- After living in their tiny house for two years with their two children, Jilan and Josh Wise decided to buy a traditional home in Las Vegas, park their tiny house in the backyard, and list it on Airbnb.
- The couple spent $1,000 getting the tiny house ready for guests.
- In the first 30 days, they became Super Hosts on Airbnb, and in one year, they earned over $21,000, which they used to buy a car and go on vacation.
- "Some of the success came from keeping it affordable," Jilan said. "I don't remember a weekend that we didn't have somebody stay with us. It was a constant flow."
- They also had to spend a total of $3,500 on deep cleaning and fixing damage to the tiny house.
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When Jilan and Josh Wise wanted to settle down in Las Vegas, they knew they had to move out of their tiny house.
Because local zoning laws prevent people from living in a tiny house full-time in Las Vegas, the couple had to buy a traditional home. However, they didn't want to part ways with the tiny house they built themselves and had lived in for two years with their 4 and 8 year olds.
Instead, they developed a plan. First, they started looking for property around Vegas that had a traditional-size house and a large backyard. When they found the perfect property in 2019, the couple parked their tiny house in the backyard of their new home and listed the 140-square-foot structure on Airbnb, so they could have an additional source of income.
The couple had some upfront costs before they could list the house on Airbnb
Since the family lived in the house for two years, Jilan explained it was almost ready for renting when they decided to put it on Airbnb. The 140-square-foot, completely off-grid house has two loft bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a living room — all of which Josh, who has a master's in architecture, designed himself.
The couple spent $10,000 upfront and then put an additional $9,000 on credit cards to build their house. In the first year of living in the house, they paid off that credit card debt.
Two years later, when they decided to move out of the house and turn it into a side business, they had to put some additional costs into the home even though they kept it in good condition.
"Everything was nice and taken care of, and because we are the way we are, we didn't have to buy a lot of extra stuff," Jilan said.
For starters, they had to purchase new water filters, linens, towels, hand towels, and rugs. Jilan also said they bought a few items to create a more welcoming atmosphere, like a small fireplace and a bookshelf.
In all, the couple spent around $1,000 in upfront costs to prepare the home for Airbnb.
In the first year, the couple made over $21,000 from their Airbnb listing
Jilan and Josh posted the tiny house on Airbnb in February 2019, and she said they were booked up almost immediately.
"We booked out so quick, and I think it's because we are in such a niche that we have nothing like that around us," Jilan said. "People said, 'I'm going to Vegas, and I want to stay in this really different experience.'"
They let the Airbnb algorithm adjust pricing for the house, which was always between $95 and $125 per night, and they gave guests only a one-night minimum. In the first 30 days, the Wises became Super Hosts on the platform.
"Some of the success came from keeping it affordable," Jilan said. "I don't remember a weekend that we didn't have somebody stay with us. It was a constant flow."
There was at least one booking every week during 2019. Typically, Jilan said, their listing attracted people who were interested in the tiny house movement, too.
"We attracted a very specific kind of person," she said. "Most of the time, it was folks who were interested in the movement, curious about solar, or excited to see an off-grid unit in the middle of the city."
In the first month, they made over $1,000, which was the lowest income all year, but they made back their upfront costs. Their best month was May when they earned $3,500.
By early 2020, the Wises had earned $21,000 from their Airbnb listing. They used it to buy a new car, pay off debts, take family trips to California, and put some in their savings.
"When we started, we didn't want to become dependent on that income," Jilan said. "We didn't want to increase our spending in such a way that if we weren't booked out, we had to dip into our savings. This was just extra money to play."
The Wises did, however, lose some money
While most guests respected and enjoyed the tiny house, Jilan said some guests did cause damage.
Although Jilan cleans the unit herself, they did have to spend a total of $2,000 for deep cleans over 12 months. For example, one guest spilled a Slurpee, and it seeped into the floorboards.
But most drastically, a guest broke the pipes in the bathroom and flooded the room. The Wises had to completely rip out the bathroom to fix it. Since Josh built the house, he was able to fix the bathroom himself, but it still cost them $1,500. Jilan said if they had to hire someone, it would have cost around $5,000.
"That's why we don't just spend [the extra income] or rely on it because things like this come up," Jilan said.
At the end of the year, Jilan said they lost about $3,500 total, but Airbnb eventually reimbursed them for half the damage.
"You start to learn how to deal with folks so that you're not hemorrhaging money, labor, and materials," Jilan said. "We had a couple of doozies, and it was a great learning experience, but we also had a ton of really great people stay with us. It's bittersweet for sure."
In the end, Jilan and Josh said the experience was worth the trouble
When the coronavirus swept through the US earlier this year, Jilan said they didn't know how to disinfect the tiny house properly and felt the $100 per night income was not worth the risks, so they took their tiny house off Airbnb.
"Because we didn't depend on this money — this money wasn't paying our car payment or our mortgage — it was OK to shut it down to keep our family safe," Jilan said.
They do plan on returning to the platform at some point, hopefully with a different tiny house with no lofts and a higher price.
"You definitely attract a different person that is willing to spend $250 per night for an experience, versus a person who just needs a place to stay at just $80 per night," she said. "When we do this again, we will do it a bit differently."
Right now, they're utilizing the break to reflect on the past year.
"We wanted as many people in that tiny house as we could because it's an introduction to this lifestyle that we believe is the future of housing," Jilan said. "It was totally worth it. The people that we met were amazing."
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