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Being an airbnb host?
May 22, 2012 2:48 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking about becoming an airbnb host. Have you done this (or are you an experienced guest)? Is this a good idea, and do you have suggestions on how to make this more fun and profitable?

I recently moved into a fairly spacious (800-900 sq ft) 2 bedroom apartment in a nice, central neighborhood of Seattle. I like talking to strangers and I'm not overly weirded out by the idea of having them in my home (I've done a lot of hostel traveling, couch surfing and random house-sharing). It recently occurred to me that acting as an airbnb host might be a good way to bring in a little extra cash and meet some interesting people.

Have you done this before? What are some things to think about, either good or bad, before deciding to do this? And some specific questions:

- The room that would be available is quite small (about 9x9 ft) - will this make it hard to find guests? The rest of the place is pretty spacious, with a large living room and kitchen, and a private deck area, all of which I would make available to guests.

- Speaking of which, how do you deal with kitchen and bathroom access? Do you give them a shelf in the fridge? Do you talk about morning schedules? That seems like it could get awkward.

- Interacting with guests - do you try to stay out of their way or are you friendly? Do you invite them to share meals with you?

- How do you deal with security, both for them and you?

- If this goes well, I may consider renting the whole apartment when I go out of town for work, etc. How do you deal with the logistics of that?

- I'm a renter, but it seems like a lot of airbnb hosts are. If you are also a renter, did you ask your landlord ahead of time?
posted by lunasol to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
One thing that made my most recent stay SUPER convenient was that the host had an electronic keypad lock on the door. This prevented having to coordinate with meeting up for key access both leaving and going.

Small snacks (water, maybe juice, some snack bars/chocolate) are always nice.

I usually avoid renting rooms and only go for full apartments/houses. At the end of a long day touristing, the last thing I'd want to deal with is being social with someone in their home.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 3:01 PM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd say being at least a bit flexible on the length of your rental periods. We've tried a few places through airbnb, but usually are wanting to stay just for a night. Most places require a full weekend or longer, so it's not worked out for us.
posted by goggie at 3:23 PM on May 22, 2012


Do a search for Seattle, WA and put some dates in the future. Look at the current ads. See what kind of amenities they offer and how many reviews (and how well they were reviewed). Adjust your price accordingly.

I'll be setting up an Airbnb room soon so I've done a little research.
posted by sandmanwv at 3:33 PM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


- I'm a renter…If you are also a renter, did you ask your landlord ahead of time?

you should check your lease. there is usually stuff in leases about subletting which is essentially what you are doing and a lot of times, landlords require notification that you are doing so.

that said, i occasionally rent out one of the guest rooms in my house for periods of a couple weeks to several months. i have a listing on airbnb but have never actually found a guest through it (all my guests contacted me through craigslist). the guest has share access to all the common rooms as well as space in the kitchen and fridge for their food. sometimes we socialize, sometimes not depending on the chemistry and interests between the guest and me. i've done this for several years and have a pretty good radar for who i think i will get along with through our email correspondence when the guests make inquiries. have only had a few ppl who were pretty nuts (like the woman who came in with some electrical wave meter and then later asked me to disable my wifi during the day—despite the fact that i work from home) who i had to ask/who left earlier than the agreed upon terms—but no one whom i felt threatened my personal safety. they're given a key for access. most of the guests have been people who were looking to move to my town for work and wanted a place to land while they searched for a place to live, medical students on rotation, or ppl in town for internships—although i have had the occasional tourist or someone just here to check out the town—and interactions have ranged from the cordial and scarcely around to really friendly (i'm still friendly some who had made the move into town) and for the most part, i've really enjoyed the experience. i'm in the northwest as well, and generally, i'm able to find guests about 9 months of the year if i desired—usually no one is interested in coming here in the winter.
posted by violetk at 3:40 PM on May 22, 2012


