Baby boomers in Korea facing retirement are increasingly letting rooms or their entire homes on Airbnb and other short-term rental sites as a source of extra income. Online communities of soon-to-be retirees are filled with questions and advice about putting up homes for rent.
Many complain that the longstanding option of opening a small business like a fried-chicken restaurant or corner shop is no longer viable as there are far too many of them already.
A staffer at the Airbnb office in Seoul said, "As of January of this year, around 37,100 homes have been registered for rent and around 19 percent of the hosts are in their 50s or above. The proportion is up 56 percent compared to last year and rising."
Lee Woo (61), who owns a home in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province, said, "I started renting out my home as I approached retirement thinking it could earn me some spending money, but the earnings were bigger than I'd expected. Now I can spend time with my wife, make money and enjoy the company of guests out here in the countryside."
Lee earns about W2 million a month from short-term rentals (US$1=W1,070).
Renting out homes does not require a lot of investment, and Airbnb and other apps make it easy for both sides while charging no upfront fee. Instead, they skim a commission off the top of every rental and charge the guests a booking fee.
But there are many failed cases where owners found they cannot cope with the demands. Joo Hye-kyoung (55), who lives in a large apartment in the southern port city of Busan, started renting out rooms last year. "I felt really uncomfortable and couldn't even argue with my husband or go to the bathroom freely," she said. "It was also difficult having foreign guests in my home."
She said competition is intensifying rapidly amid a decline in the number of Chinese tourists, resulting in monthly revenues of only W300,000 to W400,000. She eventually stopped.
As competition gets fiercer, properties need to stick out. One retired writer takes time to chat with guests so that they can share their experience and get some advice, and a hanbok designer offers to show her collection of traditional Korean dress.
Kim Kwon-shik (57), who retired after working as a professor at Kangwon Tourism College and began renting out his home, said, "The level of service a host offers determines success or failure, since facilities are not as good as the ones offered in hotels and resorts. Guest reviews are vital in maintaining stable earnings."
A couple who rent out their home for extra income pose with their dog in their house in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province.