I’m not sure how many people are familiar with the 1990’s extremely funny but short-lived BBC Comedy Game-On. It centres on the lives of 3 flatmates, most particularly Matthew who comes into an inheritance after his parents are killed in a car crash and buys a large flat (apartment) in London which he rents out to two old school friends.
Matthew spends his entire life living through his flat mates who go out to work on their busy but imperfect lives whilst continually ordering them to make him cups of tea, insulting and mocking them. No one quite has the same tone as voice as Matthew does when he insults someone. He never leaves his home due to Agoraphobia and insists he is the coolest person in London with his highly polished surfboard despite never going out. He also insists that he is cooler than all of his flatmate Mandy’s northern boyfriends despite not being so in any way and constantly makes fun of poor Martin and his ginger hair and apparent ineptitude with women.
Anyway, sometimes I feel a bit like Matthew, albeit a much nicer one that is always nice to his Airbnb guests and offers to make them tea though gratefully accepts reciprocal offers. Spending my non-touring days working on my business, writing on various projects while the rest of the house goes out and about and do whatever people do outside these days.
It’s hard to believe that we have been on Airbnb for nearly two years. In that time we’ve opened our home for hundreds of people and would you believe not one item has ever mysteriously disappeared or been stolen.
We have met some really interesting people from across the planet; doctors, psychiatrists, backpackers, authors, salesmen, engineers, professional protesters, politicians, students, a whole pile of Harry Potter fans and even more people working at the nearby film studios.
99% of guests are really nice to have. We have had people stay with us for just a few hours to 6 months or more. Due to all the guests and hosts being vetted and each writing a review of the other so long as you trust your hunches then everything should be okay.
Both our spare rooms are pretty much full all the time and every now and then my wife or I won’t actually know who is in one of the rooms as we have either lost track of things or the other person dealt entirely with their bookings. As we are nearly always full, we can be incredibly discerning with who we let stay with us. We get quite a few people who think we are a hotel and if they just make a reservation inquiry with no friend email then they will never stay with us. Nor will people without their profiles filled in or those who want to haggle about the price. Our price is still the cheapest in the neighbourhood which in our case is Hertfordshire and is 99% cheaper than all in London and in fact often 2 or 3 times cheaper. Sometimes we do give discounts but not to people who ask, only those we feel sorry for after they have stayed. If you think £25 is too expensive for staying in a private house in London then you’re very welcome to go to the budget hotel down the road and pay there £70 a night.
We also try to identify people who are going to be a pain to live with, even for 1 night. It’s our house and though the money is nice, having pleasant people around is most important of all. If you start asking a dozen questions before you even book, the chances are there will be many more after you book and you’ll be one of those people who is never happy with anything so maybe you should go elsewhere. And finally yes, if your plane lands in London after 9pm, yes it is too late for us to stay up for. I know, we sound like a bunch of old pensioners but who really wants to stay up until 11pm or midnight for arrivals who will then themselves not want to sleep for hours? We have nearly 60 5*star reviews, that should give whatever re-assurance you need, if you have to ask more than one or two questions then you haven’t read our profile and that means you’re the sort of people we don’t want.
Running an Airbnb house can involve a lot of work. Bedding and towels have to be washed, vacuum cleaning and dusting has to be done more regularly and cleaning the bathrooms has to be an almost daily occurrence. You also have to be prepared for more wear and tear and most of all be used to having your house as not an entirely private place.
If it sounds like almost a full-time job well it has advantages in that it almost pays like one too. I have a spreadsheet that I keep updated every week which any small business would be proud of to make sure all financial details are properly recorded. In the U.K. the official rent a room scheme means that you are encouraged to rent out a spare bedroom tax free to around £4,500 a year ($7,500) but more than that then you must declare it and though we thought declaring it would be a pain, it really wasn’t at all and the money is always nice to have.
The other rewards are equally great. The chance to meet people from different backgrounds and professions all around the world. We’re quite happy giving them the run of the house, even when we are away. If our 2 spare bedrooms are occupied for a week it pays for a weeks holiday for us and as a bonus our house is occupied.
