My friend wants to start a airbnb business- What I told him…

It’s November in London and its getting dark at 4:30pm and the temperature is getting lower by the day. Apart from a few very warm days it was a generally wet and grey summer this year. My airbnb was full most days apart from the occasional empty room on a Sunday (to be honest its nice to have a day guest free day sometimes). My prices are as low as ever and it doesn’t seem likely to change any time soon. My competition in East London seems to have increased in my area over the last 5 years I have been a airbnb host, and is probably one of the reasons why my prices are still so low.

A friend who lives in the same area of East London as me asked me to the pub for a chat and it wasn’t long before he started asking about my airbnb. He wanted some advice on starting his own airbnb. He was more interested in having a country retreat style airbnb business; a small cottage perhaps in a nice part of the English countryside? I gave him my advice and on the whole he was not very happy.

There is a big difference between being a live in host (i.e. your listing is a room in your house or flat) and hosting a place that is separate from your residence (especially if some distance away such as in another town). It’s a huge problem if you have to travel long distances to check in guests, clean, or fix issues. This can make any profit you make on your listing simply not worth it.

I am a live in host so chances are if something needs to be done at my airbnb I am on hand to do it – immediately. Even if a guest arrives at 2am, it may mean dragging myself out of bed but I can do it and be back asleep in minuets (happens way too often for my liking). The idea of driving across town at 2am to do the same thing is a much bigger ask. Its the daily hassles that cause the most grief. Try to avoid them if you can. There are things you can do such as using automated check-in systems such as key safes but some things are only cost effective to do in person.

Automate your airbnb check-in process with key safe

The idea of having a airbnb listing out in the countryside may seen romantic but if it’s going to be a lot of trouble to manage then you have to ask yourself  – is it worth it? Unless you can charge big money for a few nights stay then by the time you factor in your costs and time you might be only making a few pounds. Cleaners don’t work for free and even then could be not available when you need them.

My friend who is thinking of starting his own airbnb business also quizzed me on how I get paid and what tax do I pay. I explained to him how that airbnb pays me only AFTER a guest checks in and the money can go into my bank account but it’s quicker if the cash is paid into my Paypal account. I also explained that my Paypal account in any name and can make payments straight out of my Paypal account to purchase almost anything. This means it does not have to hit my own bank account.

I explained to my friend when and how much tax he will need to pay on his airbnb business. How the government rent-a-room allowance works and what expenses he can claim. He seemed surprised that he would need to pay tax on the income and how much it would be. This is important because if you already have a full time job then the extra income is going to be taxed at a higher rate. It might make your airbnb business simply not worth it.

For more information on what tax you need to pay on your airbnb income read my guide here.

 

Airbnb Check-in Guide for Hosts

Airbnb Check-in Guide. Some tips for hosts who want a simpler and easier check-in process.

Update: Its now March in London and all my listings are usually full every day. There are two major reasons why I am full every day. The first is I have many regular customers who come every week on the same days. These are all people who live outside London (some live in other EU countries and fly here and back) but work in London for two or three days every week. The second reason is I have slashed my prices by 10% to stay competitively priced.

How to check-in your Airbnb guest?

How you check-in your airbnb guest depends in some ways on how you manage your airbnb listing. If your a live-in host then it should be much easier to personally check-in your guests. However if your listing is not close to you then a self check-in will probably be your best option. Some positives and negative of each method are explained below. I personally use both the self check-in and the personal host check-in methods depending on what other plans I have that day etc.

Airbnb Host Personal Check-in

The Airbnb host personal check-in method is probably the best. This method gives your guests the personal touch that has helped to make Airbnb great. It’s always good to actually meet the person you are dealing with. It also gives the guest a chance to ask important questions or local knowledge which can really improve their stay. I also find that the less anonymous a transaction the less likely there is for any problems. Such as bad behaviour. But also I find the guest is more clean and tidy.

I always try and check-in a guest personally whenever I can. Meeting my guest usually gives me a better idea of what this person will be like other than just looking at their profile. When I first started  as a Airbnb host almost 5 years ago at least half of my guests were first time airbnb users (today it’s maybe a quarter). This means that they had no previous reviews to judge from. But also it means they perhaps were not 100% sure of what was expected of them. This way I got to explain the house rules to them in a more descriptive way that just what was written on the listing description.

