How AirBNB hosts pay their mortgages faster.
Is AirBNB right for you?
If you’re happy to share your space, you live in a place people visit, and you’re keen to meet new people, becoming an AirBNB host could give you that extra financial boost, and open the door to new experiences.
Are you a good communicator?
It’s essential that you will have good communication with your prospective guests. They’ll message you through the AirBNB site, and you can respond from the app on your phone or from a desktop computer. You’ll be emailed when anyone messages you.
Quick, clear communication is the key to having a good hosting experience and attracting the right type of guests.
Anytime you need a break you have the option to just make your place unavailable - you’re totally in control. That said, it’ll benefit you to know when there’s out-of-town visitors coming for a particular event and make the most of peak times.
For a really complete idea of the standards a host needs to provide and what your commitment will be it’s best to refer to AirBNB’s own website.
How do you Prepare Your Listing?
Setting up a listing is made really easy. You tick boxes about exactly what’s available, and confirm your location. Then you start to explain why guests will love your place and what’s nearby, as well as who it’s for.
As you fill in the blanks, the site creates your description for you, making your location sound upbeat and desirable. You’re done!
The next step is to upload some photos - you can do it right away or save it to do later.
Taking Interior Photographs of your space:
This is something I’m no expert on, so I had a chat to local photographer (and perfectionist) Peter Davies. (If you’re in SA, he can even take some shots for you).
Here’s his advice:
“When you take pictures of your living space, if you want to maximise your rent fee you’ll want the nicest looking photos. To take good pictures indoors, ideally you’ll use a wide angle lens, and use HDR techniques to see the bright and low light areas clearly."
There’s a HDR function on most smartphones, which will give you 3 photos per picture, combining low light and overexposure to give you the optimum picture.”
"Lighting is really important, so having the lights switched on, even in the daytime, when you’re taking the pictures, it’ll look nice."
Take complete control of when guests can book
When you set up your calendar, you say straight up if you’re new to AirBNB.
You can choose some preset common house rules from the list, taking the pressure off you to think of everything right away.
Then you can choose the dates you make available.
This is good as you can choose to only list your place during busy periods, such as local events, or when it's most convenient for you to have guests.
There's never any pressure to let your place out when you don't feel like it.
You’ll decide if guests who meet your criteria can book available days instantly, or if you require a reservation request (which you need to respond to within 24 hours). Then you’re all set!
If you start setting up your profile, you can save and exit at any time until you’re ready to post your listing.
Setting Your Price
When you select your availabilty, you’ll be given suggestions on appropriate pricing. If you're not too sure about what to charge, you can set a price range, and allow the AirBNB site to calculate the price based on demand.
This takes the stress out of worrying if you're charging to little or too much, and gives you a better chance of filling your space during your available periods.
What Do Hosts Say About Hosting?
In order to give you the lowdown on what’s it’s really like as an AirBNB host, I interviewed a few people who’ve hosted in the past.
Sarah from Glenelg, Adelaide:
Private room with own lounge room, wifi, pool, separate bathroom and toilet, private fridge and full access to the kitchen.
Price: $120-130 per night. Length of stay: 1 day to 3 weeks - mostly on weekends.
What was the hardest part about being an AirBNB host?
“I didn’t like leaving people alone in the house when I wasn’t there - it made me a bit nervous. Other than that it was fairly simple”.
“The other tricky thing was if you had bookings straight after each other, you’d have to do all the cleaning and washing etc in a big rush.
The website is amazing though, you can block out certain days, weeks etc, and charge higher rates in the peak seasons like Christmas and Easter!”
Did you provide breakfast?
“We provided bread, juice and milk and cereal, sometimes eggs and bacon! Otherwise people could buy their own food and store in their fridge."
Where were your guests from?
"I think we only had 1-2 Australians. The majority were from overseas - we had Chinese, UK, America - all different age groups."
Did you have house rules, and did you have any problems?
"Yes, we gave guests house rules when they arrived."
Sometimes guests might complain, but it's not always a reflection on your hosting.
"One man complained in his review that it was too cold to use the pool (in the middle of winter!). And one time I walked into the kitchen and someone was going through my pantry. There were no major issues, though some people were a bit awkward or didn’t speak to you."
What was the best part of hosting?
“Meeting new people, experiencing different cultures … and the financial benefits! Two Chinese girls who stayed were lovely - they cooked in the kitchen, and they would explain the traditional dishes that they were cooking.”
What would your recommendation for new hosts be?
“You need a good set of house rules! Treat your guests like you’d want to be treated if you were living in somebody’s house in a foreign country. We tried to make it memorable - for every guest, I made a gift basket on arrival with SA wine, Haighs chocolates and some Maggie Beer jams (unique local items)."
Andrew from Somerton
Private room with double bed and ensuite bathroom. $75 per night, length of stay: 2-3 nights up to 5-7 nights.
What was the hardest thing about being an AirBNB host?
"Breaking the ice was sometimes a challenge. Using the website you can look at previous reviews for each guest so you can be choosy who you accept. We had a two night minimum stay policy as one night isn’t really worth the effort of laundry and cleaning."
What house rules did you have in place?
"No smoking indoors, no noise after 10pm, no meetings or parties."
Did you provide breakfast?
"We had coffee, tea, sugar, milk and fruit. Guests could use the kitchen to prepare food, but generally they’d eat out. We do offer guests use of our espresso machine, and to chat over a glass of wine or a beer in the evening."
