Don’t expect an answer from me because I simply don’t know. And I’m not going to say ‘perfect stranger’ because strangers are usually less than perfect. But imagine this…
You have a prized possession. Let’s say it’s a Ferrari.
Red, shining, powerful, beautiful.
It cost you a lot of money and it’s your pride and joy. Someone, a complete stranger to you, wants to borrow it for a week. Would you let them? I really think that you wouldn’t. Right?
If the person said that they’d pay you a couple of hundred dollars a day you might be tempted, but I still imagine that most people would say no. This is a total stranger after all and why would he or she want to borrow your car?
If you’re tempted, you might look into the cost of insuring this person for that week and find that it’s simply not worth it, there’d be no profit left in it for you.
Yet this ‘sort of thing’ happens all the time.
I say ‘sort of thing’ because I’m not referring to a precious Ferrari but something even more valuable. In the case of most people, the most valuable thing they will ever own is their property. True, it might belong mostly to the bank or mortgage company but nevertheless, they will never own anything more valuable. Ever.
But all the time, people are letting complete strangers into their homes, unaccompanied. And it’s not just the property either. The people who are using the home for the week, or whatever period of time, also have access to everything within the home that the owners have carefully purchased over the years.
And I’m not just talking about valuables such as the laptops, cameras and so on – most people have the sense to lock these away but they still leave other costly items available for these interlopers to use. Things like…
Televisions, kitchen appliances, paintings and artwork, costly-to-replace furniture, china and glassware, the hot tub, beddings and towels, small kitchen appliances such as blenders and that expensive set of Le Creuset cookware, books, musical instruments, electronics, exercise equipment, garden furniture, bikes, kayaks, rugs, games consoles, books, external drives, gardening equipment, plants, hobby materials, sewing or knitting machine, firepit, window treatments, laundry appliances, toys, games …
Oh, I can go on forever but you don’t need me to tell you just how much stuff we have in our homes and how much it would cost to replace it.
And yet people who are otherwise perfectly sane and reasonably sensible think it’s a great idea to list their home on an online vacation rental site such as Airbnb, HomeAway or whatever and them let total strangers stay in their home whilst they are away on their own trip.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m an Airbnb host and I love it.
It’s also possible to rent out your home from time to time as long as you have all the proper precautions in place. But people just don’t prepare properly. People who have no experience whatsoever in the hospitality industry are somehow bamboozled into thinking that it’s okay to leave their most precious possession in the hands of strangers for a week or two.
Then, they can find a curious thing when they get home. Their home hasn’t been as well looked after as they’d hoped. In fact, it hasn’t been well looked after at all.
The people who stayed there haven’t taken the garbage out, the beds are messy, the bathrooms are soggy, there are unwashed dishes, a window has been broken, the AC or heating has been left on, a lamp has been knocked over and broken, someone has put out a cigarette on the Persian rug…
It would be a lot better of course. Or it could be a lot worse.
And of course, the homeowners never thought for a minute that they’d need to get special insurance. (Although you do when someone wants to borrow your Ferrari for a week, right?) They expected that the home would be just as they left it – spick and span.
That’s just not going to happen.
So the unhappy homeowners get in touch with the people who listed their home for them, the advertising service, and complain. The advertising service can hardly be blamed though – all they did was put the homeowner and the guest in touch with one another so they try to brush it off.
But the homeowner’s not having that (‘I know my rights’) and so they get in touch with the media who blow up the story out of all proportion and, knowing that any article with Airbnb in the title will probably get attention, they make a meal of it.
And people read these stories and never think for a moment that the homeowner was pretty daft (actually I’d say totally crazy) to leave his or her most valuable possession in the hands of strangers. ‘Ah’ they think ‘it’s all the fault of those wicked short term rental services’.
Never for a moment do they wonder on what planet exactly would it be acceptable for greed to persuade otherwise sensible people to hand over their most precious possession for the sake of a few quid.
JJ is originally from the UK and has lived in South Florida since 1994. She is the founder and editor of JAQUO Magazine. You can connect with her using the social media icons below.