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What We Learned From Living in an Airbnb for A Year

Perth CBD and wildflowers

Moving abroad without a new home to go to sounds terrifying. And it was! We made the decision to live in Airbnb’s throughout our time in Perth for a few reasons, several of which were beyond our control. However, this has meant we’ve gained a very unique experience of Airbnb’s and holiday rental accommodation – both from a short term and long term view. Here are a few things we learned from living in an Airbnb for a year.

We LOVED living in Perth. Like, so much. It holds a special place in our hearts. It’s the first place we lived together after beating long distance at last, and the lifestyle we enjoyed opened our eyes to a new perspective.

Living in an Airbnb when you move abroad isn’t going to sound that appealing to most. I’ll admit, I was apprehensive of not having a proper place to call home for a whole year. But within a couple of months we soon found that the flat we’d taken a chance on before even stepping foot in Australia felt more like home than we’d have imagined. Yes, it had quirks and aspects we didn’t love, but whose home doesn’t?

Living in an Airbnb taught us a lot. It taught us about living together as a couple for the first time. It taught us about long term holiday rentals. And it taught us about Airbnb as a platform. We saw the good and the bad sides of it all – from the kindness of local hosts to massively oversold accommodation.

Perth city from Elizabeth Quay

We stayed in 4 Airbnb’s while living in Perth

For context, the timeline of our Airbnb experiences went like this:

  • 2 month – Northbridge
  • 1 week – East Perth
  • 2.5 months – Northbridge
  • (holiday in Europe)
  • 2 weeks – Scarborough
  • 1 month – Northbridge
  • (holiday in New Zealand)
  • 1 month – Cottesloe
  • 2 months – Northbridge

I appreciate it looks a bit all over the place, but hear me out… We had to leave the first place in Northbridge as there was another booking halfway through our first 2 months, and we moved right back. Then we went on holiday so moved out for 3 weeks before coming back and deciding to stay near the beach. We didn’t love it there, so went back to our old favourite until the Christmas break and when we came back decided to stay near the beach again but in a different suburb. It wasn’t quite the right fit long term so came back to our fav place once more. See, simple! And people wonder why I avoided giving them my address…

In this time, we also housesat for Kaz’s family in Fremantle and went back to New Zealand for Christmas… So as you can imagine there was a lot of movement in just under a year!

Sunset over Perth CBD

How was living in an Airbnb different to a short term stay in an Airbnb?

Of course, this wasn’t our first experience with Airbnb. Looking back through my account, the first time I used Airbnb was in 2016 – when Kazimir came to visit me in the UK for the first time (cue the awww’s). We had a teeny private room and bathroom in someone’s flat in Kings Cross, London. It was nothing special and we only stayed 2 nights, but it was enough.

We’ve used Airbnb roughly half the time on trips since then. Opting for booking.com alternatives the other half. We consider ourselves frills-free travellers. Not shoestring budget, but mostly comfortable without a big fuss. We do like to splash out on occasion, but it we keep it reasonable. Airbnb is PERFECT for this style of travel. We love road trips, and we love having space to cook for ourselves so Airbnb just makes financial and practical sense.

Overall, the short term stays we’ve experienced have been very pleasant. There has been the odd shock (see: shitty Bristol Airbnb host after a day of travel fails) but on the whole nothing serious or distressing. I consider ourselves very lucky in this regard. I know how easily people have been screwed over by negative experiences.

Basically, we went into long term Airbnb rental with optimism. And rightly so. Perth, Australia has plenty of Airbnb listings. Especially within our budget range we knew we wouldn’t be scraping the barrel for somewhere comfortable to live.

Best things to do in Perth - one day itinerary. City views of Perth from Elizabeth Quay

The similarities between living in an Airbnb vs a short stay are:

  • The interior design styles we did and didn’t like. We liked somewhere that felt both contemporary but cosy. A place that would immediately feel homely, as that’s what it would be!
  • Budget flexibility. Like with all holiday rentals, the budget we’d set for the long term was an important factor in our decision-making process. We dabbled in looking at places slightly above our price range, but also knew we’d be unlikely to find a steal. We weren’t about to get greedy, nor did we want to live in a hovel.
  • Neighbourhoods and nearby facilities. Obviously when you’re on holiday you want to be close to the action and have all the facilities nearby that matter to you. That didn’t change when we knew we’d stay there long term, in fact it was possibly even more important.

Things To Know When Moving To London - Key sits on a bed. Debating and discussing rent prices in London is a hot topic!

