Buying a home large enough to give every one of your kids their own room is every parents’ dream. But what do you do with all the empty rooms when your kids have grown up, moved out and gotten married, when your home takes on that lonely quality which echoes the voices and memories of the past when your house was full and merry?
For those who suffer from this malady, there is an interesting solution to your problems. Did you know that you can meet new people just by opening your doors to friendly visitors and earn extra income at the same time? In a catching trend which is already popular abroad, more and more Malaysians are looking to turn their home into a homestay a.k.a ‘Bed & Breakfast’ or just plain ‘B&B’.
The catching interest in this phenomenon is due to the increasing number of foreign visitors to our country who are looking to soak up our culture and languages by being one with our family. So how do you turn your home into a warm and friendly welcoming spot to captivated foreigners looking to soak themselves in our unique Malaysian culture? Below are some tips to help you get started.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Step 1: Advertise
Once you have decided to open up your house as a homestay, you will need a reliable online third party to help you market your rooms for rent. Amongst the more popular homestay rental websites out there are AirBnB at https://www.airbnb.com/ or the local site iBilik at http://www.ibilik.my/.
Step 2: Create Your Account & Profile
Upon following the steps on the respective sites to open up your account, it is advisable to fill up everything that the website requests of you, such as the various contact information like email addresses, phone numbers and alternative contact numbers. The more complete your profile is, the more trustable you will appear to renters.
Step 3: Take Numerous High Quality Photos
Photos play a crucial role for renters and is often the deciding factor when they choose a venue. As such, make sure you post up high quality photos of various parts of your home, especially the rooms, bathrooms and various parts of the house which is open for use to your guests. If you have a garden, post up photos of your garden and the exterior of your home as well to give prospective visitors a good idea of what they are getting; and if you are staying in a condominium, post up photos of the various facilities available which may interest your prospective renters as well. The swimming pool and barbecue area is always a popular facility.
Step 4: Tell Your Guests Exactly What They Are Getting
Provide a good description of your home and what you are providing to your renters. Is there WiFi in your house? Do you have a spare desktop that you will be allowing them to use as well? How about ironing boards or perhaps mosquito nettings? What about the use of the fridge, microwave and kitchen. Will your guests be allowed to use everything in your house? Also tell your guests exactly where you are located and how far are you from the tourists spots and other places of interest.
Step 5: Lay Down the Ground Rules
Ground rules are usually subjective to owners, but here are some tips for some common rules to put down which may not have occurred to you:
- Halal/Non-Halal: If you are a Muslim, you will want to state clearly in your ad that only Halal food is allowed within the house, in case your guest ignorantly decides to bring some non-halal food home.
- No smoking: If your entire family doesn’t smoke, this rule could completely slip your mind when you are putting up your ad.
- No extra visitors: You take it for granted that your houseguests are as polite as you. But perhaps they are not.
- No pets: Your guests may think that their cute small house pets are acceptable and bring them over.
- No drugs: This may be an obvious ground rule, but it may not be as obvious to some visitors as the drug Weed is actually legal in certain countries.
Other rules to remember setting are the ‘Check In’ and ‘Check Out’ times, as you do not want to be wondering what time of the day your guest will be leaving. Also set a ‘non-refundable’ clause in your booking, in case your guest decides to go MIA on you on his day of arrival. This could be very bad for your business especially if it is peak season and you had to turn away other renters because of your MIA guest. You should also set the rates for additional charges in case your guests need an additional mattress for an additional guest, or maybe for a late check-out.
Step 6: Screen Your Houseguests Upon Application
While some third party websites may help you in the screening process, it is always good for you to screen potential guests yourself to better know your guests and what they are up to while in the area. While it may sound insulting to some guests, always ask for:
i) Number of guests
ii) Is it a group of family or friends coming over
iii) Purpose of stay
iv) Photocopy of IC if local, or photocopy of passport or any valid national ID if foreigner upon check-in (to deter illegal activity from being carried out in the house).
An excellent example of how a good ad will look like is http://www.ibilik.my/short_term_rentals/166310/double-storey-house-homestay
* Please take note that all ground rules need to be mentioned clearly in the ad description in advance, while screening of guests should be performed before you accept their application
You’re Good To Go!
Once you have completed all the steps above, many of which are easier said than done, then you’re good to go! Sit back, relax, and wait for the email which will inform you that you have an upcoming guest!
So now that you have a clear idea of what you need to do in order to post your room up, how do you prepare yourself for the arrival of your guest? It is simple if you are renting out your entire home and simply need to hand them the keys to your house, but if they are going to be staying under the same roof as you, it won’t be as easy as just handing them the keys to their bedroom. So here are some tips which will help you attract new guests and get you a great name in the industry!
