NewsMaking It In San Diego


Making It in San Diego: South Bay couple pays off mortgage by renting house through Airbnb

Posted at 10:00 AM, Jan 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-07 21:39:02-05

CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) - A South Bay couple said they were able to pay off their mortgage by renting out their home on the weekends.

“We paid off our house, and now we weekend on a boat. It’s incredible,” said Chris Morrow.

Stepping into Chris Morrow’s backyard is like crossing a plane into an outdoor oasis. It's filled with toys, games, and multiple spots where you can pull up a chair and relax.

"You want to use every space of your backyard,” Morrow said.

But having a dream backyard and a home in Chula Vista was once just a dream.

"Being a journalist, you don’t make a lot of money these days -- you follow your heart. Living in San Diego County, which is a resort town, you need to be creative,” Morrow said.

Morrow is a CNN iReporter and a food and travel writer.

About five years ago, before the housing market got hot, she and her husband leveraged their money and bought the Chula Vista home.

"I never even thought about Chula Vista, but it's a beautiful area,” she said. “I have a 1947 craftsman home, natural wood floors, beautiful plaster walls. There's a lot of uniqueness to it.”

Morrow’s turned that charm into a small business: an Airbnb rental. It’s a move that drastically changed her life.

"Everybody wants to live that American dream, and we're doing it because we're renting this house out for Airbnb,” she said.

Here's how they did it. Morrow said a few years into homeownership, she tried renting out just one of their rooms. It was a good first step, but it didn't bring in any extra cash. Morrow said they ended up spending most of the money on the guest they were hosting.

"I wasn't able to use that money for anything else, just entertaining,” she said.

They decided to up the ante. Instead of renting out one room, Morrow said they rented out the entire house. It meant adding beds, furniture and moving into a hotel on the weekends.

"The first time we decided to rent the house we were so nervous,” Morrow said. “We must have driven by the house at least six times just to make sure they weren't having a huge party that you hear about in those movies."

The decision was a hit. Now their rental can host up 16 people. The going rate is anywhere from $600 to $1,800 a night. They’re regularly hosting large groups and have even done a wedding in the backyard. Most weekends are booked solid.

"We've paid this house off, and we were able to buy a boat, we're able to pay for the gas for the boat,” Morrow said.

The extra income means they don't have to stay at a hotel on the weekends. Instead, they purchased a two-cabin, one-bath, 41-foot sport fisher boat. The purchase made possible by renting out her house.

"We’re living the dream,” she said. “We're staying here (the boat) on the weekends, and we're loving it.”

In a resort town, one of the more expensive places in the country, Morrow is not only surviving, but she's also thriving. All it took was a little ingenuity and trust in people.

"We are creatively living the American dream,” she said.

Tips for being a successful 5-star rental takes more than just renting out your house to be successful. Morrow has these tips she believes will help someone succeed:

- Have outdoor games for guests
- If possible, a garden can add to the backyard ambiance
- Provide handwritten notes special for each guest
- Post check-out information in a visible spot
- Keep the refrigerator clean and add bottles of water, and maybe even a welcome gift
- Include a local map with places that make the area special
- Supply extra blankets and pillows (make sure they are clean)
- Invest in great WiFi
- If you accept smokers, provide ashtrays and smoking guidelines
- Supply extra toiletries in an accessible spot
- If you have a gas fireplace, make sure it’s on a timer