Airbnb Check-in Methods
Airbnb Check-in Methods

Airbnb Guest Self Check-in

There are two main methods for Airbnb Self Check-in. The first is easily the most common and that involves using a key safe. The second is owing a door with a smart lock system – usually a keypad but could be a smart phone enabled lock.

If your a host and you live far away from your listing (or you simply don’t like waiting around for your guests who often arrive late etc.) then investing in a key safe is probably your most likely self check-in solution. A key safe is exactly that – a little safe just to store keys. I have my key safe bolted to the wall near my front door. It’s not easy to see from the street as it’s down low, but is easy enough for a guest to find it without too much effort.

Which type of key safe should you use?

There are many different styles of key safe. A simple search on Amazon reveals multiple brand names and styles. Some are very cheap in price. What you need to consider is safety. Many of the cheaper key safes I have seen are made of a plastic and would not be very difficult to break with a decent hammer. So you might want to consider a strong metal key safe. The one I purchased was at the time the only one that was ‘Police Approved’. This one was expensive at nearly £100, so about ten times the price of some of the cheapest options. But I believed this one would be best for me. Not just for peace of mind but it looks like it will last a very long time and i’m in this for the long haul.

key safe
A strong and reliable key safe means you don’t have to worry about the wrong people getting your keys

Electronic Keypad Check-in or APP

Some new modern doors no longer the outdated insert metal key and turn system but can now be opened by punching in a code. The advantage of a keypad check-in is obviously there needs to be no physical transfer of keys. You can simply send the code to your guests either at the time of booking or a short time before arrival. There is some possible drawbacks to this scenario. The first being a communication problem might leave your guests stranded outside, unable to enter the listing.

Allow your guests to enter your airbnb listing with a key code
Allow your guests to enter your airbnb listing with a key code

Keypad door locks average about £100. They often do not look particularly stylish and look like they should belong on a office building. Depending on where you like a keypad door lock might stand out as usual and may attract unwanted attention. This might be a problem if your trying to give your airbnb listing a low profile. Smart locks are possibly the way of the future but might not be compatible with everyones phone. Technical issues could make you wish you stuck with the old fashioned key.

Airbnb Single Night Bookings

It’s February in London and apart from a small dash of snow it’s been a rather mild winter. Unlike last winter I have not been forced by Airbnb to refund my guests because their train or plane was cancelled due to the snow ‘force majeur’. This may seem fair to the guests but for me it was a real loss.

Should you be accepting one night bookings?

One of the reasons for my success (if I may say so) at airbnb is that I am willing to take 1 night only guests. It’s very tempting not to take single night guests because of the trouble re-setting the room  and checking in and out new guests. But if so many other people are not taking one night guests you may find a more steady stream of guests if you do. Plus you won’t have single night gaps in your calendar.

It’s my current strategy to make sure i’m full – ALL THE TIME. If that means taking single night guests then I will. If it means I have to drop my price to super low then I will. I’m currently charging the lowest price I have ever charged in 5 years of airbnb. I have to do this to stick with my ‘be full’ strategy.

Should you accept one night bookings?

Why do I think the ‘be full’ strategy is a good idea? First I believe it’s better to have some money than no money. Cash flow is important. Second even a booking which may have little or no profit can get you yet another review to add to your numbers. Third I believe Airbnb giving a search ranking boost to those listing which are getting bookings. So to keep your listing in Airbnb’s good books then your listing needs to be getting booked (if that makes sense).

How much should you discount to get a booking?

To be honest with you in my opinion I am willing to accept 50% off my asking price if it means I don’t have an empty listing. But usually I drop my price by about 10% if I see an empty listing less than 7 days away. But it does also depend on which day of the week we are talking about. Sundays and Mondays tend to be my least popular days (especially Sunday) so I will reduce my price more aggressively on these days.

Should you cut your prices to get bookings?

