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Dear Airbnb guests: this is our home

After two years as a host on Airbnb, I’m finally calling it quits.

It made sense at first – I was living alone, not earning very much, and I had a spare room. Previously, I’d stayed in Airbnbs in hot tourist destinations such as Barcelona, and so I didn’t really expect anyone would want to stay in my quite ordinary house in a quite ordinary town. So I was surprised when the requests started coming in: but it turned out that as I live close to a big university, plenty of people pass through town and want a clean, safe, cheap place to sleep. So I  -then we, when Carlos moved in- hosted academics, international students, people coming for conferences, students sitting exams, and assorted others.

While it was a good source of additional income,  I’ve finally had enough.

It’s the little things that have worn me down. And the endless requests for freebies.

I’ve been pretty lucky. Most guests have been respectful. No-one’s ever trashed the place, nothing’s ever been stolen, and breakages have been minimal. Sometimes guests have even fed the cats and watered the plants while we were away. Best of all, one of our guests always stays with us while she’s in town, and has become a friend.

The thing I’ve found difficult about the experience of hosting is guests who ask for lots of extras (or discounts for no real reason other than they want to pay a cheaper price) – and expect that we should provide them for free. Now I understand that one of the attractions of Airbnb is the personal relationship you can have with your host and the local community, and maybe it’s reasonable to request a bit of flexibility. So I’ve always agreed when guests have asked to leave their cases for a few extra hours (and even much longer a handful of cases). But other requests have left me shaking my head. Here are some of the things we’ve been asked to provide at no extra cost by guests:

  • babysitting services
  • trips to the airport in the middle of the night
  • extra guests (sometimes one, sometimes several)
  • lifts to the university
  • a day out to a battle re-enactment
  • an extra night’s stay
  • bikes.

I agreed to the bike request, because I have a bike and wasn’t using it that day, so I was happy to help.  But other times I’ve had to say no because, for example, I don’t feel comfortable being in sole charge of someone’s young son or daughter when the parents are a long way away (what if the kid got ill or injured? What if they did something illegal? What parent wants to send their young kid to stay with a stranger anyway?).

Sometimes it seemed to me that guests were actively trying to take advantage. They were getting accommodation at a much lower rate than in a hotel, but they sometimes wanted to get even more – things they probably wouldn’t dream of asking for if they were staying elsewhere. It wasn’t everyone and it wasn’t all the time,  but it became wearing. Ultimately, if you need to get to the airport to catch a very early flight, it’s not reasonable to ask a stranger to take you there for free – even if you are staying at their house.

I suppose that’s the thing with Airbnb. If you’re a live-in host, the boundaries between personal and business get a little blurred. That’s why it also hurt a little when reviews contained something negative – it felt like a reflection on me, or on us, as well as on our home.

But anyway, I’m done. I’m no longer an Airbnb host. If in the future we ever came to own a flat in a large city that tourists love (and we lived somewhere separately) we’d consider doing it again. But unless something changes dramatically, I don’t think we’ll be hosting Airbnb guests in our house again.