The pros and cons of home-sharing

The Internet has made it easier for homeowners to rent out their properties, but it comes at a price

THE phenomena of offering a property for short-term stay has caught on like wildfire in the past few years.

However, it is not an entirely new thing. Remember the days when seaside bungalow owners rented out their place to vacationers?

Except this time, property owners and holidaymakers have technology on their side.

They can now advertise from Cheras and have their property seen by travellers from all over the world.

In April this year, Dennis Sim and his wife Eileen Lian decided to advertise their unit in Mont Kiara in Airbnb, HomeAway and other online networks that enable people to list or rent short-term lodging in residential properties, with the cost set by the property owner.

Sim and Lian decided it would be too tiring to move back into their apartment after renovation work so they started letting it out to travellers on a short-term rental basis.
Sim and Lian decided it would be too tiring to move back into their apartment after renovation work so they started letting it out to travellers on a short-term rental basis.

He, in fact, had toyed with the idea when the family found similar accommodation when on holiday in Spain using the same website two years ago.

To date they have accommodated about 20 groups.

His family now live at his mother’s house in Bandar Utama.

“It is like a spring clean every time a guest moves out,” said Sim of the work he and his wife undertake to ensure the unit is ready for guests.

The couple spent close to RM10,000 investing in items that are changed every time new guests check in such as towels, bedsheets and toiletries.

The laborious prospect of housework which comes with the job of hosting guests is no deterrent.

As a teen, management consultant Mohd Zayd Zainal Abidin was not known for being a willing volunteer with the mop and broom.

Mah (right) in New York. He is seen with Mikhail Varshavski a medical student and Instagram sensation who goes by the handle of Dr Mike.
Mah (right) in New York. He is seen with Mikhail Varshavski a medical student and Instagram sensation who goes by the handle of Dr Mike.

But when he got an offer from a friend to stay in his 1,600sqm apartment in The Capers, Sentul, for only RM2,200, the father of one thought it was an offer he could not refuse.

He and his wife needed the space for a growing family and rental was much lower than the RM2,700 rental he paid for his home that was only 1,010sqm.

So, Mohd Zayd decided to move out of his own unit in Riana Green East.

The consultant not only made up his mind to save an extra RM500 every month, he also used the opportunity to make additional cash by letting out his property to travellers for short-term stays.

So far, the earnings from 20 days of guest stays have not only enabled Mohd Zayd to fulfil his house payments, it is able to cover costs such as the cleaning fees, Astro and utility bills.

“Looking at it from the business sense, by collecting a low season rate of RM200 a night for just 15 nights will give me RM3,000.

“That is more than long-term rental,” said Mohd Zayd.

Mohd Zayd takes a hands on approach to keep his property squeaky clean for guests though he has cleaners to do the job.
Mohd Zayd takes a hands on approach to keep his property squeaky clean for guests though he has cleaners to do the job.

He, however, added that not everybody was willing to open up their homes nor would they welcome the prospect of their neighbours doing so.

“I know of one condominium in Petaling Jaya which does not allow units there to be let out for short-term stays.

“Whether these places are open to the idea will depend on who the residents are.

“I guess places with luxury cars, will not be so open.

“The ones with the mid-range vehicles may be more relaxed.

“But from guests’ response, this is one business which is going to gain momentum in the coming future,” said Mohd Zayd.

One entrepreneur who had full confidence in the rising trend in short-term stays is Mark Lim, a full-time sales director for a billboard company.

Toh with son Aaron in Leeuwin Estate, Margaret River, Australia.
Toh with son Aaron in Leeuwin Estate, Margaret River, Australia.

Lim put down RM400,000 as capital to buy a unit at Soho Suites KLCC so he could put it up for listing in Airbnb this January.

“Travelling is recession proof and the returns I have gained from this venture have been better than average – up to three times more that the conventional route of long-term rental.

“This happened between May and June when we hit an occupancy rate of 26 days,” said Lim.

He admits there was a measure of strategy involved.

“Finding the right location is important. I bought this place because it was between KLCC and Pavilion, considered one of the Top 10 places to stay,” said Lim, adding that he had made back 7% of his investment.

For Yen Wong, a globe trotting corporate executive, private properties are better than hotels as they had a more homely feel.

“When you travel, you would be out all the time. So why pay more?

Lim was confident enough to invest close to half a million on a unit at the Soho Suites KLCC to ride on the latest trend of short-term rentals.
Lim was confident enough to invest close to half a million on a unit at the Soho Suites KL CC to ride on the latest trend of shortterm rentals.

“Unless you are going to stay in the hotel all day which defeats the purpose of travelling,” said Yen, who stayed in private properties in the suburbs of Farringdon and Brixton in London for 30% lower rentals than hotels.

The economics of cheaper accommodation have also found fans among the chic crowd.

Xavier Mah, the founder of Xalf shoes, stayed in an apartment overlooking Central Park during a recent trip to New York.

He cited easy access to public transport and being in the central location as crucial “facilities”.

He said he paid RM900 per night for an apartment and that a three-star hotel room would have cost him RM1,300 per day.

Toh Su Lin, another frequent traveller recalls looking for bargain stays on the Airbnb website back in 2012 when she wanted to tour Hong Kong.