I do use the airbnb smart pricing tool on all my listings. I have had concerns about using the smart pricing tool in the past because it seemed to only ever offer my set minimum price, no matter what the day of the week etc. More recently I have noticed that the prices do seem to be higher but only about 3 months away. It’s as if the airbnb smart pricing system assumes that if your not booked out 3 months ahead then you need to discount immediately.

I find that most of my guests book about 2 weeks in advance. Most of my guests are here to see a little bit of London or see friends. It’s even not unusual to get bookings same day. When I stay in another airbnb it’s often part of my annual family holiday planned 6 months previously. This is very different to the type of trips most of my single night guests are making. The smart pricing tool does not seem to suit my type of guest’s booking pattern.

You can read my previous post on earning extra money for last minute airbnb bookings here!

Should you accept Airbnb bookings for other guests?

It’s December now in London and it’s very wet. No snow yet. My airbnb has been busy except on Sundays which have been quiet recently. Sunday and Monday have traditionally been slow days for Airbnb but I usually get last minute bookings so my occupancy rate is 100%. However recently I have had empty listings on a Sunday. This may seem not a big deal but this is easy money i’m missing out on.

What to do if you get a booking request but it’s not for the person making the booking?

Several times in the past I’ve had booking requests come in that are not for the person making the booking. What I mean is the Airbnb profile used to book the room is not the person who will be staying. Usually this is a husband or wife making the booking for their other half. Or sometimes a parent making the booking for a son or daughter. Occasionally its for a friend. I am hesitant to accept a booking made for a ‘friend’ because it seems much less safe.

I am currently looking after a Airbnb listing at my friends apartment in central London. It’s a very nice apartment and the price she is charging is more than double what I usually charge. A booking request came through for the whole month of December. But the request was from a company, not from an individual. This company was looking for a room for the month for one of it’s employees. The employee was relocating from Russia to London. I was hesitant to accept the reservation.

The Airbnb community works on a system of reviews. The idea is simple that a person who has been reviewed favourably by one host will then be welcome by other hosts. The problem of one person booking for another person destroys this system. When I have a guest who is not the same person who made the booking then I do not leave a review because this does not make sense. You want the review to match the person.

I did accept the reservation as the company which was doing the booking did have a full airbnb profile and some positive reviews (presumably other relocating employees). I did a quick google search on the company too and was satisfied it’s story checkout out. I had no problems with the guest he was actually no problem and very quiet.

What are the risks of accepting guests who didn’t book?

The risk with accepting bookings for other people are several. First the person staying in the listing might not understand the airbnb system and rules. They also might have very different expectations for what you will actually be providing. Second it might be difficult chasing the person for any damage costs. The person making the booking might refuse to pay on the grounds that you accepted someone who was not the person booking. Third if a crime is committed you might be held liable for not verifying who was in your listing.

It is worth noting that bookings made for two guests made by only a single person could have similar risks. Often a guest will book for 2 people and not provide any details on who the other person is. The person making the booking has a verified airbnb profile but the second guest does not. So if the second guest causes problems what can you really do? Well very little. Even if the guest making the booking admits liability it may be very difficult getting money from them in serious cases. In the end everything come down to chance.

 

How much money can you really make from Airbnb?

December is getting very close now in London and the weather has turned cold and very wet. I always keep a few old umbrellas near my front door in case one of my guests needs one. This is one way you can really help your guests out and this can make up for other deficiencies in your listing. Recently I spoke to a relative who was interested in becoming an Airbnb host. He seemed to think he could make much more money from being a host rather than being a traditional landlord. I think he is being very naive.

How much can you make being an Airbnb Host?

To get the official Airbnb figure of ‘how much money you can make being an airbnb host’ then use the below link.

Click here to find out how much Airbnb says you can make hosting in your area

My results came up as £499 for each private room. This is actually almost right. The tool can give you a good idea of how much money you can make being a host. The big problem here is that I know if I rented the same room out, to a local person who is working in London, I would get a minimum of £600 a month (and possibly much more). So in my case being an Airbnb host is not financially the best decision.

