Tessa Crockett started her career as a trapeze artist, before becoming a location manager for TV and film production companies, one of the first women to do so. Now, at 60, she’s in her third career phase: as an Airbnb host. She began in 2012, just before the London Olympics.
And she’s not alone. Increasing numbers of people in their fifties and sixties are using the room rental website to earn additional income, especially empty nesters whose children have moved out or gone to university.
Airbnb estimates that there are 450,000 of this type of home in any given week in the UK, with the potential to generate £4.5bn in income per year.
Tessa’s artist’s home in Camden
For Tessa, renting out a sofabed in her home in Camden Town provides pretty much her only source of cash, having stopped working due to poor health, and not yet being eligible for a state pension.
But this isn’t any old front room: Tessa is also a textile artist and it comes complete with a chandelier, artworks, ornate mirrors, giant candles and a red velvet bedspread. This all helps to sell the place to tourists who want a quirky but inexpensive place to stay.
Tessa’s listing starts at £59 a night, and Airbnb takes its cut of £1 per person per night, as well as a fee from the renter.
Tessa is using her Airbnb income to fund a dream of hers: “I want to go around the world and stay in things like treehouses,” she says. “Women my age have kind of been kyboshed with their pensions, because it was men who put the money away.”
Divorcees who have kept their family home and need a way to make ends meet are also increasing in numbers on Airbnb.
How to become a superhost on Airbnb
A life on the road as a performance artist meant Tessa travelled all over Europe and would stay in people’s homes, so having random people staying in hers comes naturally to her.
She’s now a ‘super host,’ meaning that she has at least ten stays completed in her home per year, at least 80 per cent of her travellers’ reviews are five star (the highest rating) and she responds to queries quickly.
“Ask me anything,” she says. So I ask how much she’s earning from the site: around £22,000 a year, her only source of income, she says.
Enough income to fund a new business
We’re in an amazing Shoreditch High Street pad, owned by Alastair, who has been renting out his 6,000 sq ft loft – as well as a penthouse in Rio’s fashionable Ipanema – since becoming an Airbnb host in 2011.
He says renting out the London place made sense to help with running costs, as only one person was living there. Now he has clients including celebrity chefs and Jerry Greenfield (of Ben & Jerry’s) using the space.
As we sit eating dinner made by another Airbnb host, Saima Khan, she tells me that she the money she made from renting a room in her flat was enough to fund her catering company The Hampstead Kitchen.
It would be fair to say that Airbnb is fairly obsessed with its hosts getting the experience its guests have right, encouraging them to personally greet people, or tailor a welcome note, drink or flowers to people when they arrive. The company has a ‘hospitality innovator’, Clement Marcelet, who is a former Airbnb host himself.
Seven tips for making money from Airbnb
• Describe your room/property fully. Include the size, location, character and details such as whether it has Wi-Fi
• Include plenty of photographs. Airbnb will send a professional photographer to your place, for free, once you’ve applied to be a host
• Set a price. Look at what other, similar properties are charging in your area. You can charge for individual nights, weekends or special events
• Answer queries about your place from potential guests. They can either book instantly, or you can decide who gets to book
• Get ready for people to arrive. Make sure it’s clean. Airbnb reports that places with five-star cleanliness ratings get 20 per cent more bookings
• Be sure you provide what you say you will in your listing (things like a hairdryer or umbrella)
• Consider asking your guests out with you: people often choose Airbnb because they want to get more of the flavour of a city or place