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Would You Share Your House With a Paying Guest?




Easy money idea: How about giving that extra room in your house to a guest who will stay for a few days then pay you for it?

Many Kenyans are doing it, by sourcing clients mostly from the internet.

Thousands of paying guests, from within and outside the country, have been welcomed to various Kenyan homes, where they are given a kitchen to cook from, a bed to rest on, a bathroom from which to take care of their bodies, and pretty much anything they need for their sojourn.


The innovation most used locally to facilitate home sharing is Airbnb, a San Francisco-based technology company that enables house owners to meet their guests and to receive payment.

It provides the contacts of the host only after the prospective guest pays.

Other online home-sharing platforms include Coach Surfing, Love Home Swap, Home Exchange, and Bedycasa.

Ms Joanna Adhiambo, a student-cum-NGO employee in Nairobi who has hosted about 100 guests at a rented house in Nairobi’s Imara Daima since she registered on Airbnb last December, explained why she welcomed the house-sharing idea.

“I’m just a millennial and I’m a hustler. So, I try to move with the times,” she said. “I signed up and I got my first customer the next day. Hours after she left, the money came into my account. The rest is history.”


But Ms Adhiambo appears to be in the minority, if responses various Kenyans gaveLifestyleon the topic are anything to go by.

NO THANK YOU

Many people, it emerged, cringe at the idea of sharing their houses with a total stranger, whether sourced online or from any other channel.

“I am extremely protective of my personal space. I would feel uncomfortable having someone whom I barely know live with me for more than a few hours,” said Mr Michael Kimani, one of the Kenyans who have embraced cryptocurrencies and other innovations around block-chain technologies.

“I prefer to live alone, in the comfort of my quirks and habits. Living with a stranger, even for pay, would mean I have to accommodate them alongside their quirks and habits. It’s almost like playing host at a hotel. This is not something I would consider because I treasure my personal space,” added Mr Kimani, who is the chairman of the Blockchain Association of Kenya and who stays in Nairobi’s Kahawa Sukari.


For Mr Willis Moinde, a marketing consultant living in Nairobi’s Embakasi, the disadvantages of sharing a house far outweigh the advantages.

“I wanted to enlist my house once, but a good thought made me realise it is a bad idea,” said Mr Moinde.

“I cannot sleep even for an hour knowing that the person in the other room is a stranger who just chose to come to spend in my house instead of a hotel. Why not a hotel?” he posed.

In Mr Moinde’s view, the only positives from such an arrangement is the fact that a person can make an extra coin “and probably get to know someone and become friends”.

“People who are on holiday are out to have fun. Imagine it is, say, July in Kenya and it is work time for me. So, the people I’m hosting are partying every evening and I have to go to bed early for tomorrow,” he reasoned.


Ms Robai Muiruri, a resident of Nairobi’s South B, said sharing a house is not an idea she can welcome because she and her husband feel like they need to know people before they let them share a house.

“We are stranger-averse,” she said.


WELCOME GUESTS

Interior designer Felix Nasibi, who lives in Witu, Lamu County, is one of the few Kenyans who have no qualms opening their doors to paying visitors.


“Most people would say no, but I see nothing wrong with that,” he said.

“A guy has saved for years just to fulfil one of the items on his bucket list. He isn’t about to go to a foreign country to kill his host. Plus, he’ll pay me good money, just for a full board. But I’d set ground rules. He may be an adult but he is in my house.

“I live with my family, so one rule would be: No sleepover friends. Another one will be: No coming back home after 2am. Also, no smoking in my house. The economy is bad and a little extra cash wouldn’t hurt,” added Mr Nasibi who is also a landscapist and farmer.


Mr Andrew Gachara, a programmer who lives in Thika, says he can only let out his house if he is away from his home.

“Living with a stranger is an inconvenience for me,” he said.

One example of hosting while away is a Kenyan firm called Dea’s Garden, which hosts guests in houses in Naivasha and Nairobi.

It is named after Dea, a Tanzanian-born woman who was left to run a huge farm in Naivasha when her Swiss husband died in 2010.

“The farm was closed and the family home was turned into a guest house,” says a message on the website.

They welcome guests from all over the globe to their Naivasha residence, which they call a “Swiss Bernese barn house”.


“Our aim is to provide a homely atmosphere with peace and tranquillity in lovely gardens to families and individuals that would enjoy such a setting,” they state on their website.

