I previously worked at HotelTonight, where I forecasted supply and demand for hotel rooms in California. I use what I learned and apply it on Airbnb to live rent free in San Francisco and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam.

When I was searching for where to live in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), I mapped out three criteria:

  • It needs to be central. In other words, is it quickly accessible to the town’s best coffee shop or breakfast spot?
  • The house or apartment would need multiple rooms, each having its private bathroom
  • I would like to live rent free to justify renting out a larger space, taking the risk, and maintaining the operation

Which district did I choose and why?

If I were to rent for the purpose of living well and Airbnbing extra rooms, I would choose to live in District 1 or District 3.

I settled on a three bedroom, three bathroom house with a loft at the border of District 1 and 3. I was paying a bit more than some options I had, but the incremental Airbnb revenue and personal value I got from living centrally outweighed the fixed cost of higher rent. I lived in one room and listed the other two private rooms. My roommate lived in the loft and helped me manage the Airbnb in exchange for free rent, which reduced my time commitment.

Photo: Bunker Bed & Breakfast
Photo: Bunker Bed & Breakfast

Airbnb Strategy Tips in Ho Chi Minh City

There is high demand and high supply on Airbnb in Vietnam. As a result, rates are low and price wars are common. You’ll have to stand out with photos, consistent reviews, and superhost status to be competitive long-term

  • Modern amenities and photos will command much higher rates. Most Airbnb travelers come from overseas, so expectations are different
  • You can set minimum stay requirements by season and specific dates. I’ll set a two-night minimum during Vietnam’s high season (December-April). By setting minimum stay requirements or giving discounts to week long stays, you’ll reduce turnover costs
  • Most of my Airbnb inquiries in Vietnam typically come 2–4 weeks in advance, though many are last-minute too
  • When pricing your space, note that there is a price ceiling for private rooms. While entire apartments and houses can vary on price, price-conscious solo or couple travelers that stay in private rooms won’t care about the room size . They want a room that is in a good location, offers a comfy and clean bed, usually a private bathroom
  • Add some verifications and references from friends, write a compelling bio, and throw up some photos. Here’s my profile
  • Add cleaning and extra person fees. It’s not reflected in the initial rate.By doing this, you can lower your initial room price and boost your listing in the ranking algorithm
  • Be aware of the final cost to the consumer when pricing. They are subject to guest service fees. Would the total amount make your listing uncompetitive?

Rent Free with Airbnb in Vietnam

What kind of travelers can I expect on Airbnb in Vietnam?

  • Couples and single leisure travelers
  • Asian business travelers from Singapore, Seoul, and Kuala Lumpur
  • Americans, Europeans, Australians and Kiwis represent about 50% of bookings, while the rest are from Asia
  • Easy-going leisure travelers who are in Vietnam to have a good time and meet others!

Can I generate profit on Airbnb in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)?

  • Here are the first two months of revenue and cost data on my Airbnb listings. The Average Daily Rate was around $25 while occupancy was around 95%
  • Rates would go up as the high season came around, though given that my listings started with zero reviews and I started in the rainy season, rates were lower than my expected Average Daily Rate of $35

Results

I made $47 in the first month and $221 in the second month in total profit after all expenses, while not paying rent for my own room (which saved me around $450/month). So in total I saved $900 and generated $268 in net profit over two months. I was also able to automate some responsibilities by offering my roommate free rent in exchange for his help.

Automating your listing to make passive income

I was able to offer my roommate free rent which I valued at at least $250. I could have found a tenant, but by having my roommate help take care of my listings, I saved time and money.

What are some things you can do with your rent money every month?

  • Take a trip to Nha Trang, Hoi An, or Phu Quoc every weekend
  • Enjoy some of the most expensive resorts in Vietnam without needing to budget for it
  • Enjoy the pricier dining options in Ho Chi Minh City more often (my favorites include Noir and Ciao Bella)
  • And not money related, but I’ve met some pretty cool people hosting through Airbnb. I’ve traveled with former Airbnb hosts and guests to Cuba, Tokyo, and Sri Lanka