So you’ve got a spare room in your home, shed, castle, boat or regular ol Apartment. Why not rent it out on Airbnb? It’s safe, fun and pretty darn easy.
Airbnb allows you to utilise your spare room for more than just dust collecting and can generate a pretty spiffy side income without going to too much effort. When people ask me about Hosting on Airbnb they usually ask the same questions. The uninitiated typically asks about how safe we feel having strangers in our home? They forget that for the most part, once upon a time, we were strangers in someone else’s home.
If you have been a Guest on Airbnb you probably have a pretty good idea what it’s all about but taking the leap from Guest to Host brings on a whole new terror experience and lots of questions will undoubtedly arise. Staying in someone else’s home is one dance, letting them into your own domain is another kettle of fish altogether.
Of course there are checks and balances to make you feel safer. The reality is that Airbnb is taking off, in our experience about 70% of our Guests are Airbnb virgins. First timers naturally don’t have reviews and sometimes their profile is lacking. This is where gut instinct should be allowed to take a vote. We generally engage potential Guests via the messaging systems and simply put, if they seem flexible and in tune with how we share our place then we’ll have them stay with us — everyone hopefully has a memorable first time.
If you want to put your own bedroom up for rent make sure you are up front and honest about it. The most uncomfortable situation as a guest, speaking from experience, is turning up to a home only to realise you have kicked the host out of their own bedroom. Make sure that your Guest is aware that you will be on the couch and you will spare both of you some awkward moments.
- Take the right photos and take plenty — The right photos are bright, light and show the personality of your room or space. What is unique, bring it forward and take a photo — capture it all and show off! I’ve had discussions with potential guests about artwork on our wall… fun stuff that helps colour your understanding of each other. More specifically, the room they will be staying in, take photos from a few different vantage points, put some towels out on the bed — shoot for Hotel experience in an Airbnb. Yes, I’m talkin mint on the pillows if it’s not going to break your budget. In Australia, it’s a pack of Tim Tams… and goes a long way.
- Pimp your space — Hey, you’ll notice plenty of Airbnb Hosts that you want to emulate. So emulate them, take a look at lots of descriptions and steal their moves. Be honest in the space/s your providing as it’ll help you answer potential questions before they happen (if you get repetitive questions, time to tweak your description). Most importantly, steal borrow a great idea for a title of your place! Take the time to break down the spaces your Guests have access to and be descriptive on the important aspects of those rooms. Let people know it’s a Double or a Queen bed, is it a big room or a small room? Let people know about kitchen, bathroom and laundry access — travellers care about this. WIFI, don’t have any? Get some if you can, be very clear on that, we’ve all travelled and managing bookings / work / family whilst away is important. Lastly, if you have anything you feel is a unique feature, PIMP IT!
- Show me the money — This will depend a lot on your area, time of year, and what other Airbnb Hosts are setting their price at. It’s generally a good idea to start by having a look at what other Hosts are charging and price yourself to be competitive initially — you’re potentially competing against those more experienced Hosts with lots of reviews and need to build them up as a priority. Don’t be afraid to change things up, weekends and dates in Summer might be more expensive, Winter and weekdays you may like to lower the price. Your space is unique and it’ll take some time and testing to discover what works for you.
- Set some boundaries — …and stick to them. The horror interesting stories we heard all (unfortunately) came about from Guests managing to stretch Hosts outside of their comfort zone so know your limits. Guests who try to steer you off the Airbnb website, kick them to the curb in the initial vetting stages if possible. Airbnb offers lots of protections for both parties and importantly the process tends to weed out the rare bad egg. There will be Guests that have stayed for a few nights who want to stay on for another night or two. That is the ultimate grey area, we’ve had good experiences and one bad one which resonates unfortunately… we won’t do it again. Please, PLEASE DON”T let your good nature be taken advantage of!
- Engage your Guests — Just try not to scare them with your enthusiasm. :) This can be a fine line, you will have some Guests coming to you jet-lagged and others who are ready to head out and do touristy things. We prefer to give the minimum amount of information — tour of the house, key/s, transport card (if providing one) and a map of the area — we offer coffee (or beer!) if it is appropriate but generally expect travellers to either want to sleep, relax or go out so we try not to keep them talking to us for too long! Try to be open and conversational, be a little extroverted if you can, especially with Airbnb virgins as they might need more reassurance than yourself. Follow your gut instinct in these first exchanges, feeling uncomfortable? Show them the door and refund them. That’s ok, Airbnb will support you explicitly. Personally, we haven’t had this problem yet — not trying to scare you!
- Sharing is caring — We have stayed with some hosts who did not provide any breakfast and others who cooked us a full English breakfast and sat down with us (always awesome!). As a Guest, being able to help yourself to a bowl of cereal in the morning is such a small thing and yet it can really make a big difference to someone who is travelling on a budget. Keep in mind there is BnB in Airbnb, no need to go all out but find a balance that works. Sometimes Guests may ask to borrow a wide range of things, if you’re comfortable with it and it doesnt cross any lines, why not? If you’re not comfortable say no and steer them to the local supermarket.
- The difference is the little things — We provide a map of our local area, and a couple of transport cards that can be topped up by Guests if needed. These little things make practical sense for travellers and can go a long way to making someone’s stay that little bit easier and stress free. We know others who have a phone they are happy to loan out, but do not do this ourselves. I think whatever you can do to make someone’s stay pleasant, without going overboard, is a good thing. Airbnb virgins may not know it, but those more experienced guests are staying with you for your local knowledge. Best breakfast, best coffee, best bar, best hairdressers? Try to know them, it adds so much to an overall experience.
A few last words for those first time Airbnb Hosts. If you’re a single woman thinking of becoming a first time Airbnb Host… brilliant! We’ve met amazing women Hosts as both Guests and Hosts at local meetups. Given you’re just starting out, I’d suggest that you have a friend (male or female) stick around when your first Airbnb Guests arrive. You shouldn’t be worried but it doesn’t hurt to remind Guests this is your home and people will come and go. It will probably help you feel more comfortable for this first time around too.
Airbnb is great fun and we’re constantly adding new cities to visit around the world thanks to meeting amazing people from all over the world. Give it a go, you will meet some wonderful people and have some amazing conversation that you may (or may not thanks to a few too many) remember.