Check and see how much you can earn being an airbnb host

The Advantages of being a Airbnb host

I earn approximately £500 a month for each Airbnb private room. The same room rented to a lodger on a more permanent basis I would earn about £100 more a month. So why am I an Airbnb host?

  1. I can block off the listings whenever I want. If I want a break from guests or for example a relative comes to stay I can make the room free.
  2. I can limit the use of the space. For example I don’t let my guests use my kitchen or living room. This would be unacceptable to a lodger.
  3. There is some possibility of meeting people of different cultures etc.
  4. You can set stringent rules for your place. For example no extra guests, no music, no parties, no smoking.

 

The Disadvantages of being a Airbnb HosT

When my relative asked me about becoming an Airbnb host he was only really interested in the how much money he is going to make. I really can’t stress how much trouble it is being a Airbnb host. Especially if you have a full time job like I do. There are many reasons not to be a Airbnb host.

  1. Guests arrive and leave at very unusual times. Many guests arrive from abroad and arrive at strange times. Some super early like 6am some well past midnight. If you have a normal working life this can be a real problem.
  2. Waiting around a lot. When a guest says they will arrive at 2pm and they actually arrive at 3:30pm because they got lost or stopped to eat etc. It can be really frustrating waiting for people and cost you your precious time.
  3. If your a live-in airbnb host you have to get used to people arriving back late into the night. After your guest finished his west end show and had a drink it’s now nearly midnight and he’s jingling his keys in your front door and it’s woken you up. And you need to be up at 6am for work.
  4. The constant changing of sheets and cleaning. Also the additional wear and tear that comes from people throwing suitcases around your house.
  5. Neighbours not happy seeing strangers constantly coming and going. Possibly arriving at unusual times or coming home drunk. Making noise. Etc.

 

If your still thinking that becoming an Airbnb host is right for you then you can sign up here.

I like being an Airbnb host because it suits me. I like my house to be mine and I set the rules. I don’t like to share my kitchen and living room as this is my private space. I don’t mind sharing a bathroom so much. It is a lot of hassle being a host but it does pay the mortgage. There is always the possibility that Airbnb prices will rise enough for it to make more financial sense also.

What to do if you get a very bad Airbnb guest review?

It’s now November in London and the long warm summer we had is over. For anyone visiting London this summer was ideal with long hours of daylight and such warm weather. Bookings were generally good and steady all summer but I was unable to increase my prices because of the Airbnb Smart Pricing system keeping my prices down.

What to do if you get a really bad review from a Airbnb Guest?

A guest booked a one night stay with us and wanted to arrive early in the morning. She sent me a message to that effect and selected as her check in time when booking ‘8am – 10am’. She can do this because my calendar settings are set to FLEXIBLE for check-in time. My check-out time is set to 11AM.

Airbnb now allows you to set a Check-in Window

The reason my calendar is set to FLEXIBLE check-in is because many of my guests automatically assume that check-in is only possible later in the afternoon like so many hotels. I always try and get my listings ready as soon as possible. Often a room is set and ready to go no less than 30min after a previous guest has left. My check-out time is by 11AM but many guests leave much earlier, some leave very early in the morning to catch an early flight etc.

The guest who gave me the bad review had seen my calendar setting as FLEXIBLE check-in and assumed that the room would be ready any time she wanted and therefore turned up at 8am. This might be understandable if it wasn’t that I specifically told her when she booked ‘the room might not be ready until 12 but she was welcome to come early and leave her bags’. Had she mentioned at this point that this would not have been acceptable since I had a FLEXIBLE check-in time then I would have asked her to cancel the booking and I would have made sure she got a full refund.

The guest arrived at my house at 8am and was then surprised to hear her room was not ready for her. She mentioned she had been on a long flight and needed to rest. Unfortunately there was nothing I could do for her. The previous guest was in no hurry to leave. She called Airbnb to complain and they cancelled her booking with full refund. I understood some of her complaints about the problem. I do understand that from her point of view it was somewhat misleading to have a FLEXIBLE check-in setting and the room not be ready. However I did make it clear to her at the time of booking that the room might not be ready but got no reply.

