Turning a spare room into cash

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A GROWING number of homeowners are renting out spare bedrooms to help cover mortgage repayments and other running costs, data from global homestay website Crashpadder.com shows.

“Although the 2012 Olympics is seeing booming demand for accommodation in London, and the Edinburgh Festival generates huge turnover when a million people arrive in August, there is a general trend of rising bookings as more people need to turn unused space in towns and cities into occasional income,” says Stephen Rapoport, founder and chief executive of Crashpadder.com

The service claims to list 7,000 host properties in 103 countries.

About half that total is in Britain, with the most in-demand properties in London.

One of the most popular is in a flat on Shaftesbury Avenue in London’s West End: the double bedroom is invariably snapped up by theatre-goers at £65 per night.

Another popular bedroom is in a penthouse in Old Compton Street, where lucky visitors can wake up to spectacular views across Soho.

Rapoport says: “The revenue our bookings generate in January could be up by around 100 per cent on bookings for November.

“Some hosts accept visitors for as much as 25 nights per month, but most do not really want people staying all the time, or even for most nights of a week.

“Our best-earning hosts take well over £1,000 per month from nightly lettings. Others settle for £100 to £150 from guests staying a long weekend.

“This demand which we have tapped into – from hosts and guests alike – is probably one of the few good news stories to come out of recession and global financial meltdown.

“The cheering fact is that more than 99 per cent of people are decent hosts and reasonable guests.

“We have very few instances where either guests or hosts say the arrangement hasn’t worked out as well as hoped.”

Gradually, says Rapoport, Crashpadder.com is losing the image that it is a service directed mainly at hard-up backpackers who can’t afford hotels. In fact, the average age of all its users is 36.

Some guests even get food during their stay, with eating arrangements largely at the discretion of the host.

Rapoport adds: “I let out the second bedroom in my flat and it doesn’t make much of a dent in the £50-a-night charge if somebody shares my food or wine.

“If I’m cooking, I offer them a plate of food – and some hosts do cooked breakfasts before guests leave in the morning.

“Some hosts have long-held ambitions to get into the bed and breakfast business, either as main or supplementary income, so this is a easy way of finding out if they like the routine.”

Rapoport, who has worked full-time on the venture with co-founder Dan Hill since early 2009, says the key to the success of Crashpadder.com is good security: as both hosts and would-be guests exchange emails through the company.

Any host’s details are only revealed to visitors when the guest has made a payment by credit or debit card. Crashpadder.com holds the payment from guests as soon as the booking is confirmed, so there is no risk of non-payment.

Hosts can also check the guest feedback from previous stays before accepting any client for a booking. Hosts can reject any potential booking, for any reason they like.

With such strong demand for accommodation in 2012, Rapoport expects to plenty of competition soon.

One operator, Vive Unique, for instance, claims to be a booking specialist for unique city home rentals and a one-stop shop for any visitors to the London Olympics.

It offers properties from £150 per night, with extras including airport collection, personal chefs, babysitters, laundry services and even food for the fridge.

Information: www.crashpadder.com and www.viveunique.com