How to make money on Airbnb without owning property

Starting an Airbnb-based business doesn’t mean you have to purchase properties. Doing so can get expensive quickly, and more risk and logistics are involved. But there are several legitimate ways to make money on Airbnb without owning property.

Some methods for making money on Airbnb without property include subleasing and managing properties and helping owners market and maintain their listings. Others entail becoming a co-host or adding to travelers’ experiences. 

While all of these techniques mean you’ll need a solid business plan, some may be more feasible than others. Restrictions on subleases, for example, can eliminate a few options.

However, if you’re wondering how to make money on Airbnb without owning property, you should read on.

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Become a Vendor to Property Owners

Airbnb property owners often rely on several vendors, including housekeeping and maintenance services. You can start a business and earn money from Airbnb listings by offering these services to owners.

When guests stay at an Airbnb, they usually pay a cleaning or housekeeping fee. And the costs for property maintenance are generally hidden within rental prices. Many owners don’t have the time, resources, or skills to maintain properties independently. 

So they pay housekeepers to change the sheets and towels and get units ready for the next guest. As a vendor, you don’t have to limit your clientele to Airbnb property owners either. However, it can be lucrative to partner with someone who owns more than one property. 

Say one owner operates ten different Airbnb rentals. They contract with you to clean and prepare all of those properties. You’d be pretty busy and earn a good income from a portion of the owner’s profits and fees. 

Similarly, owners need help with routine property maintenance and repairs. If a water heater goes out or a toilet breaks, tenants will have a poor experience. Property owners need skilled labor that can get onsite and fix problems immediately.

They also need maintenance vendors that can keep a rental in good shape. Properties periodically need repainting, new gutters, and roofs, and flooring and appliances replaced. Contracting with handyman and light construction services helps accomplish these tasks.

As a maintenance repair service or vendor, you can also take home a portion of the owner’s profits. And you don’t have to have an ownership stake in those properties or foot the bill for upkeep costs.

Sublease Rented Property

Subleasing property you’re already renting is tricky for multiple reasons. But if your landlord and local regulations allow it, you can cover more than your rent by subletting on Airbnb.

The first thing is to check with the city’s ordinances and any HOA bylaws. Some do not permit subleases or only allow them for long-term tenants. In other words, short-term Airbnb subleases are not okay but subleases for six months or more are acceptable.

Another hurdle is any lease clauses or landlord preferences. Many leases have clauses that either forbid or permit subletting activities. If your documents don’t state anything, don’t assume subleases are okay.

Talk with the property owner before you sign a lease and get permission to sublease in writing. If you’re already renting, schedule a time to talk to your landlord in person. Explain you’re thinking of subleasing the property on Airbnb. See what they say.

If they give you the green light, get the proper documentation. You don’t want to start listing someone else’s property on Airbnb at their word. It could come back to bite you without written permission. 

Subleasing a property you’re currently living in can also be inconvenient and risky. You’ll need to coordinate rental availability with the dates you’ll be away. If you have an extra room, you’ll be sacrificing your privacy and shared areas. 

In addition, you’re still on the line for rent and property damage. If your sublessee punches a hole in the wall or their payment falls through, it’s on you. You’ll have to pay the landlord for repairs and cover the full monthly rent.

That said, there are certain markets where subleasing rentals on Airbnb works well. Think Nashville, Jacksonville, and New Orleans to name a few. In favorable locations with a steady stream of visitors, subletting on Airbnb can be a viable side hustle.

Become a Property Manager

Starting a property management service for Airbnb listings involves more than cleaning and maintenance services. Your service may handle these tasks, but you’ll also take over marketing and client communication.

You’ll confirm bookings, let guests know about check-in procedures, and send helpful information. As a property manager, you’ll also help process guest payments, issue refunds, and set rental rates.

You’ll also ensure guests check-in and out at scheduled times and manage property access. There’s a lot to property management but you can earn between 20% and 30% of the booking price.

For instance, one property commands $100 a night. After a five-night stay, your service will earn between $100 and $150. You could eventually take home a respectable income by multiplying these earnings across several properties.

Of course, it becomes more complex as the number of rentals you manage increases. And there are naturally some properties that are harder to maintain than others. You may need to hire a full staff and rely on technology to help you carry out your duties.

Paying employees will reduce your profits and take-home income. But you can start small to gain experience and eventually develop your service into a full-time gig.

