Money blog: What I learnt from putting my home on Airbnb (2024)

Top news
  • Tesco insists online marketplace venture 'not trying to be Amazon'
  • New shop hit by E.coli recall - what are your rights?
  • 80 pubs shutting each month, data reveals
  • Had the heating on in June? You're not alone
Essential reads
  • Weirdos, undercutting and hand-towel regret: My guide to putting your home on Airbnb
  • Money Problem:'My fence is damaged due to weeds on my neighbour's side - but they're not interested'
  • Holiday money - where to buy it, how to avoid fees, and one thing you must not do
  • Here are the best affordable rose wines for summer
  • Best of the Money blog - an archive

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11:33:04

'One guy wanted to rent my room for a few hours to meet a friend...' What I learnt from putting my home on Airbnb

By Megan Baynes, cost of living specialist

It's 9pm on a Tuesday and a stranger from Shanghai is cooking in my kitchen. I can't speak Chinese, and she can't speak much English, so we both had to mime when she asked me where I kept the knives and the salt.

I hadn't met this woman until 24 hours earlier, but she is staying in my home for another four days - and it's all thanks to an advert on the London Underground.

"Turn your spare room into cash using Airbnb!" it promised. Well, I am lucky enough to have a spare room, and I never seem to have enough cash (thanks to a litany of rising bills and wanting the occasional holiday), so could this be the answer?

I forced my husband to spend a weekend clearing out our top floor room and soon I was photographing away, artfully framing different corners of the space to try and show it off (not helped by my cat, who refused to get out of the way).

After downloading the app and signing up, I was paired with an Airbnb Superhost who gave tips and offered support as I made my way to my first booking. He advised that instead of offering an introductory discount, as the app encouraged, the best way to drum up business was to look up the price of local listings and then undercut them. Once I had built up a few reviews (I was aiming for five stars) I could then raise my prices.

My neighbours were listed between £40-55 a night, so I hedged my bets and started at £35, with a £10 cleaning fee. Within 24 hours, I had my first booking. A young borderforce agent was doing training at Heathrow and needed a place to stay. We gave him a set of keys, told him to make himself at home and five days later, we were £117 better off.

After several months of hosting (and - not bragging - ten five-star reviews) we are now almost solidly booked at any given time.

Tips for smooth sailing welcoming strangers

I have a pretty good weirdo-radar, and when it comes to letting people inside your front door, it pays to trust your gut - I have declined bookings simply because I got bad vibes.

The guy who wanted to rent my room from 9am to 3pm to "meet a friend from London"? Nope.

The man who wanted to stay for three months? Not for me.

A young gentleman who promised to pay me cash on arrival? Thanks but no thanks.

(You'll notice a common theme with these - as I often work from home alone during the day, I'm not taking any chances).

Touch wood, everyone who has arrived has been friendly, polite and, most importantly, not smeared faeces on the walls, tried to remove the sink, or done any other Airbnb horror story.

How to get good ratings

Did I mention we have five stars? I don't think there is any real secret to getting a good rating, but I tried to think what I would want checking into someone's home. Make sure you have high-quality photos that match what the room is actually like; don't go crazy with the filters.

We always make sure the place is clean, well presented and clutter-free. Small, thoughtful touches like a TV with a Sky box, a box of toiletries, and a coffee machine also go a long way.

I am also very upfront about the fact we have pets - the last thing I want is someone with allergies to book (and give me two stars!), so Louie sits front and centre of the listing.

The pitfalls to avoid

After the success of Airbnb, I decided to go one step further and list our room on Booking.com. Their management platform is clunky, difficult to use and you can't vet people who book - they just instantly book and that's it, you're stuck with them. It's also a bit of a faff double-checking both platforms to make sure you aren't accidentally double booking. But it does generate significantly more bookings for us that Airbnb.

As boring as it is, you also need to consider the tax implications. The good news is Airbnb isn't taxed like Vinted or eBay (which has a £1,000 tax-free allowance).

