Last week I wrote about using airbnb.com and providing a place for travellers to stay. As a result of my ‘review’ post, I had someone get in touch with me about it and ask a few questions to learn more about it. So I decided to put them into a Q&A post. If YOU have any questions of your own, please send them to me and I’ll turn them into a post too!
What’s it like?
Well, it’s like sharing with someone, but for only a few days instead of a few months or years. Which is really good if they’re not really someone you’d enjoy sharing with, ’cause they come and then they go, and then you’re probably never going to see them again. But really, they’re mostly really nice people that you enjoy having stay with you, and that you’d even enjoy having back again.
There’s a a few things you can do to help ensure you have a positive experience and avoid people that might not be suitable.
Only accept booking requests from people who have positive reviews. Airbnb.com is all about guests reviewing and rating their hosts, and hosts reviewing and rating their guests. The more reviews and higher ratings someone has, the better. You can get a good idea of what kind of people they’re like, and what kind of guest they’ll be in your house, from what other people say about them. If there’s no reviews for someone, it could be because they’re just starting out and are yet to be reviewed, or there’s the possibility they’ve got a few negative reviews which have been removed from their profile by Airbnb themselves (who don’t like having negative reviews on their site).
In saying that, I accepted a booking from someone who had no reviews, but in their profile information they included a photo of themselves and their wife and small daughter, and they looked like a kind and happy family. In his booking request he said he was coming over from [foreign country] to look for accommodation and he was using airbnb until he found his own place, and his wife and daughter would be joining him in a few months. So I accepted the booking, and he ended up being a great guest.
You have to ultimately trust your gut. If someone with no reviews provides no information about themselves and no photos, stay well away from them. But if they provide photos and information about themselves, even with no reviews, you can make your own judgements about it.
Do you get odd requests?
I haven’t been doing it long enough to get odd requests from people, since I only started about 5-6 months ago (as of this writing). In that time I’ve had only a few guests, and the last 2 have been repeatedly coming back (they commute from Sydney), which has worked out well. When providing reviews I ask guests if there’s anything they can think of which can help improve their experience, but apparently their experience has already been better than they expected, so they’ve had no feedback about that.
We provide the kind of service to our guests that we would love to receive from hosts that we stay with. We also do our best to make sure the place is clean, tidy, smelling fresh, with bed clean and made up, and toiletries placed upon a towel on the bed for them. We also provide basic breakfast service including cereal, coffee and tea, and free wifi. They also get free access to the gym and pool within the building.
How does the sharing aspect work, eg. meals/kitchen/bathrooms?
Guests can use the kitchen as they want. There’s space available for them in the cupboard and the fridge, for them to store food if they want. So far all our guests have always eaten out. We have only a single bathroom which is shared, but we do our best to keep that clean as well. We’re providing a service for the guests, and occasionally that includes cleaning up after them, but generally they’ve been exceptionally good. There’s been no missing the toilet bowl and pissing on the floor, thankfully!
Does it make much?
The idea is that what you offer via airbnb is cheaper than a hotel – unless you’re providing some amazing features and services, in which case you could probably charge more than a hotel! But we don’t. For what we’re offering, we charge about $70 a night for it, with discounts for longer stays.
You have to be in an area that will get high interest for your accommodation to be attractive to travellers. We’re in the centre of a major shopping, restaurants and entertainment hub, and right next to a bus interchange. We’re also about 10 minutes from the CBD by car, maybe a little longer by bus. We’re in a good location to get increased interest.
If you’re not in a good location for travellers (tourists, business workers commuting from other cities, etc), then you’re going to find it a lot more difficult to get people choosing your accommodation to stay with. You have to make it more attractive to potential guests via other means, like significantly reducing the cost, and providing extra services. We also provide airport pickup and dropoff to any guests that ask for it, but so far none have. It’s available though, if they want it, and would save them the cost of a taxi.
Does it take much effort?
It depends on how much you care about the experience the guests are having. We make sure we have the basic breakfast supplies provided and include that in our shopping. We also go out of our way to provide the toiletries for the guests, providing the same shower gel, etc, that you would find in a hotel. After every guest has left, we strip the bed, wash the sheets and pillow cases, dry them, iron them, put them back on the bed. We also clean the bathroom after every visit, and vacuum the floors. Thankfully we’ve had some regular guests recently that stay for the week and go back to their home each Friday, so we have the weekend to do the cleaning. It doesn’t take much, maybe an hour.
Tell a funny story or two about the guests?
No funny stories yet! Guests seem to keep to themselves. They go out doing their own thing a lot, and when they’re home with us, they usually keep to their room, on their laptop. I think that as travellers take advantage of a home and room provided by a host within airbnb, they’re very respectful and appreciative of the fact that they’re staying in someone’s home, and so they seem to stay out of the way most of the time.
I like using airbnb because at heart I’m a little extroverted. I enjoy occasionally talking to people about their lives, their travels and their experiences, so I quite enjoy when they take the time to actually chat with me/us. But so far I’ve had no funny experiences with any guests. Maybe I’ll revisit this in a year and see if anything funny happened that I can write about.
If you have any other questions – about Airbnb or any other topic on this blog – don’t hesitate to contact me and ask! I’d be happy to answer them for you in a blog post. And no, I won’t be telling anyone your name! Anonymity guaranteed.
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