Getting Started with an Airbnb Business in Vancouver

I’m teaching a new business development course for the fifth summer in a row. Essentially the course teaches the process for developing a business idea, testing the feasibility of the idea and developing a business plan, including projected financials etc. 

In this first week, we are discussing different business models and types of businesses that the students could explore. 

I thought it might be interesting to share the steps involved in setting up and testing these various businesses. 

One of the first ones I’m working with a student on is setting up an Airbnb business in Vancouver.  Here I will go through what kinds of properties you can Airbnb in Vancouver, how to find a property, how to project revenues and costs and test the feasibility. I have also included a link to a pre-populated spreadsheet to help you calculate your costs. 

This post assumes that you are looking to make an investment in a property that you can Airbnb in Vancouver and not that you already have a property - although some of the later steps will be the same. 

Step One: Create a Long List of Possible Properties

The City of Vancouver is quite strict about what properties it allows for short-term rentals(STR) - which it defines as rentals under 30 days. Additionally, even if the city allows short-term rentals at these properties, the strata of the property may vote on a bylaw not to allow them. 

So the first step is to create a short list of properties where Airbnb-ing is even possible. 

Here is the list in Vancouver by neighbourhood (as of June 2023). The links will take you to REW where you can learn more about each property:

Coal Harbour
Downtown East
Downtown West
False Creek
Mount Pleasant East
West End

Step Two: Project Airbnb Income

AirDNA is a great tool for projecting property income. It specializes in collecting, analyzing, and providing insights into the short-term vacation rental market. You can use it to understand average daily rates, occupancy rates, revenue potential, and seasonality trends. 

You can use their Rentalizer tool to calculate the estimated revenue for each of the above properties. 

Below is an example of the information that you’ll receive: 

AirDNA Rentalizer Example

Step Three: Set Up Alerts for New Listings

At REW you can set up alerts to receive an email each time there is a new listing in any of the above properties. 

I also recommend setting up your alerts so that you also get notified each time there is a new long term rental available in each of the above buildings. This will allow you to compare the feasibility of Short Term Rental (RTL) i.e. Airbnb-ing and Long Term Rental (LTR) i.e. renting a month to month or longer basis. 

In each REW listing you can also calculate the projected monthly mortgage payment depending on your downpayment and other mortgage variables like length of mortgage, frequency of payments, fixed or variable rate, lending rate etc. 

I recommend taking the annual projected revenue figure from AirDNA, dividing it by 12 to get your monthly projected income, and backing out the annual property taxes and the monthly strata fees (which you will also find on the REW listing) to find the largest monthly mortgage payment that the property will cash flow and then calculate the minimum that you will need to provide for a downpayment for the property to be self-sufficient (and maybe give yourself a buffer).

Step Four: Put it All in a Spreadsheet

Create a spreadsheet where you can collect and analyze all this data so that when the right opportunity comes along you can make an informed decision. 

I have provided a template of a spreadsheet that would work here. You are welcome to use it. Just make a copy of it within google sheets. 

Step Five: Learn about the City of Vancouver's Bylaws for Operating an Airbnb

In Vancouver, you need to have a short-term rental business license. You can learn more about applying for one here. Currently, the cost is $109 for the year plus a $66 application fee.

An important thing to note is that in the City of Vancouver, your short-term rental needs to be your principal residence. This means you cannot own and operate multiple Airbnb properties in Vancouver. 

With a long-term rental business license you can own and rent out multiple properties - but only for periods longer than 30 days at a time. 


The next steps after this will involve finding a realtor that specializes in properties like this, finding a mortgage broker and getting pre-approved for a mortgage, but we can cover that in a future post. In the meantime, I hope that this is helpful in understanding how to assess the feasibility of getting started with an Airbnb business in Vancouver. 

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