HostingSo you have a spare room or a couch or a pull out couch or an air mattress. You want to make a little extra money and meet new people. You take nice pictures of your place, create a profile, write up a description of your place, list the amenities, decide on a nightly price, and put your place up on the website (it's free to list). Your place will be added to the list of other places available in your area. When someone wants to stay with you, you get a notification that they've decided to book and you have the opportunity to look over their profile before confirming their reservation. You get contact info for each other through the website, so you are able to message them and they are able to message you, so you're able to get in touch with one another before they arrive. They show up, you show them around, you socialize and hang out if you both want or go on your merry ways if you want and a couple of days later the money (minus a small cut taken out by Airbnb) shows up in your bank account. You review your guests; if they're awesome you let people know that, and if they weren't friendly or neat or whatever, you let people know that so they don't get to stay with other people through Airbnb.
StayingYou are preparing to travel. All of the hotels are booked/all of the hotels are wildly overpriced/you would like to stay in a home/you need access to a yard/you want to rent a whole house/there aren't hotels nearby/you want the opportunity to socialize and meet new people/you want to stay somewhere really cheap, so you decide to check out Airbnb. You put in the location and the dates you want to stay and the number of guests and search through the listings that meet those parameters. You find a place you like and book or you find a place you're interested in and send the host a message with specific questions for more information. You get to check in and out at flexible times. You meet some new people who have knowledge of the area and who can give you advice on places to eat or go for entertainment. Maybe your host makes you breakfast in the morning, or brews a steep pot of coffee. You go home and review the place so other people can know how good/bad the hosts and accommodations are.
Pros/ConsThings that are great about it:
-As a host your place is insured through Airbnb, so if anything gets broken or stolen it will be taken care of, so you don't have to worry (as much) about letting strangers into your home.
-You have to create an account to book/list, so you can count on real people on both ends. As a host you can also ask for a scanned copy of ID before confirming bookings if you want to be extra cautious/have super nice stuff.
-It's still somewhat under the radar, so the assholes haven't found it yet.
-As a host you have the option to list your place as always available or only make it available for certain times, so if you only want to do holidays or weekends or whatever that's something you can do. You can also black out times you know you have family coming or won't want to host for whatever reason.
-You can vary the rate as you please, so if you want to have a really low rate for unpopular times of year and a higher rate for busy seasons, you can! You can negotiate a one-time offer with people as well.
-Often, you can bring a pet with you without an additional charge. Depending on the place, you may have to pay a small pet deposit, but deposits are promptly returned (assuming your pet doesn't cause any damage).
-We have pretty much only ever had pleasant experiences, and find that people who stay through Airbnb tend to be nice, at least somewhat social people, probably because that's the type of person who would be interested in that kind of service.
-You get to see what amenities are available very clearly, and it's easy to get answers to questions.
-Guests and hosts can be reviewed, so good or bad experience, you get to tell people.
-Hosts are generally a pro. They treat Airbnb like a business, have other competition, their customer service affects their listing order (for example: how quickly they respond to guest messages or confirm bookings), and they tend to be gregarious, friendly people who will go out of their way to make sure you have a comfortable, pleasant experience.
-The customer service is great. Andy sent them a message letting them know how much we've enjoyed our experiences and they sent us a 20 dollar credit for a future stay through Airbnb. We used that for our trip and only had to pay and additional 38 dollars for the place we stayed.
Things you may not like about it:
-Depending on the place, the amenities may not be as good as a hotel. Some places you'll have to share a bathroom with your hosts, or may not have AC (for example). These are clearly labeled, so you'll have decided what compromises you're comfortable making for the price.
-There's no maid service. Personally I like this, but if you prefer to be cleaned up after, this could be a problem for you.
-While there are some vacation homes and the like listed, these are mostly lived in spaces, so they won't be as sterile or pristinely clean as a hotel. Again, this will depend on your preferences.
-There can be some nickel and diming. Some hosts will charge an extra fee for extra people (for example, an extra ten dollars for a second person), bringing pets can be an extra charge or involve a deposit, breakfast can be an extra charge, some people will charge a cleaning fee, etc. As a host this can be a pro for you if you want to offer additional services or have extra insurance for your home and your time, but as a guest this can definitely be a con. Again though, these costs are all listed in the description on the place's page so you will never be suckerpunched with them.
Andy and I have had wonderful experiences hosting and staying through Airbnb. We've met some really lovely people and are even starting to have return guests. Hosting also helps encourage us to keep our house clean and neat and gives us some extra spending money. We really enjoy have the opportunity to chat with new people coming from all over and getting to play with their pets when they bring them. Here's a link to our page in case you want to check it out and see what a listing looks like.
Have you ever used Airbnb? Would you? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Yours Truly, Jen