Should you

CityPress - - Business -

Airbnb has caused a mas­sive dis­rup­tion in the ho­tel in­dus­try, which is los­ing cus­tomers to in­di­vid­u­als who are pre­pared to rent out their homes to hol­i­day-mak­ers at a frac­tion of the cost of a ho­tel room. The Airbnb web­site al­lows hosts to list their residentia­l ac­com­mo­da­tion (from the en­tire prop­erty to a spare room) and home­own­ers are find­ing it a great way to sup­ple­ment their in­come.

Even prop­erty in­vestors who would have rented out their in­vest­ment prop­erty on a longer-term ba­sis are find­ing it more lu­cra­tive to rent out on a short-term ba­sis to hol­i­day-mak­ers.

Ros lives in Johannesbu­rg and has used Airbnb to rent out her spare room, which in­cludes a pri­vate bath­room and rea­son­able use of the kitchen and in­ter­net. As Ros trav­els fre­quently for work, she also makes her apart­ment avail­able dur­ing those pe­ri­ods.

“I price my place quite low be­cause of its lo­ca­tion, which means you have to have a rental car to get around,” says Ros.

She adds that when she is home and will be shar­ing her home with a guest, she spec­i­fies a max­i­mum stay of a week. If she is away and rents out the apart­ment (ex­cept for her bed­room, which she locks up), she spec­i­fies a min­i­mum stay for ease of ad­min.

“I don’t of­fer break­fast, toi­letries or any­thing else, but I’ve stayed in places that do,” says Ros, who uses Airbnb for her own travel.

Fran­cois Louwrens, who owns three hol­i­day prop­er­ties in Blou­berg, Cape Town, has found that his oc­cu­pancy has in­creased since he started us­ing Airbnb to ad­ver­tise his prop­er­ties. Over the past six months, the apart­ments have been booked for 23.5 days a month – ris­ing to 28/29 days dur­ing peak sea­son.

Rob Mcquil­lan, who man­ages Louwrens’ three prop­er­ties, says most of their Airbnb book­ings come from over­seas guests be­cause they are more fa­mil­iar with the web­site. The up­side for Mcquil­lan is that over­seas guests are a lot eas­ier to deal with than lo­cals.

A quick re­view of the prop­er­ties avail­able on Airbnb shows that a well-po­si­tioned prop­erty in Gaut­eng – ei­ther near the air­port, a busi­ness cen­tre or in a trendy area like Melville – can charge be­tween R293 and R426 a night for an en suite bed­room. Even if you are just rent­ing out for 10 days a month, that can come to an ex­tra sev­eral thou­sand rands each month.

Do you have what it takes?

You are more of a ho­tel concierge than a land­lord, so you need to be good with peo­ple and be pre­pared to deal with dif­fi­cult guests.

You have to be nearby as this is a ser­vice-ori­ented busi­ness – it is not as pas­sive as rent­ing out a unit long term and hir­ing a rental agency.

Be clear about what you are of­fer­ing – is it a spare room in your home where guests will feel they are crash­ing over with friends, or a five-star ho­tel ex­pe­ri­ence?

For ex­am­ple, in one re­view the guests com­mented on how the owner would pop over each morn­ing with hot crois­sants and freshly squeezed or­ange juice. Great for re­peat busi­ness if you can man­age it, but not for an owner who has to rush off to work ev­ery morn­ing and barely has time to make their own break­fast.

Even if you can’t do the hot crois­sants in the morn­ing, make sure you of­fer ba­sic food on ar­rival such as milk, bread and cof­fee. You will get bet­ter re­views, which means more busi­ness.

Your room must of­fer what peo­ple are able to find in a ho­tel, such as an iron­ing board, cof­fee maker, hairdryer, full-length mir­ror and tow­els.

The risks

Re­mem­ber, if you are rent­ing out a room on your premises, you are let­ting a stranger into your home. If you are rent­ing out an en­tire prop­erty, you also stand the risk of dam­age or even theft.

By and large, neg­a­tive in­ci­dents ap­pear to be few and far be­tween, but you still want to take pre­cau­tions. Check the po­ten­tial client for past re­views and also re­quest a copy of their ID or pass­port and make sure you pack away all your per­sonal be­long­ings.

“You just have to be sen­si­ble and gauge from your cor­re­spon­dence with the prospec­tive guest, as well as from their re­views from other hosts.

“I’ve hosted sin­gle men, sin­gle women and cou­ples,” says Ros, who has only ac­cepted 15 of the 62 re­quests she has re­ceived through Airbnb.

While you can do your home­work to vet your guests, you also need to make sure you have the right in­sur­ance in place.

While the Airbnb plat­form does of­fer its host a Host Guar­an­tee of $1 mil­lion (R13 mil­lion) to pay for dam­ages (ex­clud­ing cash and se­cu­ri­ties, pets, per­sonal li­a­bil­ity

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