The differences between living in an Airbnb vs a short stay are:

  • What we searched for & what our priorities were (location, facilities, amenities). Unlike with a short stay, we knew we couldn’t “just make do” with certain situations. For example, we KNEW we wanted an entire place stay. Not a room to rent in a shared home. WiFi was also non-negotiable as I would be working from home.
  • Our standards. Similarly, we expected the place we stayed in to be of a liveable standard. This meant cleanliness had to be moving-in grade good. The ick I get with Airbnb is not knowing how many faces have touched that pillow before you. I know it’s the same in hotels, but they’ll likely have rotation systems to replace used items – the rules are not so clear in Airbnb’s. When you’re living somewhere for longer than a short trip, you need to know that it’ll be hygienic and clean to use for your entire stay.
  • How we used the space. Obviously, living somewhere for a year, we didn’t eat out every night. On holiday you might not once use the kitchen in an Airbnb, but we most certainly did! We also fully unpacked and utilised all the storage space. We of course cleaned the flat regularly, something most visitors wouldn’t think to do during a few days away. This was rather interesting to see what actually is available to you!

hotel bottles stacked against a rolled up towel

Pros of living in an Airbnb:

It’s fully furnished

You won’t waste money and resources on getting towels, linen, utensils, etc. It’s all there for you! To remove that stress on arrival into a new city take a lot of pressure off an international move.

No bills

Bills such as water, electricity, WiFi are included in the cost of your stay. It’s a big relief not to worry about setting up new contracts, calling providers, getting the best deals, calculating monthly costs… And neither of us are wasteful with energy or water so we knew we were using well within our fair means as customers.

Cleanliness

Airbnb rentals should meet a certain standard of cleanliness when you check in. Furthermore, for long term rentals the host will often offer a regular cleaner to come around for an additional charge. Perfect if you don’t like doing it yourself or won’t have time.

Less admin

As you’re renting a long term holiday home, you won’t have the admin of agreements, deposits, inspections, etc. As you’re NOT a tenant, you are a paying customer. You’ll simply agree to the Airbnb terms, pay, and be on your way. It’s ideal when you’re just arriving in a new country and don’t even have a bank account yet…

A ready-made home

On check-in you’ll have everything you need to live there. You won’t worry about moving vans or decorating or any of the fussy details that comes with moving. You simply collect the keys, unpack your belongings, and you’re good to go.

Perth CBD and wildflowers

Flexibility

The great thing about living in an Airbnb is that if you get tired of your home, you can move out and find a new place! For a couple of months we moved every 2 weeks (not by choice but by circumstance). It wasn’t ideal, but it did mean we got to try out several other suburbs around Perth and experience different homes. If nothing else, I’ve got a great idea of what I want from my future home from sampling so many styles!

We also got to base our movements on what lifestyle changes we wanted. Our summer was spent living by the beach, and winter in the city. We also didn’t know how long we’d be in Perth. Due to Kaz’s work we could be asked to move across the country at a moment’s notice (and it nearly happened!). Having a long or fixed term tenancy would have been impossible.

This flexibility was so unusual but so appreciated, and I don’t think you’d get this freedom to choose where you live to such an extent in any other lifestyle except for being a digital nomad.

Airbnb

It can be useful to have a third-party platform to go through for your correspondence and payment. It reduces concern for a lot of people, and oftentimes if you need a cancellation window or further support that is available through the platform. Be warned, though, it’s not a perfect system. Bad hosts or dodgy loop holes still occur…

Cons of Living in an Airbnb:

Less control

This isn’t your home, and you can’t just rearrange the furniture, chuck out the old frying pans, and so on. You have to treat things with care and leave it in the same state as which you found it – warts and all. You’re also stuck with the slow internet speed, the curtains that don’t block out the light, the flat-as-a-pancake pillow.

Personal style

The generic art work and IKEA invasion might not be to everyone’s taste. I can’t count how many times we said “that’s not really for me” or “I wouldn’t choose that for myself”. But you have to make do, and if it doesn’t impact your daily life all that much you can get around it. As I mentioned, it taught us a lot about what we appreciated and wanted from any future home. It was a great couple’s activity too!

