The Ultimate Guide to Homestay Hosting!

Homestay Hosting.
Reading Time: 10 minutes

Did you know that an average of 2 million people each night bed down in an Airbnb property? That’s half a billion people since 2008, and proof of just how popular staying at someone else’s place is instead of at a hotel, with lots of people opening up their homes for short-term rental or to meet new people. The bottom line: homestays are in. Thinking of becoming a homestay host yourself? Then, here’s your ultimate guide to doing it.

Different types of Homestay

The first thing to know is that you can offer different homestay types, depending on your aims and circumstances. Here’s a quick rundown of them all:

Paid

This is business, plain and simple. Someone is paying to stay at your home. You may be vacating your home for a while and letting your guest(s) stay while you’re away, which happens on Airbnb, or you remain in your home and host, as in the style of Homestay.

When someone pays, their expectations may be higher than CouchSurfing’s (see the ‘Free’ subsection). They’ll likely not expect to sleep on a sofa or a bed designed for overnight guests.

Homestay hosting, welcome to our house.

Housesitting

This is handy if you need someone to look after your pets or to the garden while you’re away. In return for the accommodation, they take care of these responsibilities and others as part of the deal. It’s an appealing homestay option for travellers who want to visit expensive cities for less. 

Worked-for

The worked-for Homestay is helpful for business owners who need an extra pair of hands. A guest will work for you for a few hours each day in return for food, a roof over their head, and a little money. This appeals to travellers who are looking for new experiences or wishing to practice a language. They may be on a career break or a gap year from studies.

Free

Also known as Couchsurfing, you’re inviting someone to stay in your home for free while you’re there. Couchsurfing.com is one of the most famous websites for people who offer this style of Homestay. The experience is about bonding rather than free accommodation – the guest(s) will sleep happily on the sofa or whatever bedding arrangement you provide for them – and the hosts tend to show guests around their location.

Welcome

Setting up for homestay hosting

Whether you decide to open your home to earn some extra money or make new friends, it’s not something you should do overnight. Hosting homestays requires consideration and preparation. Things won’t run so smoothly if you open up in the spur of the moment!

Check local laws

Airbnb is popular with travellers and business owners but less with local authorities and residents. Amsterdam, New York, Paris, Los Angeles, and other towns and cities have cracked down on Airbnb-style renting. Some are required to register for short-term property rental and/or restrictions on how many days people can rent out their property each year. Before advertising your property on Airbnb, check the rules and regulations for staying on the right side of the law with local authorities.

Set up a profile.

If you’re going to set up as a homestay hosts, you’ll have to set up a profile on a homestay website such as Airbnb.co.uk or Couchsurfing.com. Provide as much relevant information as possible to make your profile appealing. This could include your age, occupation, pets, hobbies, languages, and information about the property. 

Upload photos that showcase your property. Clean and tidy it and then photograph it. If you have one, turn on the lights and get the fireplace going so the property looks cosy and inviting.

Verify your identity, too, to reassure people you’re genuine. 

Decide what kind of host you want to be

You can be the kind of host who gives your guest(s) a spare set of keys and lets them get on with their stay. You can be the more attentive type who spends time with their guests, cooks for them, and shows them around the location. It’s up to you, but make it clear on your profile so people know what to expect from you. 

Be clear about what you’re offering.

Guests will have certain expectations from different sites. For instance, Airbnb guests will be looking for clean, comfortable accommodation. In contrast, if they book on Couchsurfing, they understand that the accommodation might not be up to their hoped-for standards. 

This means you must be clear about what you’re offering. Where will they be sleeping? On a lovely, cosy divan or the couch. Will you be around much, or are you out most days? Do you have any pets? They might appreciate knowing this if they have allergies or phobias. Be clear about when you’re available to receive homestay guests.

Do you offer a tour?

People staying with locals and/or who have never been to the area before may be looking for you to act as a tour guide. Expect this if you host Couchsurfing.com or similar sites which focus on bonding with locals and offer free lodging. Some guests will be happy to explore with or without you, but either way, display clearly whether you’ll show people around.

