So What the Hell Happened? Part 3 of 5: Homestay

September 6, 2017 Posted by Tyler Cruz

Wow. Where to start on this?

In my last post in this series, I shared my brief adventures in dog sitting which didn’t pan out due to our golden retriever Zipper starting to become aggressive to the other dogs.

This left me scratching my head wondering how I’d bring in money again. I was still nowhere near ready to get back blogging or making money online, and my medical condition did not improve at all (it has only worsened over time, unfortunately), which ruled out getting a real job.

Then my girlfriend had an idea which I thought was brilliant and I couldn’t believe that I didn’t think of it myself.

We live in a large newer house at over 2,600 square feet, and it was just the two of us and Zipper living here. Her idea was that we could take in homestay students.

I thought about it for a second, then my eyebrows rose and I kept getting more excited by the minute. She was only half serious too, but I knew it was a perfect idea and was determined to follow it through.

What Is a Homestay?

So what is a homestay? A homestay is a house that takes in paid guests which are almost exclusively young international students in their early-mid twenties. You give them a room in your house and they pay a monthly fee in exchange for living in your house. In addition, you cook for them and they eat with you. They essentially become a part of the family while they’re living with you.

Our Chinese and Qatari students.

While some homestay students can be short term most stay long term – our shortest student stayed for 3 weeks and our longest stayed for 1 year, although we currently have another student who plans to stay with us for 1.5 years. I know of another homestay host near me who had a student for 7 years – she basically became another daughter to her.

What Are the Responsibilities of a Homestay Host?

The main responsibility I have is feeding them and making sure they’re fed. There is also what is called a “Peerstay”, which is roughly the same as a “Homestay”, but the students buy and cook their own food. There is usually a bit less of a closeness between the parents or hosts, and the students as well (often peerstay rooms are suites and have a separate entrance).

In addition to feeding them, I drive them to and from school for an added fee in some cases. The bus service where we live is terrible and we don’t live within walking distance to the schools, so I do offer what is essentially a private taxi service if they want it. This is not typical for a homestay host though, but I do it since I do have to compensate for our location.

I also help them a lot when they first arrive, as most students are arriving here directly from their home country, which is usually in Asia. I help them learn about our culture, show them the city, get them set up with banks, a phone plan, etc.

Basically, I’m a professional dad. However, since the students are usually in their early-mid twenties, they are responsible and mature enough to look after themselves for the most part.

All in all, it’s a fair bit of work to be honest, but it does have its pros and cons which I’ll be blogging about in an upcoming post.

My International Background

Being a homestay host is a natural fit for me as I have actually always enjoyed learning about other cultures.

In 2003 I actually “moved” to Korea at the age of 19 after having immersed myself in their language and culture here (which originally stemmed from my love of Starcraft). I didn’t last long, as I had no plan, but I returned ever-interested in other cultures.

I spent a long time learning Korean when I was 18-19. Unfortunately, I’ve already forgotten most of what I had learned. With language, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it!

When I returned home, I actually got my TEFL certification (teaching English as a second language), but I never did anything with it apart from some private tutoring.

I am also half Filipino (that’s the Cruz in Tyler Cruz!), so all of this has always made me very open to and interested in other cultures.

My Experience as a Homestay Host Thus Far

To date, we’ve had (let me count here…) 6 students, although we have 2 more arriving in a couple of days (at the time of writing his post), then another 3 weeks after that. So we will actually have 4 students living here simultaneously by the end of August! We had 3 living with us at the same time before, but 4 will most definitely be a first and fill us to maximum capacity. I plan on blogging about that in an upcoming post.

Our first student arrived in January 2016, so we’ve been hosting for 1.5 years now.

We’ve had students from China, Japan, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Our students had all been boys, but we got our first girl a couple of months ago, and will be getting 2 more girls and 1 more boy.

What are the Students Like?

Of course, people are individuals and so every student is different. I have definitely noticed trends between different cultures though.

Japanese students are definitely the “best”, if I may be so blunt and attach a stereotype. They are extremely polite, courteous, and super, super clean.

Our Japanese student exploring one of the beachside caves with Zipper.

Chinese are typically very rich. Their culture is so different from Western culture so it takes a lot of getting used to… they can be rather blunt and often feel very entitled, but it’s just a culture difference you need to learn and adapt to. The Chinese students around here, their parents will give them $70,000 at a whim to buy a brand new expensive car. Many even get freaking houses bought for them.

