Pros and Cons of Running a Homestay

September 24, 2017 Posted by Tyler Cruz

A few posts back, I shared how I am now a homestay host. I had so much to share in the post that I had to end up breaking it up into two separate blog posts.

In this post, I will outline the pros and cons of running a homestay in case any of you have even the slightest interest in running a homestay as well. Or, perhaps you know somebody that does (it’s really perfect for empty nesters!). Or maybe you’re just interested in learning more.

As a quick reminder, I’ve been running a homestay for 1.5 years now and have had both boys and girls of varying ages from China, Japan, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.

Cons

The Money is Not Very Good

As mentioned in my original post, I am not making very much from being a homestay host. For the upper rooms, I am charging $800/month which works out to just under $27 a day. I am budgeting $12/day for food, which works out to a profit of just $15 a day. The downstairs room would yield a profit of only $18 a day. It doesn’t feel good to write and reflect on this – considering that you could make the same amount in 1 hour working at McDonalds!

So as you can see, the money is definitely about as low as you could imagine. This is not a get rich quick scheme. However, I actually list money as being one of the pros as well, so don’t give up all hope yet.

It Can be Hard to Get Homestay Students

I have spent a significant amount of time working on obtaining homestay students.

The university here has a homestay program, but won’t accept us due to our house not being very close. We are also part of a homestay agency, but don’t work with them anymore as those students are always short term at 3-4 weeks, which is not worth the effort. As a result, I have had to obtain homestay students independantly instead of just having them sent to me automatically (although there are benefits to this as well though such as being able to set my own rate and being able to choose who I accept).

By far, the best method I’ve used to obtain students is simply by putting up free ads on Craigslist, Kijiji, and another local classifieds site. However, I’m also a member on various online homestay services such as Homestay.com, although I haven’t had much luck with them so far. I even made up posters and put them up around town, such as at the university itself (in the ESL building), in Chinese restaurants, malls, etc.

More recently though, I created a website. It doesn’t rank too well for the keywords I need so I created some AdWords ads which have been doing well (thank god I have some past skills I can fall back on!).

Fortunately, we are now completely filled up with 4 students, and have 3 more on a waiting list! I even had to remove all of my ads everywhere! But this is the busy season – 2 months ago, we had gone 5 months without even a single inquiry for a student!

You Have to Give Up a Portion of Your House

This is a downside to running a homestay that may not be immediate obvious at first. Sure, you know that you’re giving up a room, but you’re also giving up other areas of your house, too. For example, you’re giving up a bathroom, part of the kitchen, the living room, etc. There will be more shoes in the shoe rack. There will be more coats in the closet. There will be less space at the dinner table.

The smaller your house, the more noticeable this will be.

Upfront Costs

This is not a huge con as it’s a one-time expense, but you will need to make your homestay room(s) ready for a student. This means making sure it is clean with decent furniture and everything a student will need such as a desk and chair, bed, lamp, etc.

These things add up, especially if you’re planning on having multiple students.

You Have to Cook and Clean

For me, this is by far the hardest part of being a homestay host. I’m not a great cook, and I have to make sure the student(s) get a proper lunch and dinner (breakfast is self serve, thank God!). I also can’t just make macaroni and cheese or instant noodles as I have to make it at least moderately nutritious and tasty.

It also means washing dishes for one more person (or in my case, 4 more people!).

I even prepare bagged lunches for the students for when they go to school. Although, to be honest, I don’t mind this too much as it’s a lot easier than preparing a hot lunch at home for them.

Students Can Break Things

Accidents happen of course, but it is something to consider. We had a 16-year-old student who did a fair bit of damage to his room which we didn’t discover until he left, as well as damage to various other things in the house. In general, though, this is not a huge deal and I’ve learned my lesson and now charge a damage deposit which I highly recommend doing!

It Can Be Belittling

Most of the time, if you’re doing a homestay, you could use the extra cash it bring in. And most of the time, the students will have a fair bit of money – namely if they are from China or the middle East. Everything they have will be better than yours. They will have the latest iPhone, expensive clothes, expensive laptops, etc.

