Does a smokin’ neighborhood + vintage Airstream trailer + Airbnb = profit?

Photo credit: Jelanie

My neighborhood is smokin' hot right now. I've mentioned this several times and even asked readers how I should respond if a developer wanted to purchase my home to tear down.

Five years ago, I was extremely fortunate to find an affordable 1,400 square foot 50s ranch house on .75 an acre of land in an up-and-coming neighborhood in East Nashville. My home was located near an abandoned nursing home, just a few blocks from a mixed use development that was having trouble keeping tenants, and down the street from an intersection that saw several shootings, particularly at a discount tobacco shop that continually attracted crime.

Fast forward to five years later…

The abandoned nursing home: a mixed-use development that includes an Italian restaurant, trendy boutiques, salons, a vegan bakery, and art galleries.

The struggling development: just announced their plan to begin phase three after adding a climbing gym, outdoor sporting goods store, and a Japanese izakaya & ramen house.

The once sketchy intersection down the street: now hosts a popular French restaurant and small specialty neighborhood grocery store.

Needless to say, it's become a popular spot in an exploding inner city neighborhood.

Last fall, John Wheatly from Need/Want posted the article, I Bought An Apartment To Rent Out On Airbnb, on the company's blog. The post revealed the details of a rental property in Las Vegas that he had been managing remotely for a year. He shared the purchase price, renovation costs, revenue, and an estimated break-even date. He also offered some tips to other prospective investors.

When Nashville Public Radio recently broke the story that Nashville is Home-Share App Airbnb's Fastest Growing Destination, my level of curiosity became all-consuming.

I began poring over other Airbnb listings in my neighborhood and one particular property caught my attention: 60s Camper and Backyard Bathhouse. This dude's place is only a mile from my property and almost completely booked solid for the next couple of months!

Here's a quick estimate of this listing's profit for the month of June:

Gross revenue: 29 days x $95 per night = $2,755.00
Less: 3% Airbnb host service fee = $82.65
Net revenue: $2,675.35

Note: A one-time $20 cleaning fee is built into this reservation. Airbnb also offers the option to add a security deposit.

Afford Anything recently had a great post, The AirBnb Experiment: How I Impulsively Started a Vacation Rental Business , where she outlined additional monthly expenses to consider:

$50 per month: utilities (including electricity, gas, water)
$40 per month: consumer disposables (refilling the sponges, soap, shampoo, etc.)
$160 per month: management* (8 hours per month at $20 per hour)
$200 per month: sales and occupancy tax (rough ballpark)

*Tracking and paying yourself for the time it takes to run the business.

Estimated June profit: $2,225.35

So, here's my (not so?) crazy idea: I wholeheartedly believe the reason the aforementioned Airbnb listing is ever-so-popular is its uniqueness. Staying at a place like that is an experience. What's the experience that I'd like to create? An East Nashville vacation in a vintage Airstream trailer! And $95 per night is still way cheaper than any decent hotel.

What are my upfront costs? Probably $20-30K. This would include the cost of purchasing, transporting, renovating, and decorating a vintage Airstream trailer for guests. Also, I need to fix up the backyard. Honestly, it's a bit of an eyesore right now.

Obviously, there are things to consider like costly repairs and cash flow during the less busy months. But once the initial investment is paid off, it seems like a reasonable side hustle! Nashville's tourism will only continue to grow, and demand for my neighborhood is exploding right along with it.

Readers: Let's have it! What do you think of my idea? Have you had any experience making money with Airbnb?

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Discussions — 54 Responses

  • Dee @ Color Me Frugal May 12, 2014 on 10:37 am

    That sounds pretty awesome, especially since your neighborhood is hoppin’ right now. A couple questions that came to my mind- What would you do when you moved- take it with you? Do airstream trailers have bathrooms, including shower? No matter how cool it was I’m not sure I’d stay there if I couldn’t get a shower. But I’d say it definitely sounds like something to look into!

