Teaching Profession

Thousands of Teachers Are Renting Out Their Homes on Airbnb

By Sarah Schwartz — August 16, 2018 4 min read
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Planning to book a vacation on the home rental site Airbnb? There’s a 1 in 10 chance that you’ll be hosted by a teacher, according to a new survey from the company.

On the website, listers can rent out space in their homes or access to their whole property for short-term stays. Almost 10 percent of hosts in the U.S. say they work in education or teaching, according to results from Airbnb’s annual voluntary host survey, which received responses from 80,000 hosts worldwide.

These results could include K-12 teachers and administrators, but also college professors and educators who work in other settings. Overall, the rental company estimates that there are about 45,000 U.S. educators renting out their properties on the platform.

The findings don’t explore why teachers make up such a large portion of homeowners on the site, but educators quoted in the report cite both a desire to connect with travelers from around the world and to make some extra money to supplement a teacher’s salary.

“In teaching, there are best practices one must observe and exercise—commitment, integrity, compassion, knowledge, and hospitality,” said one teacher-host in the Airbnb report. “In hosting, one realizes that best practices are very similar when guests choose to stay at your place.”

Maintaining a listing on the platform can be a significant source of income for teachers. Among users who included the word “teacher” or “professor” in their employment or “about me” section on their profile, the average yearly income from hosting was $6,500.

After large-scale teacher protests this spring over salaries and compensation, the issue of low teacher pay is front and center in the national conversation. Almost 1 in 5 teachers have a second job to cover their expenses. While some work in retail stores or the foodservice industry, others—like the hosts on Airbnb and teacher-drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft—have turned to the growing sharing economy.

Airbnb’s report acknowledges that teachers are feeling financial strain, noting that teacher salaries have stagnated and that many educators bear additional costs, like paying for school supplies for their students out of their own pockets.

The most lucrative time for educators on the platform is the summer, the report found, when teachers host more often and make more money than other listers on the website.

And some areas have more teacher-hosts than others: In Wisconsin and Utah, for example, more than a quarter of respondents to Airbnb’s survey said they worked in education.

Teacher Home-Swapping

But teacher home-sharing long predates Airbnb—educators have been opening up their houses to summer travelers through formal exchanges for over 60 years.

Intervac, one of the first international home-swapping agencies, was launched in the 1950s by European teachers looking for an easier and less expensive way to travel over shared school breaks. Now a website, the service says they have about 30,000 families as members. Users find other homeowners across the country or across the world, line up vacation dates, and swap keys for a few days to a few months at a time. The service costs $115 annually, but individual swaps are free.

Membership on Intervac and other popular home-swapping sites isn’t limited to teachers. But one platform, Teacher Home Swap, is hoping to cater specifically to educators.

Ben Brown, a 6th grade teacher in Summit County, Colo., got the idea for a teaching home-sharing network a few years ago over the summer. At the time, his family was on vacation in Fruita, Colo. His neighbors, who are both teachers, were also traveling.

He remembered thinking that both of their houses would be sitting empty for large parts of the summer months, and he wondered—are the houses of teachers in Fruita vacant too? Teacher Home Swap was born.

Less than a year after its launch in 2017, the site numbers fewer listings than other home-sharing services or rental websites like Airbnb: There are about 70 homes on the platform and 500 active members, including users from Holland, Canada, and Australia. The site has yet to complete a swap, but Brown is hopeful that they’ll see more activity with growth, as more teachers list properties.

“Teachers have similar values, we have similar school breaks, we have similar income levels,” said Brown. “Why wouldn’t we share our homes?”

The teacher-focused site doesn’t offer educators as much potential for profit as Airbnb—users on Teacher Home Swap could rent out their houses, but the platform also gives listers the option to arrange free swaps. The focus of his site isn’t the extra cash, said Brown—it’s the opportunity to create community.

Teachers—people who have dedicated their lives to helping others—are likely to be gracious hosts, said Brown.

“Whenever I go on vacation, I remember things that are unexpected, and I remember relationships,” he said. He hopes that the platform allows teachers to forge connections across distance.

Image: Airbnb and Getty.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.