In 2015, Aaron and I took a quick trip to Chattanooga to explore, eat, and hike since it was only 2 hours from our home in Nashville. Aaron had heard about Airbnb through a friend and mentioned it to me. I was intrigued so I thought we should give it a try. If you have never heard of Airbnb, it is basically a platform where guests can find places to stay that are listed by people who host their homes or unique spaces for rent. All of the listings, pictures and descriptions of places, and bookings are done on that platform. If you have never signed up you can earn a credit on your first stay by clicking this link and setting up your account from here. I am not sponsored by Airbnb or affiliated with them in any way I just began using the platform many years ago as a guest, loved it, then became a host.
Now, back to the story. I found a small house with a private studio space that was super budget friendly and we adventurously gave it a shot. Now that I have used Airbnb many times, I realize that my very first stay was not a truly spectacular listing. However, it was clean, safe, and had the basic amenities we needed. I remember at the time that Aaron and I decided that if that space could be listed, then we could list a space, as well. So, we came back to Nashville and started off our first listing called “Cozy Bedroom on Mini Farm” in late 2015. Aaron wanted me to test it out first before he wanted me to expand to our campers. I think he was worried that folks might tear up stuff or not be safe. As I explored the platform I realized that it was a community based on reviews from guests and hosts. It is very important for both guests and hosts to leave honest, accurate feedback so that future travelers or hosts can decide what is best for them as far as staying in an Airbnb or hosting guests. We gave the bedroom a shot for $49 per night for two guests. Sometimes if I was not booked I would lower the pricing to $39 a night and we began to have our first guests. People who came to stay in our shared space listing had access to their own small private bedroom and shared bathroom, kitchen, and living area. Guests who tended to stay were single travelers or couples just looking for a place to crash. We did get a few guests that stayed longer periods of time to visit family members or do internships and that sort of thing. I loved meeting new people, showing them around the farm, and giving them good ole southern hospitality. I did not like that the rest of my whole house had to be clean and that when we had guests that Aaron and I could not walk around in our skivvies. So, I told Aaron it was time to list our old camper that we already had. This 2008 Outback Camper had a queen bed, 4 bunks, a fold out couch, dinette, kitchen, and bathroom. I overhauled the interior to make it not floral ugly mess and instead it became the “Shabby Chic Camper on Mini Farm”.
This second listing began in 2016. Folks loved traveling to Nashville, visiting the sights and sounds of the city, then coming back to the mini farm and having a country style retreat to relax away from the hustle and bustle. Our home is only 15-20 minutes from downtown so it is still in the city to me, but compared to being downtown it truly gave guests that down home, farm style, unique stay. It surprised me that people would choose our listing over closer, more modern listings. Another unexpected aspect of listing this camper was the income produced. At the peak of the camper and room listings, we made 16k gross. We were able to pay the camper off. Since we were doing so great with our camper, we slowed down and eventually stopped the bedroom stays in our home. This gave us our privacy and less stress. The challenge now was that we did not have a camper to use to camp and travel in as we had planned. So, we invested in a 2015 Heartland Pioneer camper thinking that as long as we could make the payment with the income from Airbnb that we would be ok. That camper became our 3rd listing in 2017 although at that time we only used the two listings “Shabby Chic Camper on Mini Farm” and our new listing “Music City Camper on Mini Farm”. This camper was more for couples or couples with one child whereas the Shabby Chic camper held lots of people and larger families. I kept very busy cleaning both campers, doing laundry, and changing out bedding after all stays. I loved it though and was blessed to meet so many people, show them love, and share the farm with them. We even had some songwriters write some songs about our piggies and chickens! So neat! With both campers being listed, I was able to pay off my student loan debt!! What an awesome accomplishment. That is even with campers that cannot be rented out during the Winter months because they have to be winterized.
They say all good things come to an end, well I do not really agree with that, but in this case our camper Airbnb’s came to an abrupt end one day in 2018 when we were visited by the codes department of our county. Apparently, campers are not permitted to be used as short term rentals. We did not understand and were never given a real reason why. We also saw several other campers still being listed that had not been given a warning. Our lawyer reached out and still did not get a firm answer on anything so we kept renting it out thinking that until we had a reason why we could not list it that we could keep listing it. In the meantime we had stayed at an awesome tiny cabin in the Smokies since we go there a lot. We LOVED it and thought this is what we would love to have. We picked up one of the listing magazines around time and I started browsing. I found one in there and got super excited. The name of the realty company was Above and Beyond realty and their ad had an ichthus, representation of a fish, Christian symbol for the Greek word ichthys interpreted as the initials meaning Jesus Christ. I took this as a nudging from the Holy Spirit and was excited when Joy answered the phone. She was the realtor for that particular cabin and told me it was already sold but that she had one coming up on the market that was not even ready yet. I was excited to see it and she gladly showed it to me shortly after on another weekend visit. I knew that was the cabin for us. Thankfully, we were able to make an offer on it, work through hurdles of buying a park model/tiny cabin with the mortgage company, and get it ready to list in November 2018. If I had not connected to Joy before the cabin was even listed, we would not own it now. She said those are so popular that when she did list it for formality, she had 13 calls! God is good. Plus, I made an awesome new friend who is also a believer and sweet lady. Well, wouldn’t you know that at the same time, our neighbor got an officer who showed up at his house with a warrant. He was like, um, that’s not me, that’s my neighbors. So, we then got a warrant. Technically Aaron did which we thought was interesting because my name was scratched out on it. We get tickled, at least I do, thinking that here I am doing this Airbnb business and then my husband who just supports me doing it, gets in trouble. Haha! Sorry honey. The warrant basically said that we had to appear in court for our short term rental and were fined. We then were told we could not use our property for short term rentals for 3 years. Isn’t it interesting how God gave us provision in purchasing the cabin and being able to list it to compensate for the income and joy lost by not being able to list our campers? I am so thankful that I was able to continue being an Airbnb host.
Who would have thought that the first, let’s give this Airbnb thing a try, would turn into becoming a property manager and making a living that allows me the flexibility to still spend time at home with my son? I often say to God, why did I get a Master’s Degree in Child Development just to manage properties? Haha, but His plan is greater than mine and I just keep walking by faith. Just as I did when we stayed in that very first property that then sparked our passion to try it out ourselves. I am so thankful we took the chance, were adventurous, and worked hard to become awesome Superhosts ourselves! If you have ever considered hosting your home, a space on your property, or even somewhere else, the hard work is worth it when you get the hang of it. Check out my future blog posts on how to get a property Airbnb ready. Use this link to start hosting now.