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Dee @ Color Me Frugal June 6, 2014 on 2:55 am

      Hey Dee! Thanks for commenting. All Airstreams are different. I agree that a functioning shower should be a priority πŸ™‚

      Reply
  • Income Surfer May 12, 2014 on 12:07 pm

    I hope you can get away with it Addison. It all depends on the regulations for your municipality. Read up on the minimum duration of rentals for your specific land-use and zoning. Also, check out if trailers (like the Airstream you mentioned) are allowed to be occupied in your land use and zoning district.

    By the way, we drove through Nash-Vegas on I-24…..one morning last week. Wow, you have bad commuter traffic. We were completely stopped before me made Smyrna. Next week when we pass through again, I’m going to make sure we stay on the far side of town
    -Bryan

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Income Surfer June 6, 2014 on 2:57 am

      Thanks for sharing! I’ll definitely keep these things in mind. Nashville’s going to expand by 2 million people over the next couple of decades, so the traffic is not going to get any better. Hopefully we’ll get some kind of mass transit figured out by then.

      Reply
  • Jen @ Jen Spends May 12, 2014 on 2:13 pm

    Very cool idea! I’d have a ball designing a themed rental like that. Do you think there’s enough demand that it would be a success even with someone else already doing the same thing?

    In my area I don’t think Airbnb would be profitable because there’s little tourism, but you reminded me of something else: a local contractor started building mobile 50’s diner themed trailers to rent out for parties and such. I thought it was a dumb idea at first, but he’s built quite a business for himself. People really do seem to go for unique experiences.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Jen @ Jen Spends June 6, 2014 on 2:59 am

      The other listing is actually a 60s camper. Definitely a cool space, but not an Airstream. I love looking through the unique spaces on Airbnb. They definitely catch my attention first!

      Reply
  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life May 12, 2014 on 3:09 pm

    That’s the thing about air b n b. Even something listed at $100 for the night is still WAY cheaper than a hotel- everybody wins.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life June 6, 2014 on 3:00 am

      Hotel costs are getting out of control in Nashville. Still nothing like NYC, but $100 per night is a steal.

      Reply
  • Andy@artofbeingcheap May 12, 2014 on 10:00 pm

    Seems like a great idea, but I am thinking about how hot Nashville gets in the summer. Do Airstreams have built in air conditioners? It wouldn’t surprise me if that was more than $50/ month to run.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Andy@artofbeingcheap June 6, 2014 on 3:01 am

      Very good point, Andy. Airstreams can get hot, so air conditioning would be crucial. Nashville can reach 100 degrees for weeks in the summer.

      Reply
  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach May 13, 2014 on 3:06 am

    Is that the actual place? Pretty cool! I toyed with the idea of renting out my couch, but I work from home, and I live alone, and have a cat…the thought just kind of scared me. And I can’t afford to buy anything here to rent out so…but I think it could be a cool investment. I wonder if it’s more lucrative to get constant rentals or more long term ones?

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Tonya@Budget and the Beach June 6, 2014 on 3:02 am

      Good point, Tonya. I would rent out our second bedroom if my boyfriend would allow it, though πŸ™‚

      Reply
  • NZ Muse May 13, 2014 on 3:26 am

    Airstream! Cannot believe those are so cheap Stateside.

    I nearly booked a hostel in Berlin once because one of their ‘rooms’ was a converted fire engine. No joke. (Didn’t in the end cause of $$)

    Reply
    • Addison Cash NZ Muse June 6, 2014 on 3:04 am

      I’ve seen quite a few listed on Craigslist for very reasonable prices in Tennessee. They can get costly to transport, though.

      Reply
  • John @ Wise Dollar May 13, 2014 on 12:35 pm

    It sounds like a pretty neat idea! If you could manage to make some money while taking advantage of some of the circumstances even better. My one question, really goes back to a previous commenter and wondering about the regulations for your area. We got annexed by Omaha about two years ago and prior to that we could get by with something like this and now I don’t believe it would fly. That said, if that’s not an issue it’s definitely an intriguing possibility.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash John @ Wise Dollar June 6, 2014 on 3:04 am

      Thanks for reiterating this, John. I will make sure to research thoroughly before moving forward.

