Opening your home to travellers

That spare bed in your house can bring in extra revenue

This July, my best friend and I went to Vancouver for a few days to celebrate her birthday. Instead of staying in a hotel, we decided to try Airbnb, the “online marketplace” where people can list and book accommodations.

The price of our accommodations was less than that of a hotel and centrally located. The basement suite was immaculate and our hosts were wonderful. All in all? An experience I’d definitely repeat.

Airbnb is worldwide, with 300 accommodations in Edmonton alone. More than ever, travellers have choices; they can rent a whole house or a bedroom, and search for places that fit their budget. But Airbnb isn’t only a good choice for travellers; it’s also a popular option for people who want to rent out a room or a house.

All you need is a comfortable, clean bedroom to start hosting guests and earning extra income. | Brian Johnson & Dane Kantner [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Flickr

Local residents, who preferred to remain anonymous, said they love being hosts. It didn’t hurt that they had a great experience with their first guest, a writer who brought his “traipsemobile” (RV) to sleep in but used the home’s bathroom and office.

“We thought we could make a few extra dollars,” she said, explaining roommates sometimes end up being a nightmare. There’s also the appeal of meeting new people and providing affordable housing. Of course some travellers check in and out without much interaction, but there are travellers with whom they form a strong bond and remain friends afterwards.

Airbnb is a fairly simple online system to use. After registering, travellers can search by arrival and departure dates, accommodation type (room, house, etc), and price range. After that, choose possible locations and contact the host for details and booking.

Hosts can list and manage their accommodation quite easily. The website takes hosts through a step-by-step process of listing a space. Although listing a place is free, Airbnb charges hosts 3 per cent for every reservation. Guests pay before they arrive, and Airbnb handles the transactions, transferring money to the host 24 hours after check-in. There are also perks, such as liability insurance for third-party claims and coverage from accidental damage. The website also advertises the listing, with an option called Smart Pricing adjusting prices depending on supply and demand.

“Posted prices aren’t always set in stone,” she said and explained interested guests can contact her for minor price adjustments. Another bonus for the host is the ability to block off days if he or she doesn’t want people at the property.

Hosts can set up the listing to include a damage deposit in case anything is damaged during a guest’s stay. It’s also easy to track income and past reservations.

Airbnb has some security as well. When I was creating my profile so I could search for places in Vancouver, I had to provide a picture of myself, a video introducing myself, and a picture of my drivers license for identification. While this information seemed excessive at the time, I discovered it was to provide hosts with an extra layer of security.

The hosts have had good experiences with a few exceptions. One woman in her 20s or early 30s showed up with a “sketchy” man in his 50s.The guest hadn’t informed them she would be bringing another guest. They did ask the woman to leave, but helped her cancel the reservation without being charged. Another couple cancelled their reservation as soon as they arrived—and took the key with them. They returned the next day with the key, and later explained they cancelled because they had mistakenly thought there was a shower.

“We’ve never had any items go missing,” she said, explaining the damage deposit likely makes people think twice before damaging anything. So far, they haven’t had to keep a damage deposit.

Of course, there’s work involved in making sure the room or property is ready for new guests.

“The hardest part is getting a room ready when someone is checking out and someone else is checking in,” she said. Part of preparing for new guests is providing clean sheets and ensuring the room or house is clean.

What is provided to guests depends on the host. Some hosts may provide a kitchen and laundry room, and guests can negotiate with hosts for pick up at the airport and act as a guide to providing information about the neighbourhood, nearest grocery stores, or other amenities.

They have also been guests, once staying in a 300 year-old building.  

“We’ve had mostly good experiences.” They did once sleep in a bed with dirty sheets. However, after going through dispute resolution and giving feedback, the host refunded them some money.

They have also used Airbnb’s referral system to book accommodations. Just recently, they booked a place in Jasper for free using credit which people earn by referring friends to use Airbnb for travel or when a friend lists accommodations.

For these hosts, Airbnb works.

“We’ve made some lifelong friends through Airbnb,” she said.


Featured Image: Our north central neighbourhoods have many Airbnb listings—average cost for a private room around $42-45/night or a whole house from $77 -179/night | Valeriesophie (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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