If You Give an Airbnb Guest a $75 Apartment…

We are Airbnb hosts. I feel like I should caveat that, or apologize for it. Why does it make me feel a little icky to write? I think perhaps because we have some of the most judgmental neighbors who make me feel like a criminal and make my guests feel unwelcome, but perhaps those neighbors should remember what it’s like to be 30-something and looking for a little extra income. Or perhaps they’ve never stayed in an Airbnb and, like my mother, think Airbnbs attract dodgy international types, just barely removed from hostel age? Or perhaps it’s because I live in a city where Airbnb is much maligned, especially as (actually dodgy) people buy properties exclusively to list on the site, increasing housing prices in neighborhoods that can hardly afford to support those inflated rents.

Kitchenette and living room in the Airbnb. Note this sits under our grand piano, so sometimes you’ll get Billy Joel wafting down.

Whatever it is, I’m working on saying this without apologizing for it. 

Who should apologize though? My recent guests. I swear to you, to a person we’ve had needier guests with shockingly high expectations for a $75 basement apartment in a pandemic than we ever did pre-construction and pre-COVID. 

Before we re-built our house we had a really, really grungy basement with low ceilings and sketchy retrofitted appliances. We would never have considered hosting had the guy we bought our house from not had 20+ years of consistent rental income in the scary basement. Since he did, we figured we’d give it a go. And we got rave reviews! At more than $100/night! For a basement I wouldn’t even walk around barefoot in, even after my aggressive bleach routine! 

But now? Now people lament that you can “Hear upstairs noises.” Or they comment that the WiFI isn’t “quite as strong” in the bedroom as the living room. Or they ask where the remote is for the TV which is pictured in the listing with the caption, “Please bring your own streaming device — there is a television but NO cable!” 

I have no compelling takeaways from sharing this. I wish I did. I still enjoy hosting.  love hearing why people are traveling in the midst of a global health crisis. Nearly everyone has something exciting to share: They’re engagement ring shopping, or visiting a family member’s new baby, but can’t stay with them because of health concerns, or touring colleges, or a dozen other lovely reasons to pack up the car and drive to DC and stay in my basement. It’s been especially fun to talk with our guests because I am desperate for human interaction. I’m sure I’ve scared a few off with my wildly inappropriately enthusiastic rundown of the best local takeout or outdoor bars. 

But can’t they just tell me my basement is great, the bed is comfortable, the overhead noises are what you’d reasonably expect when booking a “One bedroom basement apartment,” and the host is friendly with her cute little welcome note and cheap bottle of wine in the fridge? Seriously. It’s $75, it’s a pandemic, just appreciate the bed, the bleach routine, the cheap wine.

I think, perhaps, my takeaway is that I care too much. Unlike our old house, where I didn’t apologize for being an Airbnb host but rather for being the host of THAT embarrassing listing, now I’m so proud of our house that I get upset when anyone has anything negative to say. I want to respond to the comment about the noise by writing, “But you should have seen me covered in fiberglass adding extra soundproofing insulation to that bedroom! I slept down there and it seemed like a coffin!” To the WiFi critic, I want to remind them that bedrooms are for sex and sleeping, not using the internet.

It’s a basement bedroom, no hidden secrets here!

And to the TV critic? I just ordered a Chromecast. Sometimes it’s just easier to give in than stand on miserly principles.

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Alicia Amling View All →

Recovering journalist who discovered a life outside of news leaves you time for things like getting angry, cooking and traveling. Plus, hopefully, writing. I’m a wife, dog mom and Washingtonian.

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