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To Airbnb or Not to Airbnb?

By Patsy Trench September 03, 2023 Lifestyle

I first heard about Airbnb back in 2011. “Do you have a spare room to let for the Royal wedding?” The question popped up on Facebook. Interesting, I thought, but who are Airbnb?

I Asked Around My American Friends

My friends in the U.S. seemed to think it was a legit platform. It certainly sounded promising to me. I have a spare room in my flat in London and while I have thought about letting it, I didn’t want to do so long-term. I want to keep it free for friends to come and stay and besides, what if the tenant and I were incompatible?

My flat is quite small. I have one bathroom and the kitchen and the living room, where I work, are open plan.

But I Plunged In

There was only one way to find out, and that is by doing it. I registered on the Airbnb website, gave them details about me and about the flat and its location, and I waited.

To Cut a Long Story Short

I’ve been letting my room on and off ever since, and for the most part it has been an entirely positive experience.

I’ve hosted men and women and sometimes couples from all over the world from the US to China to South Korea, Canada, Australia and various countries in Europe. I have learned about their politics, their culture and their often weird (to me) culinary habits. I have learned that a country like Romania has a largely ‘peasant population’ (a direct quote) and is not totally in harmony with the EU.

Most Guests Respect My Space and Don’t Intrude

Sometimes, oddly enough, they don’t intrude enough. Many guests like to keep themselves to themselves so much I barely have a chance to talk to them. Some shut themselves up in their room all day and then I begin to worry about them – are they okay, they don’t seem to have eaten anything all day.

There Are One or Two Guests I Would Not Ask Back

The worst was a guy who never left the flat, even in glorious weather, and who cooked two complicated and extremely pungent meals every day (on occasion I had to nervously ask if I might please just have the use of the kitchen for a brief moment while I made my own dinner) and complained about everything.

There was another guest who imported his girlfriend overnight without asking and broke my weighing machine without telling me and then made a huge fuss over an invoice.

These Apart, the Worst That Has Happened Has Been Mild Inconvenience

People who spend a long time in the bathroom just as you’re preparing to leave the house. People who use your own special mug, or sit in your own special chair, or who don’t put things back exactly where they came from. All of which is a reminder of how ludicrously fogeyish one can become about such things when you’re living on your own.

So What Should One Look Out For?

When someone makes a request to stay, I like to know something about them, either from reviews from other hosts or from the guest themselves, and preferably both. I had a recent run-in with Airbnb when a potential guest sent me a request with no information at all.

I replied asking to know more about them, but they didn’t respond and so the request expired. I was then reprimanded by Airbnb for not replying. The Airbnb rep at the end of the phone was not helpful, though I’ve had better experiences in the past.

I Am Now a Super Host

So-called, which doesn’t mean much to me, but it does help to push one up the search engines I believe. I now have a steady stream of guests, nearly all of whom I have grown to like hugely. I don’t socialise with them outside the flat, but I love to chat with them in it.

Moreover, It Has Saved My Life Financially

This means I can afford not to fret too much about day-to-day expenses. I have also on occasion let my entire flat when, for example, I made extensive trips to Australia to research my books. Again Airbnb – and its European sister Wimdu – was invaluable, as letting agents here in the UK generally won’t take on properties for less than six months or a year. The rent I received paid for my trips.

Airbnb Is Not Popular with Everyone

Not everyone likes Airbnb. Especially those in the hotel industry, and in places where landlords have switched from letting long-term because they make more money through Airbnb. I imagine some letting agents aren’t fans either.

What Guarantees Are There?

Apart from reviews, which are very helpful, and gut feeling, likewise, there are no guarantees that a guest will respect your space, or wash up, or not generally get in your way. If guests cause damage, Airbnb have an insurance scheme which presumably pays for it.

But as I said, in my experience, and in the case of friends of mine who also host through Airbnb, these things don’t happen. I have never had a guest who has made a mess of the common spaces, or who hasn’t washed up, or who has stolen or damaged any of my property. Most people are kind and thoughtful and respectful and generally good to have around.

