Got a spare room in your home and want to make a little money, but don’t like the idea of having a permanent lodger? It might be time to take a look at Airbnb
, the global homesharing website that allows users to rent out rooms and homes for days, weeks or months at a time.
A host of benefits
Don’t let that extra space go to waste. Give guests the local experience they’re looking for – and they’ll give back. ‘I paid 3,000RMB for rent before [I started hosting],’ says Miyo Gee, a homesharer of about a year. ‘Now I pay around 1,000RMB.’
While most hosts are in it for the extra dough, some prefer the human aspect of the service. ‘I don’t use it for earning money,’ says Chiang Chih-Ying, a host since last October. ‘When I arrived in China, it was a bit boring. I had my own apartment but I didn’t know anyone here. So it seemed like a good way to meet some people and make new friends.’
Do keep in mind, however, that if you’re renting your home, your contract may not allow you to sublet. Check it carefully before you welcome your first guest – and always remember that the Chinese contract is the one that stands up in court, not the translation.
Playing it safe
Safety is the biggest underlying concern for first-time hosts. Thankfully, an extensive verification system deters would-be rapscallions. It connects your Airbnb profile to social media and national ID, among other forms of contact. None of this information becomes public; it is simply a method of confirming that guests are who they say they are.
Airbnb also allows users to review one another: guests can assess their host’s personalities and services, and the quality of their accommodation, while hosts can provide similar feedback about their guests. Give these a quick read and you’ll soon know whether you’re dealing with a psychopath or a saint. But some put faith in the law over everything else when inviting people in. ‘We presume guests do not wish to encounter a visit from the Chinese police,’ says host Yang Zhi Jacobson. A salient point.
Be our guest, be our guest
Since most Shanghai listings are apartments or studios, guest and host interaction is not only common, but encouraged. Some hosts treat guests like old friends. ‘Basically, we have an open/closed door policy,’ says Tom Bailey, who’s been hosting on Airbnb for about a year. ‘If the door to the room is closed, we leave our guests alone. If the door is open, we ask them if they want to go for dinner, drinks, massages, dancing – whatever we have going on.’ But it’s not just tipples and twostep: hosts also play concierge and guide. ‘We are happy to assist guests by going with them to travel agents for booking trains and so on,’ says Jacobson. Such efforts may be tiring, but they lead to positive feedback – which leads to more bookings and more money.
Why it works
For tourists coming to Shanghai, having insider knowledge about the sprawling and often confusing city is key. ‘Tourists do tend to get tricked,’ says Amanda Lim, who used the service extensively as a guest before becoming a host herself. ‘Staying with someone who knows a little more about how things work on the street level is definitely more helpful than any concierge service.’
Using Airbnb has obvious benefits for hosts, an easy source of income being the most apparent. But some would say that meeting people from around the world and sharing local adventures can be just as thrilling as receiving a fat cheque every month. Says Bailey, ‘We’ve had stretching sessions in our living room, discussions about the state of international education, a jazz flute session, and an early morning sprint away from a crazed cab driver. You never know who’ll walk in.’