How to Win at Airbnb with Superhost @Robuilt
Rare & actionable insight from STR expert Rob Abasolo, YouTube sensation and owner of a nationwide cabin rental empire netting over $25k a month in profit
Welcome to another Deep Dive from Cabins Etc, the #1 newsletter for cabin lovers and future cabin owners. Today we’re talking short term rentals, or STRs. If you’re like me, your cabin dreams have really ratchet up in recent years. With the prospect of Airbnbing, these cabin dreams actually seem within reach. I mean, owning a neat little cabin (or two or three!) and having it pay for itself sounds pretty sick. Now image making a living from it?!
Below we’ll share so much damn STR insight it’s crazy, and it’s all from Airbnb expert Rob Abasolo, aka Robuilt. As Rob is such a strong believer in sharing experiences for the betterment of everyone, this Deep Dive, our weekly feature exclusive to paid tier subscribers, will be spared from the paywall for all to read and draw inspiration from. (That said, if you are a free subscriber, pls consider supporting Cabins Etc, as these beastly emails take A LOT of effort to compile).
Below we will share:
→ The most important investment to make with your STR
→ How to hack the Airbnb SEO algorithm
→ What determines an Airbnb’s success—is it location, design, or ???
→ Can anyone find success on Airbnb (spoiler: yes)
But first, a little backstory cus I have fun writing these lengthy intros hehe
It was deep in Covid-times, 2020, I found myself again down a DIY cabin building rabbit hole. In between old vids of Primitive Technology and new eps from Never Too small and Dirt and Glass, I remembered a conversation I’d had with my pal Mike of Den (what up Mike!). Check out the Robuilt channel, he’d said. And so I did. Fast forward four hours later, and well, I feel like I hit the motherload. The dude rules.
Robuilt the YouTube channel and IG account are run by Rob Abasolo, an advertising industry creative turned tiny house builder turned Airbnb expert and STR magnate. He’s a prolific content producer and an 11x Airbnb Superhost with a stable of 14 rental cabins, vacation houses, and glamping sites that to date have brought in over $1,500,000 in bookings. He currently grosses $25k in profit a month (yes, profit, like, after cleaning expenses, mortgages, partnership splits, etc) from his existing roster of STRs, though he hopes to hit 40 (!) properties by EOY, which he estimates should net him around $50 or $60k a month. Hot damn!
Now, I’m sharing these wild financials straight out the gate for the same reason Rob does, for transparency and inspiration. The son of immigrants from Mexico, Rob has perseverance and generosity in his blood. He’s found success by doing. Four years ago he built a tiny house ADU in his Los Angeles backyard for $72k, then in 2020 started a YouTube channel to talk about it, and his other DIY projects. Now, he entertains 154k subs on YouTube with vlog style videos filled with thorough budget breakdowns and finance reveals, shared experiences and straight up damn good advice.
Rob’s latest project is a “tiny house village” that is actually going to be more of a treehouse glamping village in his new hometown of Gatlinburg, Tennessee (gateway to the Smoky Mountain National Park, for those unfamiliar), where he moved with his family last year. And when he’s hustling permits for his treehouse A-frames, vlogging, or posting IG Reels, Rob is tending to students of Host Camp, a 12-month mentorship program where he coaches folks through building their own short-term rental business from the ground up.
Long story short, Rob is a fountain of knowledge with a solid sense of humor and someone I just simply like. Plus he uses Thrasher font, which is a total coincidence but I love nonetheless. So I recently got him on the phone to talk shop. Sadly I had to cut about half of all we talked about cus this newsletter was just getting too damn long, but that just means what is left is all killer no filler (sry for the Sum 41 songs flooding ur brains rn).
Read on for a proper Q&A where Rob shares what he’s into right now, why he’s down to overshare, and of course, a bunch of secrets to Airbnb success. Thanks!
Graham: Creating a glampsite, building a tiny house, or renovating a cabin—If you had to choose just one for your next project, which would it be and why?
Rob: Was a treehouse one of those options? Can I add that in as an option?
Haha yes you can add that one in.
I think I'd go treehouse, man. I mean, I've always been super fascinated. And there's such a knowledge gap on resources online on how to build a tree house and all that kind of stuff.
You know, you can find stuff on tiny houses and renovating houses, but for me, treehouse has always been so unobtainable. I’ve always wanted a treehouse, I've just never been able to afford it both from a monetary standpoint and an experienced knowledge standpoint. But now that I have a little bit of capital and knowledge to actually execute it, it really is like a childhood dream come true.
So that's kind of where I'm putting a lot of my time and effort into in these upcoming years.
Why are you comfortable, or even interested in, being so transparent about your finances and the effort that goes into building Airbnbs?
Man, a lot of people talk like, I can't believe you're giving away your secret sauce, and all that stuff. But you know, people still have to do it. And then they still have to beat me. Haha. So I'm always very open about my numbers, because I had no one to teach me this stuff, man. I had to learn everything the hard way. There were no YouTube personalities, really, when I was first getting started building four years ago that like taught the actual nuanced details and were super transparent.
There were people that were making millions of dollars, but they were scared of giving away the information, scared of creating competition for themselves. So you'd have all these influencer bros that were like, look at me, I'm a guru, I'm making $5 million a year. And people would be like, well, how?!, and then they would be like, none of your business. That kind of stuff. And it really bothered me. So I'm like, well, if I can make someone's life easier, just by teaching my experience and what I've been through, then hopefully it can help other people change your lives too.
