Hey, did you guys know you should consider renting rooms in your house as a way to make extra income? What’s that? You do, because every other personal finance blog has pointed it out at some point? Sorry, I’ll just take my laptop and go home.
Wait a minute. I am home. YOU GUYS TRICKED ME.
I know, I know. The topic of renting rooms has been covered to death. I won’t go into the traditional way of doing it, I promise. I tried it once, and it didn’t work out so well. At least it made for an entertaining story. Besides, there’s a much better way of doing it. Use Airbnb.
For those of you unaware, Airbnb is actually a pretty cool site. People list their spare rooms (or even their whole place) on the site. People looking for a place to stay come looking, they find your place, and the site hooks the two of you up. Think of it as the least sexiest dating service ever. Airbnb takes a downright reasonable 3% fee to make this happen, and they even have insurance in case some dirtbag trashes the crap out of your place.
(Aside: when you do an image search for ‘dirtbag’, a LOT of pictures of Jennifer Aniston show up.)
This begs the question, why would you bother to go to all the work of renting rooms to a carousel of different people? Sure, Airbnbers are generally expected to pick up after themselves, and typically don’t need to be entertained beyond telling them about some awesome local joint where they can eat. It’s still a pain in the ass to get your place all clean for visitors all the time, especially when a roommate would quickly get used to your slovenly ways. Why would you do it?
It’s all about the cash, baby.
My unscientific analysis of the site is that a room typically rents for about 1/10th of monthly rent for a night. Meaning, if you could comfortably get $500 per month renting out your spare room, the going price on Airbnb would be around $50 per night. If you manage to fill up just half the time, you’re making a significant premium over renting it the traditional way.
It’s pretty easy to do. You take some photos, list your place on the site, write up a description that doesn’t make you sound like a serial killer, and watch the applications roll in. Your landlord will probably disapprove, so I’d recommend owning your own place before you do this. Or, you know, not telling the guy. Be warned though – most landlords get kinda pissy when you sublet the place without telling them.
You’ll want to list your place at somewhere slightly under market value, at least to begin with. Like with eBay, getting positive feedback is hugely important. You want to start getting people in and making money, you can focus on maximizing your profit after you get the thumbs up from cheap-ass travelers everywhere. Once enough positive feedback, your place will move up in the search rankings. At that point, feel free to increase your price at that point.
Airbnb is almost exclusively used by people under 35, so you don’t need to set the bar that high. They want some of the comforts of home – wifi is basically mandatory – but they’re not going to cry if they don’t have a kitchen with granite countertops. Hell, some of them are so grateful that they’ll offer to cook for you, bartering food for the use of your kitchen. As long as you offer them a clean place to sleep, access to a bathroom and no awkward nude loitering, you’ll be fine. Backpackers are easily impressed. Low standards typically go hand in hand with having no money.
And hey, maybe you can sleep with her if she’s hot. It’s up to you whether you want to give her a discount for it though. I’d totally promise to cut the rent and then not do it. Like she’ll ever be back in town.
Some of you reading this will feel incredibly uncomfortable regularly inviting strangers into your house. I know I was nervous the first time I invited in a roommate, and vowed to myself that I’d never do it again unless it was a friend. But honestly, even though my roommate story ended kinda badly, I did make a few thousand bucks while doing next to nothing. Is that worth a little bit of awkwardness? That’s up for you to decide, but if you’re single, why the hell not?