Arranging and collecting payment

The system of payments is different, depending on the type of Homestay you offer. The first step will be to create an account, which you’ll have done when you created your profile. If you’ve not done this already, go to the homepage and look for ‘Sign Up’ or similar instructions to create your account. 

You may also wish to set up a separate bank account for collecting and managing guest payments. This can be helpful when having to do your accounting.

Collecting payment on Homestay

The guest makes their booking and pays a 15% guest fee (the maximum is £199) to confirm the booking. When they arrive at your home, you’ll receive the price of the stay. You should indicate whether you wish for guests to pay in cash, by bank transfer, or by PayPal. You should also notify your guest that you’ve received payment.

If you’re a host who offers the Deposit payment option, the guest can choose this and pay 25% of the stay and a 15% booking fee (the maximum is £199) to confirm the booking. You’ll receive this deposit two business days after your guest’s scheduled arrival. As the host, you’ll pay a small 3% host fee, which the organisation deducts from the stay amount.

Collecting payment on Airbnb

Airbnb releases the payment for your guest’s stay 24 hours after check-in. Depending on your payment method, this can take a little longer. A bank transfer can take up to seven days. You’ll be paid monthly if you’re hosting someone for more than 28 days.

Airbnb charges a host service fee, which, often, is 3% for hosts. The company will also charge a guest service fee of 13% of the booking subtotal or under. As the host, you’ll receive the nightly rate – which you can set with the ‘Nightly rate’ option in the ‘Pricing’ section of your listing ―minus the host service fee. If Airbnb adds VAT on top of the service fee, this may also affect the payout you receive.

Arranging payment for a worked-for homestay

Depending on the organisation running the scheme, you may or may not have to pay to host since you’ll provide food and accommodation for your guests. If you’re running a business, you may have to pay them a minimum wage for working for you. The platform Workaway expects you to do this. Guests using a worked-for homestay site may have to pay the site itself for the Homestay.

Preparing your home 

Your profile’s set up. You’ve confirmed a request to stay with you. It’s time to get the place ship-shape and ready to receive them. How do you do it?

View other hosts’ profiles and reviews.

Checking out other hosts’ profiles and the reviews they’ve received. You can learn quickly what guests (might) like or dislike about their homestays. Some might prefer more attention from their hosts. Some might prefer less. One thing of which you can be sure, though, is that they’ll always appreciate somewhere comfortable to sleep.

Anticipate your guest’s needs.

Think about what your guest will need. If they arrive late at night, the supermarkets may have already closed by the time they reach the property, so leave some food in the fridge for the evening and the next day. Is your property near the beach? In that case, a few beach towels could be appropriate.

Keep the home clean and clutter-free

Remember that guests leave reviews, so you should deep clean your property, even if your guest is Couchsurfing. Wipe all the surfaces down. Empty the bins. Sweep and mop the floors. Vacuum the carpets. You’ll get a better review!

Preparing the bedroom

Naturally, the bed and bedding provision is essential for hosting if you’re an Airbnb host. Review the bed situation and ask, truthfully, whether your guest will be able to sleep comfortably. If the answer is no, order a new mattress or even a new bed. 

Don’t worry about how much this might affect the plans. Some retailers offer next-day delivery, so even if you make a relatively late booking, you can still organise a new bed in time for them. Note that you must book before a specific time to be eligible for next-day delivery, so the better, the earlier you place your order.

Other aspects to bear in mind are the quality and cleanliness of the bed linen. No one wants to sleep between dirty sheets! It would be best to leave plenty of hangers in the wardrobe and an extension cable so guests (s) can charge their devices.

Preparing the kitchen

Your guests won’t know your kitchen as you do, and you may want to buy some pans and kitchen utensils solely for them to use. Provide some pan stands as well to help protect the surfaces from burns. 

Whether they use your kitchen equipment or a guests-only set, make sure they have enough to cook with if they wish to. Oven gloves and kitchen towels are other essential items. You should also provide simple basics, such as salt, pepper, herbs, and spices. They don’t cost much, so there’s no excuse for not buying them!

Cleanliness is crucial in the kitchen. Wipe the surfaces down and clean the oven before your guests arrive. Ensure your guests have access to cleaning cloths, sprays, and other items so that they can clean up after themselves.

