Homesharing is a relatively new concept that’s been making waves all over the world, and it’s revolutionized the way people advertise and find both short and long-term accommodation.
More homesharing websites similar to AirBnb are popping up and making homesharing available for South Africans, both those who love to travel and those who have houses, apartments or rooms to rent.
If you’ve never heard of homesharing before, maybe it’s time to try something new.
Here are 9 ways to make sure that your homesharing experience is a happy one.
- Decide what you want out of it
Before you decide to charge into the world of homesharing, it’s important to understand why you are doing this, and what you’d like to get out of it.Homesharing is about inviting people to stay in your home with you. If you like your privacy, then you might consider renting out the entire apartment instead instead.Homesharing is about sharing your home, your space, meeting new people and introducing them to what is great about your neighbourhood Think of yourself as an ambassador to your country. A window to a world, seen through your eyes.The reason why guests book homeshares, is as they are looking for a unique perspective they think you can provide.
- Get Your Listing Photo Ready
Once you’ve decided you’re ready for this, it’s time to start thinking which parts of your home you’d like to showcase.Make sure photos are uncluttered, and take photos as realistically as possible. For example, don’t find a photo on Google of a pretty bedroom, but when guests arrive they see it is not at all the same place! Take photos of the room they would use, and pretty much what it would look like for their stay, as well as all common spaces to give them an idea as to what to expect.
- Set Your Rates
Sites like Airbnb have become pretty good at giving you approximations for what you could expect for your particular listing and neighbourhood. You can use these as a guideline, and of course do take the time to browse through your own neighbourhood to see other listings in the area to get a feel for going rates and expectations.One thing newbies usually get surprised with is seasonal rates and advanced booking terms on your calendar. Be sure to check over those settings before pushing your listing live.Other things to note with rates is that you can set additional cost items, such as cleaning, or wifi or small grocery bills if its a long stay for example. Just be sure to note them upfront, optional or included in your price. It’s not nice for guests to be surprised with an expense they didn’t expect or budget for.
- Setting Your Terms
Terms like the minimum or maximum duration of a stay and maximum number of occupants, should be decided on before you set your listing live. Always be clear on your asking terms from the start – it prevents any issues arising later.When setting your terms, make sure that they are both reasonable and within legal boundaries of your country’s law and the terms of the homesharing website you’re using. And if there’s something you’re unsure about, don’t be afraid to get in touch with the homesharing website to ask first.Also, don’t be afraid to set terms of your choosing. It is your home, and you have to be happy staying there during the guest stay too. Managing expectations in advance will make it easier on both.
- Setting Your Rules
If you have any rules that you would like your visitors to stick to during their stay, it’s a good idea to let visitors know before they arrive, and include them in your “house rules” section on the website.Rules are in place so that the stay is pleasant for both sides of the homesharing agreement. As a host, you have a right to set conditional rules for a stay, but remember that you will also have a responsibility to ensure that these rules are reasonable – and legal. Homesharing guests have to agree to the house rules before they are allowed to book a listing. It also gives the host security and recourse should they break it.It’s also a good idea to make sure that rules are clearly displayed in your homeshare as well.
It’s nice to create a guest book for guests – which can include anything from where to eat to the rules. Rules can be small things too, like “always flush the toilet when you’re done”. Or in the case of Cape Town – please collect/recycle your shower water!
- Accepting Bookings
A website like Airbnb is probably the best place for newbies to start as it takes care of all the work on your behalf – more or less. It helps connect hosts with guests who would like to book a stay, and takes care of the entire bookings process. New listings start receiving views and inquiries relatively soon after listing. All you’ll have to do is start learning how to be good host to your guests.Upload your home’s profile with a clear description of what’s on offer, and what guests should expect and it’s as easy as that. The more honest you are, the more likely it will be that you’ll attract a sharer that has similar interests and values to your own.Homesharing websites make the entire process much faster, easier and safer. Especially Airbnb. Airbnb profiles are usually screened and accounts verified as an added feature to ensure the safety of both host and guest. No personal information is shared with either host or guest until a booking is confirmed.
- Preparing for Guests
Once guest bookings have been processed by the website and approved by the host, it’s official: Welcome to the world of homesharing! Are you prepared for your guests to arrive?A lot of people aren’t sure what to expect from their homesharing experience in the beginning, and that’s okay. If you’re a host, ask yourself what you would have liked if the tables were turned and you were the visitor to your own home – what would be a nice touch to make you remember your stay and book another one?For some, this means a chocolate mint on their pillow and toilet paper folded up into triangles. For others, this means some hot cocoa from the kitchen, fluffy blanket and a movie.How will you host your guests? If you get stuck, it’s okay to ask your guests in advance about their preferences. Read their profiles and you might just find something in there to help you prepare. For example, a person may state they love to scout interesting restaurants. Try and research some of the quirky restaurants in your area and leave your guests a note in their room with these spots suggested.
Remember to share contact information or ask for it. Although the platform does share it – sometimes guests forget that their phones might not work in another country and then they can’t reach you. Try to set a time for their arrival before their journey starts, so you have some idea as to what time to expect them to arrive at your home. Be sure to also send them instructions for their arrival.
- Effective Communication
Homesharing means that you might receive visitors from all over the world – and you’ll get a chance to connect with all sorts of fascinating souls from all walks of life. This excitement is what attracts many people to homesharing in the first place.Keep in mind that hosts and guests will need to communicate effectively for the duration of the stay, too. This is easy in most cases, but language barriers can add an element of confusion to being able to communicate.For this, there are literally thousands of books, programs and apps that can translate back and forth, some even with voice recognition. Use them!
- Handling Barriers
Along with getting visitors from all parts of the world, remember that you might also run into the occasional cultural barrier – and, yes, sometimes it results in some culture shock at the same time.Some things are just different in other countries and cultures, and if you want to impress your guests, it’s a good idea to research some of the customs from their country before the visit.
Cultural barriers can also cause some very uncomfortable moments. Some more awkward than others.Did you know that, in many parts of Korea, it’s common to place used toilet paper in a bin next to the toilet instead – and you’re usually expressly prohibited from flushing toilet paper down the toilet? Korean sewer systems can’t handle much more than water waste.
One anonymous homesharing host didn’t, and was unpleasantly surprised while cleaning up after their Korean guests when they left.
Don’t let this happen to you! A sign saying “Please Flush Toilet Paper” might have been enough.
If you’re a newcomer to the concept of advertising your home online for holiday guests, you should find reputable homesharing consultants like SharingSA to guide you through the process.