Price

You probably could afford a much nicer place outside of Airbnb. The prices of homes on Airbnb are based on supply and demand. The higher the price, the more demand there is and the host knows that they can jack up the costs when supply is low. We looked at several gorgeous flats to rent for a fraction of the weekly cost of an Airbnb, and my heart broke a little. BUT you are paying for all the convenience and benefits that come with a fully furnished, decorated, maintained home. Ultimately, it was the right choice for our situation.

sunset over swan river facing perth city

Self-awareness

I was acutely aware at times that this was an Airbnb, not our home. While we easily settled in and became rather attached, the signs of the “check out rules” and the locked cleaner’s cupboard were daily reminders that we were just customers. Our rights and freedom to use the space as we’d wish only went so far. It didn’t really impact our time living in the Airbnb’s, but it did make me feel like this was a very temporary arrangement.

I also was super conscious of someone else having stayed in “our” home each time we moved. We came back to the same flat several times, and each time we checked in we scoured the place for changes and additions. A new rug! A new dryer! SO exciting. But, with that also came the ick that someone has been stomping around my little home… Especially when we found someone’s dirty clothes in our wardrobe, and a brand new makeup stain in the wall. Thanks, previous guests.

Yes, I know we chose to leave a few times, but still. It felt weird. It’s the ongoing dilemma we faced to use this opportunity to explore other homes and areas (yay, fun!) and stay put to nest into our little home (yay, comfort!). Ultimately, we found a decent balance that suited us. But yeah, the ick never quite goes away.

Availability

We were SO lucky to find a home we liked that was available for several months. This, I can appreciate, is rare. And without it, living in an Airbnb and moving by force so often would have been stressful and tiring. Even the few months we did move a lot were bad enough!

To be honest though, it was pretty stressful.

We paid and booked our accommodation monthly (who can afford a year’s rent upfront?!) but although we made a great arrangement with the host that they blocked out the months ahead, it came with an agonising scramble to pay quickly before someone else when they became unblocked.

There were a couple of instances where we were pipped to the post by another guest and left looking elsewhere… Hence our regular movements during November-December! BUT, on the whole we are glad to have found an understanding and helpful host. I mean, they got mega dollar from us sooo seems only fair to be treated well.

Airbnb

Airbnb take a huge service fee. Not only that, but they have been found to completely ignore and disregard genuine and occasionally serious concerns from customers. Scammers faking rentals or offering extremely low-quality accommodation for extortionate prices (and then threatening guests if they don’t provide positive reviews) is a real and scary side of Airbnb.

Putting your trust in a platform’s service and being one of the few to be found in a terrible situation is a risk we all take when we make a booking. So, although there is the benefit of having a third party involved it can’t be relied upon to step up when needed. Luckily, we didn’t encounter any such situations during our year of living in Airbnb’s!

Final thoughts on living in an Airbnb in Perth

Could you live in an Airbnb permanently? Probably. But the question is WOULD you. Personally, it wouldn’t be for me. If we had to do it again, I would and I’d use all the lessons we learned and apply them to have an even better experience. I’m grateful for not being wasteful and buying unnecessary items for a home only to discard them again a year later, and I’m grateful for the ease at which we could move in and out.

Will we actively choose to live like this again? Who knows. It works really well for digital nomads, long term business travellers like us, and luxury solo travellers. I also think the destination makes a big difference for living in an Airbnb. My Instagram feed is packed with bloggers living a nomadic lifestyle in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam.

These South East Asia countries seem to have a decent system to service those looking for a tropical yet practical lifestyle without the commitment. Luckily, in these destinations renting long term Airbnb properties is probably more affordable than private rentals so it makes sense financially and from a lifestyle point of view. In Australia, I’ll admit I don’t think it’s as suitable to live in an Airbnb. At least, not long term. As much as we would have LOVED to stay longer in Perth, doing so would have needed an adjustment to find a more permanent home that’s just for us.

In any case, I’m grateful for our experience of living in an Airbnb. I know we’ll definitely look back on it with fond disbelief! It’s exciting to think about a future where we can build our own home together. One where we can include all the things we learned and loved into a new, permanent home that we love.

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    ellieslondon
    06/01/2020 at 4:01 pm

    This post was super interesting to me as it is from the other side to what I usually see. A few years ago we put our house on Air BnB and it was quite an experience having people in the house similar to how you stayed for several months. My main concern was always hoping people felt as at home as possible 😀 x

    • Reply
      suzystories
      06/02/2020 at 12:23 am

      Oooh interesting!! I reckon I’d really enjoy creating a lovely Airbnb home for people to visit after all our experience 😀 You can really tell the hosts who’ve put in the effort to make guests feel at home, especially for long term visitors. On behalf of all your guests thanks for doing so!

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