Are you looking for a unique vacation or something more affordable? Maybe you are looking to make some extra money off of your home that sits empty. Either way, Airbnb can help you. Airbnb is an online service that matches hosts and travelers, creating a relationship and transaction that works for both.

Photo Credit: Chris Weeks/Getty Images for Airbnb

What Is Airbnb?

Airbnb offers a community marketplace setting online where travelers can rent spaces from hosts around the world. Spaces available to rent include rooms, apartments, condos, homes, bed and breakfasts, castle and igloos. This community makes it possible for travelers to book affordable and unique accommodations and builds real connections among people around the world. Those offering their homes for rent are called hosts and through Airbnb, they are connected with vacationers looking for a more personal touch to their accommodation choice during their vacation.

All users must register and create a personal profile online. This must be completed before being given access to use the site. Once registered, you can search through thousands of accommodation options, see recommendations and reviews by previous guests and use the private messaging system.

Payments are made through Airbnb, making it a secure and safe way to handle transactions for both the renter and the home owner.

Pros And Cons

With any online reservation system, there are pros and cons to using the system. This includes the services offered through Airbnb. Both hosts and travelers find they benefit from using the services through Airbnb and many return when looking to rent their home or find their travel accommodations.

Benefits of using Airbnb include:

  • Meeting people from around the world
  • Hosts can make a little extra month
  • Travelers can find affordable accommodations
  • Travelers can enjoy a different experience than a standard hotel would offer
  • Personalized service

Some concerns brought up by previous users on various online sites include:

  • Risks of the host’s property getting damaged
  • Risks of the host’s property being stolen
  • Travelers find the property does not meet the description
  • Travelers are unable to reach the host when needed

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Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Hosts

As a host through Airbnb, you are able to put your property up for rent and make a little extra money. However, before placing your home on the marketplace, you must decide if Airbnb is the best way for you to rent out your home. The best thing about being a host with Airbnb is that you get to decide how much to rent your space for and determine who will be staying in your home.

The website offers a chance to get to know your travelers through profiles and a messaging system. This makes it possible for hosts to feel a little bit more comfortable about who they are allowing to stay in their home.

If your home is rented by a traveler, you will be paid for the reservation 24 hours after they have checked in. Airbnb will pay you directly and discourages any cash or in-person transactions. This is mostly to protect both the host and traveler. Airbnb charges a three percent service fee to the host before the money is sent.

It is also important to look into local laws and insurance coverage before renting out your home. You need to determine if it is legal to rent out your home and if you are covered should something happen to your property or one of your guests. Airbnb offers an extended insurance policy to hosts for an additional charge.

As a host, you get to decide how much you will charge for your home, if a deposit or full payment is required and set your own cancellation and refund policy. Should there be an issue, Airbnb offers an online Resolution Center where both hosts and guests can turn to when there is a problem or dispute with a transaction.

Travelers

When planning a vacation, Airbnb offers travelers an opportunity to stay in unique places at affordable prices. Most locations listed on the marketplace are not typical hotel rooms and offer a different experience when staying in a new area. Depending upon the type of place you rent out, you will get more space for your money, as well as being able to find the perfect accommodations for your travel needs.

The downside to staying at a home listed on Airbnb is the lack of amenities. Of course you have the benefit of staying in a home all to yourself, but you might be lacking the services offered through hotels and resorts, such as housekeeping, on-site maintenance, room service, concierge, a bellman and other on-site amenities offered at most hotels.

Payment forms accepted include Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, JCB, PayPal and Google Wallet. Travelers also pay a 6-12 percent guest service fee above and beyond the reservation cost.

It does not matter if you are the traveler or host, take time to explore Airbnb and do some research to determine if using the site is for you. You may find it is the vacation planning service you have been looking for.

Related: Guide To Vacationing In Arizona

Heather Landon is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has combined two of her passions – writing and travel – to share her experiences with others. You can read more of her articles at Examiner.com.

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