When a Airbnb booking is cancelled it’s still possible to leave a review. This is apparently so a Airbnb listing that is deemed unacceptable can get the bad review it deserves. Previously it was not possible to do this so bad listings didn’t get the bad reviews. But in my case this meant that this unhappy guest could now write almost anything she liked about my listing without even having set foot inside. I subsequntly got a 1 out of 5 star review across the board. So for example I got 1 out of 5 starts for cleanliness without the guest even having seen the listing. This strikes me as unfair.

If you get a bad review it’s a good idea to leave a reply on the review. The important point here is how you deal with the complaint. This is not a good time for revenge no matter how tempting it might be. You need to be professionally and explain any misunderstanding or mitigating factor in a way that sounds reasonable. The more reasonable you sound the more crazy the person making the complaint might appear. Someone reading the review might assume they were overreacting.

Can Airbnb protect hosts from one-off bad reviews?

This question was put to Airbnb at one of the host Q&A sessions – Can Airbnb protect hosts from one-off bad reviews?

At the last Host Q&A, in June, 2018, we said, specifically, that we’d look into outlier reviews. To be clear, one-off low reviews can be considered outliers when a host has otherwise great review scores, but a single guest leaves a bad rating that seems out of place. Here’s a solution we’ve come up with: We’re working on building new tools that will automatically detect when outlier reviews like this occur— and give us an opportunity to correct them. So let’s say a guest gives you five stars for cleanliness, accuracy, check in, and so on— for each of the sub categories— but then a two-star rating overall. The new tool will flag this and prompt the guest to correct the overall rating. We’re developing this new tool now, and you can expect to see it soon.

The answer was that one off bad reviews should not effect a hosts profile overall in the search rankings etc. This is good for me as I already have hundreds of reviews and one bad review should not hurt me overall. However a listing with only a handful of reviews could suffer considerably.

How to be a real Airbnb Superhost

It’s July in London and it has been a record hot summer. It suddenly became warm at the end of April and it seems is just getting hotter and hotter. Airbnb has been busy every day but my prices have been kept low because of the Airbnb smart pricing system (it only shows the lowest possible price on every day no matter what, if you ask me it simply doesn’t work at all). So i’m still charging £20 per night on average which is the same as nearly 5 years ago.

How to be a real Airbnb Superhost

This year I finally went on holiday myself and booked a private airbnb room in a hosts apartment in Istanbul, Turkey. Although I have been a member of Airbnb for 5 years this is actually the first time I have stayed in a private room, in another Airbnb hosts place. Being a live-in host myself I now experienced the other side of hosting. I guess my host made it very easy for me as he is possibly the ideal airbnb host and rightfully holds the coveted Superhost Status badge.

I arrived in Istanbul very early in the morning but my room was already ready for me. My host Savas uses the Airbnb Calendar setting: Preparation Time – Block 1 night before and after each reservation. This means my room could be made ready the day before I arrive and I can check-in straight away. 1. Excellent Check-in

The apartment I was staying in was very central but was tired and old. The apartment was clean but struggled to ‘look’ clean. But for me this was not a problem. I came to enjoy Istanbul and not the apartment, that is only for sleeping and washing. My host took me for breakfast in a local cafe and afterwards showed me how to use the public transport. 2. Make your guests aware of local Amenities

I wanted to try the local food and drink. My host took me to a great local Turkish Kebab restaurant. He was a regular there are we got special service. Afterwards he took me to a local bar and even introduced me to some of the people there he knew. We drank beer and I hanged out with his friends and had a great time. 3. Live like a local

Anytime I had a question on how to get places I could send my host a message on airbnb or even on his WhatsApp and he would reply usually within a few minuets. This was very handy for me as I don’t speak Turkish and did have a lot of trouble working out how to use the ferries and other problems. It was a huge help to me that my host could answer my questions whenever I needed. 4. Great communication

I will never be an Airbnb Superhost and here is why

To be a super host requires something very special from you – your time! I have a demanding job on top of my responsibilities as a airbnb host so this means I simply can’t be the great host I would like to be. My friend Savas in Turkey does have a job but it’s closer to part time than full time and he is not married with all the additional responsibilities that come with it. Despite this I have come close to being a super host in the past but have always seen it disappear in-front of my eyes because of one bad review. Even if I were a super host I do get the impression that it has no overall effect on bookings and creates unrealistic expectations for your guests. Perhaps it’s better to be a near-superhost that an actual superhost!

