Back before AirBnB was around, there was (and still is) a travel website called Couchsurfing. It’s essentially a free Airbnb, with the main focus on cultural exchange and friendship-making over just having a free place to stay. I used Couchsurfing a ton during my travels in Australia, Central America, and the United States and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. Having a local’s perspective on a destination makes your travel so much more memorable and personalized. I really really love it.
With the advent of Airbnb, it’s made “couchsurfing” more mainstream and open to travelers who would never in a million years sleep on someone’s couch. Airbnb married couchsurfing with the bed and breakfast experience. Now you can get to know your host if you want to or you can just stay in your Airbnb solo, or somewhere in between. It’s easy to see why Airbnb has taken off with the millennial generation.
However, hosting on Airbnb is a completely different beast. Now it’s your turn to open up your home to strangers and it can feel a little weird. I remember when I was a more active member of Couchsurfing, I had stayed at maybe four houses before I felt confident enough to house a traveler. I realized how easy it was and I used my experience staying at other homes to know what potential guests will appreciate and what they won’t.
But here is the obvious difference between hosting someone on Couchsurfing vs Airbnb: MONAAAAYYYY. Although there’s been some controversy with Airbnb if you host as a renter, for the most part hosting your place on Airbnb is a simple and lucrative way to make some money. Especially if you are like me and travel a lot, leaving your place vacant for days at a time. Here’s some advice:
- Check the laws in your area. A quick google search will help you determine the rules for Airbnb in your area. Information is power!
- Try Airbnb as a guest. If you want to understand how the process works, stay at an Airbnb or do something fun like a staycation in your own city (maybe in a different neighborhood?) to get a feel for how the process works from top to bottom. You’ll become familiar with the site, how competitive the rates are, and how difficult or easy it is to find what you are looking for based on photos, descriptions and reviews.
- Communicate with your landlord and/or neighbors. You want to set yourself up for success. It’s really important to let your neighbors know that you will be having guests in your apartment, especially if they will be crossing paths frequently. A friend of mine did not do that and his neighbors called the cops because they thought someone was trying to rob him. If you aren’t super friendly with your neighbors, you run the risk of them not coming to you if something goes awry with your guests. Also, it’s important to find out what your landlord thinks of Airbnb. If they are highly against it, I would be prepared to have some push back or threats of evictions– not worth it! My landlord was fine with it so long as my guests respected the space (I want that too!)
- Find the right price. Let’s say you have a one bedroom apartment in Hollywood, CA and your rent is $1300. That means you spend about $43 a day to live in your apartment. Double that. $86 is a great place to start. Now go on the website and search for one bedroom apartments in Hollywood around $86/night. Are there many options that are nicer than your apartment? Maybe lower your price. Are there fewer places available going for much higher, like $120? Consider renting it for more. But I highly recommend you…
- Underprice your place the first time. People are taking a risk by staying at your place when you have no reviews. Other people who are pricing there place higher may have dozens of reviews so they are a more competitive, but if you undercut them by a percentage, people will be enticed by your price to consider taking a chance on you.
- Take pictures of a clean space. Some folks are clueless and messy. They have pictures with clothes on the bed or dishes in the sink. It’s gross. It’s not cool. Don’t be that person. Take the time and clean your place as if someone were coming to stay at your apartment. Then take pictures accordingly. Really take time to clearly show the bathroom, kitchen, bedrooms, and other sleeping surfaces. For example, if you have a pull out couch, have a picture of what the space would look like with the couch pulled out. It’ll help set expectations.
- Over describe your listing. I don’t think anyone would be upset that they were given too much information. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been pleased with the photos I’ve seen of a listing, but when I go to find out more information, a lot of stuff is vague or not written out. That gives me two choices: I can personally message the host for more details or I just keep browsing until I find something with more information. More often than not I do the latter. Don’t miss out on opportunities because you assume that your pictures will do the work for you. Take the time and really detail as much information as you can about your place to make it as easy as possible for your guests.
- Traveling or won’t be in town? Have an emergency contact nearby. When guests stayed at my place this winter, my heater pilot light went out. It was cold but luckily my neighbor came over and relit it for them. Since I was out of town, my neighbor was the emergency contact listed if ever problems came up during their stay. There is nothing worse than having nobody to help resolve a problem.
- Have emergency gear accessible. My landlord provided my apartment with a fire extinguisher, but I purchased a basic first aid kit just in case my guests needed care for small cuts or burns. I also recommend supplying more toilet paper than you think guests will need, just in case!
- Provide a welcome gift along with important information. In most Airbnb’s I’ve stayed in, the host provides a one-sheet with basic information like wifi codes, the nearest cafes, contact phone numbers, and housekeeping rules. I think it’s nice to include a small gift with the one-sheet, like a few pieces of chocolate or a keychain with the cities name on it.
- Consider the feedback. The first time I rented my apartment out on Airbnb, my guests said they loved it, but they could have used an extra blanket because it was colder than expected. So I bought a few extra throws for next time. You should never get the same negative feedback twice!
So if you are thinking about hosting your place on Airbnb and you fly with Virgin America, READ THIS: They’ve created a partnership and will give you 20,000 Elevate (Virgin America frequent flyer points) when you rent your place for five nights for more than $75/night! And the nights don’t have to be consecutive or with the same guests! HOWEVER, your listing must be a new listing linked to your Virgin Account through the page I’ve linked below. If you don’t do this, you run the risk of it taking months to go through. I didn’t do mine correctly and unfortunately it took about three months and a lot of emails to get my points. However it does work and is a great way to travel for free! You can also earn points as a guest to an Airbnb, but the points aren’t as rewarding.
I encourage you to rent your place on Airbnb when you go on your next trip. Make some cash while you travel! Enjoy~~