Belated Introduction

Hi all, I’m Rhonda and forgot to write an intro post when I joined. So rude of me.

I own a 3,500 sq. foot 100 year old duplex in Des Moines, IA I purchased a year and a half ago. I meant to rent it out until we finished restoring our 1900 Victorian a mile away, but finding good long-term renters for a place that big is tough. So started AirBnB’ing half until my long-term tenants moved out in June. Now it’s a full-time STR.

The goal was to use the profits (Bwhahaha, so naïve I was!) from renting to pay for the mortgage and fix it up as our future home after decades of renters. Iowa really isn’t a hot tourist destination, so far Air pays the mortgage & utilities most months, and I’m on my own for upgrades. Most of my friends and fam think I’m nuts for taking this on. Thankfully, my husband is a really good guy who just rolls with it and helps out regularly.

Upstairs, which will probably always be a rental

Downstairs, plan on moving in within 2-5 years

  • We’re there almost daily doing something. It’s very important to me to get to know my neighbors and stay on good terms, since we’ll be living there.
  • We also live next to an AirBnB, so am familiar w/issues that can arise. (The owner is the realtor who sold me the duplex. “The is a GREAT place! You are gonna RAKE in the money! It’s in AMAZING shape!” I’m petty enough to deeply enjoy seeing guests pile trash in his recycling bin week after week.)
  • Comparing listings on AirDNA, I think my biggest limiting factor is one bathroom, and that some people don’t like old houses.

Constructive feedback welcome, thank you for reading & enjoy reading everyone’s posts!


My old house in Canada where I raised my 3 kids only had one bathroom, and a small one at that. It really wasn’t a problem. But I know that’s different with one’s own family than an str. Honestly, I find the number of bathrooms places in the first world are built with these days to be ridiculous. A friend of mine bought a small 2 bedroom condo a couple of years ago, where she lives. There is a half bath downstairs, a huge ensuite bathroom in her master bedroom, and another full bathroom. She lives there alone. Sure, her grandkids often stay overnight, and she occasionally has a friend come to visit, but one bathroom would certainly suffice.

For an str, I think the deal is to make sure you aren’t listing for too many guests if there is only one bathroom. I see that all the time with new listings- a 1 bathroom place they are listing for 6 guests.

Yes, unfortunately some people equate old with dirty or shabby. But making sure the place is immaculately clean can help, and I think it needs to be advertised as an “oldie but goody” in some way. Ie. don’t oversell it. I’d also stay away from super modern furnishings- the contrast between the furnishings and the age of construction can make the house itself seem more run-down or old-fashioned.

I recall a thread on another forum where the host had a turn of the century (not this century :wink:) home that had been in her family for 100 years, in New Orleans. Her reviews were all over the map- some guests raved about the historical value of the home and all the original antiques in it, one guy even said he could barely sleep, he was so excited about the 1940s Fridgedaire that still worked and was in use.

Other guests, the younger ones mostly, had comments like “old and shabby” (which begs the question of why they chose to book there if their aesthetic was Ikea).


I get what you mean about the bathrooms, and my place does advertise for six guests with one bathroom, which I find right at the limit. Each floor is 1,700 sq ft and there’s certainly enough room for a fourth bedroom but I just can’t go there. I see that a lot here, people want big value. So they list a 2 bedroom 2 bath place as sleeping 8 or 10, there’s three, four and sometimes five beds per bedroom. Then they charge $250/night for a ‘regular’ night. I’d love to find a way to add a second bathroom upstairs but I doubt the cost would justify the pricing opportunity.

After starting with traditional home share Airbnb I added onto my home in 2016. The guest got their own bathroom and a separate entrance. I was able to raise my prices and get more bookings. I feel like the addition paid for itself in 2 years.

Like you I’m not in a big tourist destination but I get a lot of one night drive throughs. So for you the math will be different but don’t stop thinking about it. I’ll DM you my listing.


