My friend Courtney bought a really cool double in Edgewater a few years ago. She and her Dad painstakingly restored this house, built about 100 years ago, into an updated version with all the old details preserved. She LOVES history and homes and I’m forever grateful she lured me from my loft in Hingetown to this 3-bedroom home on Clifton Blvd right by the lake.
Her side was full of artful details and when they were working on my side, I said, ‘Leave it white, please!’
I wanted to keep some aspect of my former loft life- big, bright spaces- even if I’d be leaving the giant windows and open floor plan behind. I was gaining a back yard, 2 bedrooms, a best friend next door, a huge park a 5 minute walk away and the lake another 5 minutes beyond that.
After living there for 2 years, I really wanted to move. Back into a place with big, bright spaces. With a view of my beloved Cleveland (or the Lake) and where I could clean the place in 20 minutes, not 2 hours.
Efficient. Light-filled. Still, historic, but more modern.
My space on Clifton was so super charming, but sort of dark and closed in. And I often felt stuck and isolated there. I knew it was time to go- even though that would be both a tough conversation and I’d be leaving a lot of great things behind.
Edgewater is a great neighborhood. There are always people jogging, walking dogs, turning Halloween into a time to fully-reconstruct the front of their homes into faux haunted houses. There’s a lot of character and charm there. And that lake. I would walk there daily with my dog, Churro. It is such a soothing place.
My friend Nolan clued me into a new loft project taking shape inside the old Mueller Electric building in Asia Town and I thought I’d at least visit. Well I ended up signing a lease and then REALLY had to talk to Courtney. And that’s where the idea for my Airbnb came about. I didn’t want to leave Edgewater and Courtney but I did want to live somewhere else.
I also needed a creative project at the time. So began my quest to begin The Wes Anders Inn (with the name as an homage to my favorite director).
I recently closed it, less than 5 days ago and 13 months into my journey as the operator of this little inn. It’s been a journey.
If you’re looking to start an Airbnb, this look-back might help you.
A charming 3-bedroom home with a full (beautifully renovated) kitchen , 1.5 bathrooms (both renovated / new), back + front porch in the Edgewater, a 10 min walk to Edgewater Park + the Lake. 5 min drive to downtown.
What was working against me? Location (it’s not in a more trendy neighborhood where you can walk to bars, restaurants, shops), size (it’s kind of hard to book a 3-bedroom home to single travelers), the fact that I had a kind of high rent already (it was $1000 a month).
MY INVESTMENT IN THINGS / DESIGN = $3500
Furniture, bedding + decorations for each bedroom
Extra bedding to be able to have multiple sets of sheets per room
Lots of extra towels, wash cloths + 6 bathrobes from IKEA
Lower level furniture (table- got from a friend, yay! chairs- already owned them. New couch, TV, tv stand, 2 extra folding chairs)
Pots + Pans + other kitchen-specific stuff
Custom murals in the entryway + 1/2 bath
Painting throughout the house
Photography (I think this is crucial)
You don’t need to spend this much on getting the house ready but I had a 3-bedroom house to furnish so it cost more. Also, I wanted to be able to keep my daily rate what it might be for a modest design hotel / cool hostel rather than fight for the lowest cost place. I also wanted to attract people who would come just for the design. I think a lot of people travel to stay at unique and design-y homes with cool experiences, so I felt that my biggest selling points would be:
Design of the space + proximity to the Lake + the ability to host groups + staycation / chill-out weekends
RECURRING MONTHLY COSTS = About $1200 per month
Rent (I don’t own the house, so I still paid rent)
My time (or hired help) cleaning + re-setting
Cleaning Supplies, Toilet Paper, Paper Towels, etc
Coffee + Creamer + water in the fridge
WHAT DID IT HAVE TO MAKE FOR ME TO MAKE ANY MONEY?
