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Helpful Hosting Hints

March 11, 2015 by Homestay for Life

Fact Sheet


The following information covers some helpful hints designed to assist hosts to get the most out of the time with their student and to avoid common miscommunications.


Successful hosting can be marred by stereotyping. International students come from many different cultures and often function outside their cultural framework when they are free to do so. Consequently, it is safe to assume that every student is an individual, just as all New Yorkers are individual. Presuming that every student you host from Asia will be the same, or every student you host from Europe will be the same, will only bring about confusion and probably disappointment. Greet each student with a fresh approach and you will find hosting far more rewarding.

Guest Status

In some cultures, a “Guest” in a home is not expected to do anything; the Guest is treated like visiting royalty. However, in New York in a Homestay situation, students will be expected to do many things for themselves. It is important then that the student is informed of what is expected in a Homestay situation. Generating a simple list of things the student is expected to do in your home can be a good idea for these students, but most importantly, they will need to be shown, (maybe more than once,) how to do these things. Using the vacuum cleaner on a Saturday morning to keep their room clean, using the washing machine, how to peg their laundry on the line, how to iron and how to leave the bathroom dry are all examples of what needs to be shown.


In many cultures, time is viewed very flexibly. While this may be appropriate in those cultural settings, it is often not so in a New York context. It may lead to students not being on time for meals and other events, causing problems for their host. It is important to communicate to the student that it can be seen as being impolite and inconsiderate if they do not adhere to the time commitments they make. This will usually alter such behavior.


Friendliness and openness on the part of members of the host family, particularly female members, can sometimes be construed by some male students as being sexually inviting. It is important to remember that New Yorkers are much more relaxed and openly flirtatious than is considered socially acceptable in many cultures. Thus, it is normally better to greet students with a smile and a nod than a hug, which some students will find most intrusive.


Sometimes the way international students speak English can be mistaken as aggressive. It needs to be understood that different languages have different accents, intonations and sounds and, when applied to English, may appear aggressive, but are actually not so. Some students will have been taught by rote learning their English by repeating whole sentences. Therefore, if the sentence is not delivered exactly as they have learned it, then they may not understand what you are saying. Time will correct that, so be patient!

Taboo Topics

Hosts need to be aware that some topics of conversation or discussion should be treated as taboo until they know the student very well. Some of these topics would include alcohol, sex, female members of the student’s family and religion.

Gestures and eye contact

Some people “speak” with their hands, and this is especially true of Europeans. However, gesturing can mean different things in different countries, so it is best to avoid hand gestures where possible. Eye contact too can be misunderstood. In New York it is customary to look someone in the eye when speaking, but in some countries looking away can be a sign of respect.


If you are providing food for your homestay guest consider that students from different cultures have different food requirements. For example, Muslim students will require food to be “Halal” and students from the Indian sub-continent often will not eat chicken or fish. However, within these requirements, individual students will have their own preferences, so the host needs to be aware that not all cultural food will appeal to all students of that culture. If you have a student who asks for specific food (e.g., six eggs for breakfast), remember that it is not the host’s responsibility to worry about the student’s high cholesterol risk. A carton of eggs is comparatively cheap. Being able to afford six eggs in some countries is a sign of wealth.

Rice and Meat

Sometimes an Asian student will compare rice to meat and expect meat at all three meals. It should be politely explained that rice is the equivalent of bread to rice, not meat. When first greeting a student, the host should ask them what foods they enjoy. (It is also very unwise to presume that if a student asks for “rice” that they want to eat it without accompaniments.)

Host Pets

Students from some cultures will not tolerate dogs or cats at all. They believe that animals are “unclean” and should be kept outside, if they are to be kept at all. If you have a pet, it is important to declare it. There are plenty of students who enjoy animals, but it is unfair to both host and pet for the inside animal to be put outside when they are not used to it. It is important also that the animal is restrained upon a student’s arrival. There is nothing worse than being greeted by an over-exuberant pet jumping up at you when you first arrive at the Homestay home. The animal may be friendly, but this can be terrifying to a student unused to pets behaving in such a way.

Guest Pets

If you allow pets, ensure guests are educated about things like local parks and local customs (e.g., cleaning up after your dog). Have a backup plan in case a guest’s pet upsets the neighbors (such as the number of a nearby pet hotel).


