I would never do this even though I am recommending it to you. I want to tell you about an online service called Airbnb which is replacing hotels all over the world with much less expensive options such as entire apartments, rooms in an apartment or a house, mansions, castles, boats, cottages, guest houses, tree houses, and any kind of unused space to rent. Just because I am writing about it for the first time, doesn’t mean that many DigiDame readers haven’t used this service. When I mention Airbnb to some they say, “Oh yes, we used it in Aspen, Santa Fe, Paris, Athens, New York, and Los Angeles.
The Airbnb website recently stated that they have over 192 countries with more than 200,000 listings. There are millions of people who use Airbnb when they travel, some of them are very wealthy. A well-to-do friend of mine from Miami wanted to visit New York and asked me if I knew of a condo she could rent. I found this particularly odd because I pictured her in a magnificent suite in some luxurious hotel when she wanted to travel. When I questioned her about it she said, “Oh no, I would prefer the privacy of a condo or co-op where no one knows my name. Who wants to go thru a crowded lobby filled with strangers every time you have to go in and out?”
I am just the opposite. I hate staying with people or using their homes if they are away. It gives me the creeps. I want my own space where I don’t have to worry about how much water I use in the shower (I like to meditate), I can order from room service, let someone else worry if I have cable or Internet problems, and let the chambermaids take care of the rest. I don’t mind if people stay with me, but I am super uncomfortable making myself at home in someone else’s place.
Apparently, I am somewhat alone in my feelings. I have close family members that not only travel using Airbnb, but they rent out their homes as well, racking up $20,000 plus a year doing so. When I questioned someone how they could rent out their personal space, they said they lock their valuables away, and they always come home to a cleaner place than what they left. All of the financials, insurances, and guidelines are set up and controlled by Airbnb. The online reviews rate the sites so you can see what hundreds have said before you enter into an agreement. The renter may also ask you to outfit your accommodations with wine, flowers, cheese, crackers, whatever it may take for them to feel right at home. You may request the extras you need as well if you are renting from Airbnb. You can also tell the renters what you want them to replace upon your return. Airbnb tallies up the extras and security deposits are established to cover any mishaps. It is all very civilized.
There are two other reasons why people from all walks of life are flocking to Airbnb. One, the housing locations are mostly not located in tourist areas, so you soak up the lifestyle of the locals and secondly, the rental fees are very reasonable. Many people figure the money they save on housing can be put to extra yearly trips.
Airbnb really came into mainstream when Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged stranded New York City folks to use the housing service during Hurricane Sandy. I was so surprised when I heard his recommendations during one of the storm reports. Wow! Airbnb had become a very accepted way of life and certainly became a safety net for so many homeless people because of the power outages.
Another friend of mine reported that people were supplying extra beds, sofas and cots during Hurricane Sandy gratis just to get people off the streets. During normal times there is something called “Couch Surfing,”where folks who can’t afford lodging pay nominal fees just to have a roof over their heads while they are starting new businesses or going to school.
Airbnb started in 2008 and the founders report that they are being offered more rental properties all over the world than ever before. I guess second homes that are not being used quite enough are all standing in line to help pay the mortgages.
I think we all can agree that in this economy every bit helps. Maybe the lesson here for me is “Never say never.”