My Air BnB Diaries – Side hustle or not?

I was once an Air BNB host, and I thought I’d share some of my experiences here. Want to know what it’s really like being an Air BNB host? It was generally a positive experience, but these are the amusing and noteworthy stories over the nine months and 25 separate bookings I hosted.

This was couple of years ago, and before I discovered FIRE, I took an insane decision to go back to University full time for one year. Going to University meant giving up my well-paid job in the process. I had to cut back expenses massively and also try and earn money in a non-time-consuming way.

My brain wave was to rent out my flat on Air BNB entirely, or just the spare room depending on availability. All the time I had my lodger was coming to Tue-Thu. My girlfriend very kindly let me crash at her place while I was renting out the flat. 

It’s easy enough to sign up to Air BNB but what isn’t easy is keeping the punters happy. People expect a much higher standard than merely renting out a flat these days. And that can lead to some interesting stories which I’ve decided to call the PWF Air BNB Diaries. 

Hopefully, these may give you an idea of what to expect when you start doing Air BNB.

First one

The first guests were lovely and left some helpful feedback which I agreed with and found useful. I had a few more guests stay which all went great.

The Reclusive Lady

The first exciting guest I had was a lady Doctor from India. She had booked into my spare room for 12 days. The place was convenient for her as she was to sit the exam at the local hospital. She’d left her husband and family back in India. I forget what kind of Dr she was, but it was very specialist and impressive.

The first strange thing she did was she brought all her food for the 12 days in a massive suitcase. It was stuffed full of dried noodles and rice. Fine, I thought, trying to save money.

Secondly, she never left the house once. She stayed mostly in the small room studying. Occasionally skyping home, but she didn’t move except for the exam. Not even for some fresh air. 

She also got distraught when I said I was going to my girlfriends for the weekend (we didn’t live together at that point) as she would be alone in the flat and was scared. I didn’t know what to say. Um sorry? Will it be OK?

She also broke my kettle by boiling it with no water in, then pleading ignorance when I was like, what happened to the pot… Anyway. She was a nice person. Additionally, she had thought that I was a female despite my profile pic and my description clearly stating I was a man! I have a name that can be a male or female name, so I made it mega clear I am a man!!

The Karen

Karen is a new term for me, and if I’d know it at the time, I’d have called this lady a Karen.

Picture this; it’s one week before Xmas. I’ve had my apartment advertised on Air BNB with no takers. I’m going to my mums for Xmas, and it’s free so it would be good to make a decent amount of money. 

I get an inquiry from Karen’s sister about her staying over Christmas as her sister lives around the corner.  She was due to have a baby who was overdue. Therefore for some reason, they couldn’t stay with her. 

Great I thought. I need the money, and she needs a place to stay. I’m like sure. Karen’s sister asks if she can book it and I say no, for my insurance, it must be the person staying who books it. Having the person staying make the booking is a standard Air BNB policy. You’d have thought I’d asked her to sleep with her. 

I was ready to bin it off. Karen then gets in touch and says she will book it. By this time, a week has passed, and the price has gone up. Air BnB controls the amount. I get a shitty message from Karen’s sister saying they were disappointed that I’d chosen to raise the price and blah blah how could I when they were in need. I wrote back and explained that Air BNB control the price and they claimed to have done Air BNB before and knew I was lying. Jeez. At that point, I should have said NO.

Karen gets in touch again and is more pleasant, so I say OK as it’s Xmas I’ll give them the flat for the price they were expecting. She books.

Then I find out she has a toddler. My flat is not for toddlers and clearly says on the booking not suitable. I have to buy safety locks then and strap the TV as per Airbnb guidance. I do everything to make it safe.

She then messages me to say can her brother pick up the keys. I’m thinking no, who the f*** is the brother? I’m not giving the keys to my flat to a random guy I’ve never met. She explains it’s because their flight is coming in really late and she didn’t want to the key box. OK… I begrudgingly I ask for a copy of his ID, so I know who he is and agree to this as I feel I have no choice as I have to leave before she arrives. She makes out like I’m unreasonable. I wish I’d never agreed to this at this point! The sister comes over with him and gets the key, so I’m comfortable with that.

With all my guests I ask them after one night if everything is to their liking and if there is anything I can do to improve their stay. Karen says all is great.

I don’t hear anything further, and she leaves and I get my £600. I hoped that was the end of it and lie to give her a 5-star review (big mistake!)

She then leaves a 3-star review (which considering Air BNB doesn’t let anyone with below 4-stars remain on the platform is a disaster!) saying that my apartment was OK ‘, but it felt like staying in someone else’s flat’. I’m sorry dear, what do you think Air BNB is?? You got eight nights in London over Xmas for £600. The description was exactly correct – my flat!

So the moral of the story is, trust your gut with situations like this. If someone is demanding at the start of a transaction, it’s only going to get worse. They have no respect for other people’s time or property, and it’s best to get the f*** out! 

The lockbox incident.

A lovely middle-aged couple came from Holland. I couldn’t meet them at the time they were arriving so  I’d set up a lockbox with the flat keys. It was because I was at a work appointment when they arrived, so I said for them to use the lockbox. I get a message saying they couldn’t find it. I’m like, but I put the keys in there this morning. Silly guests.

I can’t go right away, so they wait around in the pub for me. I find them and apologise, fully thinking I’ll be proven right when I go up there and show them where it was.

