Unless you have been cooped up in a self-storage unit shut off from the rapidly-changing world around us you will likely have heard the name of a new online phenomenon which is revolutionizing rented accommodation.
It is called Airbnb and it is the worldwide alternative to hotels and guest houses which is allowing people to rent out their own homes – or a room in their home – to visitors. Initially slow to catch on it is now increasingly becoming a chosen option for home-owners in Dublin.
Before I explain to you how it works allow me to take you back to its humble beginnings…
In 2008 in San Francisco Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky – two young unemployed design graduates with flowers in their hair – were struggling to meet the rent. Things were looking bleak for the destined duo, but when an Industrial Design conference came to town Brian and Joe spotted an opportunity. They noticed that many of the city’s hotels were overbooked. It occurred to them that they might be able to earn some money by renting their place out. They bought three air mattresses and they created a website calling it Air Bed & Breakfast. To their delight the idea worked. The boys got a few bob to pay the rent, they cooked breakfast for some nice people, and everyone was happy. The experience was so positive that it occurred to them that this could work for anybody, anywhere. It did.
On New Years Eve 2014 more than half a million people worldwide booked rooms through Airbnb. Upwards of fifteen million guests have stayed in Airbnb properties since the site was launched six years ago. Airbnb has arrived and it is here to stay.
It didn’t happen overnight. Some people had reservations about letting strangers into their home or staying in a stranger’s home. Airbnb has had to work to develop a good reputation, and the same goes for the site’s users. Those signed up to Airbnb are required to upload profiles and are encouraged to post reviews and recommendations. Hosts seeking to rent their properties on the site must provide personal information and list their price, amenities, and house rules, as well as images of the property and detailed information about the neighbourhood. There is also a private messaging system and a merit system allowing guests and hosts to make references and ratings public so as to ensure future business for them.
The net result of all of this is that users or potential users of the site are becoming increasingly more comfortable with the idea of doing business with strangers in this way. Thanks to Airbnb your spare room is now a little goldmine.
In Dublin it took time to get going but recently the Airbnb market here has really picked up. Word of mouth is spreading from home-owners who have converted one of their rooms into a guestroom and put it up on Airbnb. Users of the site are enjoying a new source of income that previously they never would have imagined was available to them. Some claim to be paying off their mortgage in half the time. One host declared anonymously through the Independent newspaper that he was earning €15,000 a year by renting out his entire property electing to stay with friends or visit London while his home was occupied with airbnb guests.
Many people in Dublin are now considering becoming an Airbnb host. Before they create their profile and begin earning money for their room, apartment or house, they need to clear out the clutter and make the place clean, comfortable and as spacious as they can.
Storage facilities are noticing more and more business coming from Airbnb users who find that the costs of storage are easily written off against their new source of income. For those who have joined the revolution the rewards are not only financial but sometimes social. Interesting people from all over the world who are willing to stay in offbeat spaces and untypical locations are sitting at the breakfast tables of working professionals and retirees every morning in our city. Many hosts are enjoying and relishing the experience, not to mention the few quid they receive for their troubles. Travelers welcome the change from the traditional life of the hotel-staying tourist.
The Airbnb story is a continuing one and one which we will be checking in on again soon.
The Space Cadet.