Con­fes­sions of an Airbnb host

Po­lice have smashed down her door and she’s had to do end­less iron­ing, but Liz Hodgkinson wel­comes the strangers in her home

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Property -

Most days I can be seen dash­ing away with the smooth­ing iron. When that chore is fin­ished, I’m shov­ing arm­fuls of bed linen into the wash­ing ma­chine, chang­ing sheets, clean­ing out lava­to­ries and wip­ing down the shower – all day and ev­ery day. So, wel­come to my brand­new ca­reer as a laun­dress and cham­ber­maid or, as it is some­times known, be­ing an Airbnb host. Over the past six months, I have wel­comed more than 100 peo­ple from all over the world into my home, through the aus­pices of this web­site which now has nearly a mil­lion list­ings in 33,000 cities. My cur­rent guest is a Ger­man pro­fes­sor, here for a month. Dur­ing some of the time he is with me I will also be host­ing his wife and adult daugh­ter. Over break­fast we chat about opera, film, physics and com­puter science. He speaks ex­cel­lent English, as do most of my for­eign vis­i­tors. Airbnb be­gan life in 2008 as a sofa-surf­ing web­site whereby stu­dents and oth­ers could, for a small sum, crash down in peo­ple’s living rooms for the night. Grad­u­ally, it be­came more up­mar­ket un­til gra­cious ladies like my­self started open­ing up their lovely homes as a kind of ad hoc guest­house. Nowa­days, the ma­jor­ity of hosts are over-55s whose chil­dren have left home and who now have spare rooms, and per­haps spare ca­pac­ity, to en­ter­tain strings of com­plete strangers. We are more in­ti­mate, more wel­com­ing, than a ho­tel and, of course, vastly cheaper. Pos­si­bly be­cause we are am­a­teurs, we go that ex­tra mile to make sure our guests are com­fort­able and happy. My guests have tea, cof­fee and bis­cuits in the room, plus an iron and iron­ing board and hairdryer. Ba­sic toi­letries are in the bath­room and my God, do they go through the loo pa­per. Mostly, I have to say, it works well. I pro­vide break­fast in the kitchen but do not of­fer cooking fa­cil­i­ties. Many po­ten­tial guests ask if they can cook or in­vite friends or rel­a­tives around to din­ner and the an­swer is a re­sound­ing no. Nor can they sit in my living room to watch tele­vi­sion. They are em­phat­i­cally not one of the fam­ily, and what I of­fer is a purely busi­ness ar­range­ment. I do wince, though, when guests lug in huge tin trunks and bang them against the sides of my newly painted walls. I do not al­low small chil­dren into my all-white apart­ment

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