      Reply
  • Mel @ brokeGIRLrich May 14, 2014 on 2:39 am

    Oh my gosh, I would totally stay in your Airstream! That is so cool. I stayed in the Wigwam Motels in San Bernardino pretty much just cause they were a unique spot too. I think it’s a great idea and it seems like you could plausibly pay it off and be making a profit within two years. That’s not bad.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Mel @ brokeGIRLrich June 6, 2014 on 3:06 am

      I love unique places to stay on Airbnb. I’ve seen so many inspiring rentals on there!

      Reply
  • Chris@ChattanoogaCheapster May 14, 2014 on 3:30 am

    That sounds awesome!!!

    The only downside is that Airbnb will soon be regulated much like hotels. I’m not sure how this will affect the airstream idea, but it would suck if you plopped down $20K just in time for the new regulations to ruin your idea.

    Sounds like you made a great decision on your house though.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Chris@ChattanoogaCheapster June 6, 2014 on 3:08 am

      I know Nashville wants to start regulating Airbnb and VRBO listings like hotels. I factored those taxes in (6% occupancy + 9.25% sales taxes + $2.50 per room) even though Airbnb is not currently collecting.

      Reply
  • Michelle May 14, 2014 on 3:49 pm

    That Airstream in the picture looks awesome! I wish that was mine.

    We have been thinking about doing some vacation rental stuff, just haven’t researched it enough. I’m excited to see what you do though!

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Michelle June 6, 2014 on 3:09 am

      Agreed on the photo! Super inspiring. I love the idea of having an Airstream in my backyard. I can’t wait to get started on this project.

      Reply
  • Derek @ MoneyAhoy.com May 14, 2014 on 7:27 pm

    Wow – that’s a really cool and unique idea! It also eliminates the potential risk of some crazy doing something funny in your house while you’re sleeping!

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Derek @ MoneyAhoy.com June 6, 2014 on 3:12 am

      Hahaha..true. I guess I’m a lot more trusting than I should be. I would have no problem renting out a room in my house to a complete stranger. There’s not much to steal, though πŸ™‚

      Reply
  • debt debs May 15, 2014 on 7:03 am

    How would you hook up the water for it or is it self contained? I guess you would need electricity hookup too or a generator.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash debt debs June 6, 2014 on 3:14 am

      Great question! I probably would need water hook up and a generator.

      Reply
  • Kay May 15, 2014 on 10:10 am

    Hi Addison, I think you might be on to something here. It definitely sounds like a promising idea. How would you feel about renting out your own place first for a weekend to get an idea of the Airbnb experience? I’d say, get a more solid estimate of your upfront costs as well. Would you be using savings for the purchase or a loan (home equity)?

    Keep us posted!

    Reply
  • Kay @ Green Money Stream May 15, 2014 on 5:45 pm

    This sounds like a very promising idea, Addison. Have you thought about renting your house out on Airbnb first to get a feel for it? Once you get a better estimate of what your initial costs would be you could decide if this would be a viable investment. Would you use savings for the purchase or take out a loan (home equity maybe?)

    Keep us posted!

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Kay @ Green Money Stream June 6, 2014 on 3:15 am

      Thanks for the encouragement, Kay. We’re going to move forward with a basement renovation first and then move on to the Airstream when it’s successful.

      Reply
  • Asset-Grinder May 17, 2014 on 11:21 pm

    I think its a pretty decent idea. You could also buy some cheap Westfallia vw vans and make a lil trailer park even if you got the room to do so. I wouldnt use just bnb to advertise, Use other platforms like craigslist to advertise especially during event seasons.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Asset-Grinder June 6, 2014 on 3:16 am

      Thanks for the tip, Asset-Grinder. I will definitely need to find other ways to advertise.

      Reply
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  • Zee @ Work-To-Not-Work May 20, 2014 on 6:34 am

    I think you have the right idea that will attract people, the experience. I know I’ve stayed in treehouses before and while I enjoyed it I don’t know if I would go back unless it had a few things. It’s own bathroom/shower/kitchenette. Other than that you just have to pick a theme and go with it. I have been wanting to take a trip to this place called Hicksville. It’s essentially what you’re thinking of doing. It looks awesome though.

    I think it’s a great idea though.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Zee @ Work-To-Not-Work June 6, 2014 on 3:17 am

      It seems like a good bathroom is key. I’d love staying in a treehouse!

