AirBnB is a smart online service that allows you to list any kind of accommodation – from a tipi to a mansion – and rent it to travellers. For people who already have holiday accommodation that they let, AirBnB is just another listing platform with its own set of benefits, but the website also provides a platform for people who would like to rent out their garden cottage, a room in their house – or even, at a stretch, a sofa in their lounge – to earn some extra income.
This is because AirBnB doesn’t insist that listers offer your standard type of accommodation for rental. If you have a space that you would like to rent out, you can list it and see if anyone bites. The website has categories for “cave” and “yurt”, so the range is clearly quite vast. You can even offer your own services as a host or tour guide as a part of the deal. The beauty is that you can market your space to anyone from young backpackers to travelling businessmen, depending on how you pitch the deal.
If you have an extra room or cottage, would like to earn some extra income and don’t mind having strangers in your space, read on to find out how to get in on the AirBnB action.
How do I get my property ready for AirBnB? You can list any space in just about any state on AirBnB, but obviously, the more effort you make, the more appealing your offer becomes. For instance, you should always provide fresh sheets and towels for guests, but it’s also easy to provide a hairdryer without going to any great expense, and if you’re willing to spend a bit more, you can install a television or a wifi booster in the bedroom on offer.
Remember that your listing will live or die by its reviews, so make it as pleasant and comfortable as you possibly can to attract guests and to encourage them to say good things after their stay.
How do I list a property? It’s very easy to register a property on the AirBnB website. Simply follow a step-by-step process, and tick boxes for all the services and amenities your accommodation provides. You can set your own price and availability, although AirBnB will offer suggestions as to the most appropriate price for your accommodation type and area.
It’s a good idea to have a couple of great photos of the space your guests will be occupying and to describe the property and suburb in detail, highlighting their positive features. You can let potential guests know whether there is off-street parking, a pool and access to a kitchen or private bathroom.
If you want to find out how the listing process works, it is possible to list on AirBnB without actually activating your property. You can also choose to accept or reject guests on application, so you don’t have to start accepting guests even once you have listed your property.
You can check out this listing and this one to get a sense of how ordinary people are using extra space to earn extra money. Remember to browse the reviews, because that will give you a sense of what guests liked and didn’t like.
How will I get paid? Once you have activated your property, guests can start contacting you. They will make payment in full to AirBnB for the accommodation. Once their stay is complete, AirBnB will transfer the money to you, minus the 3% commission they take on all bookings. Remember that this constitutes taxable income, so you have to declare it when you do your tax return at the end of the tax year.
What if the guests trash the place? South Africa has recently been added to the list of countries in which accommodation owners are eligible for AirBnB’s $1 million guarantee. This means that any damages to your property will be paid for, up to the cost of $1 million. But most owners never have to use the guarantee.
Does it really work? AirBnB is a reputable site that functions well and provides opportunities for earning extra income. But simply listing a property on the site is not a guarantee that it will make you a lot of cash. We spoke to Sara Webster who has two Cape properties listed on AirBnB as well as on other local accommodation sites. She loves the functionality of the site and AirBnB’s reasonable service charge, but she says she simply hasn’t had that many bookings.
“We used AirBnB when we travelled in Italy last year and thought it was fantastic, so we decided to list our two properties on the site. We have listed ‘secluded St James Kalk Bay sea unit’ and ‘Wine farm house in Robertson area’. In the past 18 months, we’ve had lots of enquiries but only ever had two reservations.”
Despite this, she says that she still really loves the AirBnB system, and hopes that it will take off in South Africa.
On the other hand, some users have really been able to make a go of it. This couple explains how they rented out their spare room on AirBnB and in some months completely covered their own rental costs for the entire apartment.
It seems that the solution is to make your space as appealing as possible, list it at the right price and see what happens.
What are you waiting for? Listing on AirBnB is easy and free. Getting a room or cottage “guest ready” may take a little more time and money. But with AirBnB’s model, you really have nothing to lose, so check it out and perhaps you’ll be earning extra income as a rental magnate by this time next year.