What is it ?
Back in 2008 a couple of guys in San Fransisco rented their lounge room to a couple of travelers who were in a bind and the idea of Airbnb hosting was born. Today Airbnb is the largest accommodation site in the world with over 150,000,000 users in 191 countries. Why didn’t we think of this, right !
Well the next best thing to being a founder is being a user, and we have used Airbnb successfully over the past few years as both travelers and hosts. A lot of people ask us about our hosting experiences so this article aims to demystify how it all works and to help you unlock some earning potential in your own assets. It can also be a pretty satisfying transaction in other ways too which I will explain later.
How does it work ?
We have two properties listed – one is a studio apartment in the suburbs and another is our family home in the city. Inquiries for both have been pretty solid from the very beginning and over all its been very successful. However I do treat them both quite differently and the Airbnb platform allows you to do that effortlessly.
There are two ways to take bookings :
- Normal booking ( family home) – all inquiries come to me first to be screened. I only take booking from people who have been ‘fully verified’ – ie. Airbnb have done ID checks, have all their personal information, they have previous reviews and ( if applicable) links to their social media pages. They provide all details regarding who will be staying and why.We tend to attract a lot of weddings parties, particularly for the bride and bridesmaids to get dressed and/or interstate parents or family groups visiting for the wedding. After some back and forth banter with the guest( usually the bride or groom) I go with my instincts and have only knocked back 2 inquiries to date. We also only have the calendar open for a small number of dates in the year which suit us.
- Instabook ( studio apartment) – these bookings are confirmed automatically and apparently are more popular with travelers as they don’t want the hassle of talking to hosts first. Fair enough at a low price point and so far we have had no issues with anyone.
The place needs to be very clean and tidy with fresh linen on the beds and towels on the racks. Everything needs to be cleaned including the washing machine, dishwasher and oven. I clear the fridge of all fresh food but leave the condiments, sauces and probably a bottle of wine.
I make an agreed time to meet all guests upon check in and sometimes again upon leaving. I show them around the place and make sure to include any trips or tricks to make their stay more enjoyable. I also leave a dossier with a full explanation of every room, feature and fitting that they might need to know about as well as information about the neighbourhood, transport, events and our local favourite haunts. It’s a nice touch to leave some basic provisions such as fresh bread, juice and fruit and of course fresh flowers are always lovely.
Airbnb now have a new service called Co-Hosting where you can utilise ( or become) a host/greeter for others. I have experienced this myself when using Airbnb in Europe – young women who clearly did not own the apartments but were readily available when required. A couple of times in the past we have had friends meet guests for us if we were out-of-town but this Co-hosting service may well be of interest to us in the future.
We are now ‘Super Hosts’ which means we have had over 10 bookings, our response rate is over 90% ( so within 24 hours), more than 50% of guests have left reviews (80%) and more than 80% have been 5 star ( 90%) . This means there is a special badge next to our listing which hopefully gives people extra piece of mind. We also have a special help line to call, are invited to special events and, after a year, we receive a travel coupon. Great incentive to keep standards high !
People often ask “but what about your valuables” to which I reply “what valuables” !? To us everything is replaceable and anything of real value is either taken with us or locked away. We lock up our home office so that all our private information is secure as well as other things. This is also where we put things like the dirty-clothes basket, shoes and other things that are better put away. We dont empty out wardrobes but rather make space by again relocating some things to the office.
I figure if someone wants to rifle through my bedside drawers or bathroom cabinet we have nothing to be ashamed of!
In the case of a mishap or incident your own insurance may not cover you however Airbnb themselves provide each host with a $1 million dollar policy or host guarantee. You should also take out a small public liability policy ( which you should have anyway if you have a cleaner, pool man or gardener etc…)
With 25+ bookings we have only had one small incident which involved some damage to a door. The guests were a respectable older doctor and his family and it got down to a bit of he said/she said so in the end we fixed the door at our own expense and moved on. A good lesson to make sure you inspect everything WITH the guest upon check in – a bit like picking up a rental car.
At the end of a stay both parties are sent a link to leave a review. This must happen within 14 days – something many people don’t realise !
As a host you are asked to rate :
- Observance of house rules
- Would you recommend this guest to others ?
At the end of 14 days OR when both parties have posted their reviews they then become available to see. You then have the opportunity to respond if you like.
If you have had a negative experience there are very ways to handle it. You can either leave a negative review ( which everyone works very hard to avoid), you can ask for advice from the very large and active hosting community, or you can get in touch with Airbnb themselves.
All payment if done via Paypal. The guest has to pay in full at the time of booking and the host does not receive any money until the DAY AFTER they have checked in. This protects travelers from false or dodgy listings ( and is a clever way for Airbnb to play the money market for up to a year!)
Controversy and compliance
There are a few parts of the world where Airbnb and similar platforms are indeed illegal – Berlin is one. North Korean is another ! Although many places have regulated certain dwellings but not others or have various loopholes. Paris for example settled on letting Airbnb collect a city tax whilst in NYC it is not illegal if it is over 30 days. And the truth is sub-letting has been a big problem in NYC for decades – and everyone still does it.
In Australia it is generally fine but you do have to be mindful of any local laws or by-laws that may affect you. Body Corp-orates in apartment blocks are particularly likely to outlaw sub-leasing so check carefully before hosting. The biggest thing to ensure you follow are any taxation requirements. We declare all our Airbnb income and pay tax accordingly.
Is hosting for you ?
The media love to publish Airbnb horror stories and there have been some really clangers ! But the reality is they are the exception rather than the norm and if you are careful with your bookings, well prepared and willing to communicate openly and actively the chance of something going wrong is minimal.
We enjoy being hosts and have met some truly lovely people from all over the world. We’ve had a real kick out of contributing to people’s wedding days, christenings and other life events, and the feedback has genuinely warmed our hearts at times. It’s a great way to earn some extra cash, especially if you have a place that could be sitting there empty at the time anyway !
If you would like to be a host and receive a US$50 reward for your first booking please click this link ! Airbnb referral link