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Discount Diva: Should you be an Airbnb host?

Last year, 233 Airbnb hosts in Buffalo earned a total of $2.2 million by renting their spare rooms, apartments and homes to travelers. That’s more than double what they earned in 2015. It comes out to about $7,500 per host, more than the state average, and some hosts make more.

Buffalo listings on range from a private room in a converted West Seneca garage ($25 per night now, rising to $41 in the summer) to a four-bedroom, four-bath home on 11 acres in East Aurora with a tennis court and three fireplaces ($750 to $850 per night).

If you’ve ever thought about becoming an Airbnb host, here are a few things you might like to know.

• You will be at odds with hoteliers and Bed & Breakfasts. They’re regulated, pay hotel taxes and have to do pesky things like meet fire codes. That’s not necessarily the case with Airbnb hosts.

• The laws surrounding the industry are in flux. Buffalo officials feel it’s time to regulate Airbnb hosts’ properties, and Airbnb is trying to come to an agreement with them to collect and remit taxes on hosts’ behalf.

• For now, hosts are responsible for collecting and paying their own taxes. Talk to an accountant and make sure you’re doing everything the right way.

• Google “Airbnb horror stories”. Most Airbnb bookings are run-of-the-mill transactions for both the host and the guest. Still, you should know what you’re getting into. Check out some worst-case scenarios and see if you’re still into the idea of becoming a host.

• Airbnb has a Host Guarantee that will cover the host for up to $1 million in damages. It does not cover neighbors or landlords in the event their property is damaged.

• Airbnb offers Host Protection insurance that covers up to $1 million per occurrence for bodily injury or property damage claims.

That will cover a guest if they are injured during their stay, cover a host’s property if it gets damaged by a guest, or will cover claims by a landlord against a host.

• The Host Guarantee doesn’t cover wear and tear, so you should require a security deposit and take care to price it right.

• Realize that pets can cause serious damage to a room in a very short period of time. Carefully consider whether you want to allow pets to stay on your property.

• Screen your guests carefully. Airbnb guests are rated and reviewed on the site just like hosts are, so you can see what past hosts have to say about them. Make sure they are who they say they are and maybe require ID ahead of time.

• Guests may contact you, asking to go around Airbnb and accept cash. Sure, you might save on the Airbnb commission if you do that, but you also will no longer receive any of the protections provided by the company.

• Make your expectations clear to guests before the booking is made. If you don’t want guests to smoke, or to make noise after 9 p.m., for example, make sure they know that up front. It might be a dealbreaker for both of you.

• Unless you hire a housekeeper, you are the housekeeper. Rentals needs to be cleaned between guests, just like hotels.

• Be realistic with your listing’s description. Sure, you’re tempted to talk it up, but you risk having to deal with a disappointed guest and receiving a bad review.

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