In two days Summer, a college student from China who just graduated from a Texas University, and her mother are coming to stay with us for over 3 months. Her mother speaks no English. We have never met either one. Welcome to the weird world of being an Airbnb host.
Smart or Crazy?
Years ago we added onto our house and expanded it to 5 bedrooms, but now our kids have moved away and most of that space was going unused. We hosted some foreign students for a few years and had two great and one not so ideal experiences. But my wife Joan got the idea of putting our two front rooms up on Airbnb. It turns out, she likes feeling that we are using our house and the fact that people pay to stay with us doesn’t hurt either.
I am sure that some of you think that welcoming strangers into your home sounds scary and giving strangers a key to your home sounds just simply crazy.
If you listen to the evening news you likely have the idea that violent crime is on the rise (it’s dropping), that terrorists are going to get you (your chance of being killed by a terrorist in the US is 1 in 20 million, half as likely as being struck by lightning), that plane crashes are common (your chances of being killed at 1 in 11 million) and that you shouldn’t trust strangers (if you are murdered… not likely… it will probably be by someone you know). Let’s face it good news makes for boring news programs and the boring part of Airbnb is that a lot of people you don’t know are nice.
Airbnb without Tourists
The odd thing is that we don’t live in a tourist region. We don’t live in San Francisco, but an hour south in San Jose in Silicon Valley. So it turns out that the people who have stayed with us have not been tourists, but are usually here on business.
- Doug was here to meet with Apple because his company was working on an app for the Apple watch.
- Patel and his friends were here to demonstrate a product at the Maker Fair.
- Mirghani was in town to visit his daughter and old friends.
- Lan was in town to visit her college boyfriend.
- Sherman and Zack worked for Google for the Summer and found us because we are near a Google bus stop. They were the first of 5 summers where we had Google interns
- Catherine was here for a conference.
- Wylie was in town because his company wants to sell to local companies.
- Sandip was here to raise venture capital.
We have had people stay who were from the US, but also people from India, Sudan, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brazil, and Singapore. That’s the kind of people who visit my city and therefore the kind of people who are looking for a place to stay. Your experience will depend as well on where you live.
We have been hosting long enough now that we are listed as Super Hosts which makes it easier to get additional guests.
So far, everyone who has stayed with us has been both polite and interesting. The worst thing that has happened was a broken bottle of aftershave that required the room to get a good airing out. Of course, other hosts have had bad experiences. It’s one of the reasons that Airbnb provides host protection insurance.
On the contrary, we now have a “Brazilian daughter” who lived with us for 2 years and now in 2020 is back “home” here taking classes remotely at UCLA. We met her and her mother through Airbnb when they came to the area to find a place for her to live while she attended the local community college. We attended the wedding for Zack last year who was one of our first Google interns.
When you put your apartment, house, or room up on Airbnb you get to decide how much to charge, what days it will be available and you also get to decide who will stay with you.
- We do not enable instant booking on our rooms so we don’t have random people just knocking on the front door.
- Since we are sharing the living space, we have it set so that people who want to stay with us have to ask to be invited. If we ever got a weird feeling about someone, or if they just seemed like too much trouble we can say no. We can see what previous hosts have said about our guests, assuming that they have rented through Airbnb before.
- We have also added a minimum stay of a couple of nights. Most of the guests in our area stay for a couple of weeks and we have had at least one long term stay of a year.
Who Should Host
So who would make a good Airbnb host? I think it helps if you like people and find them interesting.
It probably helps to be a bit flexible. We have paid for all or much of our mortgage for a number of months this year and in exchange, we have met some great people. That’s not a bad deal.
Listen to an Expert
I interviewed travel writer Larissa Milne from Changes in Longitude. Larissa and her husband spend about half the time living in Airbnb as they travel and she told us what a frequent traveler is looking for.
- Some cities have restrictions on how many days a space can be available for Airbnb. This is to prevent Airbnb from eating into the number of units available for local renters. This is usually not a problem when you are renting a room because then you are adding rental space. Check your local laws.
- The first thing you will do is create a listing for your house. Get on Airbnb and see how much other people are charging in your area for a similar space. You can rent out all of a house, apartment, cottage, treehouse, or you can rent a single room. Either is fine but your listing needs to make it clear what you are offering. If you are renting “all” of a place then the person renting from you will not expect to encounter anyone else in the space… period. No pets. No roommates. no other guests.
- You need to take pictures of your space. They should be high resolution and taken in good light. They should be clear and representative of your space. The bed should be made. There should not be any clutter.
- If someone is sharing your space they will expect a room they can lock.
- If you will provide breakfast that should be specified.
- You should have an information sheet or a binder of information that they will need to know that should include things like:
- Where they can find a clean towel
- How to get on the internet/wi-fi
- House rules if any
- What part of the space they do or do not have access to
- Where they can find groceries nearby
- Local public transportation if available
- Information about local tourist sites if applicable.
- You can use the Airbnb app or website to schedule when your space will be available. You might want to figure out when you will have friends and relatives in town and will not want to rent it out.
Are you already an Airbnb host? How has it worked for you?
To become a host yourself click here.