The sharing economy is upon us and many Calgarians are looking to make a few extra bucks, especially during a recession. Whether it’s driving strangers around the city (uber.com) or walking someone else’s dog (spotwalk.ca), there are opportunities to engage in the sharing economy.
When you own a property, one of those money-making opportunities is to rent out your home – or even a small part of it. Many homeowners are renting rooms in their houses out on Airbnb or similar websites. (Please note I am not making any representations as to whether it is allowed by city or condo bylaws for your specific property.)
If the thought of sharing space with strangers doesn’t sit well with you, you are not alone! But there are things you can do to make your space more Airbnb-friendly and to maintain your privacy.
Some owners rent their whole house out while they are away on their own holidays. In this case, you could choose one room of the house to install a deadbolt on (perhaps a den or smaller bedroom) and, before you go, move any jewelry, passports, unmentionables, your best bottles of wine, etc. into that room and lock it. Take photos of each room of your house including the inside of closets so that you can remember what was there and refer back to the photos when you come home to make sure everything is in order.
Airbnb has insurance but I would also recommend calling your own insurance company to make sure your policy allows renters in your house. Payment is made in advance (and is generally $200+/night) plus you get to review your renters after their stay so this makes it very likely the renters will treat the house as if it was their own.
Other owners rent out individual rooms in their home while they are still there. This can be a fun opportunity to meet travellers from around the world and make $50+/night per bedroom.
Make sure your have clear instructions for your renters as to what space they have access to and which areas you want to keep to yourself – perhaps the front porch is for their morning coffee while the backyard is for yours! Keep your ensuite bathroom to yourself while setting up the second bathroom for your guests, complete with clean towels and toiletries for their use.
As for the kitchen, you could have one shelf in the pantry labelled for guest use, while you keep your own items on the other shelves. Same goes for the refrigerator. You can have house rules about minimum length of stay, quiet times, use of laundry facilities, smoking, etc. that are on your Airbnb listing for potential renters to review before they make a booking.
If you have a secondary suite in your house, that is an ideal self-contained space that you can rent out and have less interaction with renters – just install a lock with a keypad on the main door and change the code after each renter.
I’ve enlisted the help of super star interior designer Ana Cummings to share some ideas for how to set up your Airbnb space to make it warm and welcoming – ensuring those all important 5-star reviews! Please check out Ana’s website at www.anainteriors.com or give her a shout at 403-827-2137 for any design needs.
- Post “the best” photo of the space or house, and let potential renters know what is special about your Airbnb. Are you close to the Stampede Grounds? Can you walk to Kensington shops? Have a spectacular Rocky Mountain view?
- Keep the key furnishings in the space neutral but have an accent colour that designates the rental. For example, plates, mugs, placemats, kitchen & bath towels, sheets, etc., could all be in the same colour family so when they get used and washed, you’ll know exactly where they go and won’t get lost with your own items. It’s also easier to inventory, if and when you need to replace anything should they break or disappear.
- Beds should be as large as can fit in the bedroom. A pull out sofa or spare cot in another room is an extra bonus for travellers with children.
- Designate an area for electronics. If you have extra chargers or power adapters, keep them handy for people who have forgotten them, especially if they are from overseas. A welcome binder with information about wifi, nearby restaurants and attractions, is a must. A tv for watching during downtime, or a small bluetooth sound system to connect their music to, will make guests feel like they’re at home.
- The most welcoming entries include a large as possible area rug (to place shoes, luggage), a bench or console table, and a mirror, especially if there is not a lot of natural light in the space.
- All windows should have blinds or curtains on them for privacy and security. It’s a bonus if they suit the style of the space.
- Make sure the rental looks clean and smells wonderful. Most retail stores use signature scents to enhance a shopper’s experience. We trust our noses as much as our eyes when entering a new space. Keep your favourite room spray in a closet so you or the cleaners can dole out a spritz before arrival.
- If you don’t know what to do for art on the walls, a no fail stylish gallery would consist of a set of black and white architectural prints of the city in identical frames. You don’t want to get too personal with your art & decor, ideally you want to capture the essence of the city your guests are visiting.
- Use the KISS method, and keep it simple. Edit all clutter, keep surfaces empty except for the requisite table lamps and small kitchen counter appliances, have washable fabrics for upholstery and linens, and easy to care for furnishings.
- Once you have a few successful rentals under your belt, you will start to identify who your market is and begin to cater to them exclusively. Ask people why they selected your place, and if you see a trend, capitalize on it. This will only guarantee more bookings and future income.