Journalist Abi Butcher has been renting her Hampshire coast home on Airbnb for three years. She talks to other experts and offers some advice of her own on how to go about it.
‘A decade ago the idea of staying in someone’s home while on holiday or travelling for work would have been completely alien,’ says James McClure, general manager of Airbnb in Northern Europe.
But since its launch in the UK in 2009, Airbnb has boomed. According to the company’s latest UK Insights Report in July 2017, 5.9 million guests were using 168,000 different homes, rooms and spaces listed on the site.
It’s free to list your home, room or space (shepherd’s huts, boats and even windmills are available). Start by checking out the competition – how other local homes are marketed, the images they use and the nightly rate. Airbnb will help you with pricing, descriptions and photographs. Have a good tidy up, put away clutter and make your home look as it will when your guests arrive.
For hosts, Airbnb takes a 3% fee, while guests are charged up to 20% on their bookings, including a cleaning and service fee, and money changes hands securely.
Before you ‘go live’, it’s important to check your home insurance, inform your mortgage provider and research local regulations (in London, for example, hosting is limited to 90 days per year). If you’re in a leasehold property, also check with your landlord/leaseholder.
‘Always tell your insurance company if you plan to put your home on Airbnb,’ recommends Jacqui Carter, household underwriter with LV=. ‘Firstly, they may not cover you if you decide to use it for that purpose, and you don’t want to find that out after you need to make a claim that won’t be paid. Secondly, if they do cover that type of use there will most likely be additional terms that you’ll need to follow, or need to know, such as a reduced number of bedrooms can be used and that the guests’ contents aren’t covered.’
LV= has started offering Airbnb cover to home insurance customers. Remember; LV= won’t insure you for renting out your entire property on Air BnB. So, to be eligible, you have to agree to the following terms:
‘We’ll cover loss and damage caused by paying guests, so if they were to throw a party which resulted in damage or vandalised the property in any way this is covered,’ says Jacqui.
‘We won’t cover theft or attempted theft while there are guests staying, unless there is proof of force or violence to break into the home. We also won’t cover any items belonging to the guests, for example, if there was a water leak that ruined the guests’ luggage they brought with them.’
There’s quite a lot to do behind the scenes when you rent your home, including:
The premise of Airbnb is to try to help your guests feel comfortable in your home and have as good a time in your home town as possible – in its latest UK Insights Report, Airbnb says 79% of its guests choose to use the platform so they can ‘stay like a local’.
‘Nowadays, we no longer want to rely on pamphlets and search engines: we want real people giving us real tips. We want to get under the skin of a destination while enjoying the comfort of a place that feels like home,’ says Airbnb’s James McClure.
I rent my own house in Lymington, Hampshire, and I leave a folder of leaflets for local attractions, an Ordnance Survey map, a timetable for the local ferry to the Isle of Wight, and a sheet of notes on my favourite walks, pubs, cafés and restaurants, as well as taxi numbers and details of the local hospital.
The summer months and weekends get busy, so when guests book I ask if they’d like any restaurant reservations and let them know the secret local’s ‘back route’ into town to avoid heavy traffic.
According to the Airbnb Insights Report, 44% of hosts rent a room and 55% of people rent out their entire homes.
Chef and mum of two-year-old twins, Andrea Barnett runs The Burrows B&B from a three-room annexe to her home in Braunton, Devon and most guests come via her Airbnb listing.‘It’s the perfect solution as a part-time job because I can work it around being a full-time mum and it gives me flexibility,’ says Andrea. ‘I chat to guests online first and make sure our property is the right one for them and help them with anything they need before they arrive – plus it is very secure.’
Hosts and guests are rated on each visit, so if you find a guest has been difficult to communicate or hasn’t left your home as you’d like, you can give honest feedback after their visit – but remember they will be doing the same to you. Your guests will rate you on value for money, among other factors, so hosts must be mindful of what their property is really worth.
Single mum and part-time travel journalist Nicola Hall rents a house in Fulham when she is away on work trips or holiday with her son.
‘It helps bring in some extra income while I’m away,’ she says. ‘Although it’s a fair bit of work preparing the house, it feels good to know it is being lived in by nice people who I have contact with, not left empty.’
If you go above and beyond for your guests, Airbnb will grant you ‘Superhost’ status, which gives guests quality assurance on their stay. Among the criteria on which you’ll be judged are value for money, cleanliness, speed of communication, whether you cancel any bookings and how often you rent your home.
Superhosts not only earn more money (from more bookings), but they receive priority placement on Airbnb.com and are searchable via a dedicated ‘Superhost’ filter.
One final word of advice: you must declare your earnings to Inland Revenue. Airbnb makes calculating your income easy within the site, but it’s best to consult an accountant regarding how much tax, if any, you must pay.
In the UK there is tax relief on renting one room in your house, but the rules — and interpretation of them — differs when you rent a whole house or an annex/area within your property.
All in all, Airbnb is a fun, flexible and rewarding way to meet new people and earn some extra money from your home – just be sure you’ve got the time to prep your property and make your guests feel welcome.