In March 2015 I moved to Amsterdam (my new home) from Dubai. It is my first time living in a European city. Since Amsterdam is a fascinating city that offers a unique Dutch lifestyle amongst friendly people, I instantly liked it and decided to live here for a longer period.
Before coming to Amsterdam, my new company connected me with a real estate agent, who gave me only one choice :) and as it is hard to find an apartment in Amsterdam, I quickly made the decision to take it.
From Google maps, I explored the street view and got myself familiar with the streets and shops nearby. I got very excited and when I arrived in Amsterdam and into my apartment, it instantly gave me a feeling of home.
My new apartment is located in a very Dutch trendy neighbourhood called Rivierenbuurt (River Neighbourhood). The Amstel runs next to my apartment, which is quite intriguing as I am a runner.
The house itself has three floors, with one apartment on each floor, which was quite unique for me compared to Dubai standards of high-rise living.
My apartment consists of a living room, a dining room, a bedroom, a common bath and a full size kitchen with a balcony.
It was perfect for me, but at certain times I felt it to be too big for just one person.
When I was in Dubai, I heard from my colleague that he was doing Airbnb and that it helps him to pay the cost of his rent. It was pretty cool to hear his side of the story and how he was doing Airbnb. For me it was different as I was not in need of money but the size of the apartment played on my mind.
I looked on Airbnb to see how people rent their apartments and at that time it still looked expensive for me.
After living in Amsterdam for a month, I got more familiar with the neighbourhood and thought it would be nice if another person could also have the same experience as I am having and share Dutch living standards at a very low cost. It was also around the same time that Airbnb became legal in the Netherlands and started to charge occupancy tax. The only condition of this is that the tenant/owner should live in the apartment for at least 6 months of the calendar year and Airbnb provides insurance on the house in case of any damage happens due to Airbnb guests. This assured me that what I am doing is legal and will not result in any harm to me.
Posting the ad
In April 2015, I listed my couch on Airbnb. Yes, you read it right — a COUCH. As a User Experience Designer we always practiced to release the MVP (Minimal Viable Product) and use Lean methodology. I did the same, to minimise the risk and to see if this would really work.
I took some pictures from my iPhone of my living room where the couch was placed, and added the description in a nice way because that’s what people will read. I mentioned all the perks of being in the apartment (like Jacuzzi bath, quiet neighbourhood, next to the river). I priced it for €25 posted on Airbnb.
After 2 days, I got my first enquiry for a one-day stay and in reply I clearly mentioned “The bed type is a couch in a living room and it’s an open space”. After approving the request, it turned out to be my first booking from my first enquiry. After the successful first booking, I started to get many enquires even though it was couch, but people were still liking it. I got positive reviews and soon guests started suggesting I get an extra bed.
I started to see the opportunity and after a receiving around 20 guests in 2 months I invested in a €40 airbed and put that in a separate dining room and moved the dining table aside to look like a desk to work on with a lamp. In the meantime I also applied for an Airbnb photographer who took pictures of my apartment and posted them on my listing. It was the middle of summer and I started to get 3 to 4 enquiries a week that turned into 1 or 2 bookings a week for the price of €30.
Because I travel quite often, and due to some uncertainties, I always open the booking for a month in advance. Because Amsterdam is busy and full of tourists, I always get a month full of bookings in the first week. Soon I started receiving feedback from guests that having a real bed rather than an airbed would be nice, so after September 2015 I went to IKEA and bought a nice single bed for €250, got rid of the airbed and priced it €35.
It is a fact that the more a person stays in one place the more he will feel like home and the more a person feels like home, the more he will start changing things as he likes to his convenience. Thus I only opened the stay for 1 to 4 days per enquiry. For this reason, most of the times I was getting business travel or backpack traveller enquiries.
This was great as neither backpackers nor business travellers like to stick around at my apartment: their morning starts early and they leave for sightseeing or business and come home late in the evening to sleep. It never obstructed my daily life either.
In general, the guests I received were very open-minded, understanding, social and polite people. After receiving 112 guests, I remember barely 3 incidents where interaction with the guest was not ideal. Other than that it was a great experience.
You can do little things with guests that will make them happy, like my wifi password. Whenever guests ask for the wifi password I set it to be ‘youareawesome’ and that makes them smile.
I also received countless personal notes, when guests check out. All I had to do is to place a pen and notebook on their desk.
In total I hosted 255 nights in a full year, in which 41 bookings were for 1 night, 38 bookings for 2 nights, 20 bookings for 3 nights, 13 bookings for 4 nights, 4 bookings for 5 nights and 1 booking for 6 nights.
In total I have received 112 guests from around the world. The United States tops the ranking with 36 guests, followed by 14 from the United Kingdom, 8 from Germany, 7 from France, 6 from Belgium and the 41 remaining guests were from 23 different countries.
As for gender, I have received 38% female and 62% male guests.
As for cities/states: California tops with 11 guests, followed by 9 guests from London, 4 from New York, 3 from Illinois and 3 from Paris. The rest were from 67 different cities around the world.
Note: I have summed US cities in states to make calculations more easier.
As for the money, I have earned 10,425 euros over a year’s duration, including cleaning fees. 356 of those euros went into airbnb fees that includes taxes.
In the end
I would encourage everyone who has a spare bed in their house to list their space on Airbnb (if that’s legal in your country). It’s a great way to boost the economy of a city/country because there are thousands of other tourists who like to visit different cities but are not able to do it because the hotels are too expensive.
As for me, I am deeply honoured to have been a host for the hundreds of guests who stayed at my apartment and gave me a chance to contribute to their first amazing experience of Amsterdam.