I lived in New York City for over eight years. I spent many months out of those eight years traveling. With expensive rent due in each month I was away, I quickly mustered up the temerity necessary to regularly relinquish my apartment to a subletter from Craigslist. Craigslist did the trick well enough to keep me afloat and mobile all of those years in NYC, but Airbnb.com is better. At least for subletting arrangements. Here’s why:
1. Airbnb has profiles. Instead of opening up your house to, or crossing your fingers and staying with, total strangers, Airbnb has a profile system for users that allows you to take a closer look. You can read friends’ recommendations of users and you can check out reviews other folks they’ve worked with from the site have left. Granted, you’re still hosting or staying with complete strangers, but being able to scope their photos and interests will at least give you a better idea of who you’re going to stay with or host.
2. Airbnb pays you. If you read the above paragraph and thought, “Well, couchsurfing.com has profiles, too”, you’re right. Couch Surfing does have profiles. But with Airbnb, you can actually rake in some dough. List a room or two in your house, or the entire place, for whatever amount you want per night. And people pay to come stay with you–people who you get to look over and approve as guests first.
3. Airbnb allows you to be a guest. If you sublet through craigslist, you’re a subletter. If you travel using Couch Surfing, you’re a couch surfer. But if you accommodate yourself while traveling with Airbnb rooms, you’re a guest. Each host is different, but you can at least count on breakfast, clean sheets, and clean towels.
4. Airbnb is a good place to make real-life friends. You can also make friends using the popular sources I’ve been citing, like Craigslist and Couch Surfing, but why not make some more?
5. Airbnb backs you up. They might not be obligated to protect you when things go wrong, but they have practices in place that will help out along the way. From setting up a security deposit to having staff readily available to mediate any situation that goes sour, Airbnb just feels a little more reliable to me.
[photo by Elizabeth Seward]