Does it make financial sense to use a geodesic dome for a vacation rental?
That’s a question a lot of people ask when they start looking into glamping tents or the vacation rental business. We’re happy to tell you that you don’t have to calculate the ROI of investing in a vacation rental dome -- we’ve done that for you!
Sometimes you just have to jump in and see for yourself how things work, and that’s exactly what we did here at Glamping Dome Store. We set up a geodesic dome as an Airbnb rental! Consider this a case study in using a glamping dome as a vacation rental.
Investing in a Vacation Rental Dome
To begin our Airbnb adventure, we purchased a 20-foot geodesic dome with 300 square feet of interior space for $4890. This may not seem like a lot of space, but it turned out to be really roomy for what we planned to do with it: rent it out as an ice fishing shelter (hut, shack).
To complete the dome, we tricked it out with necessary extras:
- ¾” insulation ($2035)
- Door ($550)
- Curtains ($489)
- Wood-burning stove ($1460)
- Metal protection screen (for behind the wood stove) ($55)
- Stove hearth ($55)
- Mesh screen vent ($99)
- Glass porthole window ($449)
- Anchorage ice nails ($270)
- Flooring ($700)
- Furniture (two tables, six chairs, and four cots), trash cans, wood, CO detector, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, and gas generator ($1300)
Altogether, our costs totaled $12,352 USD.
The location of our dome was free because we set it up on a frozen lake.
We also didn’t spend anything to set up a restroom, mainly because our guests used the dome for ice fishing. Our Airbnb guests were able to use nearby public heated restrooms when they needed to.
How Much Time It Took to Set Up the Dome
As far as the investment of our time, it took our team less than a week to set up the dome. From beginning to end, this is how we spent our time:
- About eight hours for three of our team members to erect the frame
- 2 hours to install the insulation and cover
- A few days to fit in the door, set up the wood stove, hang curtains, and install a porthole window
- 2 days for one of our crew to lay flooring made of 2X4 10” joists with OSB panels on top
Then we just had to bring in the furniture.
Our team had to take breaks to warm up because the temperature was -5 F (-20 C) below zero! So it might have taken less time to set up and outfit the dome if we’d had warmer weather.
When our vacation rental dome was complete, it was time to create a listing on Airbnb. Then we posted it on Facebook Marketplace for free. These tasks didn’t take much time. Our rental was live on Fri., Feb. 5, and in just a few days, our weekends were booked.
Calculating the ROI for a Glamping Dome
We decided to use Airbnb’s Smart Pricing feature to determine how much to charge guests. This automatically sets the price based on location and demand, and the price can go up and down. To be transparent, our payout after fees was $160 CAD ($125 USD) per night.
Even though ice fishing season isn’t over yet, based on how well the dome has been rented, we expect to make $2300 CAD ($1820 USD) for about just over a month of rentals. And this was weekends only, with a 40% occupancy rate. Winter isn’t the peak season for this location, and we would expect both the nightly rate and occupancy to go up in the summer.
After sales tax (5% in Alberta), we will earn $1729 USD for six weeks of rentals. So in a typical month (four weeks), the same occupancy rate would give us about $1152 USD.
So, how’s our return on investment?
With these earnings, we estimate the dome would pay for itself after about 10 months. After that, any money we would make from renting the dome would be profit.
If we rented out the dome at the same occupancy level consistently, we could expect to earn $13,824 in profit every year. (Although as we mentioned, we’d expect to make more money in the summer.) And because domes last five to eight years before needing any repairs or maintenance, that’s potentially $57,600 USD in profit after the 10-month break-even point!
Pretty great for a $12,000 investment. Imagine if you had three domes, or five, or ten!
Of course, our lake won’t be frozen year-round. To rent out the dome beyond winter, we would need to have some land.
So, in calculating the ROI, we didn’t factor in any fees for the property, utilities, or insurance. Also, if we moved the dome onto land, we wouldn’t have the same access to a public washroom and would need to add that. We might also want to add a deck and other amenities for our guests. Those would be additional costs that would push back the break-even point.
However, our experience with buying, setting up, outfitting, and renting out the dome shows that you can definitely make a good return on your investment in a vacation rental dome.