When you confirm that you’ll host someone, they trust you to take care of their needs. That’s why it’s important to make sure you are able to commit to a guest before accepting a reservation.

If the unexpected happens and you can’t avoid cancelling a confirmed booking, follow these guidelines:

  • As soon as you understand that you have to cancel, let your guest know right away. This will give them as much time as possible to find new accommodations.
  • Be empathetic when you tell your guest that you need to cancel, and do it with a kind, thoughtful tone. You’ll need to cancel the reservation within Homestay For Life to initiate the refund process.
  • If you know other hosts in your area, consider asking them if they can accommodate this guest’s trip and offer to make an introduction.

Of course, hosts always decide who stays in their space. When there is an extenuating circumstance or a safety concern, we may make an exception to host cancellation penalties. In such cases, hosts should select the Extenuating Circumstance option when canceling the reservation.


Providing a clean and tidy space will make your guests feel comfortable from the moment they arrive. A clean listing will always look its best, and it will show your commitment to making your guests feel welcome.

To make your listing shine, start with these steps before each guest’s arrival:

  • Clean every room that your guests can access during their stay and pay special attention to the bathroom and kitchen.
  • Provide freshly-washed towels and sheets.
  • Take care of the small things that show extra consideration: dust the bookshelves, wipe the mirrors and empty the wastebasket.
  • Make room in the closet or dresser so that guests can store their belongings.

We know that cleaning is one of the more challenging aspects of preparing your listing, particularly if you’re traveling yourself. If you can’t do the cleaning, you can always add a cleaning fee to your listing price and hire a professional cleaning service.

It’s important to give yourself enough time to clean your space, particularly when you have back-to-back bookings. Giving your guests the ability to tidy up after themselves will be a big help, so be sure to leave cleaning supplies in your space, so they can take care of spills and accidental messes.


Homestay For Life hosts should always provide soap and toilet paper for their guests. When you provide sheets and towels, they should be clean. We find travelers also request basics like a hair dryer, shampoo, an iron and ironing board and an umbrella.

But one of the things that make your listing fantastic is the set of amenities that make it extra comfortable, perfect for families or easy to work from. That’s why it’s important to accurately list all of the amenities you offer, and to ensure that every single one is available and operational during your guest’s stay.

Before their arrival, you may even come up with a personalized way to welcome your guests with a special gift. When they find their favorite kind of coffee waiting for them, they’ll be just as excited as they are when they find the shampoo.


Your guests will be in a new place when they arrive, so it’s important to put them at ease with a clear and simple check-in process:

  • Communicate your check-in procedure in advance, and ensure that you’re able to follow through with it at the check-in time you discussed.
  • Make sure your guests know how to contact you in the event of a travel delay or last-minute question.
  • Provide your guests with detailed directions so they can get to your listing from the highway, train station or airport. Save time by putting it all in your House Manual.
  • Let your guests know if you’ll greet them at the door, or if they should plan on getting the key to the listing in a lockbox or from a neighbor.

Beyond these basics, you may want to pick up your guests when they arrive in town. You can help them get oriented in the area with a map or Guidebook.

  1. Welcome Your Guests

Once you have a confirmed reservation, it’s time to prepare for your guests! From tidying your space and coordinating key exchange to greeting your guests and giving them neighborhood tips, hosting on Homestay For Life is an art form.

Learn More

    • Preparing your space

Give your guests a clean space to come home to and make sure they have everything they’ll need for a comfortable stay, whether it’s an extra set of towels, cream and sugar for coffee, maps to find their way or instructions for how to access the internet. If you like, you can make their stay extra-special by surprising them with a bottle of wine or hand-written welcome note.

Coordinating arrival and departure

Use our messaging system to arrange the details of your guest’s arrival and departure. Let your guest know if you’ll greet them in person or tell them where they can find your key.

    • Being available during your guest’s stay

During reservations, be available to help remedy any issues that may arise. If you’ll be out of the area, provide your guests with a designated and reliable means of contact.


Whether or not you’re sharing a space with your guests, it’s important to remain available and responsive throughout their stay. If they can’t find the toaster or if the faucet starts leaking, your guest should know how to can get help.


