Renters Become Hoteliers on a new Web Site

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airbnb.comYou've got some space and a spare air mattress; they've got some extra cash and a need for a comfy place to sleep. There's only one solution. Thanks to websites like Airbnb, anyone with a bit of extra space can transform their home, or at least part of it, into a makeshift bed and breakfast. Connecting frugal travelers with accommodations ranging from a free couch in Tribeca, New York to a private tree house loft in Sempora, Malaysia, Airbnb offers hosts in any of the 90 countries the ability to make a little side cash off of their extra space with the site itself taking a 12 percent cut on all reservations.
"These are total strangers," stated Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk in an interview with The Seattle Times. "It's why we stress transparency."

Airbnb.com isn't the only site that turns average homes into money-making endeavors nor is it the first to cut pricey hotels out of travel. Couchsurfing.org has long connected weary travelers with generous hosts offering free couches while sites like Mindmyhouse and Housecarers offer free board in exchange for house sitting or pet care. Of course there's always Craigslist for the truly desperate. Perhaps the closest thing to the Airbnb model are sites like Sparefoot that allow anyone with extra space to rent out spare rooms, garages or even a few unused square feet to those seeking a cheaper alternative to renting a full storage unit.

The difference with Airbnb.com is that to make it work, those offering to host passing tourists have to figure out where the line between friendly sleepover and rented guesthouse lie...how much to charge and what services will be offered for the price. These, like standard hotel accommodations themselves, run the gamut from ultra low-cost, no frills experiences-think $20 to sleep on a living room futon in Seattle-to a $1,200-a-night-mansion in Cape Town, South Africa that includes private swimming pool, gym, private library, home theatre, maids, private grocery service and butler. Pets, amenities, domestic arguments, weird travelers, weird hosts, all of these factor into the Airbnb experience as well, forcing both parties to have an air of adventure before signing into the deal. Regardless of the uncertainty involved, the model is working and dramatically expanding. The site currently lists more than 12,000 places to crash in 2,700 cities across the globe with new amateur hoteliers earning dough from their spare space everyday.

Maybe home is where the heart is as well as the hard-earned cash.
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