Preparing the bathroom

No one wants to lower themselves into an icky bath or a limescale-ridden shower or use a filthy toilet, so cleanliness is the order of the day. You should provide the basics, though, which would include plenty of toilet rolls, soaps, a hairdryer, and some towels. If the towels are a bit softer and the soap is high-end, so much the better! Supply a couple of small pedal bins or wastepaper baskets, one for waste and the other for recycling.

Protect your valuables

Your guest may seem legit, but that doesn’t mean you should leave jewellery, financial papers, cash, or other valuables around. While your guests visit, store them away in a safe, if you have one, or in an off-site deposit box. They’re cheap to rent. You can never be too careful!

Woman on holiday

During the Homestay

Once they’ve arrived, there are several things you should do while your guests are visiting:

Make the service personal

Be sure to be in when your guest(s) arrive to greet them and help them settle in. Let them know they can contact you if they need anything or have questions about your home or the location. You could even do all this over a coffee and give them keys to the property.

  • Be welcoming and open: Make your guest feel comfortable and included in family activities. Engage in friendly conversations and be open to answering questions about your culture and daily life.
  • Offer cultural exchange: Share your local customs and traditions. Explore your surroundings together, suggesting local attractions, restaurants, or events. Encourage them to share their culture as well, perhaps offering to try a traditional dish from their home country.
  • Respect boundaries: While encouraging interaction, respect your guest’s need for privacy. Be mindful of their cultural norms and avoid making assumptions based on your own cultural lens.

Communication is key:

  • Be clear and direct: If there are any issues or concerns, address them openly and directly in a respectful manner. Listen to their perspective and work together to find solutions.
  • Be available: Let your guest know they can come to you with any questions or concerns they might have during their stay.
  • Embrace flexibility: Be prepared to adapt your routines or plans to accommodate your guest’s needs and preferences within reasonable boundaries.

Set some rules

One of the keys to successful hosting is to let everyone know where they stand when they arrive. You don’t have to reel off a long list of house rules, but you should think about certain things you won’t permit and things you’d like guests to do. For instance, you might not allow people to smoke in certain areas of the house. 

Let your guests help.

Just because you’re hosting, it doesn’t mean you can’t accept help from your guests. Couchsurfing guests may want to show their gratitude and cook you a meal or do some washing up. Couchsurfing is about bonding, so let them whip out the frying pan or whatever utensils they need and go for it. Enjoy the treat, but remember they’re not your servant, so don’t abuse their kindness!

Be as responsive and helpful as possible.

When renting out your home as an Airbnb, you don’t just sling your guest(s) the keys and ride off into the sunset, never to be heard from again until the end of their stay. That goes for hosting, too, if you’ll still be in the property. Guests must be able to get in touch with you. Give them your email, phone number, and contact details of a ‘support’ person who can address situations at short notice (such as a friend or neighbour), and get back to them as soon as possible.

As a host, you should be as helpful as possible. Compile a folder with information on different restaurants, transport options, maps, and local attractions. You may even decide to show your guests around the location, which is part of the bonding process (but not mandatory) if you allow someone to stay at your home.

chilling out bed

When the guests leave

The guests might be on the way to the airport or other destinations, but your job as a host isn’t quite over. There’s still one more thing you can do:

Leave your guest a review or reference 

Leaving a review or a reference on your guest’s profile helps them and reassures other hosts. Trust is a big issue and helps to make homestays run smoothly. When you’ve had a good experience with a guest, you should let them and others know. 

This goes for bad experiences, too, although you should reflect carefully when posting a negative review about what warrants lousy behaviour. Some ‘bad behaviour may be just a minor misdemeanour or slip-up, whereas you should warn others if a guest has been threatening, abusive, made you feel uncomfortable in some way, or neglected the property.

A rewarding experience

Hosting others in your home, whether as a business or as a way of meeting new people, is rewarding. Hosting people requires careful preparation and skills so they’d come back or recommend you to someone else. You are making your home as comfortable as possible for them and helping whenever you can go a long way. We’ll let you set up that profile.

By following these tips, you can create a positive and enriching experience for both yourself and your guest, fostering cultural exchange, understanding, and lasting memories.

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