They later opened up their Karen home, where their children sometimes stay, for paying guests.

And, much as some people have strong reservations towards hosting strangers, the number of Kenyans letting in paying visitors to their houses is rising.



HOMESTAYS

On Airbnb alone, the number of Kenyan listings has risen exponentially over the years. Airbnb had about 1,400 listings in Kenya in 2015, a number that rose to about 5,900 last year.

The visitors who pay to share homes would ordinarily have booked a room at a hotel. But some individuals prefer home sharing for various reasons, among them the freedom to prepare their own meals and the opportunity to interact with locals.

“I find hotels too generic, sterile and out of place in many communities. With Airbnb, I feel more of a local than a tourist,” Ms Caro Rolando, a Canadian journalist who has sought residence in Kenyan homes a number of times, toldNationrecently.

The listings by Kenyans offering to share their homes provide an interesting cocktail of residential realities.


“Our bungalow in Okore Estate, Kisumu, truly enhances the sense and feeling of home away from home. We are located less-than-10-minute walk from the United Mall,” states Linda, who is offering a three-bedroom house that can accommodate five guests. She charges $25 (Sh2,523) a night.

In Nakuru, Caroline is offering a small room for $10 a night.

She describes it as “a cosy home with proper lighting, clean amenities, CCTV”. She has so far hosted at least four foreigners who seem to like her place.

“The room is big, the bed is good and the place is okay. Just very good value for money,” says one reviewer.

In Mombasa, Jessica is ready to share her house with up to two guests.


“Renting out two bedrooms of this spacious and peaceful Nyali home,” she says on the site.

A tourist called Lucas has praised her house as spacious and convenient.

“We felt welcome and would always get assistance and information if we asked. At the same time, Jessica’s family was non-intrusive so we had lots of privacy,” he says in his review.



EXTRA PENNY

From the postings and the reviews — some of which are scathingly critical of the amenities offered — one gets the impression that it is a typical willing-buyer-willing-seller arrangement, and the dangers often associated with sharing houses are hardly raised.

Ms Adhiambo, the 27-year-old hosting guests at Imara Daima, gave us a glimpse of what it feels to give up your house to paying strangers.

She chose Airbnb after moving out of her mother’s house. Her pursuit for an extra penny prompted her to try it out, after learning about it from a friend.

She soon found her way around the application. But because her rented house is a single room, she is forced to return to her mother’s house whenever guests come in.


“Currently, because many people come and go, I made it a place for business,” she said.

She charges $11 (Sh1,110) per night, and leaves the host with cooking gas, clean utensils, a fridge, a microwave oven, an iron box, a subwoofer, a warm shower among other provisions. There is even some sugar and tea leaves for a guest who would like to swig some caffeine during their stay.

Ms Adhiambo said her earnings are pretty little, especially after deducting rent and other expenses.

But from the cash flow, and having learnt a thing or two about the location that can bring the highest earnings, she is now planning to move to a two-bedroom house so she can live more comfortably.


“One will be for me and the other one will be for the guest. With that, I can monitor my guest,” she said.

RISKS

She is, however, aware of the risk such an arrangement poses.

“There is a risk, in that a guest can attack me,” she said. “But the flip-side is that I can make more money.”

She said that no guest has ever stolen anything from her, but as a precaution, she has informed the house watchman to ensure no stranger carries away items without scrutiny.

One of the most trying moments she has had, she said, is when she hosted a Nigerian man who was living alone.

“I didn’t know what kind of business he was doing, how long he would stay, if he would steal my things, if he would damage the house,” she said.


She breathed a sigh of relief when the man went without any mishaps

Airbnb works on a rating-based system, where a host or guest is considered more reputable if they have higher ratings.

The tech firm has also promised hosts that it has a $1 million insurance cover for the property of any house owner in case their property is damaged by a guest.

“If your guests get hurt or cause property damage, our host protection insurance protects you from liability claims up to a million dollars,” says a message on the Airbnb website.

The Tourism ministry did not immediately respond to our requests to contribute on the topic, but it has in the past released guidelines on homestay arrangements.


“Homestay is a unique hospitality system in which the tourist stays with the family as a member of the family,” the document says in its definition section.

The ministry guidelines say an ideal homestay building should be located at a well-maintained environment, have good sanitation, be accessible by at least a road, and have at least one openable window, among other provisions.

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