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How Does Airbnb Work? The Answers to All of Your Home Sharing Questions

How Does Airbnb Work? The Answers to All of Your Home Sharing Questions

Last updated: June 25, 2019
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Airbnb is a home- and experience-sharing service that has made it possible for anyone to book exotic experiences at unique destinations on-demand. But its benefits aren’t just for travelers. Airbnb allows homeowners to host guests in a spare room or spare property in order to earn extra income and meeting interesting new people. If you’re unfamiliar with Airbnb, this article will explore the company’s history, how to get started as a host, and how the service works for guests.

The Airbnb Story

What started with a few air mattresses on the floor of Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia’s apartment in San Francisco has evolved into the ultimate online marketplace for travel, hosting more than 2 million guests per night.

2008: Airbedandbreakfast.com

Unlike Uber, Airbnb wasn’t very successful at first. The company launched as airbedandbreakfast.com in 2008. After a couple months in business, they had just 80 bookings.

The founders were on the cusp of quitting when they were accepted to seed accelerator Y Combinator. With investors backing them, they expanded from just listing spare bedrooms to listing apartments, entire houses, and vacation rentals in 2009. From that point on, the platform took off.

2018: Airbnb

Today, Airbnb offers lodging and experiences in more than 191 countries. In total, they’ve hosted more than 400 million people over the last decade in 81,000 cities worldwide. If Airbnb were a hotel chain, it would be the largest in the world.

How to Sign Up for Airbnb

Whether you want to travel or host (or both), the signup process is the same.

Visit Airbnb’s homepage and click “Sign Up” in the top right corner to get started. Once you create your account and fill out the sign-up form, there’s a four-step process to finalize your account. It’s quick, painless, and doesn’t require a background check.

1. Add Your Profile Photo

How Does Airbnb Work? The Answers to All of Your Home Sharing Questions

The first step is to upload a photo of yourself. Adding a profile picture lets hosts put a name to a face. It gives them greater confidence and trust in letting you stay in their home. As a guest, it helps you feel more comfortable booking your stay at their house.

2. Confirm Your Phone Number

How Does Airbnb Work? The Answers to All of Your Home Sharing Questions

Being reachable is one of the most important aspects of being a good host, so Airbnb asks for your contact info upfront. Your mobile phone number will only be shared with another Airbnb member once you confirm your booking. It also comes in handy when you’re using the Airbnb app.

3. Confirm Your Email Address

How Does Airbnb Work? The Answers to All of Your Home Sharing Questions

Your email is another way that a future guest might contact you, but it is more likely that Airbnb will use it to communicate with you about things like confirming bookings, troubleshooting, sharing guest feedback, and resolving disputes. Airbnb states, “a confirmed email address is important because it allows us to securely communicate with you.” Aside from secure communication, you won’t be able to start booking without a confirmed email address.

4. Sync Your Contacts

How Does Airbnb Work? The Answers to All of Your Home Sharing Questions

Unlike the previous steps, the final one is completely optional. Airbnb wants to sync your email contacts so that you can invite all of your friends to use Airbnb. We’d skip this step.

Now that your account is created and verified, you can start exploring Airbnb listings for your next adventure.

For Hosts: How to Host an Airbnb

A large part of Airbnb’s early success came from being able to consistently offer nicer accommodations for less than traditional hotels, which wouldn’t have been possible without a caring community of Airbnb hosts.

Hosting with Airbnb is a great way to make extra money, meet new people, and experience your city in a whole new way. Before you start, decide whether or not you’d like to host a home or host an experience.

Host a Home

Before you create your listing on Airbnb, you’ll want to take some high quality photos of your space. Airbnb guests often choose their Airbnb based solely on the photos, so make sure they’re top notch.

Next you’ll need to create a description for your listing and set the price. Airbnb will give you recommendations, but you’re free to set the daily rate at whatever you’d like. Keep in mind that Airbnb takes a percentage (20%) of the booking fee, so you’ll want to factor that into the price you set.

After finalizing the details for your listing it will be reviewed by Airbnb. Once it goes live, potential guests will be able to book it for their next trip. It’s not uncommon for hosts to keep the price below market for the first few stays in order to build up some good reviews before using Airbnb’s suggested rate.

