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To Be or to Airbnb

Visions of sugarplums and realizing some unrealized income by renting out your house or in-law unit might be dancing in your head - or maybe a house swap to get away from the holiday fervor for a week or two. How to get started with Airbnb.

Mill Valley Map with an Airbnb Listing
Mill Valley Map with an Airbnb Listing

Are you ready for the Sharing Economy? If you have a car, an extra room or a dusty table saw, you have a business. Ironically, the same technology that makes many customs – like a thank you note – obsolete, has turned hitchhiking, couch surfing and your harlequin romance collection into the “Sharing Economy.” While you may not be ready to slap a big pink mustache on your car and pick up random strangers on your way to soccer practice with Lyft, you might be considering the home sharing services of Airbnb. With the holiday season upon us, visions of sugarplums and realizing some unrealized income by renting out your house or in-law unit might be dancing in your head.

What better time than the holidays, when some of us are contemplating taking a vacation or visiting family, to try out this new Sharing Economy?

Airbnb: How it Works

Check out the www.airbnb.com rentals near you before listing your property to learn about rates, popular room & house rentals and the typical descriptions and amenities in your neighborhood.  Like selling you house, you’ll need to be competitive and stand out.

Build a profile that fits your place - from bare bones couch vacancy to luxury country getaway - make sure the description, photos, amenities and price are in line with your offer.  

Standing Out by Offering Preferred Amenities

If everything checks out and you decide to proceed with renting, make your property stand out. A picture speaks a thousand words so invest in several good photos that show off your property in it’s best light. Clean, uncluttered bedrooms with a firm bed, storage and good lighting are a must. An orderly kitchen with all the basic cooking implements and spotless, well supplied bathrooms are key. Parking is a plus and access to some outdoor space such as a garden or a deck is nice but not necessary. A well located property is always popular, whether it is proximity to shops, restaurants or hiking trails. If you have a prepared written piece you can send to renters with tips for restaurants, shopping and activities, you’ll help your guests on their way to a great stay.

Some hosts are real Bed and Breakfasts types, serving coffee, pastries and the local paper, or a wine o’clock.  If you enjoy meeting new people and want the opportunity to connect with travelers from afar, don’t be afraid to offer your local knowledge and hospitality.

A Word About Reviews

Guests can review your property and hospitality, and in turn you can review your guests. With more positive reviews come more page views, as guests can search on highly reviewed rooms and homes.  So being as clear as possible in your description, and being consistent on your communications and rules is important. No addresses are given out until the property has been booked and payment has been received and only those who have exchanged services may review each other. 

What’s the Difference between Airbnb and VRBO ?

The major difference between Airbnb and VRBO/Home Away is that Air bnb is used more for daily accommodation and can rent anywhere from a room to an entire house or apartment.  VRBO/HomeAway is for vacation rental only which usually means an entire  house. VRBO is more like a vacation rental classified with both homeowners and property management companies posting their listings. Airbnb facilitates the process of listing and booking the space by handling the financial transaction thus payments are timely and secure. Hosts are paid 24 hours after the guest checks in. A processing fee of 3% is charged when the place is booked. VRBO/Homeaway are more like online classified where homeowners/property managers pay to advertise their space. The site does not facilitate payment and owners are responsible for processing their own transactions.  

What About Taxes?

There is currently some controversy in major cities such as San Francisco and New York about the “Sharing Economy” and “Collaborative Consumption” of these peer to peer rentals. It deprives cities and municipalities of the Transient Occupancy Tax (hotel tax) that are a mainstay of revenue for the city. Discussions are ongoing with Airbnb in these major metropolitan areas and beyond for it to start collecting and paying it’s fair share of these taxes.

Ensuring a Smooth and Safe Rental

There are potential pitfalls to renting your home including broken items, and occasional sensational vandalism.  Not to mention rude, loud or unhappy house guests who bother you or your neighbors.  Here’s some advice from Airbnbers to minimize your exposure.

Ask questions.  Find out the purpose of a renter’s trip. Have they done an Airbnb before? How many guests will there be? How many children will there be and what are their ages?

Set policies up front. Make sure your guidelines are clear and concise on your webpage.  Confirm them in advance with the guests.

Put away your valuables.  Store your most prized possession out of sight and away from  breakage. Put expensive, fragile, and small items away for safekeeping as accidents do happen.

Buy cheaper linens.  Beach towels disappear, sheets may not be returned as delivered. 

Trust your gut. Ultimately, if a potential renter sets off alarm bells, turn them down. No amount of rental income is worth compromising your family’s safety  or your property. If it’s not right, walk away.

Join the Sharing Economy

Shared your space?  Now share your story.  Inquiring minds want to know your experience.


This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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