1. Have a Tidy Home
Nobody likes to stay in a pig sty, and an open and welcoming home does wonders for the reviews of your homestay, attracting re-visiting tourists and recommendations. Reviews and recommendations are important in attracting new guests.
Would you rather stay in a room which looks like this:
Or like this:
2. Respect Their Privacy
Respect the privacy of your visitors. Granted they are staying in your home, you have no right to poke and pry into their belongings when they are not around. In fact it would be better to provide them with the key to their rooms and allow them to lock their room doors when they go out, as this will give them a better sense of security.
3. Local Delights for Your Guests!
Your visitors have come to Malaysia to submerge themselves in our culture. While not all of us are in the culture of cooking our own breakfast every morning, many of us are in the habit of going out to ‘tapao’ or ‘bungkus' our first meals of the day. Well, grab one for your guest too! Nasi lemak, kuih, roti canai, dim sum, fried mee hoon with sambal and telur mata (fried egg). These foods are the norm for us but not for them, and we know where to get the best ones! This is a small gesture but nevertheless one that they will appreciate enormously as they try our different foods. Cooking dinner? Make an extra portion for your guest too! It’ll cost you next to nothing and you’ll get to do some precious bonding with them over the dinner table!
4. Be Helpful
Your visitors have come to Malaysia also to visit our landmarks and monuments. While they may be as well prepared as a seasoned traveller, they may also be as well unprepared as a newbie backpacker. So do what you can to help them! Buy a map from a bookshop, mark down the good places for visitors to visit and loan it to your guest when they come over! This is another small gesture that will go a long way in making your guests feel welcomed.
5. Tour Guide Anyone?
If you are a retiree with nothing but more time than you know what to do with in your hands and you love travelling, you can package your room with tour services for an additional fee; especially if you are staying alone with your spouse and only get to enjoy the company of your children during the weekends. You could bring them to try out your favourite bowl of noodles at Petaling Street or maybe even bring them to Malacca for a memorable day trip in the week! After all as a local, you know that the best places to find food and cultural exposure are not at the tourist traps.
6. Extra Services
Provide other items you think they might find necessary, such as bicycles with safety chains if you are staying close to the city where it is convenient to travel by bicycle, as Western foreigners absolutely adore the sun in our country and love to stay out in the sun for as long as they can. Other services you could provide are perhaps pickup services from the airport for an extra fee, and if you have an extra car sitting at home offer it out for rent to your guests as well!
By doing all of the above, you are essentially making your guest part of your family. This is the ultimate satisfaction for both parties where both will take away a treasure trove of experiences and memories.
With all the simple dos above, below are some simple but impactful don’ts that you should strive never to do.
1. Stay Out Of My Personal Life!
Some people may be more protective of their privacy than others, and some may not be as grateful for your hospitality and assistance as others. Do not take offence, and simply leave them be if that is what they wish for. Also, some visitors may also be more close mouthed than others and will not wish to divulge their personal lives. If they do not wish to talk about life in their country, then don’t be nosy or poke and pry into their lives unless they volunteer the information.
2. Don’t Touch My Stuff!
Some of you may offer cleaning services for your guests, and some may not. Whatever the case whether you are ‘allowed’ into their rooms or not, do not mess with their stuff without their permission. This can cause a lot of misunderstandings if they find out, especially if they misplace their stuff and cannot find it.
3. Even My Parents Don’t Do That!
While this is your home ground and you may know Malaysia much better than your visiting guests, do not force your opinion on them. For example if they wish to visit Morib because they say that the beaches there are beautiful, you may inform that the beaches in Port Dickson or Cherating are better. But if they insist that they wish to visit the beaches in Morib, then let them do so. Do not berate them, insist and persist that they should not because it’s lousy. They are their own persons after all, and you will earn a name for being pushy and controlling.
4. The BIG No-No
A picture tells a thousand words, a big no-no is posting up misleading photos of your home such as using fish eye lens to make the room appear bigger or putting up photos of the Master Bedroom when it is not open for rent. This will earn you a reputation for being deceiving. Another gimmick used by the fortunately rare and less scrupulous homestay owner is posting up photos of sexy girls taken together with the home. You are running a homestay, not a brothel. Please do not lower yourselves and tarnish the industry.
With all the above suggestions and advice to help you out in turning your house into a friendly and welcoming homestay, it is always best to remember that flexibility is important and not all situations work the same way. For example if your guest actually has a daughter or niece in the country and you have a ‘No Visitors’ rule; turn a blind eye and allow the relative over, maybe even to stay a couple of nights for free in the same room as your guest. It won’t hurt you and it’ll earn you the reputation of being an awesome host!
(Written by: Diane Foo Eu Lynn, 28th September 2015)