“Airbnb, is that even a word?” That was my reaction the first time I heard it. Right now, even as I write this, my spellcheck does not recognize it as a real word. Yet, it is. In fact, the word has existed since 2007 when a couple of 27-year-old entrepreneurs living in San Francisco, struggling to pay their rent, decided to rent out three airbeds on their living room floor during a booked design conference in town. They got up the next morning, cooked their guests breakfast and then created a website, airbedandbreakfast.com. Less than a week later, a 45-year-old father of four from Utah was sleeping on their floor and paying $80 a night to do so. Currently, the company is worth over $30 billion. Understated, they’ve done well.
In a nutshell, Airbnb is just an online marketplace for people to rent short-term lodging. There really is more to that definition, but, for our purposes, that will do. If you haven’t stayed in an Airbnb, give it a whirl. In my book, the book of Jen, it is a far superior experience than staying in a hotel; and for the record, I’m a hotel diva. I want all the amenities, including the high thread count sheets.
On the other hand, if you have some extra space or a spare house or condo, this Airbnb thing can be a pretty decent side gig. Almost anyone can be a host, and it doesn’t cost anything to sign up and list your space. The company takes a 3 percent cut from each reservation that is made, but it does provide protection for up to $1 million in damages (it does not, however, cover damage to rare artwork, jewelry, pets or replace stolen money ... and other fine print, etc., etc.).
There are a number of people taking advantage of this right now. Not just people with a spare room or house, but people who have purchased properties just for the purpose of using said property as a short-term rental. If you do the math, it works great. A two-bedroom, one-bath bungalow in Ogden can rent out at $540 for four days. If rented only four times a month, that’s $2,160 a month. Not bad.
Here’s the fine print. To compete with all of the other Airbnb listings, one must have good reviews. To get good reviews, one must really be a “superhost.” To be a superhost (it’s a real word in the Airbnb industry), one must be committed to providing a great stay for their guests. Clean towels, 5,000 thread count sheets, fresh toiletries and working electronics are requirements, as well as cleanliness. It doesn’t hurt to provide tour guidance services as well. One must also be certain to respond quickly to any questions, provide easy check-in and check-out, never run out of toilet paper, and provide snacks and gifts.
After check-out, the host must then be sure to have the property cleaned, replace the toiletries, wash the linens, replenish the snacks and gifts and be sure the last guests leave great reviews on the website. It’s beginning to sound like more than a “side gig.”
The other fine print includes checking with the local city government to be sure that these short-term rentals are allowed. It is also a good idea to check your own insurance policy. Although it doesn’t happen often, there have been occasions where guests get a little out of hand and start partying like rock stars in your home. Let’s not forget about stranger-danger.
Plenty of people are doing it. To be successful, it takes the right kind of person. For the superhost, it could be a super great investment.