My partner grew up with his family owning a traditional bed & breakfast and so was very used to sharing his home with others. When we first moved in with each other, he suggested we rent out our spare room to become Airbnb hosts.
I was initially reluctant.
It was 2017 and Airbnb (opens in new tab)’s popularity was beginning to explode. We had used it a few times ourselves on trips, but opening up our home to guests felt a bit daunting.
At the time we lived in Manchester which was quite close to Old Trafford, Manchester United’s football grounds, and so my partner was convinced there would be a demand.
Of course, I was concerned about strangers being in our home. Would it be awkward or weird? The house was a small two-bed terrace with only one bathroom so regular contact with guests seemed unavoidable.
I unenthusiastically agreed to give it a trial go after badgering from my partner under the promise that any money we made from the venture would be saved for our planned purchase of a new house the year after.
As you're about to find out, I’m glad to report it was a success and something we really enjoy doing. So how do you get being an Airbnb host right?
Setting up shop
As part of my reluctant agreement to the scheme, it was agreed that my partner would look after the business side (setting up our Airbnb profile, managing bookings and liaising with guests) and I would look after the décor and do my best to give it a hotel-like experience.
Setting up on the app was really easy and they guide you step by step. Our offering was that guests had access to a double bedroom, shared bathroom, kitchen and a separate living room space for around £45 per night.
If you don’t want people to use your kitchen say that isn’t a problem as it is made clear on your profile. You put in your address and what facilities you have on offer and they suggest a rate for a night’s stay (although you can set whatever rate you want).
You include some information on the property, local area and who you are as hosts. This is the place to really sell your listing. We highlighted in our description our close vicinity to Old Trafford, easy transport links and that the city centre was a 15 minute drive away.
I styled the room to take photos so that the guests knew what to expect before they booked. The photos are another opportunity to really make your listing shine so we put a lot of effort into getting the best angles, like you would see in a hotel's professional promotional photos. We love to travel so when it came to our offering I thought about what I would want to see if I was booking somewhere – tidy rooms, stylish design and white bed linen.
One of the things that helped encourage me to put our spare room on Airbnb is that you get to set your own rules on the visit. You can mandate things like check-in and out times, and minimum number of nights stay. There is no obligation to accept anyone you don’t want to, and how much interaction your guest can expect is your call.
All guests are verified as real people before they can book and you can see guest reviews from their previous visits before you agree to let them stay. Airbnb actually provides insurance in case anyone damages your property and also have 24 hour support in case there is an issue. Everything is communicated with your guest through the app, and Airbnb looks after the money side of things so no cash has to change hands.
Welcoming our first guests
We were really nervous of receiving our first few guests and not knowing what to expect.
We had prepared the guest bedroom and created a little welcome document of things like Wi-Fi password, general house rules and local amenities. When we welcomed a guest we gave them a quick tour of the house and after some general chit-chat found out the reason for their visit and gave them recommendations tailored to their likes.
I was always concerned that the people staying might be 'weirdos' and make us feel uncomfortable, but I quickly realised that the guests had to trust us as much as we had to trust them. Both parties were agreeing to be respectful of each other and their space. For example as soon as the guests arrived the spare room became their space that we would never enter.
A (mostly) positive experience
We very quickly started to get guests join us from all over the world, and it was genuinely a joy to meet and get to know these people. Most guests don’t actually spend much time in the property as they're usually visiting your location for a reason or to explore the area.
Usually, we only really saw our guests at check-in, but occasionally with people that stayed on longer visits, we have had dinner together or shared a bottle of wine with them, once we got to know them better. We even watched the Bake Off final with one of our guests!
When we moved house we decided to keep hosting on Airbnb as our new property was better suited for hosting. Guests here had their own bathroom and entryway. The bedroom was also much bigger which meant we could give our guests the option to add a blow-up bed, doubling the amount of people we could host and therefore, increasing our earning potential.
In our nearly three years of being hosts we had very few issues with guests, but it does occasionally happen. Apart from the occasional bit of damage (which Airbnb covered the costs for) or someone taking too long in the bathroom, the worst we probably came across was a last-minute booking for a group of four people in their early 20s who had just flown into Manchester.
Their body clocks were on a different time zone so they sat up most of the time talking and laughing keeping us awake until 3am... It took several attempts to get them to be quiet but eventually, they did and when it came to their review we politely detailed what had happened so future hosts could be aware. They actually asked us if they could stay next night too, but we quickly declined!
The best benefits
The amount of money you make will be entirely based on your location and your offering. We have made up to £700 per month by renting out our spare bedroom on Airbnb during the most popular months. The way I started to look at it was kind of like you were being paid to do your chores such as cleaning rooms and washing bed linen.
Another positive for us was when we got awarded “Superhost” status (from being consistently good hosts), which meant higher priority listings and vouchers that could be used on our own trips away. We also encouraged another friend to do the same with their city centre spare room and got a referral fee.
We really enjoyed doing it and could not recommend it enough. Making money from our spare room and sharing our space on our own terms? It's a convenient income that works for us.