This piece first appeared on Midlife Smarts. See the author’s bio and contact info below the post.
Right now, like at this moment, there’s a guy from New York in my bed.
He’s been lathering himself with my shower gel, cooking with my oven and, if he has any sense… using my Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar (it’s the good stuff).
Last week it was a Brazilian couple 🇧🇷…and next week it’ll be a woman from Munich 🇩🇪.
No, I haven’t joined some weird International Swingers Sect, nor am I being targeted by a team of crack squatters.
Actually…I’m renting out my flat on…airbnb
See, in my job, I work on a lot of events and most years I have a quiet-ish 4 – 5 week period smack bang about now.
When I say a quiet spell I don’t mean I sit about watching Jeremy Kyle whilst alphabetising my herbs. In reality, I spend most of the time in front of a screen catching up on really truly horrid ADMINISTRATION…
My VAT Return– sad face
My Year End Accounts – really sad face
A year’s filing – Munch’s The Scream Face
So, there I was grumpily making the aforementioned To Do list and had a light blub moment (an old fashioned one not one of those eco ones).
Wouldn’t it be a great idea, I thought, to spend a few hours getting my flat on Airbnb and then TRAVEL (cunningly bypassing all those vile Admin jobs).
I started to day-dream…
I could have a Gap Month.
I’ll buy a backpack.
I’ll wear double demin.
It’ll be GOODBYE to straighteners & serum and HELLO to plaiting my hair every morning after washing it in a nearby waterfall.
I’ll be a slightly (errm) older, wiser, more cynical, street-wise, poorer, 21lb heavier, 19-year-old-Gap-Year-student.
Hell girl, what a great plan, I thought.
Did it work out?
ermmmm, no….here’s how it actually went down.
Spend a few hours getting my flat on Airbnb
Getting set up as a host isn’t hard – those clever Airbnb folks (Harvard-graduate, avocado-eating, Silicon Valley types) have worked it all out.
You fill in this, agree to that, upload some photographs of your home, tidy your home, then…
YOU’RE A HOST.
Dealing with Enquiries
Once you’ve gone live you keep checking if you’ve had a booking, then suddenly your phone makes that exciting Airbnb Alert Ping and a message pops up, along the lines of…
I live in Nice/Shanghai/Sydney and my daughter is studying at Glasgow University. I am visiting for a week. How far are you from the Art Gallery? What floor are you on? Do you have Hypoallergenic Pillows?
So you send a couple of emails back and forth about the weather and what exactly are Hypoallergic Pillows, while you try to figure out if they are potential terrorists or furniture thieves. You check out their references (Airbnb have a great system of encouraging both hosts and guests to rate each other so problems should be out there) and finally you click
…and suddenly someone is coming to live in your home in like 6 days time and…and…and jeez, it’s a mess.
Here comes the horrible bit … The Tidying
I live in a one bedroom flat and work from home which = limited storage space.
So I got a lock fitted on THE cupboard, and STUFFED it to the gunnels, like the trousers of a World Class dart player, with 28 pairs of shoes, a box of teenage diaries & love letters, a bottle of Champagne, a box of photographs, salopettes (yeah, like for all that Ski-ing I do), a tennis racquet (see Ski-ing), most of my clothes (the rest are in the wardrobe of my lovely neighbor), toiletries and makeup etc etc etc.
What can’t be squeezed in there I have rammed into two lockable filing cabinets which were already pretty full of paperwork (the sorting of which was on my To Do List).
Then it’s…The Packing
So for my four weeks nomadic period I packed a large suitcase with clothes, make-up and work-related accouterments – like a stapler and a hole-punch… I ain’t going NO-WHERE without those, buster, + a carry on suitcase (didn’t get the backpack) packed with my Double Demin and other travelling clothes for…
My Gap Month
So this is where the plan fell down a bit.
It too me so long to get set up for Airbnb that I didn’t get round to organising any travelling plus I REALLY had to sort out my year-end accounts. Thankfully, a fabilicious friend offered me a spare bedroom in her flat – 5 minutes walk away from where I live – so for that last couple of week I’ve been using her really rather nice olive oil and balsamic vinegar – and regularly walking past my home checking hasn’t burnt down.
BUT, I am planning to head off for the next 2 weeks …and yes, I am taking straighteners and serum.
So should YOU do it and how much will you get?
Yes. Yes. Yes. Depending on where you live, the size of your home and the time of year you could get between £75 and Gazillions of Pounds (that’ll be Edinburgh during The Festival or anywhere in London or) per night. My prices are £110 for midweek and £125 weekend, which would pay for a pretty nice holiday.
Plus hosting is fun – all my guests have been fab.
If you are thinking about it, here are…
My Top 10 Practical Tips To Help You Be A Successful AirBnb Host
1. Go for minimum a 5 night stay to keep the cleaning, laundry & biscuit costs down.
2. Price High – unless you have a home lying empty (so you’ll be a Hedge Fund Manager then) it’s a lot of work so make it worth your while and add on extras like a Cleaning Cost and Deposit (Airbnb optional extras).
3. Take great photographs that show what people really want when they travel. Yeah, take lots of photos of each room looking lovely but make sure you get some close ups of the things you’d like if you were staying in someone’s home – fluffy towels artistically rolled on top of a well made bed, a cafetiere filled with steaming coffee beside a packet of shortbread (or region-appropriate biscuits or HobNobs will do), more hangers than a Kardashian needs, a bottle of Rose and two glasses in an ice bucket. You get the picture.
4. Be fussy – only accept guests who have (at least 2) good reviews. If it’s a group of three girls who live 25 miles way and they want to stay on a Saturday night – say NO – unless you don’t mind finding Vodka bottles in your pants drawer for the next month.
5. Lock away or take things which are easily damaged or you would hate to lose (like your Nespresso machine, family photographs and the dog)
6. Be a nice host. It’s amazing how delighted guests are when you leave them some tea bags, biscuits, a bottle of water and an unopened bar of soap. Plus you’ll get fab reviews
7. If you have more than one bedroom you could stay put and rent out a room or even your sofa –if you don’t mind random people staying over and using your bathroom. I’d mind.
8. Factor in the Costs – sorry buster, don’t think you can sit by the pool in your most-flattering one-piece, knocking back Pina Coladas, watching your bank balance rise. You (or someone you pay Or someone who loves you very very very much) will end up doing lots of cleaning and washing of sheets and towels as well as meeting & greeting the guests.
And don’t forget you’ll be the one paying for the electricity and gas, wifi, getting spare keys cut, tea, coffee, water , biscuits, kitchen/toilet roll, cleaning stuff, dishwasher tablets etc. Then there’s the tax-man – who will probably whip off a good 20- 30%.
9. Be safe – make sure your home complies with local safety regulations like Carbon Monoxide Detectors, Smoke Detectors etc. And tell your home insurance company…they might hike up your premium.
10. Think about where you will go. You won’t have a home for weeks on end. It’s a weird feeling. It’s an adventure. It’s exciting but then again, you might want to cry. It’s easier if it’s just you – if you have kids they might object to sleeping in your friend’s wardrobe or the boot of your car.
The Brazillian couple left my flat cleaner than it’s looked since I moved in + a lovely thank you note + a packed of Brazilian biscuits (tasty).
So now, and for the rest of my life, I will LOVE all the Brazillian people in the world… and that, my friend, is the real MAGIC of Airbnb.