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Local homeowners take advantage of Web-based room sharing option
Airbnb links travelers who don't want a hotel with those who have space to rent
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Airbnb host Aimee Martens provides a spacious area for her guests to use when they rent from her. She plans to expand from her current one-room rental inside her spacious Lake Lanier home.

Airbnb basics

• To become an Airbnb host, log on to airbnb.com.

• Follow the directions to start your own listing.

• Pay extra attention to your property’s write-up and the photos you post.

• Give potential guests a 360-degree view of the available space and include amenities, such as a pool or lake access.

• Post pictures of the available rooms and the views from the windows as well as images of nearby attractions.

• In the description include rules guests must abide by.

There’s no place like home. And when you’re on the road, sometimes a hotel just isn’t homey enough.

That’s where people such as Aimee Martens and Frank Shmays come in. They host travelers in their homes through Airbnb, a Web-based marketplace where people offer lodging options ranging from a shared room to an entire home to rent.

Martens and Shmays each own homes on Lake Lanier in Gainesville and offer different ways to experience the area.

Martens listed a room in her Pemmican Run house for rent for $100 a night on Airbnb in mid-September. Since then, she’s been host to 30 to 40 guests.

When he’s not using it, Shmays lists his entire lake house — his second home — for rent for $165 a night on the website.

Martens said she didn’t realize there was such a market for this type of lodging arrangement.

“If I have it open and I don’t block it, it’s booked,” said Martens, adding hosts can block off certain dates on the website.

She also has an instant book option on her account, allowing people to rent her room without first contacting her.

Shmays has been posting his home on Airbnb since June. His four-bedroom lake house sleeps up to 10. He estimates he’s been host to about 20 guests since June.

Since Shmays isn’t in the home at the same time as his guests, they have free use of the house.

“I’ve had the house for almost three years,” Shmays said. “I use it with the kids, generally during the summers, but it sits vacant the majority of the year.”

Hosting guests brings in additional income and keeps the home occupied. He’s had visitors from California, North Carolina, Louisiana and overseas.

“It’s just a different experience from being in a hotel,” he said.

Martens decided to offer a room for rent after using Airbnb to stay in Atlanta with her family. She had such a great time, then realized she also had room in her home for travelers.

“Everybody I’ve met so far has just been amazing,” she said. “Sometimes I don’t even know they’re there.”

Martens shares her home with her two young adult children. She said she feels safe allowing guests in her home, though all have to be verified by Airbnb in several ways before she will accept them.

“I live in a pretty large home and it’s just me,” Martens said. “I have two kids. One’s off doing her own job. And we have lots of different rooms in the house. I thought it would be a good opportunity to help with the income and pay for utilities and things like that.”

Martens offers a bedroom similar in size to a hotel room, plus a bathroom. She soon hopes to open her basement with two bunk beds.

Martens’ listing on Airbnb features photos of the room and views from its windows. It boasts a dock and lake access for swimming and fishing, a pool and hot tub, a gazebo with outdoor kitchen and a game room with bar area. Common areas outside of the bedroom are shared with guests.

“If you’re looking for a nice, relaxing weekend, it’s better than a hotel,” she said.

Martens said she enjoys interacting with her guests and encourages other people to give hosting with Airbnb a try.

“Do it if you’re an outgoing person and you don’t mind meeting other people,” she said.

Shmays’ advice to anyone considering Airbnb is to be open-minded.

“The hard hurdle is it’s your personal home that you’re offering to share with other people,” he said. “I enjoy sharing it, not necessarily for the extra income, but because it’s a nice place.”

Martens said it’s easy to get started. First, log on to the website, upload photos and describe what you’re offering. Then upload pictures and set a price.

Shmays agrees, saying the website is user-friendly with blogs for advice.

“The biggest part is the write-up,” Shmays said. “You’re inviting guests into your home. They have to know 1) who you are, and 2) enough information about the property to make a determination if they want to stay there.”

Shmays suggests being upfront in your listing about house rules and what is expected of guests. Be as transparent as possible in the description and photos.

Airbnb holds a security deposit if the home is damaged.

“Communication is absolutely the key to being a successful host in this community,” he said.

Shmays said posting pictures of nearby attractions is also useful. He said feedback drives the Airbnb community.

“The reviews and feedback you get from guests make you feel good when you hear those kinds of things about your home,” he said.

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