Getting an Airbnb mortgage and What REALLY gets you more bookings on airbnb

It’s nearly October in London and it’s gotten much busier now that summer is nearly over. Over summer I had plenty of bookings but I was not 100% full. Since the start of September I have been full every day and with higher prices that July or August. I recall this being the same last year also. Most of my airbnb customers stay only one or two nights. This means more bed sheets to clean and more hassle checking in and out guests but I prefer this to having empty listings. In previous years I used to keep my prices very low to ensure I get plenty of guests but now I think I don’t need to do this as much as I have over 600 reviews. Having so many reviews gives people confidence they will be getting what they are paying for.

Can you get an Airbnb Mortgage?

As far as i’m aware there is no such thing as an Airbnb mortgage and I think it’s highly unlikely there will ever be. Despite what you may have heard from friends or from some get rich seminar you can’t walk into a bank and borrow huge amounts of money on the promise you will run a very good airbnb with the money. Now more that ever banks are under very strict rules of what they can lend to who. Unless you have a large provable income you won’t be getting a mortgage that would allow you to buy an property for an airbnb business. The vast majority of airbnb hosts who let whole apartments are using the standard buy-to-let mortgage and have not told the bank they are letting on airbnb.

Metro bank is offering mortgages that give you permission to let the property on airbnb for up to 90 days a year. This is a case of Merto bank using it’s common sense. They already know that many of their customers are listing their mortgaged property on airbnb and are keeping it secret from the bank. Other banks would be wise to follow their lead instead of simply turning a blind eye.

Superhost secrets – what REALLY gets you more bookings on Airbnb

There are lots of blog posts on the internet giving tips on how to be a great airbnb host and how to get more bookings etc. Most have pretty much the same content. A good example is this blog post on the airbnb website (presumably the content is acceptable to airbnb and factually correct so bear that in mind). But a lot of this stuff is not overly useful unless you can actually get someone to book your listing. Your place might be amazing but if nobody books it the world will never know.

So here is my advice on how to get more bookings and be full all the time: –

  1. Be good value for money. Or in other words be ‘cheap’. Everyone wants a bargain and you can be that the cheapskate in everyone will usually win out. Be at least a pound or two cheaper than your nearest rival.
  2. Have lots of reviews. People want safety of choice. There are no instantly recognisable brand names when it comes to listings. If you have lots of reviews (and I mean hundreds of reviews) you become a ‘safe bet’. Get more reviews by getting more guests so be willing to accept a smaller amount of money and more short term guests to get those reviews stacked high.
  3. Be flexible. Accept short term guests. So many of my guests are one nighters. This may seen like so much more trouble (and it is) but since so many people have a 2 night minimum stay you will never have an empty listing.
  4. Have professional looking pictures – both of The Listing and Yourself. Use the airbnb photographer to get professional looking pictures done (also they become airbnb verified). You might seriously want to have a nice clear professional picture of yourself in your profile. Not a picture of you trying to look cool at some party, a proper professional picture like you might see on Linked In. If you look like a joke then you can’t expect to be taken seriously.
  5. Don’t charge a cleaning fee. This is a turn off.

 

How far ahead should I take bookings?

Its coming close to winter here in London and although the first snow has not yet fallen bookings have become thinner on the ground. I am lucky that London always has someone arriving from somewhere, so bookings do come in no matter what the weather is but sometimes it’s nice to have firm bookings in advance – or so I used to think?

The problem with being an airbnb host is that it becomes your life in many ways. For some this is a good thing and can add meaning and a source of enjoyment. For me this means I am effectively on call 24 hours a day. I can’t afford to pay anyone else to look after my business and nobody will ever care about it as much as I do. Thankfully there have been few occasions where I have had to run away from my real 9-5 job to sort out a problem at my listing. However I am conscious of the fact that one day something may go very wrong.

