What It's Like to Be an Airbnb Host in DC

  • August 3rd 2015

by UrbanTurf Staff

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What It's Like to Be an Airbnb Host in DC: Figure 1
David rents the extra bedroom in his home on Airbnb.

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Airbnb, the temporary room/apartment-renting website phenomenon, has been rapidly growing in popularity since its founding seven years ago. It allows people to rent out rooms in their homes as well as their houses and allows travelers an often cheaper, more “native” experience in a new city. UrbanTurf recently spoke with David, a local host who has been renting out a room in his Shaw rowhouse for years, about the Airbnb hosting experience.

How long have you been an Airbnb host and why did you start doing it?

We have been hosting for four years. We originally signed up as hosts to get the discount on our first stay as an Airbnb guest not expecting we would ever actually go through with having strangers in our house. We put up rates that we thought would be prohibitively high and did not put much effort into our profile, however, the demand for short-term housing is so extreme during intern season that when summer came around we got a lot of requests—as it turns out the monthly rate we had decided on was not as far-out as we had thought. Eventually we decided to take the chance on a foreign student named Vivian, who we are still good friends with to this day. We had such a great experience we decided to make our daily and weekly prices more competitive, had Airbnb come out and take professional pictures, and a created a profile that would appeal to the Airbnb search algorithm.

Do you rent out your whole house or just a room?

We have a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house, and we rent out just the guest bedroom.

Do you offer your guests any special perk when they stay with you? A six-pack? Capital Bikeshare?

We try to have something special for every guest. We wrote a custom guidebook with neighborhood and city recommendations for food and drink, as well as our favorite things to see and do. We have Capital Bikeshare vouchers and extra bike helmets for people who are comfortable with biking around the city. We put out fruit and snacks and often use our guests as an excuse to bake cookies or cupcakes.

What It's Like to Be an Airbnb Host in DC: Figure 2
The kitchen that is open to guests.

How much do you make in additional income as a result of Airbnb hosting?

We usually bring in about $8,000 per year through Airbnb. If we lowered our prices a bit, we could have more guests and increase that number, but it is important for us to keep a price that makes us excited to host a guest as opposed to it feeling like a chore. Meeting interesting people is a major reason we keep hosting.

How often is the room/apartment rented?

We are booked almost every weekend during the spring and summer. It slows down as we get into autumn.

Can you share any Airbnb horror stories with us?

We honestly haven’t had any horror stories. We have had a couple of moments either before a guest arrived or in the first nights of an extended stay where I thought it was going to end in a horror story, but it was just a miscommunication or a cultural difference that goes away once you spend time with people.

For example, we had a guest who was staying for a month and brought an entire month’s worth of food and water with her because she didn’t know you could by food or drink the water in DC. We had someone call Airbnb complaining that they were allergic to our bedding when it turns out she just had a pimple. One gentleman was coming from overseas and thought that we should pick him up from Dulles and schedule him a tour of The White House. Once you get to talk to folks face to face, most of these issues disappear entirely.

What advice would you have to would-be Airbnb hosts in DC?

Give it a try. The platform is very flexible and the company is very supportive. In our experience, Airbnb guest are usually more respectful than visiting friends and family.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/qa_with_an_airbnb_host/10192.

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