Renting Weird Spaces

Surely you’ve heard of AirBnB.com, right?  This is the website where you can rent a furnished apartment in <insert name of city> just for the night or a treehouse or a log cabin or a house on stilts or even a private island. Just for the night, or the weekend, or the duration of your trip.

If you’re not into traveling, you can use these websites as a second (or primary) source of income, by hosting travelers. I have a friend who lives in Portland who keeps her studio apartment listed on AirBnB and whenever she gets a renter, she just packs up her son and spends the night at Grandma’s house.

When we were in LA I was trying to use AirBnB to get a room near the Rose Bowl in pasadena, the kids had never seen the parade.  Luckily, everything was sold out because we ended up changing our plans that day anyway.  I started wondering what other websites are similar to AirBnB.  Here’s what I found:

  • VRBO lists 467 properties in Seattle and it seems to be a suitable alternative to AirBnB because they have a lot of listings and they have been around for a long time. Site visitors report that the booking experience is a little more difficult on VRBO because each owner processes their own payments, whereas AirBnB handles that for hosts
  • I like how Roomorama lists a bunch of cities at the bottom where you’ll be able to find lodging. Searching for my home city, I found absolutely nothing.  I don’t know if it’s because nothing is listed or because their search function is wonky.  It brought up a list of everything in the entire US (6694 listings in case you’re curious).  When I searched for rooms in Seattle, I found 26.
  • 9Flats is cool, just the word “flat” brings up images of a loft in London or something.  This website listed 10 places to stay in Seattle and none in my city (Yakima is in Central Washington and there’s really not much of a reason to come here except for sporting events and wine-tasting.  It’s always sunny here so Seattleites visit when they need a break. There’s not much cultural diversity, not much night life, not much entertainment going on here)
  • Wimdu.com lists 7 properties in Seattle (I only checked because it seems to be some kind of scorekeeping thing I’m doing here)
  • Flipkey.com is one I’m not familiar with, but I just saw an ad and I’m adding it here because this is my secret list of websites like AirBnB and I don’t want to lose it.

 

Tips for renting your house or room out with AirBnB or other travel sites

 

If you’re planning on listing your house on one of these websites, here are a few tips.

As a traveler, when I’m looking for a place to stay, I want to know how far it is to local attractions. If there’a a subway station at the corner, if there are always cabs outside the train station, if the traffic on Thursday nights makes driving impossible, these are things renters want to know about.

You can never have enough pictures.  I’d never rent a place that showed nothing but a photo of the front door and the view.  Make sure the place is clean in all of the photos and that it looks welcoming. Your decorating style is part of your personality but also sets the tone for the price you’ll be able to charge.  Make sure you choose rates comparable to the others in your genre.

Let your personality shine through.  We stayed in a beach house once with tons of water toys and bicycles in the garage.  Another home had a pool table and a coin-operated coke machine. My friend in Portland invites her houseguests to harvest eggs from her chicken coop for breakfast. The idea isn’t to appeal to everyone, the idea here is to stand out and present a fresh escape for travelers.  If they wanted boring they’d book a room at the Courtyard Marriott. (Confession time: I book Courtyard for the Paul Mitchell toiletries)

If you’re planning to use your home as a second (or primary) source of income, check out the hospitality blog at AirBnB for more helpful advice.  Also, here’s a page I found that teaches you how to use your ical to sync multiple calendar listings for AirBnB, Roomorama, etc.  See, your property doesn’t need unlimited availability in order to be rented.  You can list the property for only wednesday nights, or only the times when you’re traveling or only on weekends. You can set up a calendar program that allows you to list the property on several different sites and when one is rented out the others will be notified that the property is no longer available during that time.

If you live in an area where the hotels fill up frequently or tourists like to visit, or if your property is enough of a destination on its own then you might want to consider this option.

 

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