? I've heard that they were rescinded so it seems like the laws are in limbo...

We own an STR duplex in the city of San Digo (in Mission Beach).

You basically have it correct. Signatures were gathered to put the STR issue on the ballot so the city council rescinded the regulations that they had passed.

However, there are still anti STR people working to limit STRs in San Diego. My belief is that it is risky to purchase in the City of San Diego relying on STR. What I suspect the most likely outcome is that there will be some STR regulations coming but likely not as harsh as the STR regulations passed by the city council.

....another event I needed to add to the above post is that after the city council passed the restrictive laws in July, 2018, they had to rescind them in August 2018 as unlawful. That is why there basically are not any current laws in place. So San Diego is once again, trying to work things out. I hope this clarifies...

@Aly Vizcarra @Douglas Spence

Just FYI if you ONLY use Airbnb to get bookings (as opposed to other sites like VRBO and you'll never have to worry about remitting any taxes as they collect and remit on your behalf (in most major markets, I imagine SD would be included on the list but look into this). Which, if you're not going to be hands with this, I would highly recommend. I think technically you're supposed to file monthly disclosing how much Airbnb remitted on your behalf (I do, but I have monies to send in because I take bookings from other sites), but I'm pretty sure most just just do it annually. I'm not an accountant so please check with yours!

Absolutely terrible advice! Don't use the other three major listing sites which might bring you  the opportunity for more  bookings and higher average revenue because it might save you a little bit of time permitting taxes.  Sheesh. Sign up for Avalara and then get yourself on the other listing sites and raise your rates!

Airbnb folks are cheapskates in my PA market.

Originally posted by @Justin Ellis :

@Aly Vizcarra @Douglas Spence

Just FYI if you ONLY use Airbnb to get bookings (as opposed to other sites like VRBO and you'll never have to worry about remitting any taxes as they collect and remit on your behalf 

@Ken Latchers I would say your advice is "absolute terrible" to a person looking to run 1 unit as a passive investment.

As a very active participant in STR management I would HIGHLY advise against pushing out to more platforms in the name of "increased bookings". Remember opportunity cost here. If the days are booked on or homeaway (both of which charge 12% more than Airbnb to the property owner btw) they can't be booked on Airbnb at a lower rate... AND they take care of some of your admin work for you. Why would you NOT leave all your days open for the WORLDS BIGGEST STR booking platform?

I push all 11 of my properties to 3 different platforms (because I have the time and systems setup to do so) and still Airbnb accounts for about 92% of all my bookings. And again, who's to say those days wouldn't have filled up on Air had they been available?

What about cordinating calenders? How about the expense and time of collecting payments directly (you're on your own with Homeaway and with booking you MAY qualify for them to collect, but not guaranteed). What about managing different messaging platforms instead of handling all in 1 place? What about the increased complexities of filing taxes because you have to pull reports from many different sites (and as stated prior, budget to remit taxes yourself)?

There's a LOT more to consider here than the minor increase in rev potential for a SINGLE UNIT here. But of course you realize all of this because you manage TONS of STR's and took it all into consideration prior to recommending to our friend here that sticking wit a single platform was a terrible idea. ;)