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The trend of “workcationing” has changed the landscape for Airbnb travel. With the flexibility of remote work, long-term stays have increased 50% since 2019, according to Airbnb data. Short-term rental owners are busier than ever at the start of 2023 and vacationers are paying for relaxation and adventure in popular and remote destinations with unique lodging options. However, selling your Airbnb to another owner-operator hoping to make rental income may be more difficult as long as interest rates remain elevated, depressing the market for second homes in 2023.
Still, with attractive opportunities to make money owning an Airbnb or similar property, current owners looking to get out of the short-term rental game may be interested in selling their Airbnb — if they can find a buyer. Here’s our guide for navigating a successful sale of your short-term rental property.
Know Airbnb and Vrbo terms and conditions
If you’re selling your Airbnb or Vrbo listing, it’s important that you know the terms and conditions or your membership could get revoked. With Airbnb, accounts are assigned to hosts rather than properties. This means your content, photos, listings, and reviews belong to you, not your property. Owners cannot transfer ownership of listings to the new owner when they sell a property.
“When an owner sells the property, that listing is closed and the new owner will need to recreate a listing,” explains Luke Smith, property investor and owner of We Buy Property in Kentucky. Smith says you could keep the same listing, but would need to work with Airbnb to make that happen. Before selling your Airbnb, you’ll need to complete all bookings. and the property is clean and ready for the buyer to use, notes Smith.
Vrbo’s terms and conditions are fairly similar to Airbnb. Listings cannot be transferred to the new owner. New owners must create a new account and listing after their purchase; former owners must deactivate their listing. In the event you sell a property, your property description and photos cannot be transferred to the new owner. However, your buyer may request to transfer the listings reviews to the new listing.
Market your Airbnb’s home value and income history to investors
With a short-term vacation rental, proof of your rental income demonstrates the value of a property as an investment. “When selling a property as a rental, the investor will purchase the property at a premium because they are paying for the actual property along with the future income that it should continue to produce,” explains Smith.
When you can provide documentation about property revenue, occupancy rates, and pricing, it allows the investor to see your property’s income potential value and makes your listing appeal to buyers seeking a sound investment. When lenders evaluate income properties, they calculate the median income it brought the owner over the last quarter. In the same way, knowing the rental income potential of a property allows investors to interpret their return on investment. The higher the income potential, the higher the sales price is likely to be.
Market the other value add-ons of your property
Prime location: You can sell your property at a premium price when it’s in a great location, especially if the home is well-maintained, says Smith. Some coveted locations include coastal communities, mountain cabins, ski resorts, and areas close to restaurants and entertainment.
Access to professional contacts: Another valuable add-on to investors is providing access to a network of professionals. They may include property managers and maintenance pros that keep the property in ship-shape. Sellers often share professional [service and maintenance] contacts and contracts with the new owner, says Cheryl Coleman, a top real estate agent in Huntington Beach, California, who has owned many short-term rental properties.
“If the [investor intends on] renting out the property, they might choose to use the same services for cleaning, gardening, and repairs,” Coleman explains.
Know your ideal buyer when selling your Airbnb
“When pricing your Airbnb, know who your ideal buyer is,” says Mike Tewel, a property investor in Miami Beach, Florida. You’ll typically find two types of investors: entrepreneurs and large investment companies. Entrepreneurs are investors with a small real estate portfolio that act as owner-operators. These buyers tend to compare prices and features of properties to Airbnb listings recently sold in the neighborhood, similar to how an agent would do a comprehensive analysis.
“If you’re targeting a larger real estate investor, they are normally looking at cap rates,” says Tewel. Cap rates, also known as capitalization percentage rates, relate to the rate of return a real estate investment is expected to generate. To find the cap rate, divide the net income by the property asset value to get an estimate of an investor’s prospective return.
Attract buyers with high-quality photos
According to Airbnb, research data showed that owners earned up to 20% more bookings and 20% higher earnings when they used professional photos to market their listings. These percentage rates came from an analysis based on 5,000 global listings with professional photos. The data was measured among active listings on the platform eight weeks before and eight weeks after uploading professional photos.
Just as vacationers view images when choosing lodging, investors will be more likely to schedule a showing of your property if they view high-quality photos. “If your pictures look sad and old, no one will want to stay there, much less buy the property,” says Smith.
Airbnb can connect you with local professional photographers that can help show your listing in its best light. The company will also inform you about what to expect from your photoshoot, how to prepare, and provide staging tips for each room. If you have keen photography skills such as lighting techniques and working with angles, a tripod, and a DSLR, you might be able to attract buyers with high-quality images of your property and save some money.
Share your listing reviews with buyers
In any business, customer testimonials and reviews make a bigger impact on buyers than the words coming from a salesperson or business owner. High praise about a host and their property lets investors know you’re a reasonable person to deal with a well-maintained property.
When you share positive reviews of your Airbnb, it makes a good impression on investors. “Reviews can also assure buyers that their own guests will feel safe and comfortable staying there,” says Tewel.
“If you provide good service and your property is well-maintained, you should be able to accumulate many good reviews,” says Smith. “These should be saved and used in advertising when listing the property for sale.”
Advertise your short-term rental license
Advertising a short-term rental license required for some jurisdictions lets investors know your short-term rental complies with zoning regulations and meets safety and health requirements for your Airbnb rental. When you have your license with your other documents, you might be able to transfer the license. Licensing rules will depend on your jurisdiction.
Consider selling your Airbnb turnkey and furnished
Whether you’re selling a short-term rental to an investor or a traditional real estate listing to a buyer, you’ll find most buyers prefer turnkey properties over homes that need to be updated and renovated. Especially when an investor owns other properties, listing your turnkey Airbnb rental will appeal to more prospective buyers.
To save the investor time, consider listing your property furnished when the furniture is in good shape. You can also offer to share your photos with the new owner which is an added value for the buyer.
How can I find an agent who specializes in investment properties when selling my Airbnb?
Selling investment properties requires different skills and expertise than selling a typical, owner-occupied property. A top agent with experience selling investment properties will know how to present data such as income history, occupancy, and cap rates to investors, and also know how to access pricing data for similar short term rentals that sold in the neighborhood. An agent who sells in the area might even have access to buyers looking for a short-term rental similar to yours.
Sell to an investor for a competitive cash offer and a quick sale
When you want to sell your property fast, consider selling your short-term rental for cash. Lender requirements such as home inspections and appraisals can hold up a sale and often delay your closing. For a fast sale, consider selling your property for a cash offer. The process is quick and easy and some sellers have sold their properties in days.
Final thoughts on selling your Airbnb
With the above-mentioned expert tips, you’re ready to market your property for success and know your key responsibilities to stay in good graces with Airbnb. If you’ve earned Superhost status and wish to sell your Airbnb but still manage the property as its host, you can keep your URL, photos, and reviews, and just change the bank account information to the new owner, which will let you relish the rewards as a host for your hard work while putting more money in your wallet.
Header Image Source: (Dianne / Pexels)
- "Workcations are the new vacations. Here’s how to pull one off.," The Washington Post (July 2021)
- "Airbnb 2022 Summer Release highlights," Airbnb (May 2022)
- "Terms of Service," Airbnb (February 2022)
- "Capitalization Rate," Investopedia (April 2022)
- "Regulating Airbnb: how cities deal with perceived negative externalities of short-term rentals," Shirley Nieuwland & Rianne van Melik, Taylor & Francis Online (August 2018)