If you rent a furnished room in your primary residence (ie not a second home) you can claim Rent-a-Room relief. The threshold for this is £7,500 per year (or half that if you share the income with your partner). The tax exemption is automatic, which means if you're below that you don't need to do anything - but if you're earning above that, you'll need to fill out a tax return. Given we are earning around £350 a month from our room, we will fall way below this.

I convinced my mum to list her guest room on the platform, and she has also had decent success (excusing the girls who threw up in her bin during Cheltenham race week and the woman who knocked a star off because she forgot to put a hand towel in the bathroom). I then talked my brother's girlfriend into giving it a go.

I did, however, make one fairly significant error: I forgot to get them to sign up using my host referral code. You can earn up to £268 for every host you refer, which means I lost out on a fairly significant chunk of change. I then forgot to refer them again when they moved to Booking.com so missed out on hundreds in commission-free bookings under their scheme. I try not to think about that too much…

Overall, I have loved using Airbnb - in just over two months we've converted our spare room into more than £700. And while I would like to live in a world where we could afford our daily outgoings without flogging our spare room like a cheap roadside motel, we are where we are.

If you have the room, a good radar for vetting people, and are open to intrusion on your personal space, it could be right for you too.

Just hit me up for a referral code first. (Note to editor: Only joking).

13:55:01

Employers cutting back on hiring summer staff due to minimum wage rises

Fewer temporary summer jobs are being posted this year, according to data from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation.

Job postings for summer work in the hotel, restaurant, tourism and construction sectors fell sharply in April and May compared with the same months last year.

The total number of job listings across the economy fell by 0.7% last month to 1.7 million and new job listings fell by 1.1% between April and May.

A lobby group says the fall in postings is due to a rise in the minimum wage which is putting pressure on employers.

The minimum wage rose by 9.8% in April to £11.44 per hour.

Make UK, which lobbies for manufacturing companies, said a second big increase in the minimum wage has affecting hiring in key sectors.

"We can see some evidence of that drag in the lower summer seasonal hiring demand," he told The Times.

"Reducing hours or roles while opening for shorter periods are all decisions that firms may feel forced to make in tough times."

09:39:54

Had the heating on in June? You're not alone

June isn't Juning, and Britons have had enough.

Energy analysts at Cornwall Insight say heating demand is 22% higher than it was this time last year

The contrast is more pronounced given June 2023 was the hottest on record - while June 2024 temperatures have been around 2C lower than average for the time of year.

London was 16C last week - down from 32C at the same time a year ago, while weather warnings for storms were in place in Scotland and the North this weekend.

Samual Peek, senior analyst at Cornwall Insight, said that although demand was up, it was not high enough to push up wholesale prices.

"The increase in gas demand at the start of June compared to the same time last year is currently not feeding through to wholesale prices, and so the impact on consumers - at least for now - appears limited," he said.

Temperatures are expected to inch up this week - though the Met Office says there will likely be a mixture of rain, clouds and sun until the middle of next month.

"The forecast into next week remains largely unsettled with showers, some heavy, in places. On the bright side, it will feel warm in any sunshine," a spokesperson said.

During the current period from 1 April to 30 June, the energy price cap isset at £1,690 per yearfor a typical bill - half of where it peaked during the energy crisis sparked by the Ukraine war but still significantly above pre-COVID levels.

The cap falls to £1,568 on 1 July.

09:19:53

Cautious start to big week

By Daniel Binns, business reporter

London stocks are up slightly today ahead of a big week of economic data.

New inflation figures are set to be released on Wednesday, while the Bank of England will announce its latest interest rate decision on Thursday.

Investors are perhaps a bit cautious ahead of the publication of the key numbers, with no major movers in early trading.

Overall, the FTSE 100 is up 0.1% and the FTSE 250 is up 0.3% so far.

Telecoms firms are among the gainers on Monday, with BT Group up nearly 2% and Vodafone rising 1.2%.

Grocery delivery firm Ocado is down 2%, while mining giant Rio Tinto has slipped 1.1%.

On the currency markets, £1 buys $1.27 US or €1.18.

Meanwhile, the cost of oil is flat this morning, with a barrel of Brent Crude priced at just over $82 (£65).

