Wow, it’s not often I will find a service or product that is so cool it will kick me out of a writing slump! I am so stoked to share this article with you guys and I’m not even getting compensated for it or anything!
As a blogger with a strong bent towards personal finance I am always looking for ways to either save money or make more of it! Luckily my roomie is on the same page. One day she told me about her friend who was renting out her apartment for a month through an interesting online service and she suggested we check it out and see if it was something we could use for our extra room. So I did.
AirBnB – Air Bed & Breakfast… Get it?
So what is AirBnB?
From their site:
Called the “Ebay for space” by Time Magazine, Airbnb is an online marketplace allowing anyone from private residents to commercial properties to rent out their extra space. The reputation-based site allows for user reviews, verification, and secure online transactions. Listings include vacation rentals, private rooms, entire apartments, bed and breakfasts, boutique hotels, castles, treehouses, and many other traditional and non-traditional accommodations.
In short, it’s a great way to rent out an extra room or space of yours in the short-term and make some cash!
So, how does it work?
If you’re a host like me, you take some nice photos of your place and write up a listing. It doesn’t cost anything to create a listing for yourself, though for each booking AirBnB takes a 3% service fee.
When someone wants to book with you they complete the booking process and you’re emailed and asked whether you would like to accept or not. If you accept, your contact details and exact location of your space are released to your guest, and you also receive their contact info. At that point you start talking to them about check-in times and whatever else you like.
If you are a guest, you do a search in the area you want and see the listings. You can send a quick email inquiry if you have a question, or you can book right away. You pay upfront to AirBnB who holds onto your payment. The money is sent to the host after the first day of your stay. This is in case you cancel or something happens. This is a great way to travel– you save a lot of money and learn about the local culture much more. Or you could, you know, rent a castle or something.
Ginger, what was your experience like?
Well, so far it’s been great! We are lucky that our apartment is in a desirable location, close to public transit, a clean & safe neighbourhood, etc. so we’ve had more booking requests than we can actually handle. I had to turn two people away last night, actually!
Since I’m an advertising person *wink wink* I wrote a really stellar ad. I think that that is one of the main reasons we’re getting so much interest. I included a lot of details and listed exactly what was included. I also posted nice, but realistic photos not only of the room, but the common spaces as well so that guests could get a feel for the apartment and us as hosts before they booked.
I know that this helped because I asked some of our guests this weekend why they chose our place over all the others out there. One reason was we have a slightly lower price, but the other was because we looked “friendly”, “normal” and “welcoming”. All good things to hear!
Good customer service is also important. We responded quickly and politely to all inquires and did a great hosting job when they got to the apartment as well.
My roommate and I compiled a list of local activities and sights for our first guests from Spain this weekend. They wanted to know more about the Toronto culture and do less of the touristy stuff. They were real travellers and wanted to go where the locals went!
This was very well-received so we’re actually going to step things up a notch and do up a beautiful digital booklet to send to our guests. It will include photos our friends have taken, the traditional tourist listings (CN Tower, ROM, etc.) as well as our “local” suggestions such as our favourite bars, restos and concert venues. My roommate is also very into the local hipster art scene so she can provide all kinds of party and gallery recos.
As we get more accustomed to being hosts, we have plans to kick things up a notch as well by offering breakfast, doing tours, etc. We really want to make a cool experience for our guests. Not only will this be kinda fun for peeps like us, but it will allow us to charge more per night and increase our profits!
A key point of the AirBnB system is the recommendations and reviews. After every booking both the host and guests review the stay. The more positive reviews you have, the better (and the more money you can charge!). You can also get friends to write recommendations about you personally; this also helps guests learn more about you and helps them make their decisions.
We are still waiting for our reviews from our 3 guests this weekend but I expect that they will be quite positive. I have also left them positive reviews. Our Spanish guests were even so sweet as to bring us a bottle of local Spanish wine to thank us! Awwww!
I obviously think this is a really cool concept for both hosts and travellers. I like that I can make money off of my extra room and I will use this service the next time I travel.
It can be a little bit weird though. While my roommate and I enjoyed having our guests, it can be stressful having strangers in your home. We had to be there at specific times and it was mentally tiring; even with good guests.
You will always want to use your best judgment and be cautious when doing something like this. We locked away our expensive items and tried to find the balance between being at home enough, but also giving the guests their space and privacy. It is important to really think things through, establish rules and communicate those to your guests to avoid any problems.
Overall I would say that my first 2 bookings were a good experience. We will definitely be continuing as hosts and also refining our listing as well as house rules so that we’re not so frazzled the next time. I really think it is a learning experience!
If you have an adventurous personality and an extra room, I would recommend trying out AirBnB!
Have you ever traveled or hosted via a service such as AirBnB? I would love to hear your thoughts and stories in the comments!