The worst part for me was when I was a chauffeur for them. It just felt so demeaning, especially when one of our students would sit in the back seat. I would drive him to and from school, making only $1.50 per direction after gas fees. I’ve since increased that fee very slightly, but it’s still next to nothing. I hate the driving, but as mentioned before, I do have to compensate for our distance from the university and the fact that the transit system here sucks.

But hey, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Pros

Live Mortgage-Free

I mentioned the low profits of being a homestay host as being a con above, but at the same time it’s also a pro.

Yes, I only make about $15-$18 a day profit, but once you get into the groove of things, time flies by and having a homestay student is pretty easy. The most effort goes in when you first get a new student, as there is an adjustment period in learning about him/her and getting them adjusted to their new life. This is why we don’t accept short term students anymore – the longer you have a student, the easier they are to look after.

My point is that after a while, it barely feels like work at all once you’re accustomed to your student, which usually takes about a month to become really comfortable with each other. Then, the money is almost (but not quite), like passive income, and it adds up fast. This is not making money online, so it’s not “maybe” making $15 tomorrow – it’s a guaranteed $15 tomorrow. So that’s $450 a month for 1 student. Get 2 students and you’re living mortgage-free. Get 4 students and you’re living mortgage-free, utilities-free, Internet-free, Cellphone-free, etc.

I will have 4 students by the end of the month, so that’s $60 a day, or $1,800 a month.

Basically, it’s a great way to make extra cash on the side. If you had no mortgage, you could effectively retire immediately.

Enjoy the Culture Exchange

As a homestay host, you get to experience other cultures. In most cases, students will be “fresh off the boat”, and so a lot of things will be new to them (not everything though; you’d be surprised how westernized other countries are these days).

I actually really enjoy this aspect of things and enjoy showing and teaching students our culture as much as I do learning about theirs.

Two of our students and their friends (16-22, Korean, Chinese, Chinese, Japanese) trying Trick-or-Treating for the first time!

Relive your youth! My first time carving a pumpkin in 20 years!

Eat Delicious and Exotic Food

I love to eat, and my bulging stomach will attest to that.

I have eaten so much authentic exotic food over the past year and a half, it’s not even funny. As mentioned in my other post, I offer discounts if students want to cook dinner for everyone once or twice a week, and clean up afterwards. In fact, our Vietnamese student is cooking us dinner tonight.

Most Asian students know how to cook, and can cook very well. This is in stark contrast to the 20-something in the west, that can usually only make Kraft dinner or instant noodles.

All of the food I’ve eaten from the students so far has been restaurant quality (or above).

I also learned that I absolutely love pork belly, and am learning how to make it now.

Pork belly dishmade by our Vietnamese student and Chinese vegetables (I made!)

Most dishes prepared for us are very healthy.

Enjoying a Chinese “hot pot”. The chinese students sure love having hot pot with their friends… probably the equivalent of young people here having a pizza night.

Vietnamese spring rolls.

Squid, bun cha (if I remember correctly), and a vegetable dish.

Vietnamese BBQ (so good).

This was part of a soup; noodles were served, then broth, then we added the other ingredients.

Part of a dinner prepared by our 16-year-old Chinese student who could really cook!

A ramen lunch.

One of the best meals I’ve had in my life, made by our 16-year-old Chinese student.

More People to Socialize With

If you’re lonely, or just generally enjoy having people around, then being a homestay host is a great option. Dinners will have actual interesting and stimulating conversation, you might find yourself doing activities that you haven’t in years (such as taking the students out bowling or mini-golfing), you might have a blast playing board games, etc.

Conclusion

Being a homestay host can be extremely rewarding if you are interested in other cultures and helping people. You will be compensated for your time and effort, but it is not a get rich quick scheme.

You could always try it for a month or two and see how you like it, or even find a local homestay agency and perhaps try it with very short term students (1-3 weeks) first.

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Posted: September 24th, 2017 under Miscellaneous  

5 Responses to “Pros and Cons of Running a Homestay”

  1. mike says:

    Hey Tyler,

    What made you decide to go the home stay route instead of simply renting the rooms to other people? At least if you were only renting the space, you would be off the hook for having to drive people around and making dinners for everyone.

  2. Brenda says:

    tyler if these people are so rich, why the heck are you charging so cheap?!

PeerFly

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