The amount of people who have given me a weird, suspicious look when I say I Airbnb my spare room during the summer months. OK, in all honesty most of them are on the older side, however there are still a lot of individuals my age who are suspicious towards Airbnb.
Airbnb such a phenomenon – taken the world by storm. Given that I work in the hospitality industry, it only makes me more curious to explore the ins and outs of it, and its tremendous success.
I am fortunate enough to have a spare bedroom in West London, which was not really utilised rather than a playground for my cats. One day I thought that having a room for my cats to play is just weird, living in central London. I looked around Airbnb’s hosting opportunities and decided to give it a try, for the summer months when there is high demand and the rates are higher. I calculated that it is not worth it doing it in winter time, as the daily rate was way too low for me to accept living with other humans 🙂
So how did I start?
So off I went and set up the listing. I looked around other listings (competition, ha), I realised what was good and what was not. I read the reviews and then decided how to approach my listing. I went on a shopping spree, and tried to follow all the guidelines I had in my head from years dealing with hotels, Airbnb’s extensive resource centre and other host experiences I read.
I bought white sheets, pastel colour towels, small pastel vases and some pastel coloured ornaments. I bought a giant fluffy blanket which makes anything look cosy. All my purchases were done in Primark and Tiger, I do not think you need to go on a crazy spending spree at least for starters.
I got a cleaner to make sure the room as spotless before I started arranging everything. I feel cleanliness is the top priority for a host. I think guests can forgive bits and bobs in a place but not the dirt. I made sure all new sheets, blankets, towels were washed (dry cleaned), smelled fresh and looked amazing.
This is the bare minimum one can do. However I decided that I want my guests to truly feel comfortable in that room and the flat. As in all honesty I wanted to charge as much as possible for those couple of months, and details really matter when you set the price. I bought packs of mini mash mellows from Tiger, small boxes, toothbrushes and small kits. I filled in the boxes with mash mellows, then created a small drawer with gifts for my guests. They could use whatever they wanted – power banks, oyster card holders, maps, chocolate, mints, toothpaste, tampons. I bought giant bags of cornflakes, 5 types of tea and coffee and lined this up on my kitchen plot.
I took pictures of the finished product. If you are not a professional photographer I will suggest editing your images online. No matter how hard you try, the light will always be off compared to what it is. Shadows will play in etc… Just use one of the free online editing tools to adjust the images’ brightness. Trust me, it makes a heap of difference and it takes 1h to edit everything (dependent on how many images you have).
I loaded the images and made everything public. Airbnb is really cool in terms of algorithmic sequencing of the listings. They give a chance to all the new listings by pushing them to the top search results adding a label ‘new’. This way you know you start with great visibility (and no reviews). Reviews are a huge deciding factor for guests (and hosts), so it is hard in the beginning as my listing did not have any reviews or star ratings. I ranked on page 1 position 2-3 for London searches. Which was amazing. I got my first booking in a few days. I was really excited to welcome my first guests.
They were brand new to Airbnb as well, which made me feel a bit uneasy. I had no reviews, they had no reviews – so I just decided to go with it. We chatted back and forth for some time, they sent me their passport copies, told me what they did and why they were coming to London, and why did they like my flat. I love the Airbnb platform, the fact that it allows you to chat to potential guests without revealing the full address or your details until the deal is not agreed upon. I accepted them, and here they were – my first guests.
Once I accepted I could see their names and details, I could Google them. Just to ensure they are not on some top wanted list 🙂 obviously the chance for that was minimal anyway. However Googling someone takes 2 minutes so why not. They were fantastic guests by the way, and my first attempt at hosting went great.
I followed the same approach with all my guests.
What did I learn:
Guests were really grateful about the small things. Comments about the amenities feature in all of my reviews. I now have 5 five star reviews, from the 5 stays I had during summer.
Looking back, I realise that all the guests I got were right about my age. Were interested in similar things, and were overall really pleasurable to have around. All were respectful, quiet and clean. So, no, it was not creepy or weird. I made friends with some of them, I have drinks with others from time to time.
I learnt not to be greedy and not to just accept people for the money. I made sure that we will be a good fit first, and we can co-exist for the duration and even enjoy each other’s company. London is a high demand city, and you get a lot of requests sometimes on a daily basis. If you are greedy, you will accept requests that might not be suitable and then the experience will be negative.
I learnt that setting the rules and sticking to them is the most important thing if I wanted to have a great experience.
I absolutely recommends taking advantage of Airbnb. I thought it was a great experience, it allowed me to meet some cool people, so I say ciao until next summer.