That's kinda my way of giving back in a sense, is giving knowledge that hopefully can help someone quit their 9 to 5 job, because I just recently quit mine back in March of 2021 and it's been the most life-changing gratifying experience. And so for me, if my transparency can help someone quit their job, then cool. That makes me feel great. It's a little bit bigger than me—I think that there's enough to go around for everyone. So I don't have to be stingy with my knowledge.
That's cool. I appreciate that. And I feel you there. Cus a core pillar of building Field Mag has always been a “rising tides lift all ships” perspective…
100% man, I'm totally with you. That's a phrase that comes up more than you’d think in my life right now, rising tide raises all ships, because, ya dude, it's a team effort and it's a lot more fun to be making money with other people than to be rich alone. Like, what's the point?
In that spirit, can you share a secret or two to building a top 10 Airbnb portfolio?
For sure. You'll probably agree with this, but the number one most important investment that you can make in an Airbnb is… Actually, I'm going to start with number two, the number two most important investment that you can make on an Airbnb is your furniture.
A lot of people will cheap out here. They'll go to Ikea, Target, Walmart, Craigslist, Let Go, Facebook marketplace, and just assemble whatever furniture that they can get. But that furniture falls apart and it doesn't look very good cause it's used and it's scratched. So I always tell people, invest your money in furniture. It's a 100% worth it. So that's going to be my second most important tip.
But the first most important tip is professional photography. Ultimately, professional photography can make your place look badass, even if it's filled with terrible furniture. That’s a little misleading and you don't want to do that, but theoretically, good photography can make any place look great.
However, if you pair good photography with incredible interior design and like high-end furniture, or quality furniture, then you have like a really unstoppable Airbnb. On top of that you want to have a great headline, great listing copy.
And that’s it, that’s the secret. Write a good headline, blow out your listing copy. A lot of people will just write one tiny paragraph and be done with it. And they spend no time making the listing read beautifully. They don't spend money on photography or furniture. But if you do those four things, man, I think you can have a great successful Airbnb literally anywhere.
Makes sense. Now, are there Airbnb-specific SEO tricks owners can do to ensure their house shows up near the top of local searches?
A lot of it comes down to those four things that I just told you, because if you have a really great listing and people convert by booking that's ultimately what's going to make your Airbnb SEO go through the roof. If Airbnb says, oh, Graham has this awesome listing and he gets 1,000 views and of the 1,000 views, 30% convert, or whatever. Well, he's a hot commodity, so let's promote him because we know anytime we promote his page at the top of the search results, it gets booked.
It's the same thing with messaging people super quickly. If someone sends you a reservation request and you don't respond to it for 23 hours, well, that's 23 hours that this person now has to second guess that they want to take the trip, second guess your place. Maybe they'll go to VRVO or booking.com. Whereas if they send me that same reservation request and I respond within a minute. Airbnb says, Rob converts these people into customers within a minute, but it takes Graham 23 hours. So let's push Rob up to the top.
It's really comes down to how are you making money for Airbnb and how fast are you making money for Airbnb? And you want Instant Book turned on, because that allows someone to literally book instantly versus waiting for hours, right?
So, things like response time, conversion rate, and how quickly people can book, those are like really going to be the biggest factors on the SEO side of things for Airbnb.
Suppose someone has a rental property but they have a full-time job and limited free time. Should they spend time building an IG account or YouTube channel to promote their house/cabin/etc or focus more on responding to messages and becoming a Superhost?
I would really focus on the nuts and bolts of the actual listing. It certainly couldn't hurt to have those accounts, but you gotta have a good listing first before you focus on the social media side of things.
I mean, I have Instagram accounts for certain properties. and I'm sure bookings come through YouTube and through Instagram, but the majority of bookings just come from being populated at the top of the Airbnb search result.
When determining the success of an airbnb rental, be it a glampsite, tiny house, cabin, etc, what is the single most important factor? Geographical location, opportunity in local market, exterior or interior design?
Ooh, that's a tough one. I would say ultimately it's geographic location. That’s super important. I'm always investing in [properties near] national parks, state parks, vacation destinations, and tourist type of cities.
So tourist cities would be like Hollywood in California, right. Or in Florida where Disneyworld is. State parks and national parks are like the original Disneyland, right? Like no one has to market the Grand Canyon or Zion or Yosemite or, you know, Gatlinburg. People go there by the millions every year.
What do people comment on, or seem to appreciate the most about your Airbnbs?
People really comment on the interior design. So I focus on making sure that all those gathering places are super comfortable. That to me is really important.
If I know that the center piece of a house is the living room, where people are going to converge and talk and make memories together, then I’ve got to make sure the living room is as comfortable as humanly possible.
If the living room is small, but the kitchen is grandiose and big, then I know that people are going to be converging around the kitchen and cooking dinner together. So if the selling point is the kitchen I want to make sure that it's fully stocked.
It’s pretty straightforward then, huh?
Haha right? Whenever I'm breaking down my top rules for success, people are like, oh, okay. It's that easy? I'm like, yep, you just needed me to tell you, I guess.
OK last Q. But a big one. Do you think anyone can be successful with building a rental?
Yes. And that’s not even a question. We get so in our head with analysis paralysis and getting started, but really like the best education you can ever have is getting into your first deal.
You can read all the books, watch all the Robuilt YouTube videos, you can read all the articles and all that kind of stuff, but you're not going to learn it until you do it.
Get into your first deal and you'll learn everything you ever need to know from it. So you may not make a lot of money in your first deal. You don't have to. You just have to do it. It's the experience that you learn from that first deal where you're going to make so much more money in the future as a result, because you're going to know exactly what to avoid.
Thanks for reading!