We walk into the garden, and I go to the place where the lockbox was in the morning; Gone! Someone had ripped it off the fence! I was speechless! And disturbed as someone had my house keys!

Shit! Luckily they didn’t have the ID of the flat on them, but it was concerning. I had to get a locksmith in to change the lock. 

That couple was so lovely. I bought them a bottle of wine for being so patient, and they left a lovely review.

The emotionally needy one

I got a booking of the small bedroom by a single lady for Thursday to Sunday. She was coming from Sweden to visit her boyfriend in London.

After the booking was made she got in touch and said she was arriving on Thursday, and her boyfriend was coming on Friday at 10 pm and could I let him in as she was going to be busy. I thought to myself, no, that’s not on! I’ll meet you and give you the key on Thursday so you can damn well meet him yourself. She was paying £20 a night, so I didn’t feel it was worth me cancelling my Friday plans to meet her BF for her. 

She eventually agreed.

Upon her arrival, she came into the building and called me saying she was outside the flat and could I let her in. Of course, I go to the door, and she’s not there. I call her back, and it turns out she is on the 4th floor outside another flat. Bizarre.

I introduce myself, and she asks immediately, but where is ‘playingwithfire?’. Uh, It’s me. She had thought I was a woman again despite my bearded photograph on my profile.

She comes in. I offer her a drink, she say no and goes into her room. I make some dinner for myself.

After being in the room for a while alone, she comes out and starts telling me about her work and her boyfriend. She was worrying so much about a mistake she’d made at work. She’d been working in Sweden alone during the week and was finding it tough.

I had to talk the poor girl off a cliff. She was very upset, and I don’t think she had anyone to speak with about this stuff. I try to reassure her that everyone makes mistakes and not to worry. It will all be fine. This seemed to be what she needed to hear and she was very pleased I’d said so.

After initially finding her irritating, then feeling sorry for with her, I moved onto liking her. She turned out to be one of the best guests and left such a nice review.

The spoilt brats

One of the worst guests I had was a group of 4 Spanish millennials. The whole transaction was a disaster from day one. The girl was initially responsive and then sort of stopped communicating. I had no idea when they were arriving. It turned out they were coming at 1 am. So I did the lockbox Mark 2, and they were in. 

They stayed for the weekend, and I didn’t hear anything from them. However, on my return on Sunday, I found they had moved all my furniture around and left it there. They had left a mess. Additionally, I found they’d gone through my personal belongings in my drawer. I knew this because they left some very personal things out on my bed as if to say look what we found.

Added to that, they broke some stuff.

I was livid. She got 1 star. She did write me an apology later, but I’m talking about a month later, and probably after reading my shitty review!

The father and daughter

A father and daughter booked a couple of months out for their annual trip. This sounded so wholesome and nice. The father booked and asked if there was a Costa Coffee nearby as it was his daughter’s favourite coffee in London. I thought that was sweet and said, yes there was, and sent him a map of how to get there.

Upon arrival, I presented them with a little print out of how to get to Costa Coffee. I said, I hope you enjoy it. He said thanks and the daughter said, oh that’s your favourite Dad. I thought it was endearing. They were brilliant guests.

The nice family

A family of 3 with a mother and two kids came to stay for a couple of days. They were from a remote part of Norfolk and wanted a city break with all the trappings this metropolis could offer. The mother said before arrival could I give her a list of decent local takeaways. I, of course, did. One thing was missing—McDonald’s. The kids were so excited, and so was the Mum. She said she is going to order all take out as they live so remotely that they can never get it.

Air BNB good or bad?

So now I’ve told you what it’s really like being an Air BNB host, you can make your own mind up. As you can see the Air BNB business gives you the chance to meet all sort of people outside of your usual circle. Its a great way to make some good money and if you have some space in your home I’d recommend it.

It is not for the faint-hearted and can be an emotional rollercoaster as people review your flat! But on the whole, I enjoyed it! Would I do it again? Probably not in my own flat, but certainly in another property.

6 thoughts on “My Air BnB Diaries – Side hustle or not?

  1. Thanks for sharing – found it fascinating as always wondered what it was like to rent out your own place as Air BnB. Not something I’ve ever considered but who knows in the future.

    By the way, not sure if this is anything to do with people assuming you are female but years ago, there was a woman who went by the online name ‘PlayingwithFIRE’ – her name was Emma and I met her at a FIRE meet once! Or maybe just a coincidence and people really don’t look at photos properly!

    1. Haha well that’s interesting indeed! I have a name which could be either male or female… but trust me I have a full beard in my profile pic!!

  2. Very interesting insights PWF, thanks for sharing. Some funny stories there. I don’t think I’d want to rent out my own home though, sounds far too intrusive.

  3. Really enjoyed reading, I have (so far) unsuccessfully managed to get my wife on board with renting a spare room in our house to airbnb people. So its nice to hear that mostly its fine, but a home is a home- so I guess you are trusting other people to look after your home etc. Have to stay, I do really enjoy staying in airbnbs, the ability to eat food you cook- or even a cold beer, over being forced to sit in a hotel bar after a long day (holiday or business), just means airbnb wins out everytime for me.

  4. Yea I always think that most people who use the platform are decent enough. I started only allowing people with previous landlord reviews stay which worked out better. Also, listening to your doubts when something is off and cancelling a booking if it doesn’t feel right.

    If you’re at all sociable it’s a lot of fun mostly.

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