While I’ve been selling my corporate soul in a dull but highly lucrative contract, I’ve also been supplementing my income by offering out my spare room on Airbnb. Initially, it was a case of “needs must”. My cash flow was so ridiculous that I forced to get past my aversion to sharing my personal space and beautiful home with strangers.
Airbnb was a good alternative to a more permanent housemate and the variety of guests means you don’t get bored or annoyed with anyone for long. I’ve been doing this for 3 months now and as we head full throttle into backpacker season, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned:
- Know your market: Who do you want to stay in your home? Couples? Singles? Backpackers? 20-year-old party animals? It might seem obvious and I’m sure there are a million articles advising you to tailor your ad to that group. My advice – work out who you DON’T want in your home and then pepper your ad and descriptions with words that will deter them e.g. I stress how Elwood is St Kilda’s quieter neighbour with a lovely grown-up cafe/restaurant culture, away from the hustle and bustle of late night bars.
- Screen, screen, screen: No matter how long you pour over your listing, there’s always a surprisingly high number of people who will pay it no attention and try to book without checking suitability. Use Airbnb’s booking criteria and screening functionality. I have one queen bed in a medium sized room, yet I’ve had booking request from a family of 3 (including a small baby), a woman wanting a 6-month rental, and friends wanting single beds. Don’t be scared to screen and ask lots of questions up front.
- Manage expectations: If you offer use of your washing machine, dishwasher, tea/coffee/breakfast etc make sure you can sustain that offer and include washing powder. These are all lovely touches to increase your ratings but manage expectations by offering a shelf in the fridge and pantry for their food so they don’t eat your breakfast morning, noon and night. Make it clear where the washing powder lives and where crockery lives so you don’t come home to unloaded dishwashers every night. If you need access to the shower at specific times to get ready for work – let your guests know.
- Don’t underestimate how much loo paper you will go through! My guests are usually backpacking couples. So far all very sweet and lovely and we’ve had lots of fun swapping travelling stories. On one couple’s visit, I went through 10 toilet rolls in one week! That’s a pretty extreme example but and luckily I had plenty in stock.
- Limit your length of stay. I read this as a tip to deter squatters when I first started hosting. Initially, I limited my length of booking to 14 days, but then naturally found longer than 7 days and I craved my own space. So now I limit stays to 7 days. Most bookings are for the full 7 days (given the profile of my guests).
- Stay strong around your rules. I’ve never had a bad guest and I’m sure it’s the case for 99% of cases. Any problems are usually down to miscommunication (see point 2 & 3). I’ve had two cases of guests wanting to stay longer – I’ve said ‘no’. I had one couple (the super poopers) live in their room caining my broadband – I pulled them up on it and explained their use excessive, they stopped.
- Always ask guests to dispose of their own rubbish and food at the end of their stay. Guests will always generate waste and rubbish and if you hate putting out the rubbish – like I do – make sure it’s clear in the checkout instructions that they leave the pantry/fridge as they found it i.e. clear and dispose of rubbish appropriately.
I’ve found guests to be respectful, quiet, rule-abiding and very pleasant so far. Hosting isn’t going to make you rich overnight but it’s a good income supplement. I regularly make over $300 (profit) a week from offering out a room that would normally just gather dust. Plus you get to meet some pretty interest folk along the way 🙂