Everything you need to know about making money with FlipKey

Written by Emma Kansiz

Published 2022-07-05 / 4 min read

Flipkey is an online marketplace for vacation rentals, with over 800,000 properties listed around the world. If you have a home that would be the perfect backdrop for someone’s dream trip, don’t hesitate - consider FlipKey. Not only is it affiliated with TripAdvisor, one of the world’s leading travel companies, but it is a safe and reliable way to start earning money on your own terms!

What is FlipKey?

Flipkey was founded in 2007, and became a part of TripAdvisor Rentals a year later. Because it is under the Trip Advisor umbrella, it gets points for reliability and transparency. It is also a good avenue through which to get exposure for your vacation property. FlipKey specializes in properties large and small, from a one room ensuite to a ten room castle. It combines the eccentric, original spaces of Airbnb with the reputation and security of a world-class travel brand.

How does FlipKey's earning structure work?

FlipKey is free to join and it's also free to list your property. You can choose your own pricing for your property. We recommend looking into competitors and hotel room rates to gain a sense of what people are willing to pay for your area. If you want to get the most bang for your property consider setting special rates for holidays and long weekends. That being said, we recommend advertising deals for your new posting to draw attention and gain a bit of traction on the platform. 

One of the draws of FlipKey is that it only takes a 3% commission on your income. For perspective, that is less than most of its competitors in the space. You will receive the full payment 24 hours after your guests have checked it.

You are also able to request a damage deposit from your guests, depending on what kind of property you have or whether you have expensive or special artwork, furniture, and belongings in your home. 

For property owners who rent their place for more than 14 days per year, you are required to fill out an IRS Schedule E along with your tax return to ensure tax law compliance. You will have to pay tax on all profits after you have deducted any rental-related expenses. You can deduct expenses like cleaning fees, property agency fees, and repairs directly related to your vacation rental business. Find a reputable accountant in your area who can help you navigate the sometimes complex tax laws.

What is the time commitment for FlipKey?

The time commitment of running your property profile depends on how desirable your location is. You might get a hit every now and again during the slow season but you might get ten inquiries a day during a local festival or long weekend. Ensuring that you have access to notifications is vital so you don’t miss the queries of potential guests. Once someone has booked your property, you have 24 hours to respond. Responding quickly to guests is factored into the algorithm and will raise your property’s position in the search results. 

It is your choice how often you want to put your property up for rent. If you rent your property out full-time it might make sense to hire a property manager if you already have a full time job, but if you only do so occasionally it may not be that big of a time commitment. When considering how much time managing a vacation rental will take, don’t forget that customer complaints, issues, and miscommunications are par for the course and may sometimes eat into your free time. This should not deter you, but is an aspect that newcomers often overlook.

How to get started with FlipKey?

First things first: create a stellar profile for your main selling point - your home. After putting in your basic details, home address, and contact information, ensure that you take the time to craft a standout, compelling description for your property. Don’t shy away from going into too much detail - less is definitely not more when it comes to promoting on FlipKey. Be genuine and truthful, but don’t be afraid to use adjectives and interesting anecdotes to draw in the crowds.

Create your own booking, cancellation, and rental agreements and create policies and house rules that pertain to your property. Clarity and thoroughness are the name of the game for this section. You don’t want people to leave your post with an ambiguous understanding of your rules. A small FAQ may better inform your audience and will build trust with people browsing through listings.   

You must upload a minimum of four pictures. Ensure high quality, well-lit photos. Focus on the rooms and spaces that are most attractive and interesting to potential guests. They don’t need hallway shots or eight angles of the same room. Try and capture the essence of the place in tidy and stylishly designed rooms. As mentioned earlier, FlipKey allows you to set your own prices.

Be aware that, depending on your location, you may need to provide a tourist license for your rental property. This is becoming the case in saturated markets where vacation rentals are outpacing rentals for housing and in dense, urban areas. Read into the rules before setting up a profile. 

From there, you must enable the Instant Book feature. Once you’ve completed these steps you can sit back and watch the inquiries roll in. Be realistic with yourself if you don’t get any bites immediately. Some regions will always get more traffic than others but be patient and eventually someone will discover your place. 