Obviously some people have security concerns but aside from our first night we have never had a worry. What about theft? Well what is there really that people could steal? Most of the business people who stay with us are richer than we are, besides which thanks to Airbnb we have their contact details and often their work details too. What about backpackers though? Well, they can hardly carry out a big screen TV on their back and then get the bus and tube to Heathrow. Almost everyone who can afford to visit the U.K. has most likely got the same or better belongings as we don’t buy expensive clothes, have no jewellery and unless you are Japanese then I don’t think any of our electrical products or even DVDs will work in your home. When it comes down to it, people realise it is our home, we are nice people and who really would want to steal from someone who lets you stay in their home and that is forgetting about all the Airbnb security and insurance schemes.
A few months ago Airbnb did what many organisations do when they get too big for their boots, they get more money driven. The original community feeling that goes with Airbnb was diluted, low quality people began to be attracted to the system. It was obvious to us by the people who wanted to stay with us before us Airbnb hosts found out officially. Airbnb hosts also multiplied exponentially and mostly, many of them haven’t got a clue. Sometimes we look at other hosts in the region or around the world and if we see nice profiles and good prices then we genuinely wish them well, even if they are potential competitors. Many more though charge extortionate prices for really poor rooms or property and you have to wonder why anyone would stay with them but then what’s that? Oh they have no or next to no reviews. Obviously that tactic of charging £80 for a room that refugees wouldn’t want is not the best of tactics.(If you want to see how easy it is to make a good Airbnb listing then check out my “How To Get Rich Using Airbnb” Kindle book).
If we wanted, we probably could have 3 or 4 bedrooms fully occupied and more than once we have thought of building an extension just for that reason but despite the money side of things, it is the people side of things that make it worthwhile and we wouldn’t ever want to just have people stay with us for the money. In the last week or so we have had musicians, London sightseers from Slovenia, carpenters and even someone who was in the Wolf of Wall Street movie. Whilst sometimes we rent both our spare rooms out for months on end, we do try to keep the smaller room for short-stayers, particularly as it is my office and writers den. Many of our Airbnb guests turn into friends across the nation and the world. We have standing invites to places we have never been to before in really popular touristic places and others that no-one has ever heard of.
A select few guests we actually think of as part of the family, well actually better than that even. We wait to chat to them when they come home and take an interest in their lives as they do in ours. Sometimes we eat together, sit in the garden and have a drink together, make a bbq or watch TV together. Yesterday we said goodbye to one such person, Jeff. Jeff is entirely wonderful in every-way and has been working at Leavesden Studios since March. He is quiet, tidy, interesting and feels like part of the family. Sometimes he hangs out with us but mostly he stays up in his room with the TV on and wi-fi internet Skyping his wife.
Two weeks ago, Jeff and I had an enjoyable night watching the World Cup. My wife was overseas volunteering at an orphanage and so we both set up an evening to watch England lose in the World Cup. I say lose as being typically pessimistic English, we had no expectations at all just like we don’t have expectations of much else! Anyway, in 4 years time when England next lose in either controversial circumstances or just because they are useless, we will both remember our excellent pizza, beers and writhing commentary we made on football, television and pretty much the entire world.
We were as sad to see Jeff go as he was to leave us and at 7am in the morning we all bade each other farewell that would beat anything in Friends or Game On. In the mean-time I shall enjoy 2 or 3 days where we arranged it to be guest free in our own house. It means we can flush the toilet upstairs after dark, have the TV on a bit loud sometimes and know that everything that is in our own fridge is actually ours and not worry about putting the kettle on at 6am before I do some writing. The nice thing though about Jeff is that he didn’t mind any of that and we liked having him around.
Don’t forget to check out my new book ‘The Promise, the first book in the Timeless Trilogy that will be released this summer. You can read more about it here or be even more daring and visit my Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk stores and maybe make a purchase!