Managing Airbnbs Remotely: How We’re Traveling and Earning $120k Per Year

July 25, 2023

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There once was a time when the idea of making a passive income from anywhere in the world sounded like the stuff that completely unrealistic fantasies are made of. But these days, more people than ever before are coming up with clever ways to earn a living no matter where they happen to be physically located. One income source is managing Airbnbs remotely.

Not convinced? We sat down with James and Emily Lowery from Rethink the Rat Race, a young couple who are pulling in $10k a month through remote property and Airbnb management. Becoming property and Airbnb hosts has allowed the couple to quit their jobs and spend their days traveling the world together, all while working an average of about an hour a week. 

While the idea of managing a property, vacation rental, or Airbnb remotely sounds awesome, you're not alone if you're thinking something along the lines of “Where do you even start?” Rest assured you've come to the right place to find out. 

Read on to find out how Emily and James got into the remote host and property ownership game and check out the advice they have for newcomers. We'll break down everything from how they keep their guests happy from afar to how to handle things like cleaning and maintenance tasks. 

How the Lowerys Got Into Property and Airbnb Rentals

When James and Emily Lowery first got married, they dared to dream of a life beyond the perpetual rat race. As Emily explains, one of the couple's first long-term goals was to see if they could figure out a way to become stay-at-home parents. 

That's when James discovered the FIRE movement, which has nothing to do with actual flames of any sort. FIRE stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early – a premise which James had to admit sounded pretty awesome. 

“I dove headfirst into it,” he recalls. “I was obsessed with everything about it.”

The more he and Emily studied the movement, the more they were drawn to the idea of using real estate and Airbnb property rentals to achieve their goals. Looking back, the couple says real estate stood out from other ideas, such as stock market investing, for several reasons. 

Not only did starting a property and Airbnb business offer a quicker path to financial freedom, but also a lot more control. “I can't control what Elon Musk tweets or what the stocks do,” James laughs. “There's so much more control with real estate than there is with the stock market. I can control what goes into a property and I can control what it rents for based on that.”

As plenty of spurned DOGE investors around the world will admit, he does have a point. Ultimately, the couple decided to take the leap and set out in search of their first property. 

The Road to Managing Airbnbs Remotely 

The irony of James and Emily's story is that when they first got into property management, they didn't necessarily plan to run an Airbnb remotely – or at all. Initially, the plan was to purchase a long-term rental property and see how things went from there. 

After searching the markets, the day finally arrived when the couple pinpointed their first potential property. The two drove to the site of their prospective first rental, ready to conquer the world… only to discover that reality had other plans. 

Looking back, they joke that they arrived on-site to discover that the property was in such a questionable part of town, they considered not even getting out of the car. But even after braving a walk-through, they found it difficult to resist the urge to run screaming into the night.

Ultimately, they politely explained that they were going to keep looking and headed off in search of greener pastures. But cut to a few months later, when they found themselves living in St. Louis for one of Emily's work assignments. 

Opportunity Knocks from An Embarrassing Offer

James was sitting around one day, browsing the markets back home when, suddenly, there it was – the same property in all its debatable glory. That's when he decided to make a bold move. 

As it recounts, “I told Emily, ‘I'm just going to throw in an embarrassing offer.'” To the couple's surprise, it turns out that fortune favors the embarrassing, as their offer was immediately accepted. 

Overnight, James and Emily found themselves the proud, albeit somewhat-accidental, owners of their very first rental property. Unbeknownst to them, purchasing a property while living in a different state would serve as a great intro to what it takes to manage an Airbnb remotely. 

During the course of purchasing the property, interviewing property managers, and even securing their first tenant from out of state, the Lowerys got a crash course in remote property management 101. While initially time-consuming, the process paid off when they got their very first rent check, which doubled the cost of their mortgage. 

The Pre-Remote Airbnb Host Couple Days

So how does a couple who sets out to buy a long-term rental property end up managing an Airbnb remotely? Make no mistake – the Lowerys didn't just buy their first property one day and globe-trot off to Paris the next. 

Upon realizing the potential of real estate ownership, they ultimately returned to their hometown of Huntsville, Alabama, where they put in a lot of hard work to expand their property portfolio. While most young couples their age were spending their income on flashy cars or houses, the Lowerys dedicated themselves to the frugal life. 

Back in those days, they were able to live on around $20k a year and put their extra income into additional property investments. They lucked out upon meeting a savvy lender who helped them navigate mortgage laws by putting different loans in each of their names and ultimately worked their way up to owning multiple properties in the Huntsville area. 

In the beginning, they did a great deal of their own renovations, from painting to maintenance work, all while still holding down jobs. It was only after they were able to put aside enough cash to live for a few years that they decided it was time to put the “remote” into their remote host business. 