You might want to consider living in the upstairs unit unless you can really sound-proof the floor boards. I have a STR on the second floor and the room that is used the least is above my bedroom and even with tempurpedic padding, new carpet and sound machines, people walking in that room late at night disturb my sleep.

Oh and yes, a 2nd bathroom is needed - unless I misunderstand - 1 bathroom for 2 units?


No each duplex has a bathroom. But there are 3 bedrooms per duplex.

Your place is so well planned and furnished. Proof that you can make a really comfortable space in a small area.


The building has six bedrooms total, a full bath on the first and second floor rental spaces, plus a toilet in the large unfinished basement. I’m not going to buy a place to live that doesn’t have two toilets.

I’ve thought about trying to eventually do something with the large, high-ceilinged basement, but as a friend said, “You’re two people with a 1,700 sq ft home, a 1,700 sq ft unfinished basement and a two car garage. How much space do two people need?” “But I neeeeed a whine cellar!” :laughing:

Your home is stunning!

Beautifully decorated, gorgeous wood!!

It looks like you’re hiding the bathroom. Are there two sinks? I can’t tell. IF you could get a second bathroom upstairs that would be amazing, and likely pay for itself. If you can’t, you’re at your limit at 6. Would be more comfortable for four. I think the economics of a second bathroom would pay for itself. I wonder what the aesthetic cost would be. That would be my larger concern because I think it will pay for itself economically if you can do it.

The architecture of the building looks very appealing.

The outside landscaping looks messy, unkept, unappealing.


What’s with that wall of empty shelving in the hammock room? That looks really strange to me. In fact, that whole room looks odd with the pieces of what looks like astroturf under the hammocks.

The idea of a room full of hammocks is kind of cool, and I get it that you need something under the hammock stands, but a large area rug they can all sit on, or smaller rugs that actually go with the room itself would look a lot more atttractive.

I would retake the photo taken from the backside of the couch that has what looks like a white blanket draped over the back, and a white pillow- that looks messy and pointless.

And retake the wonky bedroom photo- the bedroom with the soft green wall. Also, as mentioned, retake that bathroom photo that really doesn’t show the bathroom.

Thank you for the kind words, working on the outside flower beds. There are some righteous hostas, but most of it needs to be pulled out.

@muddy - Thank you for your suggestions. The shelves are from the previous owner who put up counter height workspaces in both apartments. We left them b/c those rooms are so large but they’re really not working out. So they’re coming down this winter and the rooms are getting repainted. I’m not sure I’ll continue with the hammocks, they were a cheap way to quickly furnish a large sunny space. I’m keeping my eye on Facebook Marketplace for some good outdoor furniture to hopefully furnish it like the sunroom that it is. Professional photographer coming next weekend after guests leave to snap better photos, I’m excited for that.

I like Offer Up because sellers have star ratings. LOL. I’ve had good experience with them here compared to fb Marketplace. I’ve also had good experience with craigslist over the years though I’m using Offer Up more these days.

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As that room is large, also consider setting up an area of it as a home office- it’s a selling point with so many people working from home these days.

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The house is beautiful! I would be inclined to leave empty space and not feel the need to fill it up. There is something intriguing and unusual to have space that isn’t crammed with stuff. I would concentrate on gorgeous paint colours and perfect lighting. Clean rugs that are easy to swap out. Curtains.

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Thanks for the tip on ‘Offer Up’!


I have an old Victorian and we call one room Laid Back Victorian to set the tone that this is not a fussy, perfectly furnished Victorian. A second room is called Eclectic Victorian which basically means nothing matches, lol. I know what you mean about some people just not liking old homes. They are usually OK if there are some modern amenities. One bathroom is a drawback. Many old homes have sinks in the bedrooms. The relieves the demand for the bathroom for AM primping and getting ready for bed. If you can’t add a second bath, perhaps that would be possible. Do weigh the pros and cons of doing everything yourself against hiring someone to speed up the reno and allow you to get in to your section sooner. I find meeting guests fun and an important part of why we still do this. It is not a goldmine, lol.


Welcome, Rhonda! Keep us posted!

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