So, to pay back my investment over a year AND to pay for my monthly costs it had to bring in $1500 per month just to pay for itself. That doesn’t include taxes- which will be roughly 30% of the income I brought in. So really it had to bring in about $2000 per month to be a wash and about $3000 a month if i wanted to make any money. That meant it had to be booked AT LEAST 12 days a month at the group rate or 30 days at the single rate.
HOW DID I ACTUALLY DO? AND HOW DID I DO IT?
I had 2 listings- one for the group rate and one for the single room rate. I also had a special photography rate, because my place ended up being a spot that people REALLY wanted to come to for photos. For photographers, I charged more and required them to tag me in posts and allowed them just to be there for the day, so that I had to do minimal cleaning.
I also had an amazing family book the airbnb for 2 months while they were renovating their home and that helped out tremendously. I think that was just luck. They booked from October to nearly Christmas. I also closed in January for most of the month to do all the painting / murals and to make each room a little more design-y. Luckily, I had a really cool group book for a full week at the group rate in early January and that paid for the entire month I was closed for renovations.
TOTAL COST OF THE AIRBNB FOR 13 MONTHS = $25,400 (monthly expenses, up-front expenses, taxes)
WHAT I MADE AT THE AIRBNB OVER 13 MONTHS = $29,031 (monthly payouts + selling of stuff at my estate sale)
So, for this ENTIRE year of work, I made $4000.
WAS IT WORTH IT?
Financially, no. If I owned the property or had a long-term lease that was much less expensive, then sure. Startup costs are high but you usually only need to pay them once, so being in business for more than a year makes sense.
Creatively? Yes. I was in a really dark place and this gave me something to work on and work toward in ways that fulfilled my creative spirit. But I only needed it for a short time, and with something like this, it’s hard to get yourself out of it early because you’d had to cancel a ton of people, lose a bunch of money, etc. So I stuck with it. I loved the story of my Wes Anders Inn. I loved creating rooms for the female heroines in his films. I loved getting to study and bring to life Margot, Suzy and Rita. I loved sourcing items that I think they’d have in their own rooms. I loved working with my friends and vendors to find amazing stuff for the space. I loved taking design chances and showing off this house that my friend and her dad had so painstakingly renovated. I loved meeting people who love Wes Anderson as much as me. I loved giving away pieces of the house (during the Estate Sale) whose lives will be made a little brighter with the things they bought to put in their own homes. I loved meeting people who loved the space. I was elated how many people told me that they LOVE Cleveland more now that they got to visit the first time and stay in such a creative space. The emotional and creative sides were so fulfilling. But to be honest, it would also HAVE to be more financially lucrative for me to want to continue.
I also might not have met Aubree, who became a dear friend and who now works with me at Cleveland Flea. I might not have been able to fulfill some amazingly creative dreams unless I started here.
Growth-wise? Yes. I grew so much this year of running this Airbnb. I now know that I want to design my own home. I want to have a hotel or a hospitality space where I can host people and let them have moments of self-care and creativity. I learned how to navigate tough conversations with people I love. I feel like an expert in Airbnb, and I love that. I learned a lot about the back-end of the app that will serve me at Cleveland Flea.
All in all, I made $4000 to learn a million things and become a better version of myself, leave my friend’s home with a lot of beautiful design, solidify my desire to own a hotel or standalone airbnb, provide myself with a ton of financial expertise in how I’d plan my next venture there and find an amazing friend and team mate.
I also delighted a ton of guests with a space that sparked their joy as soon as they walked in the door.
Progress. Growth. Following my heart. And yes, even money, too.
I’m glad I did it and I’m really glad it’s over.
I think it worked because it was charming and whimsical and I also worked my ass off to learn it and give it my all. However, my ‘all’ was tempered by the fact that I also am CEO and team leader of a wild startup already so the time and energy it really would require to make much more money on it (which I TOTALLY could have done) was just not possible for me. And that’s why I closed it. My return on the investment of my own time is HUGE within my own business, and I just can’t spread myself too thin because I really want to make big things happen in my own business- not in an airbnb, no matter how cute it is.