Thanks to Angie from NerdWallet for today’s post expanding on how to use Airbnb to book apartments, homes, or just an extra room as an alternative to traditional hotel stays. Eric surveyed Airbnb and similar services like Couchsurfing and VRBO last week, but Angie volunteered to go into more detail on this particular option.
Airbnb — the popular short-term travel site — has been in the press recently for their over-the-top invitations to a Gatsby themed party in the Hamptons. In some ways Airbnb represents the East Egg-West Egg phenomenon; it allows you to see a different side to a city with a dose of charm and even grit that a traditional hotel could not encapsulate. To ensure you have the most fulfilling and courteous of experiences, here are some suggestions for when to use Airbnb on the host and guest side, and what to do when you get there.
When to stay-bnb
With transportation costs rising, a two-week-long jaunt to Bali may be out of the question but a week-long session in Maine may be equally out of reach when considering hotel costs. Consider using Airbnb to minimize on costs while bringing a fresh perspective to a place you may have gone a hundred times. The Carmel highlands are experienced much differently while staying in a yurt than a hotel room. These experiences definitely will not hurt your wallet or your soul. Although staying at an Airbnb rental when you have your own place in the city sounds a bit ridiculous, a change of neighborhood and an avant-garde lodging style in a cool warehouse or artists’ colony can be inspirational way to recharge for a short weekend without taking any vacation days.
When visiting an unfamiliar place where you are less familiar with neighborhoods and surroundings, make sure to do a little bit more background research before settling down on a listing. Who knows, you may have unwittingly chosen the apartment in Paris’ red light district, which may have worked in your mid-20s but the loft next to the flashing lights of the Moulin Rouge may disturb your three-year-old’s sleep these days. The advantage of Airbnb is that it offers comparable rates with amenities that many hotels lack like access to a full kitchen with refrigerator, allowing you to experience local cuisine firsthand while cutting down on living costs during your stay.
Should you join the ranks?
The decision to start hosting your own place on Airbnb should not be taken lightly. First, decide whether or not you have a space that could feasibly be rented out. Preferable accommodations include an entire apartment, a room in an apartment with bathroom, a loft, or any sort of independent dwelling with running water (the running water part is negotiable depending on the type of guest you’re targeting). Next, think about whether you want to put in the work to host. Coordinating guest arrival times and keeping your place tidy and guest ready may sounds like a relatively simple task but still require a significant time commitment.
Finally, tease out whether you can legally do so. There have been a number of horror stories of evictions, mounting legal fees, and sanctions against owner who have rented their places out in buildings that have stipulations against short-term rentals. Save yourself a couple of tens of thousands in legal fees and make sure it’s all gravy before filling out that rental listing.
Host & Guest Etiquette
The company has taken a lot of heat in recent months with reports of unruly tenants and renters alike arising in the media. To step-up consumer confidence, Airbnb has implemented an official ID-based verification process for users looking to rent out their place. 25% of U.S users will now be required to go through the procedure of inputting an official government ID, social security number, and verification of prior listings.
Take advantage of this newly implemented system to assure guests of your existence and authenticity. In all seriousness, it is a huge selling point and a great place to build in some host-hostee trust, and you get a cool little badge to put on your profile if you get verified. As a guest, make sure you do not put yourself in a vulnerable position, if you are traveling alone, choose a place appropriately and use the messaging feature and prior reviews to determine whether it’s the place for you.
It’s all about the first impression
If you’re looking to host your place on Airbnb, your rentals will be as popular as your reviews are. Clearly, it is impossible to control the never-satisfied guest, but putting in personal touches can really elevate their experience and your subsequent rating. Consider leaving a small welcome gift to guests, something local that can serve as memorabilia. A nice drink would be more than sufficient.
Where many hosts miss the mark is coordinating an arrival time. Make sure to use the message feature profusely for this part and get down a solid ETA, an airplane number to check for delays, and a way to reach them if you can. On the guest side, you don’t want to be the reason your host has to tap into Airbnb’s $1,000,000 guarantee against damages during stays. Be respectful of your host’s digs, try and keep your area tidy, and give your host as much information about your stay and arrival/departure as you can to ensure a stay without delays.
If you’ve ever had a deep seated dream to work on your novel while munching on artisanal mayonnaise drenched kale in a converted warehouse in an “up and coming” part of town, or you just want to see a different side of London for a week with a personal kitchen, check out Airbnb for all of your short-term hosing wants and needs.
Angie Picardo is a writer for NerdWallet, a financial literacy website where you can find advice on saving money while you travel and setting financial goals.