A New York Times columnist recently called a bunch of homeowners insurance companies, and some suggested that they might not honor policies for people hosting lodgers without informing them, while others said they would not cover damage done by guests. I don't think he talked about renters insurance. Assuming you have renters insurance (and you should -- especially if you're letting strangers into your home and they could touch or take your things), you should check to make sure you're still covered if you join Air B'n'B
posted by croutonsupafreak at 4:40 PM on May 22, 2012


I've done an apartment swap and a rental through VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) and both worked out wonderfully. I can only speak to letting someone use your home while you're away and using someone's home while they're gone. For me it's been mostly common sense stuff, put personal things under lock and key or in very safe places. I respected people's personal space and didn't try to pry. I told the people who stayed in my place that they could eat anything in the kitchen. I left the fridge mostly empty except for condiments. The people on the other end had left me a mostly empty fridge too but also a bottle of champagne and chocolates. Likewise, I felt comfortable using their coffee, sugar, olive oil, spices, etc. Their place was ancient, built in the 1700s and quirky, but that was OK and added to the charm. Their wifi wouldn't work; my DVD player wouldn't work.

The VRBO place had almost nothing in the kitchen, which was a little bit of pain but no big deal. It just meant buying every single thing that was needed to make a dish. I was in Paris and sometimes tried to recreate simple dishes that I'd eaten at restaurants, then I would realize I needed a spoonful of olive oil or flour or vinegar and any spice beyond salt and pepper. This wasn't a deal breaker in any way though.

Both people left extensive instructions regarding appliances, dos and don'ts around the house, recommendations for restaurants, grocery stores, salons, things of interest. (Those combo washer/dryer machines are ghastly.)

I did not ask my landlord beforehand. I did tell a neighbor and a friend that someone would be staying at my place in case the visitor needed help or there was an emergency. I carried renter's insurance.
posted by shoesietart at 4:49 PM on May 22, 2012


I've been very successful on airbnb, enough so that I pay half my mortgage each month but I rent the whole apartment not just a room. I travel frequently and it works out well for me that way. People seem to like the privacy - even though I state clearly that they're getting the whole apartment I get regular messages asking if the potential guests will have the apartment to themselves. I think it would be a very different environment as a potential host if you were planning to share.

I have a pretty tidy place, and I lock the stuff I don't want out into a closet before I leave. I have two cabinets in the kitchen with locks and I lock some stuff in there but just generally make it clear what is shared (liquids, basically, and I try to leave an assortment) and what is not shared. I do a very thorough cleaning but leave my (pretty nice) shower toiletries in the bathroom and towels out and fresh sheets on the bed as well as a bowl of snacks and coffee/tea/juice. Note: I do NOT check the option for breakfast, I leave these out as a courtesy to my guests.

Since I'm gone, I have a cheat-sheet for the place that I give each guest (emailed copy a week before arrival, printed copy in hand at "check-in") and meet them when they arrive. I don't do a house tour, I just meet them at the door with keys and the cheat sheet and then invite them to text/call with any questions. When they leave, I have them drop the keys in the mail slot after they lock up.

I have had, without exception, entirely positive experiences (I'm in the 3 dozen range now). The guests I've had have been MUCH more tidy than I expected and many of them leave gracious friendly notes for me when they leave. I am very pleased with Airbnb as a financial intermediary and they provide great support. I had their (free) pro photographer take pictures of my place; his pics weren't significantly better than the pics I already had up, but I thought it was a nice free service to offer.


- The room that would be available is quite small (about 9x9 ft) - will this make it hard to find guests? The rest of the place is pretty spacious, with a large living room and kitchen, and a private deck area, all of which I would make available to guests.



I'm not sure. I have found people really like their privacy, but your clientele will likely be very different for me. I think if you outfit the room with nice amenities, the size won't matter too much. If there is a private bathroom, particularly en suite, that would likely make the difference for me.

- Speaking of which, how do you deal with kitchen and bathroom access? Do you give them a shelf in the fridge? Do you talk about morning schedules? That seems like it could get awkward.


