I’ve been renting my spare room in Brooklyn on Airbnb for about a year and a half now, and it’s truly saved my life. I’ve been able to choose when I want a roommate and when I don’t, save money on rent and essentially travel the world without leaving my home through wine nights and rooftop picnics with international guests. I have no intention of stopping anytime soon, and do not regret signing up as an Airbnb host in the slightest.
That being said, I’ve learned a lot in the past 18 months, and don’t think hosting is for everyone. Here are few personal anecdotes and items to consider — both good and bad — before taking the plunge, based on my experience.
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1. Some of your guests will think your house is a hotel. Majority of visitors act like polite house guests; however, I’ve had a few that think my small Brooklyn apartment is a hotel, and I’m the maid. I state in my rules to please keep the place and tidy and not to leave food out, but I’ve definitely come home to open takeout containers left overnight on the counter and soda cans thrown all over the floor. One tactic I’ve learned works pretty well to keep this from happening is leaving reminders around the apartment, such as a colorful sign stating “Please wash your dishes now :)” over the sink or having a “Please empty me when I’m full” on the trash can. Also note it’s a lot less annoying to clean up after someone who is paying you vs a lazy full-time roommate.
2. Your housemates — and landlord — may have issues. I’m lucky enough that I live in a small building where everyone is young and childless, meaning they’re not as concerned with a “stranger” in the building as a parent might be (though note, my last full-time/non-Airbnb roommate ended up being a heroin addict who threatened to kill me in my sleep; not even the messiest Airbnb guest can compete with that level of craziness). Some of the people living in my building also do Airbnb themselves, so we’re able to help each other out. Just realize it may become an issue if the people in your building aren’t cool with it, and they may even report you to your landlord.
3. You get taxed on it. Many of you likely know this, but just in case it’s worth mentioning Airbnb sends a 1099 to the IRS at the end of the year to report your earnings. For those trying to stay within a certain tax bracket, this may be an issue. Note, however, you are able to write off a percentage of certain expenses you couldn’t before, like laundry, home cleaning services and paper supplies. I also read on Nolo.com that you can rent your apartment for up to 14 days rent-free, though I’d assume most hosts easily go over this. Their article on Airbnb hosting and taxes is worth a look, though.
4. Airbnb takes a cut. Along with the additional fee they charge your guests, they also take 3% of your earnings to cover processing costs. So, if you charge $100 a night, you’re really taking home $97, which is then taxed.
5. It may take time to get used to someone being in your space. This is especially true for those renting a spare room in their place. When you see someone curling up in your favorite chair with your go-to blanket or sipping from (and breaking) your favorite wine glass it may feel weird at first, but for me it’s worth it in the end for the savings on rent and days of privacy when I’m not renting.
6. Not everyone will be on your schedule. I’ve had a few guests who were night owls and homebodies, meaning they might be up on the couch all night playing video games. This makes it tricky if you like to have people over, though it isn’t too hard to just change the location for group outings.
7. Not everyone will be used to the things you are. There are certain things, when living in NYC, that you just start to think are normal. I once rented out my own bedroom on Airbnb, which is on the street side of the apartment, and the guest complained about the hum of the nearby train when it went by. To me that’s a lullaby, but I ended up having to ask my other Airbnb guest to switch rooms with him, which they gladly did as my room is bigger and they didn’t mind the noise. I had another guest complain that I didn’t have bottled water for them (Brooklyn tap water is delicious, by the way). While I haven’t had many complaints, you’ll definitely find some guests are more nit picky then others.
8. You’ll need to make arrangements for key drops. Running an Airbnb is like running a business, especially as each stay ends with you getting reviewed by your guest. If a guest lands at 6am they likely won’t want to wait until 7pm when you’re back from work to check-in. You can designate your own checkin/checkout times, though if you want a strong business I’d say making check-in no later than 4pm on your profile then working it out based on their flight time is a good bet. This also goes for late night arrivals, which means you’ll have to stay in instead of going out with friends. As a traveler, I’ll admit the key drop gets tricky when people book far in advance or for dates I’m not there, but if you have someone you trust who can do it for you or are able to install a lock box containing the key on your door it will be very helpful.
9. You’ll need to clean. Airbnb allows you to add a cleaning fee to your listing, which you can use to hire a cleaner or pay yourself to clean. You’ll also need to do laundry and make up the room before each guest arrives, though Airbnb does use a service that can do this for you.
10. If there’s a problem it’s on you. If your Wi-Fi or hot water goes out or your apartment incurs some other household problem your guest won’t be blaming the landlord, they’ll be blaming you (and potentially leaving your “business” a bad review). Make sure your place is comfortable enough to take in guests, and that if an issue arises you or someone you trust is available to fix it ASAP (or offer some kind of compensation or perk).
Remember, running an Airbnb means essentially, running your own small business. It takes time, work and flexibility; however, you can definitely keep your full-time job and use Airbnb to earn extra income. I truly love Airbnb for both hosting and traveling, thought I don’t think it’s for everyone.
What do you think about Airbnb hosting? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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