A Beginner's Guide to Hosting Airbnb Guests

Airbnb was first introduced to me when I was planning a month long trip to New York. I was already an active Couchsurfer, but a month far exceeds the polite length of time to Couchsurf, and I wanted the privacy of my own room and bathroom. I found an amazing host, rented a room at a fraction of what a hotel would have been, and was an instant fan of Airbnb. I have used it for years as a traveler all over the U.S.A. and Europe. For the last three years I have been an active host and have met all kinds of amazing people, with the added bonus of covering a large chunk of my rent each month. It’s practically passive income.

Related Post: How I Afford Travel

People often ask, “You host strangers? In your home? Do you lock up your valuables??”

My response is always, “Yes. Yes. And of course not!” There are lots of misconceptions and fear based reactions to hosting travelers, and nearly everyone asks the same questions. So I figured I’d simplify it all and answer them in one place.

#1 – What exactly is Airbnb?

  • Airbnb is a fantastic social networking website made up of travelers profiles and hosts profiles + listings. Travelers need a place to stay, and hosts list their Penthouse, their guest room, their camper out back, and everything in between to meet every budget. Airbnb takes care of all payments and has excellent customer service and support both for hosts and for travelers. In order to make a reservation, you must have a credit card. The focus of Airbnb is to make travel accessible, and to promote true cultural exchange and relationship building.

#2 Do I have to have a spare room, comfortable couch, quiet house, etc. in order to be a host?

The short answer is: No. As long as you are up front in your listing description that’s all you need to worry about. After that, it’s up to travelers whether they think your place is a good set up for them. Trust me - I’ve rented a tent on my back patio next to my chicken coop and have had many humble and grateful travelers pay me to sleep there - my listing was blunt and they knew exactly what they were getting themselves into. 

#3 I don’t have time to be a host. Won’t I need to provide breakfast? Give them a key? Show them around?

  • You do not need to do anything special with Airbnb guests. You can give them a key if you want, or you can have them adhere to your schedule - if you do this though, be very up front about it. I for one, wouldn’t want to stay somewhere that I had to be out at 8am when the host left work for work, and it would be great to know that up front. You do not need to provide breakfast, show them around, or do anything above and beyond providing them with a safe space to sleep exactly as described in your listing. I don't alter my daily routine at all when I have guests present - that would be exhausting. I am upfront in my listing and guests know exactly what to expect. 

#4 Do I need to lock up my valuables? Will they steal all my shit?

  • Again, the short answer is: No, and no. Airbnb has a robust system of checks and balances and are always adding to and updating their profile verification processes. But this is also where your intuition and screening skills as a host come into play. There are many different steps that offer opportunities for red flags to come up. Trust your instincts about people, even if you can’t articulate why you don’t want them to stay with you. I turn down just as many people as I accept, and sometimes it’s just based on the fact that I didn’t like the way I felt when I looked at their picture. Check out travelers profiles. Read their past reviews. Message with them a bit. And always go with your gut.

Like this post? You might also like: How to Use Couchsurfing as a Traveler

#5 Will my home address be published?

  • No. Your home address is published nowhere on Airbnb. Only confirmed guests that you have approved will be sent your address. This is done automatically by Airbnb once you have confirmed their reservation.

#6 Do I have to accept every reservation request?

  • Of course not. As the host, you have full control over whether or not you accept or decline reservation requests. It is completely up to you. However, to keep your host rating up - always officially accept or decline, versus not responding at all.

#7 How do I set my listing price and how do I get paid?

  • Your listing price is totally up to you. I based mine on other nearby listings and hotel rates, but also factored in my convenient downtown location. All payment is taken care of in advance through Airbnb. You are then sent the money via paypal roughly 24 hours after your guest checks in. Decline any offers from guests to pay cash or to otherwise pay outside of Airbnb (even if they're already staying with you and want to add extra nights). Any transaction taking place outside of Airbnb is then not covered by their insurance policy and you do not have the back up and support of the Airbnb staff. 

#8 How do I sign up to be a host?

  • Go to Airbnb.com and create a profile. Upload photos of yourself and talk about who you are and what you're all about. Then create a listing for the space you're renting your home, and fill out as much information about your home as you can - the more informative and the more transparent you are in your profile and listing descriptions, the more you will attract like minded travelers who will fit right in. If you have multiple spaces available - make a separate listing for each one. To make your profile stand out - have a catchy listing title, and make sure your photos are clear. Also - the first photo you upload will automatically be your thumbnail + header photo for your listing, so make sure it’s a good one as this will be the travelers first impression.

#9 What if something comes up and I have to cancel on a guest, or what if a guest cancels on me?

  • Airbnb allows a host one “free” cancellation every six months. After that, a host is charged $50 to cancel a reservation, and if cancellations are frequent, your account may be suspended. As a host, you set your cancellation policy for your guests - there are 3 different tiers and you can choose what suits you best. 

#10 I can’t host if I have kids/am a single woman/have roommates {insert any other excuse here}, right?

  • This question cracks me up because it’s usually from the safety angle, and it implies that hosts have to be recklessly willing to put themselves in danger by hosting random strangers. Again - see the answer to question #4. If you have kids - maybe you just host families, or people traveling with kids. Another concern with kids is that your kids are loud, your house is messy, etc., and again - my answer is the same - just be honest. If I rented a tent next to my chicken coop, you can rent a couch within earshot of your baby, or within steps of your toddlers tornado destruction. Maybe if you're a single woman, you don't host men....maybe if you're a math teacher you don't host pastry chefs - that's up to you. Just use your intuition, be up front about your scene, and let the traveler decide if they can hang with your crowd or not. And remember - Airbnb is not full of murderers and child molesters - it's full of awesome humans using it to meet people, save money, and travel just like you. Don't live a fear based life :)

#11 What if my property is damaged, or I otherwise have issues with a traveler?

  • Airbnb has excellent host support. They have super fast email responses, and are always available by phone. You are also protected as a host under their damage + loss policy.

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