It comes as motoring firm the RAC expressed concern this morning that fuel prices in Britain remain high despite a fall in wholesale costs in recent weeks.

07:30:05

Third company recalls product over E.coli risk

Another company is recalling a product as a "precautionary measure" due to the possible risk of E.coli.

THIS! says customers who bought its vegan chicken and bacon wrap anytime up to and including Tuesday 18 June should not eat it and should return it for a refund.

The wrap is only sold at WHSmith.

It comes days after sandwich makers Greencore and Samworth Brothers Manton Wood, which supply UK supermarkets, recalled a list of products as a precautionary step.

Products from Boots, Asda, Tesco, Co-op, Aldi, Sainsbury's and Amazon are part of that recall.

The Food Standards Agency's head of incidents, Darren Whitby, said it was working with Food Standards Scotland and the UK Health Security Agency to "identify the cause of an ongoing outbreak" caused by the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC).

Symptoms include "severe and sometimes bloody diarrhoea, stomach cramps, vomiting and fever", said Trish Mannes from the UKHSA.

However, some cases can cause serous complications that can lead to kidney failure.

People are being advised to follow NHS.uk guidance if they become unwell.

There were 211 cases associated with the STEC outbreak as of 11 June - up from 113 five days earlier.

What are you rights if you get ill?

Yorkshire-based solicitors Graysons advises that anyone who falls ill due to food poisoning generally could be due compensation - but only if negligence is at play.

The circ*mstances of these E.coli recalls are far from clear - but more generally, the firm says...

"You can sue a food company for compensation for food poisoning if the food poisoning results from their negligence.

"You can bring a food compensation claim against any food outlet or even a friend who negligently makes you ill at a dinner party.

"You will be able to claim for your pain and suffering, as well as any financial losses, including the costs of treatment and any lost earnings.

"If you want to make a food poisoning compensation claim, you should work with an experienced personal injury lawyer."

You can report any food hygiene concerns to the Food Standards Agency here.

06:34:14

'My fence is damaged due to weeds on my neighbour's side - but they're not interested'

Every Monday we put your financial dilemmas or consumer disputes to industry experts. You can find out how to submit yours at the bottom of this post.

This week,Sky News readerSteveasks...

"My garden fence is starting to fall apart due to weeds and a lack of maintenance on my neighbour's side. The house is owned by the council. I have spoken to the neighbours who are disinterested and the council do nothing unless the tenant complains. What can I do?"

As part of our research into this answer, we spoke to Sean White, managing partner of Courtyard Solicitors, who said you should get your admin in order first.

"Start by thoroughly documenting the issue. Take clear photographs showing the deterioration of the fence and the encroaching weeds from your neighbour's side," he said.

"Review local regulations concerning property maintenance and fencing to understand your rights and responsibilities."

Next, draft a formal letter addressed to both your neighbour and the council - attaching the documentation you've gathered.

"Clearly explain the problem and its impact on your property and politely request prompt action to resolve the issue," said Mr White.

If direct communication with your neighbour fails, Mr White says consider utilising mediation services to facilitate a constructive discussion.

Mediation is when an impartial professional helps both sides work out an agreement. It's private and usually quicker and cheaper than going to court. Your local council should be able to advise on what mediation services are available near you - and you can find more information here.

If the council remains unresponsive, Mr White suggests escalating your concerns by contacting them again, emphasising any potential hazards or property damage resulting from the situation.

"If necessary, file a formal complaint with the council, providing them with comprehensive documentation of the issue and its effects."

Two avenues with your local council are:

  • The Environmental Health Department, who can be contacted if excessive weeds or rubbish in a neighbour's garden are causing problems on your property so as to be a nuisance;
  • Most council and housing association landlords specify tenants must keep their gardens to a "satisfactory standard".

"If you think the council is acting unreasonably you can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman," says Mr White.

As a final option, he advises, explore legal avenues by consulting with a solicitor specialising in property or neighbour disputes.

"They can assist in obtaining copies of the title deeds to ascertain responsibility for maintaining the fence, facilitating a resolution to the issue."