What were your guests like?
"About 75% of our guests were from overseas - Denmark, Sweden, Canada, Germany, Italy… We did have Aussies from country SA, QLD and Vic too. People came for mountain biking, sporting events, conferences and sightseeing."
What was the best thing about being an AirBNB host?
"Getting to know new people and hearing their stories. It’s nice to be able to provide information and make people happy about visiting beautiful SA."
What recommendation would you give to first time hosts?
- Post reliable information online, and manage your guests expectations. If your wifi isn’t strong enough to reach their room, mention it, or buy an enhancer for the guest room.
- Try to be home when your guests arrive and not just leave a key somewhere. It’s important to show them around, offer a drink and provide information.
- If guests book for 5 nights or more, we try to pick them up from the airport (15 min drive) free of charge.
- It’s important to give your guests as much privacy as they need, so you have to read between the lines and understand their preference.
- Provide an information booklet about restaurants, public transport, tourist attractions - this is a good idea especially for mid-week visitors for whom you have less time.
Amber from Glenelg North:
Entire 2 bedroom unit, $105 per night.
What’s your advice to new hosts?
“Being an AirBNB host is fun, until you have to wash the sheets and towels, and make the beds and clean every other day! The top thing a newbie needs to know is that no 2 guests are the same - one person’s 5 star rating is another person’s 3 stars, so don’t take it personally."
One person’s 5 star rating is another person’s 3 stars, so don’t take it personally.
"Be ready for anything but be clear about what you’re willing and available for, otherwise you’ll end up like a hotel concierge. I had a lot of fun and it was worth the effort for the return for me.”
What led you to try AirBNB hosting?
"I had the apartment available for rent for a month with no bites when someone suggested putting it up when the cricket was here at the end of November. Within half an hour, I had enough bookings to cover my loss for the month it was empty."
What were your guests like, and how long did they stay?
"Most people stayed a couple of days or over the weekend. The place was available for 70 days in total from November until the first week of February.
I had families, business people, groups in their 20s-30s, locals who wanted to try AirBNB before using it overseas.
Over Christmas/New Years, the cricket and the Tour Down Under, I charged $105 per night, and I allowed single night bookings.
In between busy periods I charged $85 per night, with a 2 night minimum booking requirement, with some one night stays at $105 per night."
"During the Tour Down Under I had a group book for 9 days, and later a group of German tourists stayed for 12 days, then came back for 4 more days.
I’m close to the airport, so I would get people from country areas with early international flights, as well as interstate and international travelers."
What was the hardest thing about hosting?
"The hardest thing was arranging times to meet people and give them the keys, especially as they arrive at all times, even if you specify a check-in time.
I ended up keeping the keys in a coded box in my letterbox, and changing the code for each visitor. This meant I didn’t miss out on bookings just because I was at work."
"Keeping the place clean was hard too - you can’t get away with just coming in and changing the sheets, people expect a hotel level of cleanliness, so you have to sweep, vacuum and mop between each guest too."
"I have a small space, so it’s not hard, just another chore. When a booking ended midweek I’d block out the next day to allow me to clean between guests. If I did it again, I’d have a professional cleaner at least once a week."
What was the best thing about hosting?
"Getting to see my home and Adelaide through the eyes of tourists. Answering questions about things to do, places to eat, directions, and the best way to get around I had to stop and look at things differently, beyond my knowledge of just living here, which is something you rarely do.
"I met such a vast range of people I’d never have come across if I hadn’t been hosting them."
One thing you’ll want to check before you list is what your home and contents insurance covers for, as it might not include cover from any damage from short term renting.
I checked my home and contents policy, and there’s no cover for a ‘business activity’ which includes letting more than 2 bedrooms to paying guests or boarders. There is cover for tenancy of part of the home or unit insured, and for legal liability relating to the death or injury of a boarder or tenant.
AirBNB's host guarantee cover
AirBNB have a host guarantee for up to $1, 000, 000 in damages. The claim has to be reasonable - ie. not for ordinary wear and tear, things like broken kitchenware and so on - and you’ll need documentation proving ownership and damage.
Be sure to photograph, document and date any damage that you may need to make an insurance claim for.
You’ll also need to document your correspondence with the guest regarding the damage. It is a good idea to read the terms of the guarantee here so there’s no surprises if anything does happen - the document isn’t too long considering how comprehensive it is.
Specialist Share Home Insurance
In Australia, insurance provider IAG Lab Sharecover now provides specific share home insurance. This covers malicious damage and personal liability for up to $10 million. You can also get Host Protection Insurance, underwritten by Lloyds in London, directly from AirBNB.
While insurance is important, it’s always going to be best to prevent an incident - installing a smoke and carbon monoxide detector
Asking for a guest security deposit
For smaller things that can go wrong, like broken kitchenware or a spill on the carpet, you’ve the option of security deposit through the AirBNB website.
Will I pay tax on what I earn as a host?
In Australia, there aren’t taxes for occupancy or development approval needed for renting your property through AirBNB - this was decided in a court decision in Victoria in 2015, and has been welcomed as an opportunity for tourism to flourish in our regional centres where there isn’t the tourist infrastructure.
If you decide to take the steps to being an AirBNB host, we’d love to hear about your experiences, and how you make your place unique for visitors.