Can't really speak to this. I had one guest come and share space with me, our schedules mostly didn't overlap. I guess my airbnb experience is more like renting a nice furnished apartment rather than a short-term roommate, but I'd suggest letting them know the important stuff and also when you'll be out of their hair. I leave them plenty of space in the fridge, and make clear what is shared and what isn't (per above).

- Interacting with guests - do you try to stay out of their way or are you friendly? Do you invite them to share meals with you?

- How do you deal with security, both for them and you?


Can't speak to the interactions - I'm always very friendly and communicative ahead of time and via email (they're often new to the site and a bit nervous about ME) which I think helps. On the security issue, I check out people's reviews (if they have them) and base my judgement on their communication with me. If I am concerned, I just don't confirm their reservation. Without exception, every single person I've met has been extraordinarily nice and overall great. On the stuff side of security, airbnb has a 50k host guarantee if there are damages.

- If this goes well, I may consider renting the whole apartment when I go out of town for work, etc. How do you deal with the logistics of that?


This is the way to go! I do logistics via email and meet them to drop off keys. On the rare occasions I can't meet them to drop off keys, I mail them the keys (USPS Priority confirmed) ahead of time at my expense. Feel free to memail me if you want to talk more about this, I really am delighted with the service.

One thing to note, airbnb tacks on some modest processing fees, but they will pay you via paypal (!!)
posted by arnicae at 6:32 PM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeesh, I really should stop being so terse and succinct with my answers.
posted by arnicae at 6:32 PM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


For me, it's been a great experience. We didn't really get many people being interested until we got some good reviews. But now that we have some good reviews, the place is basically fully booked. I don't think it will be a big problem what the size of the room is, but I would recommend describing it really honestly on the site.

I have a small safe for all my financial documents, but have never had any problems. People have all been really clean and left things in great condition.
posted by lab.beetle at 9:30 PM on May 22, 2012


We've just reached our one year anniversary with AirBnB and are pretty delighted with it. We have a smallish spare bedroom [4mx3m, not sure what that is in feet] but it has its own bathroom and access to the outdoors. We only have guests when we feel 'up' to it and we prefer short stays of 1-3 days because we live here and feel that works best for us. We have had a few people stay a month - nothing strenuous, and yet we have paid our utility bills for the year.

The referee system, the photographs, verification system etc at AirBnB has worked fine for us. We've met great people with whom we've had varying degrees of contact. We take our cues from guests: some have full itineraries and just want a place to crash; some ask for tourist advice and a surprising amount want our company. Some are delighted to be invited out with us, and really rate that as part of the AirBnB experience. We have a list of great local restaurants, cafes, bars etc in a file in the guest room. We take them to a cafe or bar sometimes, especially if they are single travelers looking to have a 'local' experience. Some have even want to come with us to play frisbee at our dog park. Kinda weird really - like a Couchsurfing mentality that I didn't expect at all. At the very least we have a drink [wine from a local vineyard] at home with them, give them an orientation and take our cues about how little/much they need from us. We provide coffee, tea some fruit etc, sometimes a pastry that I've made but no formal breakfast options. They have fridge room and use of the kitchen. We also give our wifi password and access to our media. We have a spare tablet if they need to use a computer. Often guests need to use our printer for their boarding passes, itinerary which is fine with us. When we get the sense that our guests want a more private time, we make ourselves scarce - we have our own tv in our bedroom upstairs that leaves them free to use the rest of the space freely, or we go out.

Guests with cars need to know about the parking situation - a surprising number of people are quite anxious about this so make the options explicit in your listing. Your keys need to be easy to use and hard to lose. We put our electronic pass and key on a bright red lanyard. Losing them sucks. We warn guests that they have to pay to replace electronic passes which are very expensive.

