The Airbnb model has been embraced in Ireland – both by those using the service and those renting out their homes. It’s a popular trend: more than 419,000 guests have used the Airbnb service in Ireland since 2009.
Airbnb is one of the coolest ways to feel at home when you're away. The appeal: living like a local. The idea has become so popular that Airbnb has become the first place some people search for accommodation after they've booked a holiday.
As someone who has stayed in Airbnb places what appeals to me is the user experience. The site is incredibly easy to use, and the simple experience of browsing a city map to find the perfect property adds to the excitement of the upcoming trip.
However, it’s easy to forget about the hosts behind the Airbnb listings, but there are now more than 7,200 of them across the country and a total of 11,000 listings. According to Airbnb, the average host in Ireland is 44 years of age and each one earns €2,600 per year on average. Some people rent rooms, others rent their entire house to make some money when they themselves are away. But what makes them do it?
Almost 60% of Irish Airbnb hosts have said income arising from hosting has helped them afford to stay in their primary home. Properties can be listed for free and Airbnb handles all the payments – taking 3% as its cut of hosts’ earnings.
Vanessa Boschetti is a host who is using the site for economic reasons. She and her husband have been using Airbnb to rent out their one-bedroom apartment in Grand Canal Dock in Dublin. Boschetti says it’s a great way of helping pay the hefty management expenses on their property. “We had such a good experience [as guests] with other listings we thought ‘why don’t we share the love and do the same’,” she says.
At first, Boschetti says her husband took some convincing, as he didn’t want strangers sleeping in their bed. But he agreed when Boschetti reminded him they had no issues sleeping in hotel beds. That was two years ago. She’s now a ‘superhost’, which means she’s deemed one of the best hosts out there with really good ratings: “I’m really happy I’ve done it because I kind of put myself in other people’s shoes - I think of what I would like in a house.”
Because the property is her home, and is not an investment property like some other hosts, Boschetti says she’s very choosy about the guests she allows into her home and so far she hasn’t had any bad guests or bad experiences.
“What I really like about Airbnb is that the guest leaves me a review, but I also review the guest. [It means] the guest is also concerned about how he leaves the property. If he leaves it a mess he’ll get a bad review and it will be public.”
The only downside, she says, can be organising the timings of guests checking in and out. “It takes a lot of coordination and if you’re not there you have to make sure you trust the person letting guests in and cleaning.”
Host Karla Piner is also using the Airbnb model for financial reasons. “It’s a business,” she says.
Piner and her siblings have two properties in the Boyne Valley in Co Meath, which they’ve recently restored. “Both are protected structures - that’s the reason why we’re doing this,” she says.
“We’ve tried to sell them for years but because they’re listed they’re very costly to restore, and because they’re located in Duleek, Co Meath and not Dublin 4, you’d never to be able to sell them – you’d lose money.” Instead they listed them on Airbnb. She’s been hosting for two months now.
“The customer service is brilliant,” she says. “I’m glad we’ve done it. I feel like I’ve done something good by bringing the properties back to life.”
Piner hasn’t had any negative experiences after analysing all the terms and conditions to the Airbnb guarantee before signing up. However, she says she may begin asking guests for a refundable security deposit to offset any possible damage.
The Revenue Commissioners recently announced a crackdown on Airbnb hosts – earnings are now liable for income tax. Boschetti says she’s “still not 100% sure of exactly what percentage of tax” they’ll have to pay on the earnings. She says it won’t deter her from using Airbnb but it might make her question the frequency with which she lists her home. “As a host I’m happy to pay the government,” she says. “It’s fair enough.” But, she says, it needs to be reasonable otherwise hosts won’t continue to do so.
A Guide for First-Time Airbnb Users:
Living like a local is the main appeal for Airbnb guests. There are lots of advantages to booking an Airbnb place instead of hotels, traditional BnBs, hostels or self-catering options for your trip. But you need to be savvy to find the most suitable accommodation for your needs. You can rent an entire place, private room or shared room. In general, the difference is the host will be there if you rent a room where as you’ve got the place to yourself if you rent the entire property.
Dos and don’ts:
- Know what you want and make use of the filters: with thousands of properties on the site some newbies might get overwhelmed. And the quality can vary tremendously. Knowing what type of property you want, the dates of your stay, number of guests, and your rough budget will help you narrow down your search.
- Make sure you read the reviews thoroughly – and check how recent they are too. Reviews are at the core of the success of Airbnb. The whole system is based on the trust people put in reviews and the shared community experience. It’s important you can trust your host – but it’s equally important that guests develop reviews over time. Many hosts screen their guests – if it’s their home they want to make sure you’re a good bet, as much as you want a good host.
- Make sure you look through all the photos uploaded for each property – they can reveal exactly the type of place you may love but equally show the type of place you might hate.
- Look for “Superhosts” listings: Superhosts are chosen by Airbnb and are typically hosts who put the most effort into making guests feel welcome. To be a superhost you’ve to maintain a response rate of 90 per cent or higher, and at least 80 per cent of their reviews must be five-star, and they honour confirmed reservations – they rarely cancel.
- Be aware that hosts can cancel bookings: it’s not unheard of.
- Use the star rating system -- it’ll become your most favoured Airbnb tool while using the site. Most hosts strive to achieve at least a four-star, if not five-star rating, in important areas such as cleanliness, communication and location.
- Be wary of any reviews of hosts where they say communication was poor. You don’t want to end up at your destination and on one is there to let you in. Or worse still you end up with no accommodation.
- Check the minimum night stay – many hosts have a minimum two-night stay requirement.
- Always contact the host before requesting a booking. If they don’t get back to you in a prompt and friendly manner then be advised it might not be the best option. It is possible to make an instant booking with some hosts – but be wary.
- Once you’ve made a booking don’t be afraid to ask for directions and tips from your host on the area you’re visiting. The best thing about Airbnb is getting tips from locals -- most hosts will either meet you in person or leave information on their favourite places to eat, and have a drink. For example, where to avoid and where you’ll get ripped off for being a tourist.
For hosts: Revenue / Tax Panel
- Don’t get caught out – hosts must now pay tax on any income generated from renting their home through Airbnb. If you own a property in Ireland and receive rental income, the rental income is subject to Irish tax and that’s regardless of whether you live in Ireland or not.
- Typically, hosts need to file either a Form 12 or Form 11 to the Revenue Commissioners declaring the income earned each year. The percentage tax they’ll have to pay depends on the person’s tax bracket and other personal circumstances.
- The good news is that the Revenue allows some expenses against the rental of the property. Keep your receipts for maintenance costs, such as cleaning, laundry, repairs and insurance on the property.
- Airbnb has launched a new partnership with Taxback.com to help hosts file their tax returns in Ireland pay income taxes on the money they earn sharing their space. But that service comes at a cost.
- The deadline for filing tax returns in Ireland is 31 October in the year following the tax year. For example, for income earned in 2015 the deadline is 31 October, 2016.
- Airbnb is now legally required to report the Airbnb earnings of all Irish resident hosts and non-Irish resident hosts with Irish listings to the Revenue Commissioners in September of each year. That report covers earnings for the previous year. So you’d be strongly advised to make a return.
For more travel ideas check out RTÉ Travel.