Rather than run off to Europe and hope for the best, the couple decided to first test the waters.”We gave it a trial run for a few months,” James explains. “Let's see if we can not go to a property and just hire a handyman, send them over to meet the tenant, and do everything that way.”

To their delight, the trial run actually worked. Emily was even able to score a 6-month leave of absence, which was a nice security blanket in case things somehow went terribly wrong.

Long-Term Rental to Airbnb Property

So, where did Airbnb come into play? Emily explains that it was while traveling in Europe that they first explored the idea of turning one of their rentals into an Airbnb rental. 

After finding themselves with an opening, they were hesitant to fill the property long-term so that they'd definitely have a place to land when they came back to the States. It was then that the idea of filling it with an Airbnb guest first occurred to them. 

So, the couple took yet another plunge and created their first Airbnb listing. As it turned out, it would be a move that would launch them head-on into the Airbnb business. 

This isn't to say, however, that they decided to join Team Airbnb and never look back. While they discovered that managing Airbnb property remotely could be very lucrative, they decided to create a mixed portfolio of real estate properties. 

As Emily explained, their ten properties now cater to a mixture of everyone from long-term tenants to Airbnb guests. The couple now classifies their properties according to how long tenants or guests stay and currently own:

  • 3 short-term properties:  1 – 30 nights
  • 2 medium-term properties: 1 month – 6 months
  • 5 long-term properties: 1 year +

The Pros and Cons of Managing Airbnb Remotely

Why not just turn your guest house into a vacation rental and manage your Airbnb from a beach in the Bahamas full-time? As James explains, long-term and short-term rentals each come with their own pros and cons. 

While you can make much more money by renting your property to an Airbnb guest for a few nights, running an Airbnb remotely requires a little more involvement as far as guest communication and keeping up with the booking process. Managing an Airbnb remotely also involves hiring a property manager or co-host who can handle guest check-ins and check-out, unless you choose to install smart locks, security cameras, and/or a keyless entrance. 

Regardless, it's good to have a set of local emergency contact numbers handy in case problems arise and your guests need someone to show up in person. If you want to get into the remote Airbnb business, you'll also want to hire a professional cleaning service (or your tidiest family member) to ensure your property offers an excellent guest experience.

Not only can a good cleaning company tidy up after every guest leaves, but they can also keep things like toilet paper fully stocked, make sure your house rules are followed, and turn off the air conditioning or other unnecessary utilities. But while Airbnb rental brings in more money, James points out that the trade-off is a little more work and less predictability. 

With long-term rentals, once someone signs a lease, they tend to be in it for the long haul, or at least 12 months. James admits that the challenge of managing an Airbnb remotely is that, “There's less security because you don't know if you're going to have bookings or not.” 

Breaking into the Airbnb Business

Emily and James say that launching a successful remote vacation rental business largely comes down to assembling the right team to help manage your Airbnb while you're away. While there are host tools like software that can create an automated message flow to help keep your guests informed, you'll need to have a trusted cleaning company and property manager to ensure your guests have a great experience. 

Be sure to take your time, hire a team you can trust, and pay them on time to ensure you maintain an excellent business relationship. Even though it took some work to get started, managing Airbnb and rental homes has turned out incredibly well for James and Emily. 

Six years into their journey, the couple reports that they now put in an average of an hour's work a week with a $120k – $140k annual payoff. They're now living the life of their dreams and plan to keep more bookings and positive reviews rolling in for years to come. 

When asked whether they plan to expand their remote Airbnb empire, the two report that they've actually found their sweet spot as owners of around 10 properties. After all, as James points out, “There's something to be said about limiting the amount of stress you have.”  

Wise words indeed. 

Tips for Getting Into Airbnb Management 

Before you hop online, create an Airbnb account, and start accepting new guests, the Lowerys have a few more words of wisdom. They recommend checking out resources offered by real estate investing gurus like Coach Carson

Be sure you also check out James and Emily's free real estate calculator too. It can help you break down how much you stand to earn by turning your long-term rental property into an Airbnb or vacation rental. 

Whether you decide to manage Airbnbs remotely or locally, we hope you have gleaned some great insights into what's possible when you delve into the wonderful world of real estate! 

Have you considered remote work? Would you ever want to earn money managing Airbnbs remotely?

Please let us know in the comments below.

Ashley Reign

Ashley Reign

Ashley Reign is a Los Angeles-based writer who loves delving into the intricacies of personal finance. Her work has been published on sites like Forbes, Empower, and The Impact Investor. In her spare time, Ashley can be found honing her martial arts skills or reading a great book with her rock star rescue cats, Vegas and Reno. 

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