As rich and spoiled (if I may say so) as the Chinese students are here, they have nothing on the ones from the middle east. One student we had, I wouldn’t be surprised if his family is worth a billion dollars.

In general, it makes sense the most international students here have money though, as it is very expensive to send your kid overseas to an international school, and so those that can afford to do so are usually affluent families.

My 3 Asian “kids” (1 Japanese, 2 Chinese) – it’s almost like living in a sitcom!

I can say positive and negative things about all of our students, but in general they have all been very easy to host. The worst part is cooking and cleaning for extra people, that’s all.

How Much Do I Get Paid?

Keep in mind that the amount I charge is reflective of the city I live in, the distance to the university, the size and quality of our house, and the food I offer. If you were considering running a homestay with an efficient HVAC system, rates could vary significantly. And if issues like the ac keeps tripping the breaker, we have the right technician to call. My rates are competitive with other local homestays here.

We have 3 rooms available for homestay students: two upstairs and then one absolutely enormous one downstairs (600 square feet!) which is basically like a small apartment but with no kitchen.

I’ve raised the rates twice so far, since food costs are exorbitant here (4 peaches can be like $10). Our upper rooms are now $800 (CAD) and our downstairs is $900 (CAD). If I drive them to school, I charge an extra fee on a per-day basis.

Lately, I’ve also been offering a discount if the student cooks dinner and cleans up afterwards twice a week. This was an ingenious idea by me which really helps out. Asian students are excellent cooks and can cook at near-restaurant quality. As mentioned earlier, we will have 4 students by the end of next month, and I arranged it so that Lisa and I will only have to cook dinner twice a week. It’s kind of like having live-in chefs!

Our 16-year-old Chinese student showing one of our students some cooking tips. Despite being only 16, he was an amazing chef.

It’s really nice to be able to leave my office, walk upstairs and eat a delicious dinner, and then not even have to worry about cleaning it up afterwards.

I’ve eaten so much Asian food over the past year and a half it’s not even funny.

Next month I have a couple who will be sharing the downstairs space as it is so large, so altogether it will bring in $3,150 a month ($2,830 after the discount for them cooking and cleaning). However, I am budgeting about $12 a day each for them, for the cost of food, so that quickly brings down the profit to $1,390. I will make a bit extra doing the carpooling – after gas costs, it will be $1,690. There are other costs to consider too though, such as toilet paper, Kleenex, added electricity, water and garbage costs, etc. Say another $200. So for 4 students, that would be roughly $1,500 a month profit (which works out to an average of only $375 per student).

So, it’s a tiny amount when you’re giving up such a large portion of your home up, but you also gain a lot of benefits from it as well. You’re never lonely, you get delicious foreign food made for you and the kitchen cleaned up afterwards., etc.

The other thing to consider is that housing prices are rising very fast here, and demand for homestays here lately has been very high so I will raise my rates again in another 6-12 months. There is also economy of scale to factor in here, so my food costs may not actually be as high as I budgeted for it (which is $48 a day for 4 extra months).

More to Come

Stay tuned for my “Pros and Cons of Running a Homestay” post which is already written and in the queue.

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Posted: September 6th, 2017 under Miscellaneous  

3 Responses to “So What the Hell Happened? Part 3 of 5: Homestay”

  1. Dave says:

    More posts like this please.

    Less posts about putting rollerblade wheels on your chair.

  2. mike says:

    That is a pretty cool idea and the money doesn’t seem bad either. It’s great especially when you hit it off with the right people and make friends along the way.

    For me personally, I just wouldn’t enjoy the cooking part. I have a hard enough time preparing my own meals, let alone for other people. I also enjoy my privacy but totally get that it can be fun to have other people around to create a more social environment.

    Congrats on finding this new revenue source. It’s definitely a smart way to pay off one’s mortgage and it sounds like both you and your gf have the personality for it too.

  3. Scott says:

    Kudos to you for making it work. Somewhat similar to those who have turned to the AirBnB and VRBO rental game to supplement their income and reduce the cost of a mortgage.

    Thanks for breaking down the numbers.. was surprised that it only brought in $1500/mo profit. Very cool and educational experience though!


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