Fancy spending a night in a Notting Hill apartment for less than £40? Or staying in a double room with a Docklands view for £20? Alternatively, you might like to turn your home into a makeshift hotel. A savvy website is making short-term London accommodation budget-friendly and accessible.
'UK hosts on Airbnb have already made nearly £5 million between them since the launch in London — active users have earned an average of £8,650 a year each;
One listing at a time, Airbnb (airbnb.co.uk) is redefining the term Bed and Breakfast and making it relevant for the recession-stricken dotcom generation. The site connects visitors looking for accommodation with people who have a spare room, a second home, or are out of town.
Founded in America, the company is the brainchild of Joe Gebbia, Nathan Blecharczyk and Brian Chesky — once struggling designers looking for ways to pay their shared rent. Their idea was sparked after they started renting out airbeds (and breakfast) in their San Francisco loft apartment.
Just four years after its US launch, Airbnb now spans 192 countries and 19,000 cities, with the London arm of the site — set up a little over a year ago — one of the top five most popular. More than 132,000 guest nights were booked in the capital last year, and in excess of 3,700 bedrooms are currently listed.
How it works: finding a room
For a guest, it is a matter of searching for the postcode or area where you would like to stay, selecting the dates and browsing the available offers. You can then book online or via your mobile.
And if you get stuck, there is a 24-hour helpline. The site functions just like any other major hotel website but the big difference is that the variety of properties and price range is much wider. When I searched for next-day availability for a W1 space, the options varied from a £24-a-night Soho room to a £1,000-a day Mayfair gallery apartment that can sleep 16 people and which comes with a large private roof terrace.
And if you find the right deal it can prove priceless. For example, it could work out cheaper and more convenient to check into a place near an important meeting than to endure a gruelling commute. Or it can offer a fun way to spend a weekend in a part of the capital that you have never fully explored.
Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher is hooked on the experience. Since he moved out of the marital home after he and Demi Moore parted last year, he has used Airbnb to find temporary accommodation in Los Angeles, Berlin, Athens and New York. “It’s sort of like travelling around the world, living on the Airbnb service,” he says.
How to host: rent out your home
The process is just as efficient for hosts. Whether you would like to rent out your cottage for a night, your yacht for a week, or a city flat for a month, the listing is free and funds are transferred directly to you. Hosts submit a short online form with details of the space.
Rather like an eBay listing, the more information you provide, the more appealing it is to potential guests. Generous types sometimes offer breakfast and tourist advice as part of the package. It is also worth applying for a Host Guarantee, a type of insurance cover that provides protection for up to £30,000 in damages.
If you offer a good deal it can prove very lucrative, too. UK hosts on Airbnb have already made nearly £5 million between them since the launch in London — active users have earned an average of £8,650 a year each.
And 2012 is set to be a great time to get involved, with an estimated 450,000 staying visitors coming to London for the Olympics. There are about 120,000 hotel rooms available, with some charged at up to five times their usual rate per night during the Games. You do the maths.
It’s not too late to make some extra cash from your property this summer
We’ve teamed up with Airbnb to help Londoners make the most of their assets. Properties are listed for free, there is a £600,000 Host Guarantee* for ultimate peace of mind, 24/7 customer support and free professional photography.
* terms apply