How to turn your spare room into a crash pad for tourists
Take advantage of the scarcity of hotel rooms by hosting paying visitors. Felicity Cannell reports
Sunday 02 May 2010
Crashpadder.com is an internet site dedicated to just that – pads to crash in.
The brainchild of former online marketing consultant Stephen Rapoport, the company was conceived 10 years ago during his university years. Travelling to Sydney during the Olympics he found nearly all the hotels were full where there was any space, the prices were eye-watering. He found a job in a pub and kipped in a colleague's spare room, paying a low weekly rent. He saved money and his host earned some extra cash. The other staff in the pub began offering their own spare rooms to desperate tourists.
But it was the credit crunch that launched Crashpadder. In 2008, after losing most of his marketing contracts, Mr Rapoport retreated to his own spare room, running the business from there for a year before moving into a small office in London. "It took off so quickly. We've now got rooms in 800 places in 52 countries, but most, about 60 per cent, are in the UK. We've 1,100 rooms in London alone, ranging from £15 to £100 per night."
A Crashpadder host lists his or her room with photographs and as much personal information as possible, including date of birth, profession, and maybe a link to Facebook or Twitter pages. Potential guests send a request to book the room, with similar personal information, to build up a mutual sense of security, and the host can then accept or reject. Payment is by credit card, held by Crashpadder, and released after the guest has left. The site is free to list on, but the company takes 10 per cent of any bookings.
Hosts are given loose guidelines over what to charge by looking at what else is listed. Mr Rapoport says, "Room rates aren't vetted by us. Our community of users does that. No one will book if it's too expensive. If it's too cheap the reverse might happen and the owner will be inundated."
So what's the advantage of Crashpadder over hotels or registered B&Bs? Price is an obvious factor, but the sluggish economy is affecting all sectors as Carly Gotz, group director of sales and marketing at Great Hotels Organisation points out. "These days even luxury can come cheap. There are some amazing hotel deals out there."
But not necessarily when demand is high. Mr Rapoport says travellers stranded in the UK by Iceland's volcanic ash were housed by Crashpadder hosts. The London Olympics is still an unknown quantity in terms of accommodation, but two million visitors are expected. The capital has 100,000 registered three and four-star hotels. Hoteliers and holiday companies rub their hands with glee during prime-time sporting and cultural events – and across the country the calendar never stops. In Cheltenham this weekend for instance, visitors to the jazz festival have filled many of the local hotels. Crashpadder has double rooms within walking distance of events for £15. That's less than a quarter of the price of the cheapest hotel.
You don't even need to live in a holiday hot spot. Forty-four per cent of guests using the site, who give a reason for their trip, indicate business travel. "It's because of the personal touch," says Mr Rapoport. "The first time I travelled on expenses I was in a five-star hotel. My boss said, 'You'll absolutely love it – for about 24 hours. And then you'll just feel lonely.' And that's exactly what happened."
Expense accounts are no longer what they were. The reduction in job security mean contractors are often crisscrossing the country following the jobs – working in Birmingham during the week, living in Brighton at the weekend. Budget hotels can be pretty ghastly, often with no bar and certainly no room service, but at least you know what to expect, knowing that there'll be someone on reception, that you'll be dealt with in a professional, albeit impersonal, way.
"Crashpadder is travelling with a heart," says Mr Rapoport. But, says Ms Gotz, "Despite what some people may think, staying in a hotel doesn't mean your stay will be impersonal, especially when staying in an independently run hotel. Many of our member hotels offer personal touches such as welcome drinks and a newspaper."
Renting out a room is becoming more commonplace, with government initiatives aimed at easing the rental market in key areas. The rent-a-room scheme allows £85 per week tax-free income, and Crashpadder hosts will qualify for this.
"Crashpadder's obviously great for a casual income, but a lodger would be an easier option in terms of the amount of work you have to do," says Matt Hutchinson from spareroom.co.uk.
Travellers have a wide variety of needs. There are hosts, from young singletons to empty nesters, and guests, from backpackers to business people which Crashpadder will suit.
You meet people you otherwise wouldn't have contact with
Elaine Arthur has been hosting Crashpadders for eight months in her flat in west London. She has found having short-stay guests a good way to plug any income gap. "And it's fun. You meet people you wouldn't otherwise have any contact with. Last week I hosted a Russian piano teacher. I've had an American conductor who stayed for a few nights while she was attending auditions at the Royal Academy, and a masters student from New York who needed a place to stay while she looked for a flat of her own. Tourists are always enthusiastic, coming back after a day out and telling you all about it. And of course, they get local knowledge from me."
A crucial consideration is personal safety. "One chap emailed me at short notice, saying he was desperate. He turned up just after midnight rather worse for wear, but very apologetic. I suddenly thought 'am I insane?' A complete stranger sleeping in the next room, without a lock on my door. But all was OK. He'd paid Crashpadder with a credit card, and they'd checked him out."
Debt in Britain: Numbers seeking help on how to cope with mounting bills goes up by more than half in three years
Bargain Hunter: BT improves its mobile reception with 'incredibly competitive' deals
Questions of Cash: Why was my case ignored by My Civil Service Pension?
Offset your mortgage and save thousands
Simon Read: 'It went below the radar but you could be eligible for a tax break on your savings'
- 1 East 17 bandmember Brian Harvey in 'very desperate situation’
- 2 Vladimir Putin says Russia will fight for the right of Palestinians to their own state
- 3 WrestleMania 31 results: Seth Rollins stuns WWE as he cashes in Money in the Bank contract to claim title from Brock Lesnar
- 4 Ohio Democrat Teresa Fedor speaks out during abortion debate to reveal she has been raped – and is interrupted by laughter from Republicans
- 5 Germanwings plane crash: I have depression. That doesn't make me a psychopath
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This multi-award winning foreig...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...
£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...
Day In a Page
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms
A two-bedroom detached house with ensuite bathrooms and a sun-drenched decked terrace, £750,000
A modern and spacious two-bedroom, penthouse flat with two bathrooms in a prestigious development
A beautifully renovated five-bedroom terrace with three reception rooms and a courtyard garden, £700,000
A four-bedroom period house which has been extended to provide almost 2,500sq ft of living space, £675,000
A pretty three-bedroom Georgian home with a 22ft drawing room and a master suite with a balcony, £525,000
A substanstial family home with five bedrooms and landscaped gardens in the much sought-after Branksome Park area
A well-presented three-bedroom house with front and rear gardens, close to White City station, £475,000
A handsome five-bedroom house in a sought-after location close to the city centre
A five-bedroom country home with valley views, equestrian stables and 27 acres of land, £725,000
A six-bedroom farm house with separate, detached cottages and 371 acres of land
A two-bedroom cottage with parquet floors, chunky beams and an open fireplace
A three-bedrrom flat with 2,733sq feet of living space, a beautiful private garden and 15 acres of communal grounds
A four-bedroom chalet bungalow with three bathrooms and a spacious garden, £525,000
A two-bedroom flat with an open plan kitchen and two balconies, close to Arsenal station