Live in Denver? Why This is the Perfect Side Gig (and How to Start)


Tonya Peters’ husband, Miles Rugh, was skeptical.

She wanted to list their Virginia Village basement apartment in Denver, Colorado, on Airbnb, but he wasn’t keen on welcoming strangers into their space.

Finally, he agreed to give it a try. It’s been three years, and the couple has hosted too many guests to count.

“It’s fun, and it’s nice to earn money and give people a positive experience,” says Peters, now an Airbnb Superhost. “I find it to be a win-win situation.”

Even better: Denver is Airbnb friendly. What does that mean? In 2016, the City of Denver passed regulations welcoming home sharing.

So if you’re interested in giving this whole Airbnb hosting thing a try in Denver, we’ll walk you through the sign-up process and offer some pro tips, courtesy of Peters.

How to Create the Best Airbnb Listing in Denver

Before becoming an Airbnb host, you’ll want to check your local laws and prepare your space for guests. (We’ll get into that later.) Creating a listing itself is simple, but you’ll want to put some thought into it, so your space stands out from all the other Mile-High listings.

Answer Some Quick Questions About Your Space/Amenities

In this first part of setting up your listing, you’ll answer some basic questions about your space. In Denver, hosts can only list their primary residence, so you’ll provide details about things like the number of guests your space can accommodate and the included amenities.

Set the Scene With Photos

When it comes to photos, include a good variety of wide shots and close-ups. This will give interested guests a good idea of the overall space, but also point out important details from the listing.

“Some people are very visual and won’t read the listing description,” Peters says. “I make fun of the close-up coffee pot pictures, but in reality, someone might be really excited about that Keurig, because they know they’re going to have coffee.”

She offers another example: A photo of the keypad entry. “Then people know they can let themselves in any time,” Peters says. “That’s important for people.”

Think about what makes your listing appealing. Maybe it’s only a $20 Uber from Red Rocks, or it’s close to the light rail. It might be within walking distance of a King Soopers or Sprouts. Use photos to convey these selling points.

Oh, and that washer and dryer? It probably isn’t the prettiest sight, but if someone’s looking to stay in Denver for a week, it could be a major selling point — especially if they’re planning to do a lot of hiking.

Bottom line: Showcase your space, its amenities and its location in the photos. In a world full of people who scan, you can’t count on folks reading your description.

Write a Description

All right. Now that you’ve hooked your potential guests with your photos, it’s time to give them more details in the description.

Here, you should highlight everything that makes your space unique and sellable. When starting out, Peters did a little market research by browsing similar listings in her area. She looked at each one from a guests’ point of view, like she was looking for a place to stay while out of town.

She concluded: “I don’t like novels written or when people don’t separate out paragraphs. I want it easy to read, and I want to invite people to ask for more information.”

In Peters’ listing, she starts by concisely describing the space and its location. It’s steps from the light rail and tucked between downtown and the Denver Tech Center, two hotspots.

She even calls out the type of guest her space tends to best suit: “Best for low-key couples, biz travelers, DU visitors, tourists, cannabis consumers, LGBTQ folks, honeymooners and Red Rocks concert goers.”

The listing launches into more specifics, but no paragraph runs longer than two to three sentences.

Bottom line: Think about what you look for as a guest when you’re traveling, then highlight these features and amenities in short and concise paragraphs.

Name Your Listing

Now this is the fun (but sometimes tricky part): Giving your listing a name. Besides your featured image, this is what potential guests will see when thumbing through Airbnb options, so it should call out both an appealing feature and also give it a bit of character.

For example, Peters named her space the “Retro Pad by DU in Virginia Village.” That’s because her space is full of relics from her childhood and her grandmother’s house: an orange crushed velvet chair, a macramé lamp, her grandmother’s afghans, a starburst clock… The name totally fits.

Because it stands out from the crowd, it helps make her listing more memorable to guests — and potential guests. “I think naming it gives people more attachment to it,” Peters says. “They’ll say, ‘We loved staying at the Retro Pad!’”

Bottom line: Give your listing a name that calls out its best features and also differentiates it from other listings. Bonus points if you give it a unique personality of its own.

Set House Rules

Airbnb has a set list of rules you can opt into if you’d like them included in your listing. A few of these include: suitable for pets, smoking allowed, and events or parties allowed. You also have the option to write in additional rules.

