Why I Became a Rentapreneur

People are always surprised to find out that I left my secure corporate job in Unilever, Singapore, to become a professional Airbnb-er in the Philippines.

In my quarter-life crisis, I realized that I didn't want to waste my youth in an office cubicle, reliving the same scene again and again. As a rentapreneur, every day is different, and my home is literally a melting pot for people all over the word.

I first got the idea to host in Airbnb from my job as a global mobility analyst, moving high-level expats from one country to another. In that job, I always had to look for cheaper accommodations where our expatriates could feel comfortable while they waited for their long-term leases. In lieu of expensive serviced apartments or hotels, "serviced condos" were homier; you can also cook and do laundry there unlike in hotels. There's also a lot more space. This led to the seed of what would become Shortstay ph, my company, which turns condos into "self-service hotels" in the Makati-Greenbelt area. 

Home page of shortstay ph

Home page of shortstay ph


I have always loved hotels. In Singapore, when I got stressed at work, I would just book $300-a-night hotel rooms to pamper myself and unwind. While wearing the hotel's plush robes and sandals, I would investigate why their mattresses, pillows and duvets were so soft. I became obsessed with replicating them in my own home. This "research" eventually paid off in my condotels, as I knew what guests liked. I had a friend who owned a condo in a great location near Greenbelt Makati, who let me borrow her unit for nightly rentals in exchange for a cut on the bookings, so I had very little start-up costs.

My first big expenses were really soft, all white duvet covers and bedsheets. At first, I had to do all the set up and cleaning myself, making sure every inch of the place was dust-free. Eventually, however, I hired trusted cleaners to do it. Doing it myself initially ensured that I knew how to train the cleaners to do it, just like how my neat freak mom taught me. Hah!

Aside from consistency in cleanliness, my research in hotels taught me that guests -- like me -- love their blankets really, really flat and smooth; so I have our cleaners iron or steam the sheets while we sprayed downy fabric softener on them to make them smell really nice. 

I love meeting other Filipinos OFWs or migrants when I check them in. Filipinos in the diaspora are our primary clientele as much as business travelers. One of my loyal customers-turned-friend is a producer of "Modern Family," who manages a call center here. 

I've heard some amazing life stories from our more than 300 guests, like this Filipina living in Alaska who flies private planes for a living, to this sweet Filipino family now based in Canada who turned out to be our long-lost relatives after we all traced our lineage back to Taal, Batangas! One time, my son and I even took a yoga teacher-guest to a free acro-yoga class that we've been attending. We also sometimes take guests to our favorite Vietnamese or Indian places nearby. My son is also excited to meet new people from all over the world, and he's even become an expert at checking people in! He also volunteers to do chores like rolling the towels into a nice sushi-like form. 

A property in Tagaytay (Source: shortstay ph)

A property in Tagaytay (Source: shortstay ph)


Many people are wary of condo rentals for short stays because they are not as consistent as hotels; so my advice to them is to choose their host very carefully, as it all depends on their management. It’s important to choose a host that you can really communicate with and who can address your needs quickly. Try to avoid Airbnb hosts in the Philippines who are managing their units remotely, as they won't have as quick a response time as a host who is living nearby. I found that I got better reviews for my services when I moved closer to the units in Greenbelt that I was managing because I could quickly address requests for towels, TV repair and aircon maintainance.

Try to avoid Airbnb hosts in the Philippines who are managing their unit remotely.

Being a rentapreneur is full-time work and it’s not a passive income generator like a long-term rental unit. Guests require your time and attention and this kind of endeavor requires a lot of stressful coordination work, which I had to time to get used to in my previous eight-year job of moving expatriates all over the world. Not everyone is cut out for that kind of stress; that's why I have a lot of unit owners who just want the passive income refer their units to me so I could manage their short-term rentals.

So that is another angle I am looking at, which is starting a kind of Guesty for the Philippines. OFWs who bought units that they're not staying in, can rent it out while they are not here in Manila. While they're here however, I can block out the dates for them, so they have a home away from home that earns income for them too. 

Email the author at santos.diannemarie@gmail.com or view her website at https://shortstayph.wordpress.com