Sharing Your Home
What does it take to have an Airbnb?
Cedar and Stone Bed and Breakfast is ideal for a relaxing getaway. Photo by Elaine Warner
Unless you’re a millennial or a savvy Gen Xer, you might not be familiar with the “sharing” or “gig” economy. Its beauty is it involves no long-term commitment, it allows control over the amount of work involved and it offers income opportunities. It’s basically a new name for something people have been doing for years—working extra jobs for extra money. The innovation is in the power and reach of the internet. If this intrigues you, Airbnb may be just the ticket.
Everybody enjoys a rags to riches story. This is more a rugs to riches story. Two roommates, Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky, both in their 20s, were living in San Francisco, California, and struggling to pay the rent. When a large conference coming to the city filled all the local hotel rooms, Chesky and Gebbia decided they would put air mattresses on their floor and rent sleeping space. Long story short, Airbnb was born. Today the company helps almost 5 million hosts in over 191 countries serve more than 300 million travelers.
Jack Warner is one of those travelers.
“We’ve enjoyed Airbnb properties in the U.S., England, Wales and Portugal. Our experiences have been almost 100 percent positive,” he says. “We enjoy meeting people; it’s easy to arrange online and we save money.”
Almost anyone with an apartment, cottage or castle can be an Airbnb host. Pictures, property descriptions and online reviews aid prospective renters in making choices. Accommodations range from a bedroom with a shared bath to a whole house—and, in some places, even a castle. Exact numbers of Oklahoma hosts aren’t available. The larger cities offer a variety of listings as do several of the lake areas. There are large swathes of the state with a dearth of accommodations.
Airbnb makes the process of hosting an accommodation easy. Their website, airbnb.com, will help you assess your expected income. If you become a host, you’ll have complete control over your availability, your house rules and how you want to interact with your guests.
You’ll set your own price. Or, you can take advantage of Airbnb analytics which will automatically adjust the price based on the market—you set the parameters. Airbnb collects the booking fee from guests then pays the host on check-in. They take a small percentage of the rate.
Some hosts offer breakfast, which can be anything from setting out fruit and cereal to preparing a gourmet spread. Other hosts offer access to their kitchens. And others simply provide a place to stay.
You’ll have an opportunity to learn a bit about a guest before making a commitment. Prospective guests are asked to write an introduction about themselves and the purpose of their visit. Correspondence between guests and hosts is easy on the website.
Southeastern Electric Cooperative members Vicki and Luther Harbert host guests in a small cabin on their ranch near Tishomingo. Their accommodation, Cedar Stone Bed and Breakfast, is one of the higher-priced properties at an average of $250 a night. But guests get a lot of bang for their buck.
The cabin is elegant, filled with many hand-crafted items. Large windows allow beautiful views of a small lake, granite outcroppings and grazing cattle. Guests can tour the extensive property with Vicki and Luther in a Yamaha side-by-side ATV, fish, hike or just breathe in nature on a porch rocker. The Harberts also offer a full country breakfast complete with fresh farm eggs.
Vicki’s main goal is to make sure her guests have a good experience.
“Our rules are simple: no parties, no pets and no smoking. And it is not set up for children,” she says. She adds that hosting has made her much more critical when they stay in other properties. “I always check the corners in the bathroom, make sure the remote has been cleaned, that the trash under the sink has been emptied and that breakfast (if it is offered) lives up to its description.”
Rev. Micah James has hosted guests in a single bedroom with shared bath in Edmond. At $25 a night, she’s at the other end of the scale. All of her guests have been single visitors—from an international student at the University of Central Oklahoma who spent his first night in the United States there, to a motorcyclist driving Route 66. She doesn’t provide breakfast but does offer a basket of snacks.
“My guests know we have small children and the house is not always tidy but their space is always clean,” she says.
Moore resident Preston Dronberger is one of Oklahoma’s busiest hosts. His location close to I-35, minutes from Oklahoma City and Norman, is a big advantage. He’s created a guest space in an extra bedroom along with a shared bathroom. In addition to the bed, he added a desk and TV and allows guests access to his whole house including kitchen privileges. He doesn’t provide groceries but, “If it’s a weekend, I might get up and make pancakes,” he says.
“Airbnb fits my personality. You have to be flexible and open to other people’s quirks,” he says. “I enjoy getting to know people from all over. I’ve had guests from Singapore, Australia, England, France, Belgium and Germany and I’m still in contact with some of them. All my experiences have been positive and I’ll often hang with my guests—showing them around town or just visiting.”
His tip for prospective hosts: “I have two sets of sheets and towels. It makes it easier if I have a guest checking out in the morning and another arriving in the afternoon.”
His assessment sums up the experience of many Airbnb hosts. “I started it to make extra money. It makes economic sense. But the big dividend is forming bonds and friendships.”
The best way to decide if Airbnb might work for you would be to take a trip and stay in several Airbnb properties. Talk to your hosts. You’ll have a good time and you might just find that the millennials are onto something.