Startup Stars

Renting rooms on Airbnb for fun and profit

May 3, 2012: 5:00 AM ET

How does listing your space on the site really work?  Our intrepid reporter found out with a little help from her folks.

By Caitlin Keating, reporter

FORTUNE -- I put my home on Airbnb.

Let me clarify. I put my parents' apartment on Airbnb. As a 22-year-old recent college graduate living back at home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I thought listing our spare room on a rental site would be a great way to earn them some cash (and a "broker's fee" for me).

My parents had never heard of Airbnb. They stay in hotels. I told them I wanted to rent out some of the bedrooms of their apartment when they headed to the beach this summer, and they started thinking of all the valuables that could go missing. When I informed them that I could make them nearly $6,000, their resolve softened.

The way I look at it, Airbnb is a win-win situation for all involved. Hotel rooms are small, the minibar is even smaller, and room service for an entire family is more expensive than eating out. Living in someone's apartment is cheaper and more comfortable, and if you live in mine, you get a river and park view, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, dining room, and kitchen for $190 a night.

With my parents' go-ahead, I fluffed the large pillows on their bed, set the dining room table, lit candles in the living room, and shot the whole spread on my iPhone. Within minutes their apartment was on display for Airbnb's 1 million renters and hosts. Shortly afterward I received an inquiry from a senior at New York University looking to film his thesis in "my" apartment. The student agreed to pay almost $2,000 to use the apartment for four full days -- a premium price since we didn't vacate the apartment, and he brought in all his film equipment. But he didn't trash the place, his check cleared -- and with just a few clicks, my parents and I became social media mini-entrepreneurs.

Back to Airbnb: More than a place to crash

This story is from the May 21, 2012 issue of Fortune.

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