From the moment, I stepped foot in Shell’s Loft, I knew we were going to be friends. The curly-haired Airbnb host immediately embraced me like we’d known each other for years, and it didn’t take five minutes before we started swapping travel tales and found a mutual love in South Africa.
To be honest, despite my years of using Airbnb as a guest, this was a first for me: I’d never stayed in a rental while the owner was there. But in New York, it’s policy: Hosts can rent out rooms in a shared space, but they must live in that space themselves.
Shell’s was the Rolls Royce of Airbnb spaces; it came complete with a chef who prepared most of our meals for us (an add-on guests can opt to do). Shell and I got on like a house on fire; I learned that she started renting her massive 4,000-square-foot space in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill as a way to subsidize her art. New York’s ever-rising rents often run the creatives out of town—had I not moved to San Francisco in 2008 to live with SVV, I have no doubt I would have been a victim myself—and I love that she is able to run a steady business as an artist in New York and Cape Town and indulge her inner hostess.
When available, Shell rents out the four bedrooms to individuals—she’s particularly popular with the European crowd, she shared—but also rents the space as a whole to corporate retreats and workshops such as our little group of Click! bloggers. A bonus: She sells her gorgeous pillows, textiles and other wares right out of her own loft. Given that I was hopping a plane at the end of my stay to head to the UK, I didn’t buy anything, but I fully intend to do a little shopping on her online store.
Shell isn’t the only person I’ve known who’s caught the hosting bug. My friend Nicole rents out the extra room in her adorable lofted space in Bushwick, which comes complete with a cute dog. I stayed in her spare bedroom nook on my first night in New York last month, and it was just about the coziest, most comfortable place I have slept in ages.
Nicole is a filmmaker who isn’t in the apartment much at all, and the ability to rent out her spare room allows her the flexibility of having a nice place to come home to after long shoots—without having to pay the hefty price. She and her landlord have a good deal going where he knows she rents out her spare bedroom, and in turn, she takes care of the apartment, making all the upgrades and renovations she wants to keep it nice and also an attractive option for guests.
A number of my Nashville circle have used Airbnb to get through job transitions and monetary slumps, particularly as we live in a city with a lot of demand and very few affordable hotels. Still, other friends have gotten addicted after realizing they can break even on their mortgage each month—and sometimes even make money—by putting up their house for rent a couple weekends a month.
The personalized touches of each Airbnb place I’ve stayed in are always what I really love; I’m definitely someone who pays attention to aesthetics, and the nosy journalist in me—not to mention the home renovator—loves seeing what other people do with their spaces to make them unique.
For those of you who have never before rented an Airbnb—as a guest or a host—it’s important to note that any homeowner or landlord can opt to host, and you don’t have to commit to a certain amount of time. For example, if you only want to rent your place out on the weekends you’re gone or each Christmas and summer while you’re out on vacation, you can do just that. If you want to open up your calendar indefinitely, you can do that, as well. If you only want to rent out a spare bedroom with a shared bath, that’s totally fine, too. The possibilities are endless, really.
It’s easy and free to sign up for an Airbnb profile and get verified as a host; all it takes is a few minutes—though I recommend using Airbnb’s complimentary, professional photography services to make your listing as attractive as possible to future guests. Want more best practices on hosting? You’re in luck; I wrote this post just for you.
And had I stayed in Manhattan, there’s no doubt in my mind I would have become a host alongside the rest of my friends. Maybe in my second life.
This post is in partnership with Airbnb. A big thanks to one of my favorite travel brands for sending me up to New York for Click! Retreat. I had the best time!