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Making your rooms earn their own keep

Do you have a room going spare? Renting it out can be an idea.

Do you have a room going spare? Renting it out can be an idea.

More and more people are opting for a home away from home when travelling. Helen Raine tells you how to get some pocket money out of that spare room.

Every year, 1.4 million tourists visit our little islands. That’s a lot of people needing somewhere to stay and they’re willing to pay for it. It might seem like the big hotels hold all the advertising cards and can hoover up visitors, but you too could get a piece of this tourist pie.

In fact, many people would rather stay in a local home to have a more authentic Maltese experience. All you need to tempt them in is a spare room, a computer, an account with Airbnb.com and a hospitable attitude.

Launched in 2008, Airbnb now have over half a million listings in 192 countries. They offer a way for you, a house owner, to match yourself up with some of those planeloads of tourists. Listing your spare room or your second home is free once you’ve signed up and created a profile for yourself.

There’s a fair bit of competition out there, so you need to make sure that your listing shines through. Good photos are absolutely critical. Take as many as you can to show off the space you want to rent, be it a tiny spare room, an entire apartment or the master bedroom in a house of character.

You also need to photograph the rest of the house including the bathroom you’re offering, the kitchen (if guests can use it), the garden and so on. The rooms need to look cheery, tidy and exceptionally clean. Get rid of clutter or the dishes in the sink and make sure your home looks like a place you’d want to stay yourself.

You can rent out almost any kind of space. That includes a cabin on a moored boat, an airbed in the front room, a shed in the garden or a 10-bedroom palace with its own pool. As long as you are clear about what you are offering, pretty much anything goes.

Focus too on the amenities you offer. People will search for terms like ‘near the beach’, ‘pool’, ‘wifi’ or ‘washing machine’; make sure you include all the advantages that your home possesses. Tell them as much as you can about the place.

And then you have to get the price right. Research what people are charging for comparable places and consider that your utility bills will go up when you have extra bodies in the home. There’s also a certain level of inconvenience in renting out a room so price accordingly to make it worth your while. You can offer different prices at different times of the year or weekends. You can also tack on a damage deposit and a cleaning fee.

Currently, double rooms are going for between €35 and €100 a night in Malta and Gozo, depending on the location and amenities.

There’s also a certain level of inconvenience in renting out a room so price accordingly to make it worth your while

Hosts get marked on their response times and you’ll go up the search placement list depending on how well you get back to people, so respond quickly. It’s worth setting up a calendar so that you don’t get requests for times when you are unavailable.

Your guests pay in advance when they book with you and the money is held by airbnb. It’s usually released to you 24 hours after they arrive (which gives some protection to the people booking in the case of a dispute). Airbnb will keep back a host service fee of 3% from every booking. Guests are also charged a guest service fee. In the case of a dispute, airbnb has a resolution centre to help you work it out.

One of the best features of the site is that both hosts and guests are rated by each other. That means that a potential guest can see what other people thought of your accommodation; but you can also see if they had problems in the past. This creates trust on both sides and, in some cases, helps turn a guest into a friend.

Airbnb points out that you need to check local rules pertaining to the rental of apartments and rooms.

Check www.mta.com.mt to see if there are any restrictions that would apply to your property. Once that’s done, there’s nothing to stop you from earning money from your spare room right away; you could quickly earn enough to stay at an exotic airbnb property yourself!

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