      Reply
  • Suburban Finance May 20, 2014 on 7:38 pm

    I think this is an amazing idea! People like to try out new experience, and it’s pretty good amount of extra income. But definitely research a lot about it before you decide to go further. Good luck!

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Suburban Finance June 6, 2014 on 3:19 am

      Thanks! I’ve definitely got some research to do, but I’m optimistic!

      Reply
  • Hannah @ Wise Dollar May 21, 2014 on 4:27 am

    That sounds great! I would definitely loved to stay in your Airstream. It was a great idea, really. Good job.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Hannah @ Wise Dollar June 6, 2014 on 3:11 am

      Thanks for the encouragement, Hannah. I can’t wait to get it out there!

      Reply
  • Sam @ Frugaling.org May 21, 2014 on 5:22 pm

    This is a freaking awesome idea! Haha. πŸ™‚

    If only I had a little disposable income, I’d totally try this out!

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Sam @ Frugaling.org June 6, 2014 on 3:11 am

      I can’t wait to get started on this, Sam. I may even need to go stay in one for research πŸ™‚

      Reply
  • DC @ Young Adult Money May 22, 2014 on 2:57 am

    Do it! It’s a great idea imo and honestly would be more fun than a lot of other side hustles.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash DC @ Young Adult Money June 6, 2014 on 3:09 am

      Agreed, DC. I think running an Airbnb listing would be cool. I love meeting new people!

      Reply
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  • arden March 12, 2015 on 1:09 pm

    Did you go forward with this project? I’m mostly interested in how you handle the ‘”septic” issue. I’m assuming airstream/campers have holding tanks but then what? I’m very interested in this idea also but can’t solve the bathroom problem.

    Reply
  • Airstream PDX June 4, 2015 on 3:16 am

    You were an inspiration for our Airbnb Airstream in Portland. Check it out here: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/6030421

    Reply
  • dani July 27, 2015 on 2:07 pm

    Did you end up getting an airstream? I’m actually looking to shoot a music video in one this coming Sunday!

    Reply
    • Kate Dore dani July 28, 2015 on 8:07 am

      No, unfortunately, it still hasn’t happened! Best of luck with your music video, Dani πŸ™‚

      Reply
  • MB @ Millennial Boss January 30, 2016 on 10:10 pm

    I’m a Mass girl living in Colorado and just stumbled upon your blog! Very nice! Looks like we have similar interests. I am an affordanything reader and am interesting in purchasing a rental property. I just went to the Chautauqua in Ecuador (not sure if you heard of it but Afford Anything was the blogger in the session the week before I went) and I learned some investment/rental strategies. There was a couple there that rent out an Austin property for bachelor parties. I can imagine that Nashville is a hot bachelorette destination right now. Could be an interesting idea.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore MB @ Millennial Boss February 1, 2016 on 8:16 am

      Awesome to meet you, MB! I always love connecting with other transplants from Massachusetts! The Chautauqua sounds amazing. I love Paula’s work. And learning from her in Ecuador sounds even better! I’ve been interested in renovating my basement and renting it on Airbnb for a couple of years. Nashville is definitely a hot market for Airbnb. And my neighborhood (East Nashville) has been especially popular. I just need to bite the bullet and invest the money to get it done! πŸ™‚

      Reply
  • Mel @ brokeGIRLrich April 28, 2017 on 2:02 pm

    I recently stayed in an AirBnB in Nashville and thought of you!

    Also, the Ringling Brothers train is for sale and a lot of the cars are going for $3,000 each – most with multiple rooms in them. I was kind of heartbroken that I didn’t live somewhere that I could buy my old one and set it up in my backyard as an AirBnB. Even with transportation fees, I was pretty sure I could’ve set the whole thing up for less than $10,000. Sigh. Missed opportunities.

    Reply
  • Mike Peters July 15, 2017 on 7:19 am

    It’s hard to believe this concept, I am involved in this area. Maintenance and keeping up cleaning. People don’t care what they do to your place when renting.
    The cost and damage with all these renters coming and going takes its toll on repairs. That’s what I see.
    Good luck
    Mike

    Reply