Small Cities That Perform Well on Airbnb: Qualities to Look For

A small city can still turn a large profit for an Airbnb owner.

While New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia all have appeal, you don’t need to live within a major metropolitan area to earn an income from your side business. As long as you understand the qualities that help a small city perform well, you can leverage its unique potential.

Some of these qualities might surprise you. Here are five of the best places for Airbnb investment in the US right now, and what special attributes separate them from areas that receive less attention — the distinguishers that determine success.

Whether you’re looking to update a current listing or are searching for a new rental investment, you can learn a lot from these locations.

1. Portsmouth, Virginia

Though it isn’t traditionally a top tourist destination, Portsmouth, Virginia, performs very well on Airbnb. The reason for its popularity is somewhat peculiar. The city is home to a naval shipyard, which is attractive to a specific demographic and earns it a cap rate of 9.7 percent.

Even if the prospect of a naval shipyard doesn’t personally interest you, the niche landmarks of your small city may attract others. It’s about finding and capitalizing on these landmarks, and then acknowledging them in your listing’s description. You may have resources at your disposal you weren’t even aware of.

2. Asheville, North Carolina

New York isn’t the only city with a buzzing art scene. There’s no shortage of museums and galleries in Asheville, North Carolina, with one estate displaying paintings by famous French impressionist Auguste Renoir. Both amateurs and professionals alike are attracted to Asheville, making it one of many popular Airbnb locations.

Your local art and music scene will help improve the appeal of your listing if you properly advertise. Visitors want to sample the culture of their destinations, so it goes a long way toward a positive review if you guide them in the right direction. Consider organizing a directory of interesting places – not only to help your guests navigate your city, but also to boost your vacation rental website’s SEO.

3. Ithaca, New York

The presence of a university in the area can increase an Airbnb’s occupancy rate by a considerable margin. Ithaca, New York, is home to both Cornell University and Ithaca College, both of which bring family members from out of town. Visiting parents often turn to Airbnb for an inexpensive alternative to hotels for their overnight stays.

In some college towns with a high student population, there aren’t enough vacancies in nearby hotels to account for the influx of people attending annual events such as graduation. A rental property in one of these locations can prove particularly lucrative several times a year, with a predictable income you can rely on.

4. Bend, Oregon

Some travelers enjoy the hustle and bustle of big-city living, comfortable among the crowds on a busy sidewalk beneath tall skyscrapers. Other travelers prefer the soft serenity of nature, with gorgeous vistas and placid lakes where they can rest and recuperate. Bend, Oregon caters to the latter individual.

Visitors come to this small city for its sense of harmony and scenic landscapes. An Airbnb owner doesn’t have to depend on the fundamental appeal of a city to draw guests. Instead, they can use the beauty of the environment to their advantage. If your property is close to nature, make mention of it in your listings, and show off sweeping landscapes in your high-quality photos.

5. Traverse City, Michigan

Even a lesser-known city can attract visitors with an event or festival. Traverse City, Michigan, boasts the week-long National Cherry Festival, a colorful celebration of produce and the people who grow it. Families travel from all over the nation to see the sites and participate in charming local traditions.

If you’re scoping out new locations for your next rental property, research the surrounding community. A small city that’s off the map can still have a lot of value. Rural, suburban and urban living all have their own special characteristics, and you can market your vacation rental depending on where you’re located. Maybe your city doesn’t have a lot of hustle and bustle, but you can definitely sell guests on local charm or the peaceful country.

What Determines Profitability?

Beyond proper etiquette and comfortable accommodations, location is key to a successful Airbnb. Although it’s profitable to operate in a big city, you can also make money in a small one, depending on the local culture, institutions, environment and other contributing factors.

The point remains: the size of the city doesn’t justify a defeatist attitude. With optimism and a little work, you can make an Airbnb in any location a roaring success.

About the Author

Holly Welles is a real estate writer interested in what makes neighborhoods tick – and she’s a proud small city resident. Besides writing around the web, she also runs her own blog, The Estate Update.

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