Host an Experience

Not everyone has a spare bedroom, RV, or yurt to rent out. And thanks to Airbnb experiences, you no longer need property to become a host. Experiences include everything from guided hikes to cooking classes. You don’t need to be an expert, but you should provide a five-star experience if you want to be successful. Hosting an experience is similar to hosting a home — you’ll need pictures, a description, and a set price to get started.

Whether you’re hosting a home or an experience, it’s all about the people. If you take great care of your guests and create a truly unique experience you may qualify to become a Superhost.

Become a Superhost

Superhost is a VIP program for Airbnb’s most reliable and highly rated hosts. In order to qualify to become a Superhost, you must have:

  • 4.8 overall rating
  • 90 percent response rate
  • 10 or more stays per year
  • No cancellations

Once you qualify for the Superhost program you’ll get a Superhost badge on your profile. You’ll also probably see an influx of new bookings, since Superhost listings are featured first in search results. They also make, on average, 22 percent more than other hosts on Airbnb.

Even if you aren’t a Superhost just yet, Airbnb takes great care of all their hosts. Every listing on Airbnb is automatically covered up to $1 million in case of accidental damage. Also, they protect you against any liability claims in case of injury on your property.

For Guests: How to Find Amazing Airbnb Listings

Find the Perfect Listing

Airbnb makes it super easy to find the perfect listing with dozens of easy to use filters. If you’re just getting started make sure you enter the dates of your travel, how many guests will be staying, and your desired price range, if nothing else.

How Does Airbnb Work? The Answers to All of Your Home Sharing Questions

Once you’ve entered your basic search criteria, you’ll see a list of results as well as additional filters including:

  • Price Range (Typically anywhere from $20 to $2,000 per night; higher in cities like New York City and San Francisco than than it would be in a city like Madison, Wisconsin)
  • Home Type (entire place, private room, shared room)
  • Host and Booking (Instant Book, Superhost)
  • Room Type and Beds (single room, extra rooms, bathrooms)
  • Trip Type (family or work)
  • Amenities (kitchen, shampoo, heating, etc.)
  • Facilities (free parking, gym, etc.)
  • House Rules (pets, events, smoking)
  • Accessibility (step-free access, well lit, wide doorway)
  • Property Type (house, apartment, etc.)
  • Unique Homes (tent, farm, lighthouse)
  • Host Language (English, Spanish, Chinese, etc.)

Filters make it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for, so you don’t waste time wading through hundreds of options only to find out they don’t allow pets. If you learn to master Airbnb filters, you’ll spend less time searching and have more time to plan an excursion.

Look Before You Book

Once you land on a listing that you’d like to book, double check that it’s available on the dates of your stay and that you’ve entered the correct number of guests. It’s not uncommon for prices to change significantly based on the number of guests and seasonal demand for the listing.

How Does Airbnb Work? The Answers to All of Your Home Sharing Questions

Also, since each Airbnb listing is a little different,  pay close attention to the house rules, cancellation policy, check-in and check-out times, and any cleaning fees or service fees the host may charge.

To see a final price for your reservation you have to select “Book.” It will load any additional service or cleaning fees and give you a total for your stay.

What is a service fee?

In case you’re wondering, service fees are charged by Airbnb and they go to support the technology and people running the company. Basically it’s how Airbnb makes a profit.

What is a cleaning fee?

The cleaning fee is determined by the host. It helps them keep their Airbnb clean and tidy to make sure guests have a positive experience.

Once you’ve confirmed your reservation request with a credit card, you’ll be connected to the Airbnb host through chat either in the Airbnb app, or on Airbnb.com.

Make the Most of Your Host

Typically, hosts are very responsive and accommodating since Airbnb uses a rating and review system to prioritize which listings appear in search results.

As you prepare for your upcoming stay the host will send you detailed instructions on how to access the property. Experienced hosts will often use a smart lock or keypad on the front door of their property. This allows guests to be able to access the Airbnb and gives hosts the ability to change the passcode to secure their dwelling.

Now that your reservation is set, your host will help answer any questions you might have leading up to your stay. You can also contact hosts before you book from the main listing page.

Find Your Place on Airbnb

Overall, Airbnb is a safe and friendly platform for planning your travel. Whether you’re planning a weekend staycation or exploring a foreign land, Airbnb makes it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Airbnb is also a great way to make extra income by renting out your home, apartment or rental property. The company takes great care of their hosts and goes out of their way to prioritize trust and safety. If you’re looking for a new gig, or a side hustle, Airbnb is great place to start.

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