Renting Rooms to Travelers Can Be a Source of Income Later in Life


Divorced in 2012, Jacque Schultz, 66, heard about Airbnb at a party and looked at the furnished but unused downstairs of her duplex, which has a separate entrance, as a potential profit center. “It was more house than I needed,” she said of the property, which is in Nashville. She added a luggage rack.

Her guests have included European tourists, performers who come to the area for a gig and recent college graduates on job searches. During winter months, she visits family in Florida.

Ms. Schultz says that the unit, which rents for $110 a night, is booked about 15 to 20 days a month.

Airbnb says the average senior host receives about $6,000 a year for about 60 days of work. The company charges hosts a 3 percent booking fee, as does Vacation Home Rentals. Fees at other companies vary.

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A guest in Valerie Valdez’s home.

Credit
Jason Henry for The New York Times

Having strangers nearby doesn’t faze her. “I’ve not had a single negative experience,” she said. She turned away one persistent guest who wanted to circumvent the registration process. She relies on Airbnb’s screening to weed out undesirable guests.

“A potential host or guest is disqualified if he or she appears on state or national sex offender registries, terrorism designations or if they have been convicted of a violent crime, serious sexual offense and prostitution or felony-related drug offenses,” Nick Shapiro, an Airbnb spokesman, wrote in an email.

The company said its hosts can require guests to provide a government ID, like a driver’s license or passport. And they created a program called Verified ID for guests, which connects this offline identification to their Airbnb profile. The company says adding publicly available reviews and feedback also helps create an atmosphere of trust.

Experts say hosting provides some nonmonetary benefits as well. It “allows you to stay in your home longer, adds a level of social engagement and provides some level of daily purpose,” said Ken Smith, director of mobility at the Stanford Center on Longevity.

Opening your home to guests can mean almost always being on, as Elle La Forge, 65, found out when she began renting out the ground floor of her townhouse in the St. George neighborhood of Staten Island, a short walk to the ferry to Manhattan.

She invested $5,000, painted and installed a new floor, and added appliances, glasses, dishes and a microwave. For a private space that sleeps up to three, she charges $80 a night for one person and $10 a night for each additional person.

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Valerie Valdez, center, with a Swedish family that rented out her entire home.

Credit
Jason Henry for The New York Times

“It does tie you down,” Ms. La Forge said. “I have my phone with me all the time.”

One guest, she recalled, phoned after departure for a lesson in paying tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike. But her solicitousness, and the general enjoyment she takes in helping point her guests to tourist attractions and other options, pays off. She is almost fully booked through September, she said.

Airbnb said women over 60 are consistently the highest-rated in the company’s star system.

Edward LeMay, 73, a retired accounting professor, is another popular host. He has augmented his pension and retirement income by renting out rooms in his rowhouse in the South End of Boston. The extra income has provided him with the means to take piano and voice lessons, and travel to Israel and Turkey with the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus.

In comments online, guests praise his warm welcome and engaging conversation.

Still, his hospitality has limits. For two couples looking to stay together during the crowded Boston Marathon event, he agreed to give up his own room. But then he received a belated four-page complaint letter from one of them about some minor repairs that were going on at the time.

He did not need to reimburse the guests, but it still left a sour taste that they hadn’t recognized that he had gone out of his way to help them. “Even if someone is very nice, they aren’t necessarily going to be a good guest,” he said.

Others prefer the reciprocity of Evergreen B&B Club. Nancy Kennedy, 78, a weaver from Eureka, Calif., drives to shows to display her handmade rugs and stays with club members en route. “It’s a way to cut costs and make new friends,” she said. She discussed “politics and life” with one host. At another destination, the host told her where to find the key and left food in the refrigerator.

Ms. Valdez has told friends and relatives about her experiences and encouraged them to join Airbnb as well. She has entertained German, French and Chinese tourists simultaneously.

“It makes me feel like I am traveling around the world,” she said.

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