You will not believe what this local is doing on Airbnb

2014-05-20 11:30
Cape Town - There can be the odd snag with revolutionary, share-economy accommodation such as Airbnb - like walking in on a sex ring for instance - but this local is using it to live rent free in one of Cape Town's more expensive suburbs.  

Here Brigid Prinsloo shares her findings on how to live rent free in Cape Town through Airbnb.

"Living in Cape Town (or any big city for that matter) is no joke in terms of costs, especially when it comes to renting a decent apartment. So the fact that we are currently living in an amazing Sea Point apartment, in a great location and virtually spending no money at all sounds a bit crazy, right?


What is Airbnb?

Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world — online or from a mobile phone.

Basically: Hosts list their residential accommodation – whether it be an entire home/ apartment, a private room or a shared room – on Airbnb for short-term rental.

Guests in search of short-term rental accommodation browse listings and make bookings online. Simple.
How to Live Rent-Free

After using Airbnb on my trip to London and Dublin last year, I was determined to test it back home. I digress – it was with Airbnb in mind that my boyfriend and I signed the lease on a slightly bigger, slightly more expensive apartment in Sea Point in December in 2015.

MVP-ing it

We used our spare room in our previous flat as an office and as such would need to spend some cash to set up our second bedroom for Airbnb. Having spent way too much time reading Mashable and The Next Web articles, I decided we should MVP* it, i.e. we would create a listing and see what the response is before spending any money on the second bedroom.

*minimum viable product

An Airbnb listing includes:

- A description  of the listing which includes details about the space, the neighbourhood, what the guest will have access to, how to get around, house rules, etc.
- Photos of the room, the home/ apartment and the area
- Some idea of prices and availability

Our Airbnb listing (Photo: Becoming the Boss)

We moved our bed into the second bedroom, added a few pieces of essential furniture, scatter cushions and bedding and snapped the room. Within a few hours we were ready to list.

The result – validation – there is demand for our spare room:

- We listed the room on Friday, 31 January 2014.
- Within an hour of listing we had our first inquiry.
- Within a day our first booking.
- Within three days our first guest arrived

Setup Costs

The upside of listing a shared space on Airbnb is that you have most likely already set up most of the communal spaces and amenities (like wi-fi) – so the only setup costs relate directly to the room.

- Luckily we had a spare bed in storage (R0)
- Two extra sets of keys/ access tags (R280)
- New bedding/ duvet (R1,955)
- New towels (R380)
- Reading lamp (R199)
- Side table and dustbin (R239)
- Throw (R150)
- Plant (R160)

Total Setup Costs: R3,363

The Numbers

Since listing we have had three guests so far, with our fourth guests (a Canadian couple) checking in tonight:

- Guest 1: stayed for 6 nights and we made R2,669
- Guest 2: stayed for 13 nights and we made R5,080
- Guest 3: stayed for 2 nights and we made R1,118
- Guest 4: checking in tonight and will stay for a month
- Pro rate income for February: R9,009 * 3/28 = R965

Total Income from Airbnb in February: R9,832

Total Rent for our entire 2 bed flat: R10,500

Is it too much?

Is it fair that our guests end up paying our rent? I think it is. The alternatives including slumming it in a backpackers which will include sharing a dorm with strangers for R150 to R250 per night per person or splashing out on a hotel and forking out R1,000 to R2,000 per night per person. Given the alternatives, R450 per night for the room seems like a bargain to me.

Should you be concerned about safety?

Of course, living in South Africa adds a new dimension to the Airbnb experience – the concern about the safety. However, I feel that the security measures listed below mitigate this risk to a great extent.

You can require guests to have “Verified IDs” which comprises:

- email address verified by clicking through on verification email
- phone number verified by sending code to the number
- social networks (Facebook, Google, LinkedIn) verified using API’s
- reviews (either guest or host reviews linked to the profile)
- offline ID verified by scanning a copy of your ID

In the end you still have the right to choose who stays with you. So even if a guest has a verified ID, you do not have to accept their bookings. You are fully within your rights to asks guests to tell you a bit about themselves and about the reason for their visit. And if anything feels off, I think you should trust your gut and decline.

Holding of payment

Airbnb charges the guests credit card at the time of booking and then holds this amount until 24 hours after the guest has checked in. This protects the host – ensuring that the guest will pay – and protects the guest – who can notify Airbnb if, upon arrival, they find the listing is not what they had booked.
Cancellation Policy and Security Deposit

Additional measures to protect yourself include opting for a strict cancellation policy, which will only refund 50% of the booking if cancelled more than 7 days before check-in (no refund after) and setting a security deposit, which is reserved against the guest’s credit card until after they have checked out.
Visit Becoming the Boss to see Brigid's outline of Cool Airbnb Features


Airbnb hosting has opened my eyes to the potential of a “sharing economy” – where we better utilise the resources we have – focusing on access not ownership.

We win because we save on rent and get to make new friends from all over the world. Guests win because they save on expensive hotel costs and get to have a more real experience of South Africa and its people. Win-Win.

Are you on Airbnb, tell us what it's like by posting a comment below or email us on You can also come chat to us community on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, snap away on Instagram, hang out with us on Google+ and share your inspiration on Pinterest.

Read more on:    cape town  |  lifestyle  |  travel and leisure  |  good news

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