Sure, come stay in my house, random internet stranger.

My Experience as an Airbnb host.

Returning to live in England meant finding a place to live. Finding a place to live meant finding people to live with (because lolz London rents). We found a lovely person to occupy the spare room, but she couldn’t move into until the start of December. We still needed to pay the full November rent – so we did what any self-respectful millennials would do. We finished our smashed avocado with organic paprika on toast * and invited internet strangers to come live with us in exchange for dollar dollar bills yo.

My experience –
Becoming an Airbnb host was easy. You just fill out basic details and pop up some photos. Set your calendar and await bookings.

Pricing
Airbnb wants to offer cheap accommodation for its travellers and there’s a lot of pressure on its hosts to make this happen. You are guided to set a very low price. It asks you for a minimum/maximum and suggests it will fluctuate pricing according to the demand. It suggests a ‘tip’ price which is the price point where it feels you will get maximum bookings and what it suggests your minimum should be. London has a lot of Airbnb and this high supply leads to a very low tip price and the reality is that their ‘dynamic pricing’ rarely moves off of the minimum. Our tip price was £23 a night. To contrast, a single bed in a shared 12 person dormitory in the hostel a 2-minute walk away is at cheapest £24 a night. We offer a private double room with its own bathroom. We went above the tip price (Minimum was set to £30) and were fully booked. Airbnb makes it very clear that it’s disappointed in you though and tells you that it’s going to put you at the bottom of the pile.

The People
I’m not sure if we just got lucky, but the people were such a fantastic surprise. We had some truly delightful people come and stay. A few people were pretty quiet but some were really friendly and delightful to have stay with us. They were genuinely very pleasant and interesting. It was awesome to hear their stories of their travels.  A couple of them we’ll be keeping in touch with, which is such a lovely bonus from something that was about contributing to rent.

Safety
We were letting out a room in the flat while we were also occupying it. The flat is obviously filled with our things and by us. Giving a stranger the keys to your property can be pretty daunting. Talking to the people beforehand definitely helped and knowing that Airbnb had taken basic details and done an initial verification was nice. I liked knowing why our guests were going to be here – from the guy in London to do a very cool Data Science/Artifical intelligence course to the couple from South-Korea who were touring Europe. You definitely have to be trusting and ready to let people in. Personally welcoming people and having chats with them definitely made both parties feel more at ease.

I would definitely recommend storing away personal items that can’t be replaced. If no amount of money could replace what it means to you, then tuck it away somewhere safe where it can’t be taken or damaged. We had a  few valuables about the place – from cash to laptops and didn’t have any issues.

Laundry and Cleaning
Probably the only negative about the whole thing. I’ve washed the sheets and dried them at the laundry, scrubbed the toilets, hoovered and mopped the floors, scrubbed the shower etc…. countless times. Getting everything just right for your guests takes quite a bit more time than I envisioned. I did get better at it after the first few guests. I made the mistake of not setting a minimum amount of days and often had a person stay for one day and another person arriving on the day the previous person left. This just made for a lot of laundry.

Ratings
Ratings on Airbnb work in the same way as Uber. That is – the numbers apart from 1 and 5 are meaningless. 5 is seen as acceptable, anything less than that is not. They really should just replace it with a binary system. 
I’m pleased to report that we were rated 5 stars by all our guests. I’m was really happy with our outcome. The rating system is fairly harsh though. One bad rating (like a 4 overall) would massively put you down in the ratings and really hamper your chances of getting bookings. If you’re doing as a required source of income instead of a one-off short-term thing like we were, it is a lot of pressure to maintain those ratings. Still getting the 5 stars wasn’t hard – I made sure the room was as described, everything was cleaned to a good standard and that I communicated effectively with my guests.

My Tips –
If you’re having people check out / check in on the same day and don’t have a drier then take the pressure off yourself by having two sets of bedding/towels to avoid the manic trying to get it ready for the next people.

  • Don’t worry about providing the little perks. I’ve read guides about putting chocolate on pillows and generally doing little things that will make the guests feel extra special. The reality is that people just want a safe, warm, clean and comfortable space to stay. If you fall into Airbnb’s “cheap” instead of “unique and special” then look after your profits and don’t waste time on these things that won’t make a huge difference.
  • Honesty in your listing is important. If you’re upfront about what they are getting, they will have booked expecting that and will be content when you provide it. If you exaggerate that you’re going to provide a palace but in fact provide a hovel – people will rightly be disappointed. 
  • Have a printed welcome guide that explains everything you need to know about your house. The location, the keys, the locks, the facilities, the wifi – everything. I even popped a few restaurant recommendations on there. It took me 5 minutes to make and I literally just printed it off for each guest. It really helped with the guests whose first language wasn’t English. 
  • Set a minimum nights amount. Having someone stay for just one night is actually rather inconvenient – it’s much better if they stay for a few nights. We also had the situation where someone booked just for Saturday night – which stops what would have been weekend bookings. 

Overall it’s been really positive and I would definitely do it again. I am relieved to have our permanent housemate move in – She’ll be washing her own bedding! 

* I have never actually eaten Avocado toast in my life.

Let me know what you think! I'd love to hear from you.