There was no way we were ever going to put our Victorian terraced house on a site like Airbnb. Strangers in our beds? No way. Thumping parties. Never. Then in 2015, I changed my mind after receiving two alarming emails from our London street email group:
However warm the weather, don’t leave your doors and windows open as it seems there may have been a break in on the street this evening!
Omg!! Where? I have heard of so many recently. Valetta Road they used a jigsaw to cut the bottom of the door to climb in!
In fact the first email turned out to be a false alarm; one family had just left their top floor in a slightly chaotic mess and the babysitter concluded that someone had broken in. Still, the second email was intimidating and we never like leaving the house empty. A few weeks later, an acquaintance told me she had earned £12,000 from renting her house out through Airbandb during the school summer holidays. I decided we could kill three birds with one stone.
The thought of people we didn’t know living in our house was outweighed by the prospect of bountiful cash, the security and the free cat-sitting of our two fat cats. On reflection £12,000 must have been a slight exaggeration. My friend’s house is uncannily similar to ours, and we didn’t make that much.
My iPhone snaps made the house look dismal and in need of some cosmetic updating. My husband happens to be an interiors photographer, but it took about eight months to pin him down at the right moment, ie when the cleaner had just been. The house looks surprisingly good in his photographs, but they are already out of date. For example our “garden” is no longer a garden just a small space that exactly fits a trampoline.
One friend told me she didn’t do anything at all to prepare for her renters, apart from squashing her clothes to one side of her cupboard. This can’t be true. We spent two full days working flat out to make the space look more like a hotel and less like a messy family house, overflowing with misplaced shoes, odd socks and drawers full of miscellaneous objects.
We started culling the clutter, taking bags of stuff to charity shops and old chairs to the dump. We got things fixed that had been broken for years – the downstairs loo seat and the cistern lid, for example. Dispensing with so much redundant stuff was oddly satisfying and a huge relief.
The house was clean and tidy when we got home. The only slightly strange thing was that there seemed to have been six people staying instead of the five who had checked-in. They left a review saying we were “kind” and the house was great, but that we should offer a free cleaner as the cats paws made a mess on the white wood floors. Clearly, something to think about for next time.