The government has this information for those considering legal action against their neighbour.

Mr White says: "Throughout this process, maintain a composed and respectful demeanour, as it often helps achieve a favourable resolution for all parties involved."

Citizens Advice also has literature on how to deal with issues such as this - read it here.

This featureis not intended as financial advice - the aim is to give an overview of the things you should think about. Submit your dilemma or consumer dispute, leaving your name and contact details, in the form above. Alternatively:

  • Email news@skynews.com with the subject line "Money blog"
  • WhatsApp ushere

06:30:26

Tesco insists online marketplace venture 'not trying to be Amazon'

Tesco's top boss has insisted the supermarket is not trying to copy Amazon with the online marketplace it launched last month.

The marketplace was launched to allow shoppers to buy third-party products like homeware and toys while ordering groceries.

"The primary focus of marketplace is to build out and extend the range of food, food related and home products available to customers – so to be very clear, we are not trying to be Amazon," said chief executive Ken Murphy.

"We are not trying to be all things to all people."

It will make available "niche products" that wouldn't necessarily appear on shop shelves.

He said the new venture was "much more integrated" than Tesco Direct, which was a separate platform launched in 2012 and scrapped in 2018.

On how the marketplace is going, Mr Murphy said: "I think it's really early days. It's very hard to give you any reaction because we're really a week in - I think we've had some very positive early signals in terms of the number of orders."

06:21:43

80 pubs shutting each month, data reveals

More than 80 pubs shut each month in England and Wales during the first quarter of the year, new government figures reveal.

Some 239 establishments were demolished or converted for other uses over the three months to 31 March.

It was a rate of closures 56% higher than the same period last year, when 51 pubs closed every month.

"It will be essential that the next government puts in place a fiscal and regulatory framework that makes sure that the sector does not survive, but thrives," said Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association.

She said the figures reflected high energy costs, food and drink inflation, weather conditions, and the tax burden on pubs.

The data, compiled by real estate company Altus Group, showed the overall number of pubs in England and Wales, including those vacant and being offered to let, fell to 39,162 at the end of March.

The North West region of England lost 35 pubs, the most of any area.

06:20:46

Welcome back to the Money blog - it's a big week ahead

We're back for another week of consumer news, personal finance tipsand all the latest on the economy - and there are a few big moments ahead.

This is how the week in the Money blog is shaping up...

Monday: This week's Money Problemfocuses on a dispute between neighbours over a garden fence.

Tuesday: We're continuing our eight-partWomen in Businessfeature - interviewing women who are bossing their industry. And this week'sBasically...explains everything you need to know about interest-only mortgages.

Wednesday: We'll get May's inflation data, with some economists predicting it could fall from 2.3% to the target 2%. This week's Cheap Eats is with a Michelin-starred chef from North Yorkshire.

Thursday: The Bank of England will reveal its latest base rate decision - with another hold at 5.25% widely anticipated. Here in Money,Savings Championfounder Anna Bowes will be back with her weekly insight into the savings market.

Friday: We'll have everything you need to know about the mortgage market this week with the guys from Moneyfacts.

Running every weekday, Money features a morning markets round-up from theSky News business teamand regular updates and analysis from our business, City and economic correspondents, editors and presenters -Ed Conway,Mark Kleinman,Ian King,Paul KelsoandAdele Robinson.

You'll also be able to streamBusiness Live with Ian King onweekdays at 11.30am and 4.30pm.

Bookmarknews.sky.com/moneyand check back from 8am, and through the day, each weekday.

The Money team is Bhvishya Patel, Jess Sharp, Katie Williams, Brad Young, Ollie Cooper and Mark Wyatt, with sub-editing by Isobel Souster. The blog is edited by Jimmy Rice.

08:08:35

Holiday money - where to buy it, how to avoid fees, and one thing you must not do

By Brad Young and Katie Williams, from the Money team

UK residents spend billions of pounds abroad each year, but it can be difficult to know how to make sterling go as far as possible.

With summer fast approaching, so too are the opportunities to splash out on holidays, so the Money team spoke with three travel experts to find out when, where and how to pay abroad.

