120 guests from 5 countries
4 months to 92 years : age range of our guests
144 hours “worked” cleaning, texting, photographing, ordering supplies, and visiting with guests
$10,525 gross Airbnb earnings after occupancy taxes ($1536) & Airbnb fee ($328)
In 2008, I remodeled our 1924 Portland bungalow into a perfect family home up top and a basement apartment with a separate entrance. The initial purpose for the basement apartment was to host our extended family comfortably and to also have a separate space for my architecture business. For many years, we used it just like that. In between family visits, we rented the extra room to exchange students - 24 students total over 7 years.
I opened for guests in November 2016, but only hosted once before I battened down the hatches and headed to Mazatlan for the month of December. Upon returning to icy Portland in January, I opened the Balongo Inn again and it has been available for bookings most of the time since then.
For me, this is a hobby. The money I earn from it is all going into my boys’ college savings. Still, as a small business owner, I really like to know what my efforts are getting me. Would my time be better spent just taking on more architecture projects, for instance? I wanted to know, when all is said and done, how much am I earning per hour cleaning bedding & sheets and chatting it up with my guests. Well, now I know. At around $42/hour after expenses and before income taxes, it’s more than I thought I would earn.
I didn’t think that I would enjoy my guests so much! I thought that strangers who stayed in my Tiny Basement Hotel for a few nights would be forgettable and somehow anonymous to me. On the contrary. We’ve had super memorable guests. For instance, our neighbors booked the Balongo Inn for their elderly parents when they come to town to visit. The man is in his 90’s and was born in England. One evening, he found my husband in the garden, and told him how the banana fiber balls that we have as decorations reminded him of his youth in England during WWII. He and his friends made balls like that to play soccer with – not out of banana fibers, but from other found objects. Rubber was too precious during the war for making balls for children. That man was so delighted to have touched an object that reminded him of his youth – and what a delight for my husband as well, as those balls are the same kind of balls that he made as a child.
Guests have left me gifts – like a handmade Senagalese basket, Hawaiian macadamia nuts and flavored coffee, a new bottle of cabernet sauvignon, and even once, a $20 tip! Hilarious! And what a treat.
I didn’t expect the long, glowing reviews that many guests have left us. Our guests have really appreciated the decorations & creature comforts that I’ve put into the hotel, and they LOVE our neighborhood! How much fun is that? I mean, WE LOVE our neighborhood, but gosh. It’s validating to hear people tell you over and over again how wonderful your neighborhood streets, old craftsman homes, & hip restaurants are.
Finally, I didn’t expect to host so many neighbors and parents of neighbors! I LOVE that! Some of our neighbors from just 1 street over stayed 3 nights while their wood floors were being refinished. How cool is that? In total 13 nights were “neighbor” guest bookings.
Being an Airbnb host is a job in the hospitality business. I had never worked in hospitality before! Now, I have a new appreciation when I’m at a restaurant and I see supplies being delivered at peak rush hour on Saturday morning. I think to myself – do they really have the space for all of that? How do they allocate hands to get everything put away/refrigerated in time while still serving guests? How do they make sure everything that they ordered was in fact delivered? New insights, yes.
When I started booking without a 1-night cleaning window, I bought extra duvet covers for all 3 beds. Now I have 6 duvet covers, 6 sheet sets, 8 large towels, and many many many extra rolls of toilet paper, paper towels, candy, granola bars, etc. I found that I needed to organize storage space upstairs for all of my extra “hotel” supplies.
I learned that cinnamon bark essential oil, wiped along the window and door sills helps to keep small creatures from coming in. We had our seasonal Portland ants upstairs, but never in the hotel!
I learned that scrubbing fabrics with a bar of Fels Naptha sometimes does a better job than 2 hours of soaking in bleach for stains. I bought all white sheets and towels, and after 120 guests they are still bright white!
I enjoyed buying the highest quality of everything that I wanted for the hotel, knowing that it’s all a business expense. We bought some fantastic new outdoor furniture and plenty of new plants for the garden. I already have a fantastic camera, but I bought a tripod so I could take better photos. I bought a Roomba vacuum! Wow! Who can run a hotel without a Roomba? That was probably my favorite hotel purchase. All in all, I spent about $4500 on operating expenses; by no means was this a shoestring operation. I bought the best.
We are shutting down the Balongo Inn for the rest of 2017, as we have a family need for the space. In 2018, I plan to start up again with a vengeance – offering discounts to my favorite guests, and maybe even marketing door-to-door with flyers to my neighbors. It’s a hella fun side hustle, and in 2029 when my boys go to college, we can look back fondly on our Balongo Inn days for all of that tuition money.
You can find the Balongo Inn listed at: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/14499813