Make money letting your spare rooms

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A growing number of British homeowners are renting out spare bedrooms on a nightly basis to help cover mortgage repayments and other running costs, data from global homestay website 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 the Scottish capital each August, there is a general trend of rising bookings as more people need to turn unused space in towns and cities into occasional income,” the website’s founder and chief executive Stephen Rapoport, said.

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 the heart of 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.

With the Peak District on the doorstep and Sheffield just a short train ride away, there is scope for similar activities in and around Chesterfield.

Rapoport says: “The revenue which 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, 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 near Clapham Common, 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 an 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 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. 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 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.

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