CREDIT CARD

"The cheapest way to spend overseas is often on plastic, if you've got the right plastic," said James Jones, head of consumer affairs at Experian.

"Using credit and debit cards can be a great way to get the very best exchange rates."

He said rates offered by currency exchange shops are usually "much less attractive" than those offered on some cards, which were much closer to the rates the banks use themselves.

Fees could wipe out any gains

But it's essential to be aware of things like non-sterling transaction fees, cash withdrawal fees and credit card interest.

So shop around for a card with travel rewards, Mr Jones said - and do this before your trip.

"You probably need to give yourself, ideally, six weeks."

Extra protection

When you book a trip between £100 and £30,000, try and pay for some of it on a credit card to get "extra protection" under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, said Mr Jones.

That means the card provider is jointly responsible with the retailer if something goes wrong, such as arriving at a hotel only to find it has closed down.

If you are using a credit card, make sure you are can pay it off in full to avoid interest charges, said Sean Tipton from the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA).

One trap you must not falling into

An increasingly common trap when paying with card (credit or debit) is being presented with the option to pay in the local currency or in pounds, said Mr Jones and Mr Tipton.

While paying in sterling might "seem like a wonderful convenience" you will ultimately be paying "quite a bit more for the purchase", Mr Jones said.

If you pay in pounds, the local retailer's bank sets the exchange rate, but if you pay in the local currency, your UK bank sets the rate.

DEBIT CARDS

"Some service providers don't apply fees for overseas use on their regular UK debit cards," says Moneyfacts - but you must always check as some incur big fees.

Alternatively, "some service providers offer specialist travel debit cards that don't impose non-sterling transaction fees and cash withdrawal fees".

PREPAID TRAVEL CARDS

If you're looking to avoid a credit check, prepaid cards can be loaded with multiple currencies and work like a debit card, without being connected to your bank.

"Typically, prepaid travel cards will offer competitive or even no charges for foreign usage, which can make them a cheaper alternative to using a normal credit or debit card while on holiday," says MoneyFacts.

One of the most popular prepaid cards, Revolut, uses its own exchange rates, which might not always be the best you can find - and while it is fee free on weekdays, there are charges at weekends, so do your research.

Also be aware - prepaid cards do not offer purchase protection like a credit card and aren't regulated by theFinancial Conduct Authority.

CASH

"Don't rely solely on a card - it can backfire on you if you do," said Mr Tipton.

Some taxis only take cash, leaving you to face hefty charges withdrawing from an ATM.

In some countries, like Argentina, it can be difficult to get money out of ATMs without a local bank account, Mr Tipton said.

Mr Jones added: "If you're in a very remote part of the world that actually doesn’t have many ATMs and maybe where cash is king, then that might dictate what you need to do."

Where and when to get cash

"I'd strongly recommend [to] get some cash out in the UK," said Mr Tipton.

It can be difficult to find a bureau de change in some developing nations, and ATMs have "started introducing quite hefty charges" across the board, he said.

The exceptions are countries with really high inflation rates, where it may make more sense to get cash out when you arrive, he added.

When to exchange currency really depends on the destination, saidLaura Plunkett, head of travel money at the Post Office.

"Exchange rates change frequently, so if you have time, do your homework and lock in a rate when it is good."

What is a good exchange rate for Europe?

Some 80% of British holidays abroad take place in the Eurozone, said Mr Tipton.

The rate has remained "fairly stable", but if you see the pound increasing in value that may be the time to buy a larger amount of Euros for a couple of years in advance, he added.

Mr Tipton said 1.2 to the pound is a "pretty healthy" time to buy, but "it is a bit of a lottery".

Every year the pound gets stronger against the South African rand, and the same in Argentina, where the peso is "unbelievably weak", Mr Tipton suggested.

In store or online?

"Most online suppliers will insist on a minimum order value that might be too high for some people, and you'll have to make sure that you're home for when it's delivered," said Ms Plunkett.

"But typically, rates are better online if that's an option for you."

Money blog: What I learnt from putting my home on Airbnb (2024)

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