Airbnb Calendar Settings

To reduce the chance of future issues I have decided to limit my calendar to only a month in advance. To my knowledge there is no way of doing this other than blocking off the dates. There is a function to limit bookings for only 3 months in advance but this is too long for me. Why do this? Because my life doesn’t work on more than a 1 month ahead schedule. If I take a booking 3 months in advance and my life changes to the point where I can’t handle the booking then I have to cancel and that means I get a penalty from airbnb and then no more bookings.

 

You can limit how far in advance you want bookings.
You can limit how far in advance you want bookings.

 

I get a lot of last minute guests so I can still turn a profit only allowing bookings in the same month. In fact I have found that last minute bookings can achieve the  highest prices (due to other good listings being already full) and the guests tend to be those who are in the city for a short time and just need somewhere to crash before they leave – this means they tend to arrive in the evening after I get home from work and therefore there is no mad rush to get the room ready.

Airbnb Instant Book

I will have to stop using Instant book also as I need to control what time people will be coming and going to my place. Instant book has been very successful for me. I think all my Instant book guests were very nice people and knew what they wanted. As mush as I like this tool its got to go as one wrong booking could cause a nightmare for me. I already had a problem a few weeks ago with a guest who was coming and I couldn’t be there to meet her. I asked a friend to stay at my house and wait for the guest who was supposed to be there about 11am. My friend ended up waiting four hours for the guest (which is not unusual as many people misjudge the amount of time it will take them to clear customs at Heathrow airport and then actually make it all the way to my place) but it was very embarrassing for me and it really put my friend out.

So what’s it really like being an Airbnb host

I’ve been a Airbnb host now for nearly a year and have had over 150 guests in that time. Most guests stay for only a couple of days which suits me fine as the longer the guests stay I find they are more likely to hang around the house, and eat smelly takeaways in the bedrooms, instead of exploring the city.

Weekly and monthly rates

I choose not to offer a weekly or monthly rate for the reason that I don’t like longer term guests. I don’t offer use of the kitchen or living areas in my house so guests are limited to their bedroom and a bathroom. My ideal guests is a tourist who has come to visit the city of London for a few days and only uses the house for a sleep and a shower. This means I get the house to myself for the majority of the time and wear and tear is kept to a minimum. The downside is a greater turnover of guests means the sheets and towels need changing more often.

Guest check-in’s

Guests will want to arrive in their own time and leave at a time that suits them. I have set my check-out time as 11am and my check-in as 12. I always ask my guests if they can give me a rough idea of what time they will be arriving but I always take their answer with a pinch of salt. Most guests misjudge the amount of time it will take them to arrive at my house especially those coming from the airport. If a guest says they will arrive at 3pm I usually expect them to arrive sometime after 4pm. I’m not out to rubbish my guests it’s just that most people don’t realise just how big London really is.

I work full time in the city so It’s usually impossible for me to check in my guests in person. I’m lucky in that my wife stays at home during the day and is there to meet the guests and show them the room and explain the house rules. If you don’t have a family member to check your guests in then you are going to have to hire someone else to do it. This can be expensive as guests tend to arrive late and what seems like an easy task can mean waiting around, possibly for hours.

Price Competition

I would love to charge more for my listings but I really can’t or I will price myself out of the market. Several new listings have opened up in my area and most of them at a slightly cheaper price than me (some as low as £17 a night for a double room!). However these listings don’t look as professional as mine and my listings have lots of positive reviews so I still get plenty of guests. My experience so far has been that new listings come on at lower prices and some old ones tend to drop off as they no longer feel the hassle is worth it. Airbnb is still new so lots of people would not have tried it yet so the potential for market growth is still huge but we shall see.

Is the money worth it?

Being a host can be a lot of hassle and it’s certainly not for everyone. I very rarely have an empty room (the city of London is a popular destination) so I maximise my earnings potential. For analysis I would say the yield on a airbnb listing is about 5% (a normal buy-to-let might be about 4%) so not massive. If your looking to get rich using Airbnb then your probably headed for a huge disappointment. I would say however in a good location the money is very steady and it’s a great alternative to renting out a room full time to a local.