Buy decent linen and towels/bathmats/face-washers etc - you have to wash your sheets often so don't buy cheap stuff that won't last without looking shabby. Change pillows regularly. Be prepared to clean your bathroom to hotel standards - having a bad report on your cleanliness is harsh and off-putting when people are doing accommodation searches. People do comment on this [luckily for us, in the positive] and notice everything. Provide liquid soap in nice, preferably opaque, pumps [we have stainless steel ones] instead of bars - it's easier to create a sense that they are not using someone else's seconds. Make the bed properly and clean the room to very high standards - things that often go unnoticed when you are cleaning for yourself, really need to be attended to. eg wipe around the light switch which seems to attract grubby marks and looks horrible, wipe handles of cupboards, dust lamps and surfaces thoroughly, clean the windows and mop the floor. Seriously, make an effort with cleanliness.

I think AirBnB is fun - both hosting and being a guest has been a positive experience.
posted by honey-barbara at 8:26 AM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Had a great Air BNB experience in SF when I first moved. The gentleman had an electronic lock that led to a hotel-like guest room. Cheaper than a hotel with the benefit of a local expert to tell us how best to go about our plans. We ended up cooking him dinner and having a long conversation about nothing in particular.
posted by jander03 at 8:39 AM on May 23, 2012


lunasol: "The room that would be available is quite small (about 9x9 ft) - will this make it hard to find guests?"

My guestroom is about 10x10, and I've had no trouble booking the room.

"Speaking of which, how do you deal with kitchen and bathroom access? Do you give them a shelf in the fridge? Do you talk about morning schedules? That seems like it could get awkward."

I defer to my guest: if I need to go while they're in the bathroom, I hold it in until they're out. Be flexible: If you think you and they may need access to bathroom in the same time, best to just say, "I usually get ready for [work, whatever] at [n]:00, will this pose a problem to your schedule" or something to that effect. Awkward, whatever; you're sharing your living space, and you have a life to attend to, best just to get things straight with each guest.

I let them have free use of the kitchen utensils, appliances, etc. I have had over 30 guests and no kitchen disasters have happened. The worst thing that's happened int he bathroom is that sometimes guests leave water on the floor. I have learned over time to mention (during the nickel-tour when they arrive) that "if there are any spills, paper towel and spray cleaner is located [here]".

I give them space in the fridge. I don't feed them. (not for the price I'm charging!)

"Interacting with guests - do you try to stay out of their way or are you friendly? Do you invite them to share meals with you?"

I generally stay out of their way, but over time I have had some interesting and long conversations with some guests. Never shared or offered a meal, but a good time was sharing my 12-pack of beers and watching Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals [hometown team wins!] with a couple from England who knew next-to-nothing about hockey. So, it all depends on the guest, and you have to read them, but best to remain at their service but not in their face, I think.

"How do you deal with security, both for them and you?"
"If this goes well, I may consider renting the whole apartment when I go out of town"


I'm a trusting person. I leave hidden keys out for them with very clear instructions on how to find them if I am not home when they arrive. That said, that may not work depending on where you live or how much you trust people or how well you can hide your keys or provide clear instructions. Rarely, I ask them to lock up when they leave for a sojourn.
"I'm a renter, but it seems like a lot of airbnb hosts are. If you are also a renter, did you ask your landlord ahead of time?"

I am a renter too, and no, I didn't. That's a roll of the dice that you can take yourself. If my landlord ever asks me, I'm prepared to say "Oh, I have lots of friends who visit town; I love having guests!"

Other than that, just have clean linens, provide them with towels, sweep the floors and do a quick once-over of the sinks and ovens to make sure things don't look grotty, and you'll get into the swing of things in no time. It helps to keep a list of "Things to do" for the first few go-rounds, just so you don't go crazy wondering if you forgot anything.

I've been doing this for 14 months now, and I've made almost $5000. Feel free to memail me with more questions!
posted by not_on_display at 7:29 PM on May 23, 2012


Thanks so much! Before I posted this, it seemed like a wacky thing that couldn't possibly work. But now this is seeming more and more like a good idea - or at least something I should try.

Those of you who have been hosts and offered more advice, I will probably contact you when I start getting set up (first I have to unpack all those boxes - and furnish the spare bedroom!)
posted by lunasol at 9:55 AM on May 24, 2012


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