I moved to Singapore from Dubai in 2010 with a list the length of my arm of exactly what I wanted of my new living space. It should be in the city (funny, since Singapore is tiny tiny tiny!), walking distance from the central business district (CBD), have 2 bedrooms (2 baths would be a bonus), be close to an MRT station that doesn’t warrant a 20 minute walk, have modern bathrooms (read swanky) and decent condominium facilities like a pool/gym/bar-b-que area/etc. Sadly, this added up to a sum total of E-X-P-E-N-S-I-V-E!
With the soaring rent rates and living standards in Singapore, I decided to put my apartment’s second bedroom up on Airbnb to defray the hefty rent I was forking out every month.
Airbnb was a fairly new concept in Asia when I started, fast gaining traction however, with a handful of listings for Singapore. I took a few photographs, wrote up a general description of the room and apartment and created the listing. Airbnb sent across a professional photographer a few weeks later to take photographs that showed off the room and apartment’s best assets.
Airbnb and I had an extremely successful union and I would certainly recommend it. Not only did hosting help pay my bills, but I met people across different walks of life and made friends on the way. Hosting also encouraged me to reciprocate and I have used Airbnb on almost all my travels, from an attic in Paris to an artist’s bungalow in Nice to a villa in Ubud where I’m headed to next (Read: Rustic Green. Winging it with Airbnb in Ubud. 50/50).
There is always the question of security, as a host you need to be careful as to whom you let into your home. The process of vetting your next guest is very simple and transparent, look up reviews left by other hosts to get a broad sense of who your next flat mate might be.
Sure, you’ll get your regular bunch of crazies, I certainly did! I had a number of people write in to ask me to recommend hotels and/or ‘tour packages’ before even booking with me and I had to politely tell them that as much as I would love to help them, I did not run a travel agency.
I once had a lady send me her grocery list, a week before she and her daughter were due to check-in, so that I could have the fridge and pantry suitably stocked for her! I gently guided her to the fact that I did not provide breakfast, as per the meticulous lists of facilities, dos and don’ts and ‘what comes with the room’ carefully listed on my Airbnb profile page, and although she was welcome to take whatever she wanted from my fridge, I did not provide grocery shopping services.
And then I got the ambitious yuppie who was down from Bombay looking to interview with a few firms in Singapore. This one, really got my goat, in retrospect though, it was rather funny. He was hungry one evening, so I happily ordered him a pizza online, after he shot down my suggestion of walking to the closest hawker centre for dinner (super cheap & easy). He then promptly wanted to cancel the pizza since he felt it was expensive; continued to be hungry that was slowly evolving into my problem, until eventually deciding to cook pasta, nothing of which he knew how to do. I have always kept my fridge and pantry reasonably stocked and everyone is welcome to it, but this level of sponging of someone baffles me.
I however had a overwelhming number of great guests, from single ladies traveling on work with whom I would spend, over copious amounts of wine, many evenings chatting with. To some who became friends and who I visit, email and have stayed in touch with through the years. Many of them cooked great meals and shared interesting stories. I understand it better now when I travel on holiday and stay in a room or apartment rented through Airbnb.
If you’re looking to become a host, here are a few pointers:
1) Put down as much information as you can on your listing page, giving specifics on what you can/cannot provide and what the room is/is not equipped with. A lot of people assume breakfast is included, and if this is not the case, make it abundantly clear to avoid any misunderstandings.
2) Always give your guest a super clean and tidy room, with fresh sheets and a towel set. I would buy a simple gift pack from the Body Shop containing a mini shower gel, body lotion and loofah, for each guest and leave it in the room. A small touch that went a long way, a lot of the guests loved the idea!
3) Leave a few copies of the map of the city and other travel guides in the room for your guest to use. You might also want to include a prepaid SIM in this packet, with the understanding that it is to be returned before they leave.
4) Easy instructions on how they can access the apartment and room if you are not available to welcome them. I had a typed ‘Welcome to Singapore‘ template that I would send out as soon as I received a booking confirmation.
5) The Airbnb listings page will have a house rules section, it would be wise to fill it up. I put down small things like not collecting trash in the room and where to dispose of it, turning the air-conditioner and lights off and closing the windows, etc.
6) Most importantly, is to have fun. Give recommendations on what they might like to do in the city, take travel advise and tips on places they have been, talk about where they are from, its engaging to know about different cultures.