Air BnB/VRBO in a College town

10 Replies

Hi BP Community -

Has anyone had any experience doing short-term (Air BnB/VRBO primarily) in a college town? We have a two-bed studio unit behind our larger single-family that has been converted into a business. It is currently leased and due to expire in August. We want to have the flexibility to use the studio unit during the week for business purposes and then have it rented during weekends. We are planning to put between $5K-$7,5K of cosmetic renovations into the unit in order to capture a premium price. 

Our college town has around 15,000 students that makeup roughly 35,000 of the total population. We have a division-1 football & basketball teams that regularly attract outside visitors, as well as having Interstate-80 run right through our town. There are a TON of big chain hotels/motels in town. 

Any pearls and tips to make this work? Being a smaller town, do you get the same volume of visitors to make it worthwhile? 

Each market is different, and so your best research is probably done on AirBNB/VRBO itself - look at comparable units and see what sort of price they're getting and how occupied they seem to be.  You might have something really great because you're getting a dual use out of the space.  Or it might not be worth your while.

Also consider how much cleanup/securing of items you'll need to do before each stay - is the hassle worth it?  Guests won't want to look at your business stuff laying around, and you probably won't want them to have access to it, either.

Our Airbnb is in a college area--we probably have 5-6 big schools in a 30 mi radius--and it's a smaller town (High Point, NC). The hotel selection isn't the best so our area has that going for us. BUT, the most important piece of info I discovered is the in-state/out-of-state ratio. The university closest to us is heavily out of state so we get a lot of booking for those visiting.  We don't get many from the other schools which have a high in-state %. I also track academic calendars (move-in weekend, parents weekend, graduation) and pump up the rates during those weekends since the area is flooded with traveling parents. Good luck!

@Julie McCoy - thanks! We will need to take a deeper look into others in town. And yes, something we have discussed and will need to keep in mind (particuarly if it gets busy and we need to turn/clean the property frequently). 

@Andrea Cole - awesome tips! We also have a lot of out-of-state students here. Great thinking on the academic calendar!

Hi @Alexander Knowles -

I run STR's in a college town. In addition to the advice above, I'd recommend the following,

1.  Understand tourism market cap- this info can be found at city / county.  One link for you is below,

2. Explore different customer segments.  When I ran my own numbers after segmenting, the results were interesting.  In addition to students (Family) and tourism (Football games), you might find a new market (unmet need) with,

a.  traveling professors- check out Sabbatical Homes.

b.  traveling nurses / doctors

c.  Locals looking for longer than a week stay (my sweet spot)- a. in-laws in town, b. time before/after move, and c. lodging during home renovations.

d.  Visiting hospital patients

Hope this is helpful!


We have an AirBnB in a college town.  Approx 2000 sq feet and 4 bedrooms.  Competitive with hotel rates.   Seems like universities can be a nice foundation.  Other considerations: weddings, medical, local construction projects with out of town contractors, festivals and events (concerts), families in town to visit families during holidays, etc.   If you think there is a market for these additional uses AND you’re unit is clean and comfortable go for it.  Just remember you are in the hospitality business.  This is where my wife’s skill set has really shown itself.  Good Luck!

@J. Max Van Hoose - thanks for this! Do you do any marketing/advertising outside from the AirBnB platform? If so, what marketing do you do? 4 beds is a big space! I can imagine that is more appealing for families than staying in hotels. 

We haven’t yet   Only Airbnb and we have not listed the property on other short term rentals platforms either.   As we get more comfortable and confident in the process we will continue to explore these options.   As host, Airbnb pentalises you pretty hard if you cancel a reservation so we have worked to avoid such a  situation    I have researched advertising via Google but have not pulled the trigger.

My husband & I bought a home in the small town in VA where our Alma Mater is located because he got tired of not being able to find a hotel room in town during the weekends he wanted to attend a sporting event (most often a football game). There are several other small colleges in town besides our Alma Mater, which has about 15,000 students on campus.

The home we bought has 4 BRs/2 BAs and is larger than most of the VRBOs/Airbnbs that were advertising (most of them were 2 BR/1 BA bungalows). 

Prior to this purchase our other vacation rentals were located in "vacation destinations" (beach in FL or ski country in Summit County, CO) so we were not quite sure how successful this venture would be since the town is not really a "vacation destination". 

We were happy to discover that the house rented well; mostly weekend bookings. But to our surprise the "niche" that our house seems to fill is housing for out-of-town family & friends for weddings being held in the area. Who knew that Lynchburg was a true wedding destination? We didn't! Most of our larger groups/longer stays were related to a wedding being held in the area. 

After the first full year we found that not only  had the rental revenue covered all of the operating expenses but there was some left over to fund some improvements that we wanted to make. 

It's been a great experience so far and my husband is happy as a lark that he can go spend time there whenever rh wishes and does not have to stay in a hotel room 40 minutes from town.

Best wishes to you!