Can You Get Rich With AirBnB?

Rattakorn Tarachiwat @GoodPlace

This article is contributed by GoodPlace reader, Sue Yi. If you’ve got a question for Sue, use this form.

Short answer: you can’t. Sorry to burst your bubble. If you want to make lots of money quick, try running a scam instead. What I can show you here is how to make an extra couple of bucks on the side without having to hustle DVDs in the pasar malam or worse, peddle multi-level marketing scams (OK, Khai Yin made me say that). Given the increasing number of rich gwailos who continue to throng our country for cheap food, pirated DVDs and (ahem) friendly company, there’s lots of money to be made in the short-let niche. Let me show you how I do it.

Step 1: Take Some Property Porn

First of all, you’ve got to have some pretty kick-butt pictures to show off your unit. 80% of your marketing is in the pics! Now don’t do a lame-ass job with a 0.8 megapixel camera, and certainly don’t plaster your email address written in Comic Sans font on top of the pictures.

Hype-y headlines and copywriting sadly won’t make your unit stand out – pretty pictures do. Now with smartphones and apps like Instagram, it’s quite easy to take appealing pictures without expensive professional equipment. I used to do this by myself, but after I’ve made some cash (remember to treat this as a business – scared money don’t make money) I’ve pretty much outsourced it to professional photographers.

Pro tip: wedding photographers are a dime a dozen these days, and you can target those who are in-between wedding gigs. Since they are not dealing with picky brides they don’t usually charge an arm and a leg, but it’s good to haggle. I heard from a wedding planner friend that there is chronic oversupply of photographers (since any Tom, Dick and Harry can do this job given a little bit of talent and some cash to invest in equipment), and as Economics 101 would tell us, prices tend to go down with excessive supply. Budget for a couple hundred bucks for a good set of high resolution pictures.

Once you’ve gotten the pics, then it’s time to Photoshop them. I hate to make this somewhat sexist comparison, but Photoshop to pics is like makeup to women! Like it or not, you need to spruce up the pics digitally. The good news is that you can “Photoshop” pics now without the Photoshop software (which I heard can run into thousands of Ringgit). I use the following photo touch-up tools which are both free and easy to use:-

  • – possibly the best of the lot
  • – you can also use this for graphic design

Once you’ve finished applying the “make up” on your pics, depending on how high the resolution is, they may be too big to be uploaded into AirBnB. Use the following free tools to lower down the size without compromising too much on the quality:

  • – my favorite compression tool of choice for JPEGs. Also available as a paid desktop tool
  • – For PNG files mostly; it’s JPEG quality is quite meh
  • – you can choose how lossy you want your pictures to be (the lossier, the smaller the size)

Bonus tip courtesy of Khai Yin: if you’re worried about your pictures getting stolen by other landlords and their scheming agents – remember to tag your JPEGs with your information. Right click on the file, and go to “Properties”, and enter something like “Copyright Joe Bloggs. Don’t steal this picture or you’ll get your sorry ass sued, bucko.”

Khai Yin told me that some lazy agents would go to his sites (KLCC Condominiums Database, Property Reviews and GoodPlace) and steal his pictures to be used in their listings. They didn’t know that all the pics have been embedded with incriminating code. These thieves will get their, ahem, (legal) comeuppance soon… or so I had heard. 🙂

Bottom line: for starters, you can iPhone / Instagram your way around your first set of pics, but once you’ve made some money, get the pics taken professionally. And if you’re paranoid about getting your pictures stolen, tag it.

Step 2: Get Kickbutt Five-Star Reviews

Remember that what you wanna do if you want your unit to be rented out consistently is to have awesomely great (not just good) reviews. Merely cleaning up your condo and giving out towels and fresh linen is no longer sufficient – it’s expected. In fact, expect your tenant to bitch about your cheapskate-ness if all you give them is a bottle of Tesco Everyday Value “3-in-1” shampoo, body wash and toothpaste.

What I’ve learned from renting my apartments to gwailos (I use this term endearingly, mind you) is that they are in Malaysia to experience local culture – that’s why they are avoiding the Sheratons and the Mandarin Orientals of KL. This is also the key to five star reviews: which greatly boost your listing’s profile on AirBnB. Here’s how I do it:

Firstly, I compile a mini guide on the local foods of Malaysia – dubbed the “Sue Yi’s Guide To Malaysia Hawker Fare” and give it to my customers in a printed booklet. Give them a lowdown about local food – these can be downloaded online and put in book format. If you need help compiling, go to a site like where you’ll find people offering to do this for a mere (American) fiver. Bloody cheap if you ask me.

I have packs of nasi lemak ($1.50 a pop from your friendly Makcik Tepi Jalan) as well as some kuih talam readily available in the kitchen. Of course, these are mentioned (and rated highly) inside the food guide that I give them.

When they are here, I would typically spend about 15 minutes to talk to them about “Insider Tips On How To Avoid Getting Fleeced By Dirtbag Malaysians” – for example, avoid the sharks on Jalan Alor or mamaks which charge extra for air-con, etc. Common sense stuff.


Those two things are what would typically give me five star ratings each time. Of course, there are also other important things like pricing, but I’ve found that I can even price above the average at about 10-15% more because of the plethora of 5-star ratings that I have on my listings. As any savvy businessperson will tell you, competing on price is a race to the bottom. Don’t cut your prices – instead, write better listings and provide a better service!

Of course, sometimes you’ll run into undesirables renting your condo – like those running a hookup joint (no joke – see this). You’ll find this guide handy in the time to come, trust me.

About Khai Yin

When I am not writing for and helping my readers find properties though the DealMatcher service, I spend time doting on my three kids: Wenyi, Qinyi and Eian. My personal stuff, some published essays and contact details can be found at


  1. Bro, I think the link to DealMatcher is faulty.

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