Children left home? How to rent out your spare room on Airbnb: expert tips to maximize your income

Turning your teenager’s den into a desirable Airbnb room may seem like no easy feat. But a few deft touches can transform it into a space that’s more grown-up – while keeping the comfortable feel people want.

Nakul Sharma, founder of Airbnb hosting service Hostmaker, shares his expert tips, from getting the room ready to how to max the cash you can earn.

I don’t know where to start! How do I change the room into something I can put on Airbnb?

1 Declutter the room

Take down the selfies and music posters – your guests probably won’t share the same musical tastes as your 18-year-old. You definitely can’t rent the room if it’s full of childhood keepsakes. Guests like home touches, but those that are too personal can make them feel like trespassers.

You could use LoveSpace to take the headache out of decluttering: tell them what you want to store and for how long, and they’ll collect it all, store it, and redeliver when it’s time.

2 Clean it, and refresh the decor

Start with a deep clean from a professional cleaning company (averaging around £150). You can use a marketplace platform such as TaskRabbit and pay per hour, to help take the hassle out of it.

Next, a lick of paint goes a long way towards making a musty teenage room feel fresh again, particularly if they had ‘interesting’ decorating taste. Pastels and neutrals, with a few pieces of art, is a much more appealing aesthetic for Airbnb folk. Your teen might even thank you for it.

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Before: this room wasn’t cluttered but it was drab and uninspiring
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After: freshening up the room didn’t take much, but made all the difference to its rentability

3 Make it stylish but relaxed

Now that the room is clean, refreshed and free from clutter, add a few homely items – candles, cushions and books – to retain that ‘real home’ feeling that guests look for on Airbnb.

4 Get the right bed and bedding

It can’t be stressed enough how important it is that your guests get a great night’s sleep. You need blackout curtains, a new mattress protector, and a mattress that’s in really good shape (probably a new one).

New, high-quality bedlinen is a must. I’m a firm believer in the power of beddings and furnishings when it comes to refreshing an interior.

When Hostmaker manages a letting we bring crisp, cotton linens and fluffy towels. Our housekeepers prepare each room and make the bed to hotel standards. Your guests (and teens) will be impressed, and your ratings will soar.

Or you could outsource the whole revamp: our soft furnishings design service will bring your home up to Airbnb standards.

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Fresh new bedlinen, a mattress protector and probably a new mattress are crucial

How neutral should it be, or do renters like something quirky and unusual these days?

Guests enjoy tasteful decoration and amazing art, and tend to prioritise listings with a modern aesthetic combined with a consistency in style.

Quirky interiors are also appealing as people can be looking to experience life in someone else’s shoes, places with a look they wouldn’t necessarily recreate in their own home.

Because we know what works for Airbnb, we have a full design service (see some Hostmaker-designed homes), using our expertise to help you optimise your rental and maximise your income.

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Refresh the decor: this room is neutral but painting one wall dark makes is very contemporary

Should I prioritise what guests want over my own needs for the room?

You have to like the look of the finished space as much as you think guests will. It’s your home first and foremost, and you have to feel comfortable while also ensuring that your guests are.

Explain to your child why you’re doing this and make sure they’re comfortable with it, especially if they will be coming home from time to time. People can be very sentimentally attached to their childhood spaces.

Renting a room, or a whole property, on Airbnb is also a great excuse to start the renovation project you dreamed of, as you’re going to be making the money to pay for it. You might want new carpets, wooden flooring or an en-suite bathroom.

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Styling is everything: cushions and a throw on the bed, and artwork on the wall

Which type of rooms get the most interest and income, and which don’t?

En-suite bathrooms are in high demand as they offer guests privacy within an occupied home. This competes directly with what hotels offer: never underestimate the power of an en-suite for an Airbnb rental!

Spaces that are independent from other rooms are much more successful, such as a basement room with an en-suite.

Rooms and homes that aren’t presented well, and lack quality photographs and reviews, don’t sell. In London especially, there are so many listings that it’s difficult to stand out and every little detail is important.

What else affects how much I can charge?

Nightly rates depend on a lot of factors: the location of your home, proximity to a Tube station or tourist hotspot, and number of guests you can accommodate.

Then there are your services, such as welcome pack, quality linen, check-in experience and communication. These can all affect the reviews you get – and thus your income.

There’s a lot involved, and being a host on Airbnb can be a full-time job, which is why companies like Hostmaker exist. We’re professionals at this, bringing hotel expertise to your rental, and that not only takes the hassle out of hosting, but your reviews – and income – will soar.

If you can become a Superhost, that will also earn you more. This means you respond to enquiries quickly, have at least ten rentals a year, rarely cancel a booking, and 80 per cent or more of your reviews are five-star.

Should I be there when the guests are?

Most Airbnb guests appreciate sharing a home with the owners, as it helps them embrace life as a local. That’s Airbnb’s ethos, and the purpose of the sharing economy: a shared home can mean a more authentic experience.

A warm welcome is really important. If you can’t be there to greet guests, use a concierge team (like our check-in service) – first impressions last.

If you’re not there during their stay, use a management service so you can relax knowing that they’re being looked after. With our fully managed option we communicate with them prior to arrival, and stay in touch during their stay in case they have questions. You can sit back and watch the five-star reviews pile up!

Nakul Sharma is the CEO and founder of Hostmaker . This service enables Airbnb hosts to offer a high-quality, hassle-free service to guests, with housekeepers and concierges. This helps the host to improve their listing and get more bookings. It also works with other homeowners who offer short-term lets to holidaymakers and business travellers