In 2015, while Diego searched for work as a chef in Cancun, Mexico, he suggested to his wife Mariana that they list a room in their house on Airbnb to make some extra income. Mariana, who worked in a local hotel, was skeptical and worried about her privacy, but she agreed to give it a try. As it turns out, they loved interacting with visitors and helping them shape their trip to the city—as well as the financial boost they got from hosting them.
“Receiving our first guests from places like Germany and France was awesome,” Mariana says. They loved hosting so much that they decided they wanted to help others share their homes, as well. “This would be a great way to be more economically independent,” she says.
That single room became the cornerstone of Seahorse Rentals, a thriving property management company that the couple built almost entirely on Airbnb. It has allowed Diego and Mariana the flexibility they sought as they raise their young child (with another on the way). They quit their day jobs soon after starting the company and became full-time hospitality entrepreneurs.
Seahorse now operates 37 listings, including two properties that the couple bought and others that they manage for friends and neighbors. It employs three people, all local residents, who help with maintenance and guest relations. Well over 90 percent of Seahorse’s business comes through Airbnb. Diego and Mariana embraced the platform early on because its reach allowed them to attract guests without having to do any outside advertising. Due to their consistently excellent guest reviews, Mariana and Diego quickly built up a network of referrals on Airbnb—both of potential guests and of other local homeowners seeking a company to help them host their own property.
Mariana believes they could not have accomplished such fast success by listing on any other platform. “I just got another call from someone who got recommended to us to manage her house,” Mariana says. “We have so many referrals now that I had to ask her how she got our number.”
If Mariana and Diego have an issue, they know Airbnb’s host guarantee helps them get back the full value for any damage done to their properties, which gives them peace of mind as they continue to grow the business.
“The support and service and safety they give us is unbelievable,” says Mariana. “Every time we think of listing our properties elsewhere, we think, ‘Is it even worth taking that step?’”
Between 2016 and 2018, Seahorse Rentals’ revenue nearly tripled. In the peak month of December it reached nearly 500,000 Mexican Pesos (roughly $25,000) in 2017 and 2018. Seahorse has partnered with local tour companies to offer discounted rates to their guests—as well as personalized shopping and chefs’ services for the guests who want them. Mariana says Airbnb’s presence has helped galvanize a new kind of tourism in a region of Mexico that was best-known for all-inclusive resorts.
“We can see a huge impact downtown,” Mariana says. “A lot of restaurants were starting to close because most of the hotels are all-inclusive.” When people arrive at an Airbnb, she adds, “They really get to know the place they’re visiting.”
Mariana says they want to continue to grow Seahorse through Airbnb but more slowly because they do not want to sacrifice their personal touch. They plan to only add about three properties to their portfolio each year. “You need to put a lot of attention into each one to make sure it’s all working well for the guests,” Mariana says.
That attention to detail has paid off in unexpected ways. Mariana and Diego have become friendly with many of their frequent guests, and last year Mariana visited with their first-ever Airbnb guest during a trip to Germany. “We don’t get to see every guest, but we have some kind of bond with them just by messaging with them,” Mariana says. “And going forward, we don’t want to lose the essence of what we do.”
Want to learn more? Click here to learn about professional hosting with Airbnb.
Diego & Mariana, thanks for sharing your story. I would love to speak with you about some of the questions I have regarding starting a similar business. If possible, would you contact me at jim at teachpro? We are a dot net address.
Love love this story, Diego an Mariana you are an inspiration. I had doubts because someone was asking me to manage their property but now I am going for it.
I would like to know more insides how to calculate how much you pay the owners, how long is your contract with them, and what the owners has to do before they give it to you.
Or you take properties and renovate them?
Do you mind if I drop you an enquire to ask you few bits?
I am renting a room in my flat and co-host with other hosts, but this is a new step for taking responsibility for all.
I think it is a big risk to take on so many properties:I don't want to lose the Airbnb feeling and go back to big hospitality businesses.
I'm curious if I am to be inspired (and what this post doesn't mention) as to how much was invested in buying new properties and where those funds came from.
I started managing almost 5 years ago, feel free to book a property with me and ill show you how i did it, numbers included, all money was legally earned and all thanks to AIRBNB. You can also follow us on instagram as seahorserentalsmx
Thank you very much for all your love, we are very thankful with this community, it has help us grow in a way we didnt think it was possible. I would love to answer all your question and they are to many, i feel that all of you deserve a lote of respect and i would love to host you any time and have a cup of coffee ( Mexican beer is also an option) wile i answer them all and show you how we grew, number and strategies we use. I would really love to share it with you.
you can find us on instagram as seahorserentaslmx =)