Meet the Queen of Airbnb in Philly
Jen Jordan is arguably Philadelphia’s busiest Airbnb host. She drives around the city — from Fishtown to Fairmount to South Philly — cleaning bathrooms, making beds and leaving tourism brochures on coffee tables. She carries a computer at all times so that she can respond to inquiries immediately. She also makes sure to get Airbnb notification alerts on her phone.
But there’s one thing that’s different about her — most of the properties she manages aren’t her own.
“I am definitely not the average Airbnb host. I’m doing it as a small business,” said Jordan. Two listings are under her Fishtown apartment — one for her couch ($25-$30 per night) and another for the entire house ($110-$150 per night). When she rents out her entire place, she stays with family or friends.
But most of the time, she’s managing other people’s listings. She has 15 total listings on her own profile but manages properties for other Airbnb hosts.
In July, Philadelphia legalized Airbnb rentals, making it the largest city in the U.S. where residents can rent out their homes legally on a daily basis. From April to September, Philadelphia saw a 270 percent increase in Airbnb listings, Newsweek reported in September. While most Philly Airbnb hosts use the website as a source for side income, Jordan has built a full-time career out of it.
Before becoming a professional Airbnb manager, Jordan, currently in her early 30s, was a high school art teacher. Two years ago, she started renting out her own apartment in Fishtown and saw the profits begin to come in.
“I did my own house for two years. Then people started to see that I was having some success,” she said. That led to friends and others looking to her for advice. It didn’t take long until she was managing other people’s Airbnb listings. She also posted an ad on Craigslist saying that she’ll manage other people’s Airbnb properties for a small fee.
In the West Coast, companies like Air Concierge provide professional Airbnb management services. However, in Philadelphia, some traditional rental companies are managing Airbnbs on the side, but there aren’t many independent management companies — which allows Jordan to thrive. In fact, she was the only local independent Airbnb property manager we could find after scouring the Airbnb’s Philadelphia listings.
When asked if there are a lot of professional Airbnb property managers, an Airbnb spokesperson said: “In the U.S., the majority of our hosts rent their primary residences in the communities where they have lived for almost 20 years.”
As a professional Airbnb manager, Jordan is responsible for writing the property’s profile on Airbnb website, adjusting the availability based on homeowner’s schedule, responding to travelers’ inquiries, checking in or preparing keys in a lockbox, and cleaning the home. She also gives a suggested price range to homeowners and adjusts prices daily to maximize occupancy rates.
“I know a lot about Airbnb and the rules. I help optimize the occupancy. I call Airbnb all the time to help me,” said Jordan.
She charges a commission fee that is “on par with average property management fee,” she said, declining to disclose the exact fee. Since the beginning of the year, Jordan has rented out over 160 nights among all her listings, she said. Her Airbnb income is enough to cover her living expenses, even though it varies from month-to-month. (She also declined to disclose her average monthly income.)
All of her clients are homeowners, not renters, she said. Some rent out their houses because they have a second home or frequently travel for work.
“One of the people I help works in Philly and New York,” said Jordan. “So when they’re away, I rent their house. When they are back, they have their house.”
The Airbnb system allows users to split the rent revenue into two different bank accounts, so Jordan makes her percentage immediately from some listings. Other times, the homeowner sends her a check. Some of the properties used to be traditional rental apartments with year-long leases — but now the homeowners are going the Airbnb route.
“They’re able to make even more money,” said Jordan, adding that renting on Airbnb gives the homeowner more freedom to change wall colors, furniture and other decor. For some clients, Jordan also helped with designing and decorating the homes and suggested purchasing amenities, such as coffee pods, water filters and cleaning supplies.
Beth (who declined to provide her last name) lives in a one-bedroom house in South Philly, and hired Jordan to rent out her apartment when she was away from Philly last summer. Since Beth keeps her listings under her own name, when travelers contact her, she refers them to Jordan. Beth also received advice from Jordan, who suggested that she write a welcome letter with information about Wifi passcode, trash nights, local restaurants and grocery shops nearby.
“She is more experienced with the Airbnb system. She is my eyes when I am away,” said Beth.
David Moody, a second-year Airbnb host and a realtor in Philadelphia, owns and operates his six listings. When he’s away from the city, Moody also uses Jordan’s service to manage his properties. He came across her ad on Craiglist.
“She is good at what she does,” Moody said. “When you give somebody the key to your property, you really have to be careful and make sure they are going to do a good job.”
He pays Jordan a flat cleaning fee plus a commission based on the rent.
“So hypothetically speaking, last month when we were in Ithaca the whole month and our friend Jen took over our property, she got cleaning fee for each room, which was $35 every time someone stayed in one of the room,” Moody said. “And then she kept 12 percent of the total taken, so she got like $900 or $1,000 more.”
Moody understands the time commitment and responsibility it takes to be a full-time host — and he’s happy to pawn that off on Jordan.
“If you do it correctly, one property can take eight hours or more a week,” he said. “If you have four or five properties, it really turns into a 40 hour-a-week job.”
For Moody, renting out his properties on Airbnb brings more profits than a traditional lease — even after Jordan takes her cut of the money.
“A couple of our houses may probably rent for $2,200 a month. But if you do Airbnb in that property, you can bring in anywhere between $3,000 to $6,000 per month in short-term rentals,” Moody said.
Moody said besides Jordan, he hasn’t come across any full-time professional Airbnb manager in Philadelphia.
“It is not anything to be taken lightly, because most properties [she manages] are worth three or four or five hundred thousand dollars, that’s a really big responsibility,” Moody said. “So kudos to Jen.”
When asked if she would start an Airbnb management company in the future, Jordan gave a thought and replied, “I have a very high standard, like how to make a bed. If I am willing to expand, I need to have the right kind of helpers.”
But for now, Jordan is happy with her one-woman show. “I’m always on call, but I’m living a lifestyle that is very free.”
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