FlipKey requirements

Required Resources

FlipKey allows you to rent a room, suite, apartment, or house. Whether you have a small garden level flat or a lush cabin in the woods, FlipKey wants to hear from you. It is a great alternative to Airbnb and many property owners advertise their listings on both sites. 

In addition to your own property, you must have access to a phone and apps so you can constantly check in and respond to your messages in a timely manner. If you want to make this more of a consistent gig than a property manager or virtual assistant might be worth the price. They are experts at booking, liaising with guests, and troubleshooting problems as they arise. They will make your life that much easier, especially if dealing with irate or confused guests sounds like your idea of a nightmare. 

We also suggest adding some amenities to attract potential guests. It could be as simple as a board game selection or as niche as mountain bikes, kayaks, and paddleboards. Consider setting up welcome baskets, picnic supplies, or a chocolate package. Stock up on clean and convenient towels, dishware, cutlery, and bedding. Small details go a long way so if you can add any unique design elements or thematic motifs, it will pay dividends in the long run.

Required Skills

Congrats - you are now a part of the travel industry! That means that you need to start thinking with the mindset of a traveler - what kinds of priorities do they have? How do they want to be treated? What are their holiday goals? Taking this into account, you can tailor your communication skills and attitude towards them. You are not simply a faceless figure renting a property out. You are part of the package, and you are a reflection of your brand. Kindness, attentiveness and prompt replies go a long way. Potential guests want to feel like their business is meaningful to the host, so being warm and inviting will win the day. Keep in mind that FlipKey gives you 24 hours to accept or reject a potential booking. A willingness to check your app and respond to messages when they arrive in your inbox is paramount. 

If you choose to manage your property yourself, it is vital that you can handle problems or concerns in a professional and emotionally balanced way. Sometimes guests have unreasonable requests or demands, and you will have to maintain dignity and composure. It is vital that you can diffuse conflict and be flexible in offering solutions to guests. Ideally, you will have a net positive experience with your guests but you need to get comfortable dealing with other people’s feelings and expectations gently and fairly.

Required Documents

Depending on your location you may need a tourist license or registration number to qualify. This is very location-dependent so do some research beforehand. If this is required, FlipKey will ask for these details during your sign-up process and you will be required to list your registration number in your posting. FlipKey will also ask for any relevant tax details.

FlipKey recommend that you get a vacation rental insurance policy to cover any potential liabilities. They do not require proof of insurance. As the manager of a vacation rental property insurance will reduce your stress levels and allow you to reap the benefits while minimizing the downsides associated with the industry.

Other important details

FlipKey takes their tax responsibilities seriously. They collect taxpayer information and report rental income to the IRS. They provide a 1099 form to all of the property owners who earn an income through their site. You can report your rental income on this form and attach it with your regular tax return. We recommend getting a chartered accountant who has experience working with vacation rental owners as they may be able to guide you through the process and make it less daunting. They can also help you claim certain expenses, such as maintenance, amenities, cleaning fees, and property management fees which you can deduct from your income. 

Research the restrictions and bylaws in place for your city or region. More municipalities are cracking down on short term rentals, heavily restricting how many days you can rent your home out per year. These restrictions are in place to manage the rental crisis that is emerging in many cities across the country (and indeed, the world). Some cities require that vacation rental owners acquire a business license and pay associated tourism taxes in order to operate. This is becoming the norm in more cities every passing year so do your research before listing your property. If you live in a gated community, property development, or condominium read into your homeowner’s associations rules. Some embrace vacationers but many explicitly bar residents from renting out their properties short term. You could be slapped with a big fine if you are found breaching any of these rules.  

Our review

FlipKey is a great option for listing your well-designed spare room, residential property, or second home. Flipkey has an approachable commission structure that will ensure you end up with more money in your pocket. FlipKey has an extensive reach and your post will gain exposure through the TripAdvisor network. That is pretty impressive considering that the sign up and listing process is free and you can get views on your property almost instantly. 

FlipKey has some built-in barriers, however, paticularly for those who rent their home or apartment. Most leases preclude the tenants from subletting or advertising their space on vacation rental sites. Be cognizant of that and proceed at your own risk if this scenario descibes your living situation. You could be slapped with a fine or eviction, which is probably not worth the side income you’ll earn through the site.