Offer Concierge Services

Another way to earn money on Airbnb without investing in properties is to sell concierge services. Travelers are usually interested in local sightseeing, help with everyday tasks, or transportation. You can offer some of the following services:

  • Personal shopping
  • Cooking lessons
  • Guides to tourist attractions or certain sites, such as museums or movie theaters
  • City tours
  • Babysitting or pet sitting
  • Local experiences, such as windsurfing, day cruises, or culture classes

By offering these services, you’ll be enriching travelers’ experiences. And none of them require owning property. However, you’ll need to find ways to target and reach Airbnb clients.

Fortunately, the platform has a way to list your services as an experienced host. You can use this and other advertising to attract clients.

Fulfill Co-Host Duties

If you don’t want to purchase a string of properties, consider becoming a co-host. Know a friend or a co-worker who rents out units on Airbnb? Talk to them about being their co-host.

A co-host usually doesn’t have an ownership stake in Airbnb rentals. However, they assume many of the duties that a property manager would. You’ll be managing the upkeep of the property and working with guests.

Some of those tasks include confirming bookings and cleaning units after checkout. You could also oversee check-ins and personalize guest experiences by stocking specific items. For instance, you could fill the fridge with a few vegan dinners or champagne.

You can negotiate your co-host fees with the property owner. However, expect to earn between 10% and 20% of the rental price and fees. The more burdens you remove from the host, the greater your earning potential is.

That said, you’ll need to convince hosts of your expertise and commitment. Some hosts won’t want to partner with someone inexperienced or not certified in property management. You’ll also have to put your persuasion skills to the test with hosts who don’t know you.

Being a co-host is not without its obvious drawbacks. You’ll be doing most of the work but will be taking home fewer profits. Before committing to such an agreement, ask yourself whether you’re willing to do the grunt work. Or will you grow resentful of the property owners?

Still, becoming a co-host is a less expensive and risky way to get your feet wet with Airbnb. You don’t have to invest in properties and be on the line for their upkeep. Co-host duties also provide insight into what it’s like to make income from Airbnb rentals.

The experience could teach you that income from Airbnb rentals is something you enjoy. Or you could discover it’s not something that’s up your alley. If it is something you enjoy and excel at, you may decide to become a full host in the future.

Save up for a down payment on a property while you’re building a track record on Airbnb.

Join an Affiliate Program

Do you write a travel blog, upload YouTube videos about travel destinations, or use social media pages to discuss travel? You could become an Airbnb affiliate and advertise others’ listings within your online content.

For each person that clicks on one of those links and books a property, you’ll earn a commission. The more traffic you bring to your content or website, the more money you can make.

Airbnb has two different affiliate programs you can sign up for. As mentioned, you can advertise properties and rentals on your site. You can also promote Airbnb hosting opportunities. When people click on your affiliate link and list their properties, you’ll earn a commission.

Affiliate programs are a no-cost, no-risk way to earn passive income. All you have to do is embed the link or code into your site or content. As people visit your site and consume your content, they’ll see the links.

While some will click out of curiosity and others will ignore the links, you’ll get those that do follow through. However, your website or content needs to generate at least 1 million visits, opens, or views a month. So not everyone can easily become an Airbnb affiliate.

You may need to build up your following before you venture into affiliate territory.

Final Thoughts

Believe it or not, it’s possible to earn money on Airbnb without buying properties or rentals. You just have to think outside the box and appeal to travelers’ or property owners’ needs. Offering cleaning, maintenance, or property management services is the most feasible.

Next in line is offering concierge services to Airbnb guests. You can teach lessons, offer guided tours, or provide everyday services. The sky is really the limit here as long as Airbnb qualifies you.

Further down on the feasibility scale is subleasing a property or unit you’re currently renting from someone else. Becoming a co-host or an Airbnb affiliate are additional avenues to try.

However, the entry barriers can be challenging and not something you can immediately overcome. Before you start your next Airbnb venture, look at local regulations, market gaps, and your preferences and limitations. Eventually, you’ll find a good match!            

John is the founder of TightFist Finance and an expert in the field of personal finance. John has studied personal finance for over 10 years and has used his knowledge to pay down debt, grow his investment portfolio, and launch a financial based business. He is committed to sharing content related to personal finance based on his experience in his career, investing, and path towards reaching financial independence.