By Roslyn H. Wright
In early 2016 I nearly sold my house in Newport. I was widowed, living in a huge four-bedroomed house on my own, and had estate agents knocking on the door, telling me how much money they could get for me. I nearly signed a contract for a property in the country, had banking and finance in progress and then I pulled the plug. I wasn’t ready to leave the house we had built, the neighbours and friends in the area, and the wonderful western suburbs.
So what to do? I realised I didn’t particularly want to leave the house, with views of Newport Lakes parkland, and the memories of a life shared with my beloved. It was a resource though that should be utilised, and I needed some income. I could take in a boarder or two, but what if I didn’t get on with them and they were here long term? I also pulled back on the idea of having a student who needed meals provided, because I was studying and doing shift work as a pastoral care intern. It was going to be challenging enough to cook for myself!
Airbnb to the rescue
Then I remembered Airbnb. I have stayed with Airbnb hosts when I have travelled interstate, and thought about how I could use my space to offer accommodation. Being short term I reasoned that if I had unpleasant guests they’d soon be moving on. I love travelling, and have done a lot of overseas travel. So if I couldn’t afford to get out and see more of the world, maybe I get the world to come to me!
So over several months I gradually set up
My house is on two levels, and I largely live upstairs. So the downstairs space had prime development potential. I painted the bedroom, and bought fresh linen, scrounged through the surplus furniture my daughters were storing in the garage to find bits and pieces – a wardrobe, bedside tables, and a blanket box. Then I turned the small bedroom next door into a breakfast-room using an old table that came up a treat when sanded and painted, and a cupboard converted into a breakfast bar with toaster, kettle and a dinner-ware. I kept looking through what I had and how I could use it, and realised I also had a couch deemed surplus to requirements to provide a sitting space in the breakfast room.
I went back into planning mode while waiting for more enquires. Time to consider what could be done in the laundry to create a kitchenette. I didn’t have funds to remodel. I went back out to the garage (it is a BIG garage and there is a lot of STUFF in there!), and found a table/desk that just fitted next to the washing machine. I bought a microwave and dug out a 2-burner electric hot plate that I used for camping. Another scrounge through the kitchen cupboards to find cooking gear and we were ready! I decided that I’d provide a ‘welcome hamper’ for initial breakfast, and then people could look after themselves.
October came, as did my first guests! Two young German men on a working holiday around Australia as part of their gap-year post-university. They came for a few weeks, and were quite lovely. It was a delightful surprise to come home on the weekend and find them vacuuming their space!
Then a young French couple, visiting from New Zealand, with family close by in one of the adjoining streets. And the ‘family close by’ has become quite a pattern. I have now had three grandparent couples come to stay while they are visiting their children and grandchildren living in Spotswood/Newport. They want a retreat of their own at the end of the day and a comfortable bed to sleep in. Family happy-times are so much more pleasant when you don’t have to be together 24/7, and the grandchildren haven’t been ousted from their beds to accommodate you.
Build it and they will come
I have been fortunate that I have had solid bookings since October last year. I hope that continues, and think I might have a niche market for visiting grandparents. I love preparing some surprise welcome treats for guests, and my home-made bread is always appreciated.
I have enjoyed meeting people. We have shared stories, de- briefed about family (delights and otherwise), and built some great friendships. And now I have some places to stay when I do get to go overseas again. I hope the world keeps coming.
The welcome mat is out!
Roslyn can be found at airbnb.com.au/rooms/10571755