It’s very nice that the world has a hotel industry, but that doesn’t mean we have to restrict ourselves to hotel rooms when we are traveling. There are a great number of homeowners and apartment dwellers out there who have a residence, or a room, that is furnished but unoccupied, and that is just waiting to generate a bit of income for the owner, and a fun, innovative experience for travelers.
9Flats.com has figured out a safe and secure way to connect these two groups of people through their innovative new website. The site acts as a brokerage that enables home and room owners to list their properties for short and medium-term rental by interested parties.
This is a practice that is now booming, and that is putting to use a great number of properties that had been sitting unused until now, for lack of a secure manner to connect reputable owners with reputable travelers. It’s worth noting that just a few years ago, in the pre-Internet era, classified ads in newspapers and magazines were the only way for willing owners and willing renters to meet each other. That was not a recipe for safety or security, and of course private rentals were never able to take off in that insecure environment.
That has all changed now, and one of the premier sites in this area is 9flats.com, which has made it particularly easy for owners to list with them. The site boasts that you will be able to add your residence to the site’s extensive list of listings in just a few minutes. Clearly a lot of homeowners agree, since the company now lists over 250,000 residences for travelers to choose from worldwide.
The company’s site states that it intends to make travel more rewarding, comfortable, and affordable, and give homeowners any easy way to boost their income. They note as well that a useful side-effect is that, by encouraging this practice, the world will be able to make smarter use of its existing resources.
Users of the service rent from a person rather than a hotel, and of course people have lower overhead costs, and accordingly can charge less than hotels and the service will still be worthwhile. The result is that locations that were previously unobtainable because they were highly exclusive, and with limited room availabilities, are not accessible by people with “normal” incomes. And while traveling, you will be able to enjoy the local foods by cooking them yourself in a fully-stocked kitchen. That is a key financial, and probably culinary, advantage over eating out three times a day.
Moreover, the experience of coming home after a day of sightseeing or vacation fun, and being welcomed into an actual home rather than a hotel room, and having available a library, a set of CDs, and perhaps a stylish espresso machine, is an intangible advantage that many seasoned travelers will value very highly. You also get access to a host, or host family, who know the local area and can plug you in to the type of dining and entertainment that interests you most.
For host owners, the “product” being offered is a listing service, a guarantee of reputable guests, and of course those payouts that you get once you begin putting your property to good use. The company assures hosts that they will be able receive payment directly from their guests, and thus without any waiting on banks or PayPal. Moreover, you will not have to check incoming payments. Instead, just hand over your invoice electronically, after receiving the money.
The firm notes that, while hosts can also choose bank-based payment, hosts who choose direct payment from guests get far more bookings. Hosts can also indicate on the website how much they want per night or per week, and that will simply be the amount that they will receive. The website notes that they will list the property at a somewhat higher price, and will pocket the difference as their fee, but that is money the hosts never sought to receive in the first place.
Also, if 9Flats sets the price to high, they won’t be doing much business, and our survey of the listed prices has persuaded us that they keep their margins low in order to generate a lot of room-sharing for clients, and profits for themselves. The firm, in addition, will inform you if the prices you are asking are not in line with market prices. Overall, it’s a win-win.
They are low, ranging from a frighteningly low price of 10 Euros per night offered by a Berlin host (we’ll pass, thank you, but shoestring young adult travelers might be interested), to prices at any and every level. With over 250,000 listings, really everything is available, and at every price. Also, the lovingly photographed residences that you can flip through on your computer or smartphone offer you the assurance of knowing precisely what you are paying for.
The company has established a number of useful service advantages, and we’ll survey them here. For one thing, hosts will receive booking requests in the form of emails or text messages, and will be required to reply within 24 hours (after all, the guests don’t want to be left hanging). The firm assures hosts that so long as they accept bookings quickly, maintain good reviews, and keep their calendar up-to-date, you can qualify as an “instant booking host,” and secure even more bookings with that favored status.
Now, probably the best insurance that the company offers to its hosts is, believe it or not, actual insurance. The hosts’ property is in all cases insured by 9Flats.insurance, at no cost to the hosts, for the duration of each guest’s stay. We rate this advantage, which is not offered by all competing private-rental brokerages, very highly, and our positive recommendation for the company is in large part based on this feature.
But the customer support does not stop there. The firm also offers direct support through an international customer service team that can handle your queries in many different languages, ensuring that you will only need to know how to speak just one language.
If you want to have the company handle payment, they will of course, and you as a host will receive the funds one day after your guest arrives. All such payment is handled online, and you will not need to worry about processing.
There were a few from unsatisfied guests, but not many at all from hosts. And the criticisms were by and large restricted to experiences at the homes of newer hosts, who did not yet have an established set of reviews. We did not see complaints, generally, from guests who stayed with hosts who had been vetted by other guests. It therefore seems to us that so long as you stick with hosts who have been working with 9Flats for a while, and have been rated highly by prior guests, the system will work well for you.
This is an idea that the Internet has now made into a reality. While hotel companies may need to adjust their business plans a bit to accommodate this new entrant in the field of guests services, private home owners and adventurous travelers have much to gain from each other, now that they can connect through private home-rental brokerages. We consider 9Flats to be one of the best of these, and it has earned a very high rating from us as a result of this survey.