Once upon a time, going away meant booking a hotel or B&B. But in recent years, a new kind of holiday accommodation has emerged – and it's now booming!
Airbnb was set up in 2008 to connect travellers to unique places to stay, whether that's an apartment for a day, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month. To date, over 35 million guests have travelled with Airbnb and there are now Airbnb homes in more than 34,000 cities and 190 countries!
But it's not just holiday-makers who can benefit. Airbnb has become an easy way for people to make a little extra money from their space and showcase it to an audience of millions. In fact, in the UK alone, there are 39,000 homes available on Airbnb, meaning thousands of people are cashing in from the comfort of their own home.
And you can do it at any age. The average Airbnb host is 50 years old with many people using the spare room left by children that have flown the nest to house friendly travellers for some extra pocket money. Some hosts also say they like to host as a way of ‘bringing the world to them’ as holiday-makers from around the globe make a visit. You can just let out a room, or if you spend a lot of time away or have a second home, you could even offer the whole space.
So how do you get started as an Airbnb host?
First off, visit www.airbnb.co.uk and have a look around at what's on offer in your area to get an idea of prices and how people list their free space.
Then sign up to be a host here and list your space. Here it'll give you an estimate of how much you could earn from your space. For example, to rent out a private room for two people in a house in Peterborough for a week, you could earn a tidy £250. But you can set the price and vary it according to if it's peak season or not.
Airbnb also suggest making sure you're aware of any local rules or regulations, or anything imposed by your landlord if you rent, that could affect your ability to host. There's more info on the ins and outs of this here. You may also want to chat to your neighbours to make sure they're happy with the arrangements, especially if your guests are likely to bring extra cars that might take up communal space.
Then it's a case of making your home as comfortable and appealing to guests as possible. A spokesperson from Airbnb suggests one of the most important things to think about is the arrival. After all, it's the first impression your guests will get of you and your home. "Some hosts create a welcome basket with important details such as contact numbers, important information and wifi passwords. It's also nice to suggest a few local places your guest might like to explore along with restaurant recommendations to help them experience your city or town like a real local".
And if you're going to be in while your guests visit, take time to make the most of their company. "The Airbnb experience is unique and authentic because you're sharing your space with all kinds of people from around the world so just enjoy it".
What's it really like to be an Airbnb host?
Lynn from Plymouth shares her experience.
What made you want to become a Airbnb host?
Quite simply, I needed some extra income as both of my girls had 'left the nest’ and I had a spare room. I wasn't sure about the idea of getting a lodger so I decided instead to try Airbnb to see how that was.
How did you find the process of signing up to be an Airbnb host?
It was really easy – I just joined the site, put up a few pictures of the room and my home and write a few things about my home and surroundings… and it just kind of happened!
Did you have to make any particular changes to your home ready for the guests?
Not really, I did clear out the guest room and bought some new bedding and towels. I also keep the place a lot tidier than when it’s just me.
One thing I did change is that I do now have my boiler serviced every year and have gas safety certificates, carbon monoxide and smoke detectors so if someone doesn’t have those kind of things as standard, then they might need to get them to become a host. It's for their own peace of mind as well as the safety of the guests.
What sort of people have you had as guests? Where’s the furthest one of your guests have come from?
I've hosted all kinds of people from all walks of life. I guess the furthest is Australia – you can’t get much further than that! But then culturally, the furthest is China I would say – we had a flurry of Chinese and Taiwanese guests. But we’ve also had people from Europe and Canada. All over really.
What would you say is the biggest challenge of being a host?
Occassionally you get a guest who oversteps the line as such. We have had a few of our younger guests who have taken over the kitchen, as well as one who thought it was okay to eat her sandwich in the front room without a plate. I guess we all have different standards. I guess it’s all about the social niceties. But these are very few and far between and nothing so far that has been intolerable.
What do you like about being an Airbnb host?
It gives me financial independence. I can have someone stay for a while and then, when I want privacy, I just say ‘no thanks’. I also love meeting the guests and hearing about their lives.
Would you recommend hosting to a friend?
Absolutely. I do recommend hosting to all my friends! We’ve had some wonderful experiences and met some interesting and truly lovely people.
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