Try not to set too many rules; it could turn guests off. One area you’ll want to be clear with (because we’re talking Denver, after all) is your stance on smoking.

Peters decided to make her space 420-friendly, but she sets boundaries. She installed a charcoal-filter fan and asks that guests who do smoke use the fan. She also welcomes them to use the shared back porch. One rule hard no? No butane extractors, because they pose a safety issue with the water heater.

“We keep little signs around the apartment as reminders,” she says. “We haven’t had negative experiences around it; we’re pretty flexible people.”

Bottom line: When it comes to setting rules, don’t set too many. Pick and choose your battles. Those rules you do set, leave little reminders around your space to help your guests follow along.

Set up Your Calendar

Taking time to set up your calendar is important, because if you cancel on your guests, Airbnb will charge you a penalty fee.

A few questions you’ll answer include:

  • How often do you want to have guests?
  • How much notice do you need before a guest arrives?
  • When can guests check in?
  • How far in advance can guests book?
  • How long can guests stay?

You can always change these settings as you go, so don’t feel like you’re locked into anything.

Peters has found that most people don’t plan more than three months in advance. In fact, she gets a ton of reservations one-and-a-half to two months ahead of time, especially in the summer.

“It’s just understanding how it works and not panicking if you don’t have a full calendar right away,” Peters says.

Price Your Space

Airbnb has a Smart Pricing tool, which you can opt into to automatically adjust the price of your listing according to demand. For example, Airbnb will likely increase the price of your listing automatically if folks start booking up listings for a big concert at Red Rocks or during Denver PrideFest or the Great American Beer Festival.

You can — and should — set price minimums and maximums, so your listing won’t dip below a certain amount or spike to something unrealistic. Although Airbnb will suggest these amounts when you’re signing up, you should do your own research, too.

To determine these prices, you’ll first want to consider your expenses and how much it costs to maintain your space. Second, you’ll want to check out other similar listings to see how much they’re going for.

When you’re starting out, you’ll want to price your place lower, so you can get guests in the door, accumulate reviews and work your way to that Superhost status, which will help increase bookings in the long run.

Note Your Local Laws

All right! This is the fun part. Just kidding, but your local short-term rental laws in Denver aren’t bad. In fact, Peters says it’s one of the reasons Denver is such a great place to become an Airbnb host.

In Denver, you should:

  • Review Denver’s short-term rental rules and insurance requirements. These are all listed in this three-page document.
  • Secure a short-term rental license from the City and County of Denver if you plan to rent your property to guests for one to 29 days at a time. This must be your primary residence; if it’s not, you’ll need to obtain a Lodging Facility License. You can apply online, and note there’s a $25 fee. You’ll have to renew your license annually.

Also note Airbnb will ask you provide your business license number on your actual listing. When you’re signing up, you’ll see this, or you can add it by going to manage listing > calendar > location. You’ll find a box to paste it into there.

  • Don’t forget the Denver Lodger’s tax. You’ll need to apply for the Lodger’s Tax license, which is a $50 fee for two years of coverage. The tax rate is 10.75%, which is automatically charged to guests when they book through Airbnb.

These are the main licenses and regulations to consider. If you have questions along the way, Denver’s Short-Term Rental Advisory Committee meets regularly and aims to provide guidance and recommendations for short-term rental hosts.

In addition to hosting laws, you’ll also want to check with your homeowners association or landlord to make sure short-term rentals are permitted.

Also note that short-term rentals could invalidate some homeowner’s insurance, so check these policies with your provider.

Ready to Give This Whole Hosting Thing a Go?

How are you feeling? Like we said, listing your place on Airbnb is simple — but it does require some creativity and strategy. The good news is you can adjust or change your information and settings at any time, so you’re not locked into anything permanently.

Peters’ biggest tip? “It’s just staying up on your listing and being connected to it,” she says.

Airbnb is constantly changing its features, so keep your eyes peeled. Don’t be afraid to tweak your listing description, prices and calendar settings. Plus, Denver itself is constantly evolving, so stay in tune with your city.

And Peters reminds Denverites: “You’re not locked in. You can try hosting and see if you like it. There’s not a lot to be afraid of. If you’re curious, it’s worth making the investment of trying it.”

Interested in seeing how much money you could start making by listing your space? Use Airbnb’s price calculator to get started.

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She lived in Denver for a short time several years ago and deeply misses it.

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