Since then she has used the website to find accommodation in Barcelona, Paris, Perth and Melbourne.

“In Hong Kong, I booked an apartment in the central district for RM365 a night.

“In Perth last year, I booked a three-room house for RM600 a night for five pax.

“The hotel rooms were easily RM400 a room,” said Toh, adding that cost was lower when travelling in a group.

Despite paying budget prices, Toh said she never had any trouble in the places she has stayed in, but she advised newbies to read the fine print before making reservations.

She once booked a place in Barcelona which did not have a lift as she had missed out on the information, and had to lug her bags up three floors.

“I would like to have a place with cooking facilities especially when in Australia because the produce there is fresh.

“It was always more convenient with children and eating out is expensive.

“It was also nice to have a living room to sit in, chit-chat and just chill out when travelling with friends,” said Toh on the plus points of having a home-away-from-home holiday experience.

The trend has created an upbeat mode for the property market.

Gavin Liew, founder of The Makeover Guys, which offers solutions to help owners rent out their spaces feels the trend of short-term stays is only a fraction of the entire property management industry, but it does open new doors to new possibilities.

“I see developers also riding on this trend.

“Traditionally, when talking about rental yield, it’s all about long term rentals but this enables owners to unlock hidden values and have access to the hotel business, if the location and property type is suitable for it.

“In the future, I believe investors will take such revenue into consideration for their property purchases,” said Liew.

However, Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents immediate past president Siva Shanker feels this market segment has much to learn.

“Now everything is still new.

“Wait until the time comes when the owners have to factor in repairs for wear and tear.

“These are costs that have not been taken into account yet.

“There is also the consideration that these premises may not be in compliance with safety rules unlike hotels which have very stringent standards,” said Siva.


Home-sharing service Airbnb has gotten more and more eager homeowners and homestay operators in Johor to jump on the bandwagon and open up their residence to strangers.

Freelance designer Katty Chong, 28, started making a room in her house available for Airbnb rentals in July last year after feeling the warmth of her host when she stayed in a guest house in Taiwan.

She said the competition in Johor Baru was getting tougher compared to a year ago when she first started, as lesser homeowners were on board then.

“It is getting competitive as there are even people who purchase condominiums or studio apartments just for Airbnb purposes because of the rise in tourists in the state,” she said.

Chong, who enjoyed consistent bookings from travellers from South Korea, Taiwan, Germany and the United Kingdom weekly, said she generally had well behaved guests.

“I had a bad experience once, from another host who was probably doing market survey but he made my room dirty and even placed a durian inside,” she added.

Eric Tey, 34, who runs an Airbnb in his Larkin apartment, said although there was an increase in Airbnb hosts in Johor Baru, he did not see a significant drop in his bookings.

“On average, we are enjoying an occupancy rate of about 20 days a month,” he said, adding that he usually had guests opting to stay in his apartment and take public transport into Singapore as accommodation cost was much higher there.

Café owner Dr Edward Ng, 25, who hosts mostly Singaporeans at his bed and breakfast in Jalan Dhoby, a street in the city centre bustling with hip cafes, said occupancy was quite low although there was no other competition in the area.

“We get about two to three bookings a week but there was a confusion among guests as we are located very near Singapore and the map in Airbnb lists our location as being in Woodlands in Singapore,” he said.

Petrol station operation manager Mohd Aliff Jamil, 32, who helped manage the Airbnb account of his father’s homestay in Taman Pelangi Indah, Ulu Tiram since 2015, said the hosting service was a great way to gain exposure.

“His homestay is located in the suburbs so not many people know about it and so I decided to help my father promote it on social media,” he said, adding that they host guests from Malaysia and Singapore who mostly rented the unit for weddings.


It is a different scenario altogether in Penang island.

Some home-sharing hosts there describe renting apartments for short-term stays as “miserable” and “uncertain”.

They are summoned by the Penang Island City Council for running commercial lodging businesses without proper licences.

“I have 14 summonses and my friend has 60.

“We refuse to pay the fines and the city council will take us to court soon,” said 34-year-old S.H. Tan.

Each time they have guests, the joint-management bodies of their apartments will record it and the council would issue a RM250 fine.

“We refuse to pay the fine because as property owners, we have the right to rent out our units.

“The National Land Code has not limited property owners from renting it for short-term,” he said.

He stressed that as home-sharing hosts, they were not running commercial lodging businesses.

His fellow host, Ch’ng Kim Teck, 50, echoed his thoughts.

“We are not hotels or homestays.

“There is no law to specify that we cannot rent our homes out for a few days or months,” said Ch’ng.

Their case, he said, was like “a cyclist on the road fined for not having a road tax and licence.”

Tan said during Airbnb host discussions, he had met hundreds of other Penang hosts. But he had trouble uniting them to stand up to the city council.

“Home sharing hosts using landed houses face fewer problems.

“We have to deal with the joint-management bodies of apartment and condominium blocks,” said Tan.

He added that they have tried to take these bodies to the Strata Management Tribunal but their cases have been continually postponed and lawyers have advised them to go to the High Court.

“The legal fees are expensive. Every time we think about this, we get so depressed.”

The city council’s crackdown against homeshare operators has intensified since last June.