Above All I Have Learned Things

I have learned a lot from my tenants. For instance, how London appears to the tourist, why perhaps surprisingly some Europeans consider it to be a more friendly and tolerant place than their own country.

I have been impressed by the bravery of some young women, often with little English, who have come here on their own for the first time just to witness the famous sights of London. I have learned things about my home town I knew nothing about. I have learned a good deal about countries I’ve never visited and are unlikely to.

All in all, it’s been and continues to be a highly positive experience.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you tried Airbnb? As a tenant or a host? What is your experience with the platform? Would you mind sharing a story?

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Arshi Aziz

I avail Airbnb services frequently. Mostly it comprises a flat, although I have on occasion rented rooms in a shared space. My experience has generally been good, and certainly when you compare the cost to hotels, it is well worth any inconvenience.

I do rely strongly on what previous ‘tenants’ have posted, and am disappointed to find that our perspectives of the accommodation are so different. Particularly when they say it wow and I feel is was hmmm ….

Patsy Trench

I agree with you about the airbnb reviews, sometimes you wonder if they’re talking about the same space! I guess people don’t like to be too negative, and I am the same. It’s tricky.


Yes! We’ll we have had years as Helpx hosts where we hosted young people all over the world in exchange for free food and accommodation. About 4 Years ago, my husband built a treehouse and we now AirBnB that out. It comes with its own separate bathroom. It is easy as! My 19 yo son does the airBnB when he is home from university. He makes good money from it and it takes him all-out 60-90 mins to clean and stock between guests. We find quite a lot of guests are happy to check in without contact or being shown the treehouse. Been a few bad experiences but they aren’t 8n our house so that’s the best. People lock themselves out and then knock on our door at inconvenient times. Been a theft from the treehouse, and a breakage, but more likely people leave things behind. When I’m not working, then I might run the AirBnB but it’s not currently worthwhile due to taxes.

Patsy Trench

A treehouse sounds fabulous Ingrid!


Thanks! Yeah it is pretty cool, my husband built it about 3 years ago and it is completely supported by 3 trees, no posts to the ground. It is cool that my son has it on airbnb.


I agree that Airbnb is all that the author says it is… mostly good, but sometimes that “one” guest makes you want to bow out of the hospitality business. You can always pause your listing when you need time off, so it is great when you want company or feel like hosting.

Patsy Trench

I think time out from airbnb is essential if you’re a host. Even the washing and cleaning can be a real chore, and I do value my own space to myself on occasion!


I’ve used Airbnb many times but typically as a short term rental with the host living elsewhere, not sharing the home. It’s been a very good experience except for the feeling that the fees are numerous and a bit higher than a hotel room. I live in Tucson, AZ and have had Airbnb here and in rocky point Mexico.

Patsy Trench

I’ve also rented a complete place and as often as not you never get to meet the host, and the maintenance of it is left to a local person, often a cleaner. In my experience female hosts are much more accommodating and helpful with instructions than male!


I have loved the experiences I’ve had with Airbnb. I’ve gone all over the United States and parts of Europe with Airbnb. I stayed in four different Airbnb‘s last year in Portugal and had a lovely time. All of the hosts have been more than generous with information and with their time and I appreciated that. One older gentleman in Lisbon pointed out different sites to see in places to go while I was there. I find Airbnb invaluable especially if I am part of a larger group. It’s so nice to have the common area to spend quality time with other guests. I’m planning another trip next summer and Airbnb will definitely be part of that. Thank you for the article. Many people don’t know about Airbnb and they are stuck on hotels. Hotels will get you to a country, but Airbnb will let you experience it.

Patsy Trench

Yes, there’s nothing like local knowledge when you’re in a strange place. You sound pretty adventurous Robin!

The Author

Patsy Trench has been an actress, scriptwriter, theatre tour organiser and theatre teacher and lecturer. She now writes books about her family history in colonial Australia and novels featuring enterprising women breaking boundaries in Edwardian and 1920s England. She lives in London.

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