The complete beginners guide to Airbnb with the pros and cons of using this popular online home sharing service for your next trip or vacation.
If you haven’t heard of Airbnb or haven’t used it yet, you may not be alone, but you may be in the minority. To date 160 million guests have used the sharing service. Airbnb is an online hosting service that allows hosts to post their home, flat or treehouse for short term rental and is an alternative to traditional hotels or hospitality websites. Currently there are 3,000,000 lodging listings in 65,000 cities and 191 countries (Wikipedia).
How Airbnb Works for Hosts:
To become a host of a property on Airbnb start by creating a profile with a photo and a brief description of who you are and what you do on Airbnb.com. Next, you’ll create listing of your room, home, flat, yurt or Airstream trailer for example by uploading photos (the more professional the better) and creating a listing.
Once your listing is created, potential guests can view your property, ask you questions and book a stay on the Airbnb website.
You create a calendar of availability and set your own rates. You can also manually block out dates (if you’re using the property for example). You can vary your rates by season, offer discounts for weekly or monthly rentals and offer special rates if you choose.
Airbnb collects a fee of 3% of each booking before fees and taxes. Once you accept a reservation (see exceptions here) Airbnb collects the booking amount in full from the guest and holds it until 24 hours before your guest checks in, then releases it to you.
If you require a security deposit, it is charged and held by Airbnb until you release your guest from any liability (within 14 days)
As a host, you’ll be responsible for maintaining your listing online, your rental property, taxes, insurance, utilities and furnishings. In other words, you’ll be offering a fully furnished turn key guest rental. Cleaning is expected before and after each rental of course. You can charge a cleaning fee if you choose too. Expect to either check in your guests yourself or appoint someone to act on your behalf.
Pros and Cons to being an Airbnb host:
Pros – It’s possible to realize upwards of $20K profit on a two bedroom listing per year.
Cons – You have to be willing to actively manage your listing to net the most profit. A host also has to stay on top of local ordinances pertaining to short term rentals as well as be aware of any tax repercussions.
How Airbnb Works for Guests:
As a prospective guest, it’s a good idea to go ahead and create a profile for yourself with photo and a brief description of who you are. Hosts will look at your profile when considering whether to accept your request to reserve. Some hosts also offer instant booking, so if you feel confident about booking the property you can go ahead and book without communicating with the host first.
You can search the Airbnb site to view potential rentals in your preferred location. Your options range from sharing a room within a host home to renting an entire home for your own use. Most hosts have a minimum rental period set, for example 2 or 3 days. You can also request a stay of up to 28 days on the site. If you need to stay longer communicate that to your host and they can adjust the calendar and pricing for you if they are amenable.
Once you find several properties you like, message the host with any questions or requests you may have. The hosts’ responses will often give you an idea of what type of host they’ll be! If you’ve decided on a property, it’s available and the pricing is what you’re looking for, then go ahead and request a reservation (or use Instant Booking if it’s available). Once the host accepts your request, your credit card will be charged in full by Airbnb (see here for exceptions).
Before you book, pay attention to the hosts cancellation policy. It can be Flexible, Moderate or Strict. This will determine how much, if any, of your upfront payment will be refunded if you need to cancel for any reason.
As a guest, Airbnb charges you a service charge of 6-12%.
Pros and Cons to being an Airbnb Guest:
Pros – Staying in a home vs a hotel gives you a chance to immerse yourself in a local culture and neighborhood. Having kitchen facilities allows you to shop locally if you want and cook your favorite foods without having to eat every meal in restaurants, which is convenient especially if you are staying longer term.
It’s highly likely your average nightly rate will be lower than a comparable hotel.
Cons – The responsibility is on you to select a property and host that will be a good match for you. Not all hosts are created equal, some are definitely more hands on than others. You can look for hosts who have Super Host designation to get the cream of the crop. Amenities such as concierge, cleaning, fitness rooms and pools are likely not in the cards with most rentals.
Use the search function to find a property that offers amenities that are important to you. Some properties also define themselves as “Business Travel Ready” if you’re traveling for business and need assurance of high speed Wifi etc.
This guide to Airbnb is just a start.
Do your research and decide if staying in an alternative to a hotel is right for you. From personal experience I’ve really enjoyed renting a whole flat especially when traveling alone. I love being in a neighborhood and having an immediate connection to contact if needed. Having a kitchen allows me to eat the way I want and not have to resort to restaurants. Staying in a hosted short term Airbnb rental is a very viable choice when you are relocating, traveling on an extended trip or visiting grandkids or family. Why not think about for the next family reunion? It’s one of the few ways you all can stay together and feel at home at the same time.
Let me know about your experiences with Airbnb – I’d love to hear them!