Make sure your guests have your contact information, and respond to their questions or requests quickly. If you won’t be greeting your guests when they arrive, send them a message at their check-in time to make sure everything went smoothly. If you won’t be in the area during their stay, give your guests a local point of contact.

Expectations and Resources

Provide detailed House Rules, so your guests know how you’d like them to treat your space. In the listing, anticipate their needs and provide items and resources that will help them feel at home. Leave a list of phone numbers for taxi companies, restaurants you recommend and emergency contacts. Each guest will be different—some will prefer privacy, while others will want to interact with you more often.

Living Like a Local

Sometimes guests and hosts make plans together. For other trips, you may not be available, or your guests may prefer to explore the area on their own. To help them feel comfortable, create a Guidebook that highlights your favorite local sights and activities.


What can I do to make my space safe for guests?

Emergency Procedures

Contact Info:

Indicate local emergency numbers and the nearest hospital. Provide a clear emergency contact number for yourself, as well as backup, for easy guest reference. Also make clear how you should be contacted if the guest has questions or issues arise.


Make a first aid kit easily available.

Fire Prevention:

Ensure you have a functioning smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector, and that your property meets government safety guidelines for your area (e.g., International Building Code). Ensure you provide a functioning fire extinguisher and complete required maintenance.


Ensure you have a clearly marked fire escape route, and post a map in your home.

Minimize Hazards


Always be mindful of your guests’ privacy. Fully disclose whether there are security cameras or other surveillance equipment at or around your listing. Make sure you are aware of and comply with applicable federal, state, and local laws.


Establish safe occupancy limits – your local government may have guidelines.


Go through your home to identify any areas where guests might trip or fall and either remove the hazard or mark clearly. Fix any exposed wires. Ensure stairs are safe and have railings. Remove or lock up any objects that may be dangerous to your guests.


Ensure your home is safe for children, or else notify guests of potential hazards.


Ensure your home is properly ventilated and that temperature control is clearly marked and functional. Ensure guests are clear about how to safely use the heater.


How can I be mindful of my neighbors?

Building Rules:

Ensure you relay your building’s common area rules to your guest. You may want to even notify your neighbors that you will have guests, and remind guests not to bother your neighbors (e.g., don’t knock on their door or buzz them to let you in).


If you don’t allow smoking, we suggest posting signs to remind guests. If you do allow smoking, ensure you have ashtrays available in designated areas.


Ensure you relay parking rules for your building and neighborhood to your guest.


Remind guests about keeping noise down. You may want to consider whether you allow babies, pets, or parties. Develop a policy about guests inviting other people over, and ensure your guests are clear about your ‘party policy.’

House Rules:

To avoid surprises, you may want to include the information covered above in your House Rules in your Homestay For Life listing profile.



Whom should I notify that I’m hosting on Homestay For Life?


Check your HOA or Co-Op Board regulations to make sure there is no prohibition against subletting–or any other restriction against hosting. Read your lease agreement and check with your landlord if applicable. You may consider adding a rider to your contract that addresses the concerns of these parties and outlines the responsibilities and liabilities of all parties.


If you have roommates, consider a roommate agreement in writing which outlines things like how often you plan to host, how you’ll ensure guests follow House Rules, and even whether you’ll share revenue if that makes sense for you.


Consider whether you should notify your neighbors about your plans to host, along with your plan for how to make sure your guests are not disruptive.

Subsidized Housing:

If you live in public or subsidized housing there may be special rules that apply to you. The manager of the property may be able to answer questions about this.

General Regulations

What local regulations apply to me?


Ensure you look up any local taxes or business license requirements that may apply. This may include things like hotel/transient occupancy tax, sales, and other turnover taxes such as Value Added Tax (VAT) or Goods and Services Tax (GST), or income tax.

Permits or Registrations:

Ensure you look up any permitting, zoning, safety, and health regulations that may apply. The governing authorities that regulate the use and development of property in your area may have useful information on such regulations.

Rent Control/Rent Stabilization:

If you live in rent controlled or stabilized housing, there may be special rules that apply to you. Contact your local Rent board to ask questions about this topic.


Make sure your guests’ departure is just as easy as their arrival. The process for returning keys and checking out should be clear and simple. If a deposit was held in escrow it is the time to calculate if there has been any damages sustained or un paid bills incurred by the guest that would be deducted from the security deposit.