When a Airbnb guest cancels a booking

Last week a guest cancelled while actually on the way to my listing. I was expecting him to arrive around 1pm and got a message at 12:30 to say “it is too much trouble to come to your listing so i’m going to stay in a hotel right here.” A bad excuse for sure. My mind immediately turned wether or not he is going to get a full refund or will i still get paid by airbnb?

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What is your cancellation policy?

When a guest cancels a booking it depends on your cancellation policy if they are entitled to a refund or not (Airbnb’s booking fee is now refundable up to 2 times a year). There are three settings :

  • Flexible: Full refund one day prior to arrival
  • Moderate: Full refund five days prior to arrival
  • Strict: 50% refund until one week prior to arrival

My setting is Flexible. I can afford to be flexible because I get a lot of last minute bookings. I have even had cases where a guests cancels and I have resold the room at a higher rate. It it important to note that the one day prior to arrival cuts off at your ‘Check-in After’ hour. So if your earliest check in is at 12 like mine then the guest will have to cancel prior to 12pm the previous day (a full 24 hours before the earliest check in) to get a full refund.

In your listing terms you can alter your cancellation policy
In your listing terms you can alter your cancellation policy

Try to avoid cancelling bookings at all costs

There is no impact for a guest to cancel prior to arrival except the potential loss of the cost of the booking. However if a host cancels it can have a serious detrimental impact on the future ranking of their listing. Airbnb clearly is not kind to hosts who cancel on guests no matter what their excuse so unless you want to be sent to Airbnb Siberia never cancel on a guest.

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When a guest fails to show up

I had a guest yesterday who failed to arrive. I had been trying to contact her to determine what time she would arrive on the day but I got no reply. I fell asleep and the next morning sent a chaser message and got a reply saying she is not coming and she sent me a SMS (which i did not receive). I should still be paid for this as no cancellation message was sent.

I cancelled on trip myself once when at the last minute the car hire company refused my booking, and a guest at one of my listing was being difficult. So we cancelled our trip (it was in actual fact my honeymoon). I got a refund for 2/3 of my trip i.e. not the first night but the 2nd and 3rd, less the Airbnb booking fee. I felt a bit guilty since I expected that the host would not be able to fill the listing at the last minute as it’s in a remote location.

How to get started as an Airbnb host

So you want to be an Airbnb host and your looking forward to making some money. Well here is what you should do.

1. Register an account with Airbnb. Register here.

2. Add a new listing under your profile. Write a detailed description of your room/whole place. Try and describe factually and keep in mind what a traveller will be most interested in.

Create your Airbnb listing and start making money in the sharing economy
Create your Airbnb listing and start making money in the sharing economy

3. Your going to need to upload pictures for your room. Get the Airbnb professional photographer to take some pictures of your listing. This costs money but the pictures should look excellent and more importantly the pictures will be officially verified by Airbnb which should push you up the search rankings. You can apply for the Airbnb photographer here.

4. Make sure the room is ready for your first guest. Obviously the room should be as clean as possible with fresh sheets (think what you would expect from a hotel). But also your going to want to remove as much clutter as possible. On balance your guest is unlikely to want to see all your nik-naks and family heirlooms filling up all the draws and wardrobes. Take them out and put them somewhere else.

5. Make sure you are available to greet your guests. Now is a good time to mention any house rules.

6. I try to leave my guests well alone during their stay. If I happen to see them I might say “can i get you anything?” but thats it. I don’t provide an ‘experience’. I leave the great city of London to do that for me.

Make sure your listing is has clean sheets, towels, and free wifi
Make sure your listing is has clean sheets, towels, and free wifi

7. You may want to enquire with your guests at what time they will be checking out on their last day. Some do need to catch a flight home and may need to leave at a very early hour. I do allow guests to leave luggage with me if they are getting a late flight and don’t want to carry luggage around all day.

8. Re-set for the next guests. Make sure the room is adequately ventilated and the sheets are fresh.

9. You will need to leave guest feedback. You should do this as soon as Aribnb allows you so your guest feels they should do the same.