3½ Ways to Make Money and Friends from Your Spare Bedroom in Malaysia

Feature Pic Flexi Blog 3.5 Ways August 2017

In increasingly strained times financially, you don’t want to overlook one key asset you may already have at home: a spare bedroom! At the same time, why not explore the emerging sharing economy, in which the quality of social interactions is seen as being as important as money. Read on and you’ll see how it’s possible to make friends and save money at the same time.


This is the big one, which people mention when discussing cheap holidays, or when they don’t have enough space in their own house to accommodate their visitors.

How it works is that you create your room’s listing on the website, with all the relevant information about features and local facilities. Include lots of photos, so your guests can picture themselves staying with you rather than your nearest competitor. Someone who likes the look of your accommodation will click to book, they pay Airbnb, and you get paid by Airbnb directly. You might make friends with your guests too, if the financial transaction doesn’t get in the way.

Until the Malaysian government passes a law on Airbnb, at the time of writing hosts don’t need a permit to rent to short-term guests. The project started as a cheap alternative to big hotels, with families offering spare rooms to backpackers. Now there’s a whole range, including luxury accommodation. The website will advise you on how much to charge, taking all factors into account. Guests are charged in advance, which means smooth transactions.

So how much can you make? Well, it depends where you are, and how often you host. In upmarket Bangsar, the cheapest room, at RM66, gets the best and most numerous reviews. One host states that he gains just under RM1,300 per month after expenses. Bear in mind there’s a service fee to Airbnb of 3%. 

Airbnb Pic 3.5 Ways Flexi Blog August 2017

Other Room Rental Sites

Airbnb isn’t the only player. While the following room rental sites aren’t all fully active in Malaysia just yet, with globalisation and Malaysia’s speed in adopting new trends, it’ll only be a matter of time. You heard it here first!

Focusing mainly on holiday homes, VRBO is “vacation rental by owner”.

Homestay deals with “host is always present” rentals; you’re there as a local host for your guests.

With TheHitch, you rent your property as a wedding venue.

Venuelust allows you to rent your home for parties and weddings.

One more tip: if you’re renting your property out, you’ll need to think about taxes and insurance.

Make Money by Accepting Help

One all-round solution is Helpx. Guests come and work with you, usually, unwaged except for food and accommodation, for an agreed number of hours per week (usually 24, but you can vary it). Social interaction is key here, with many hosts showing their guests the area and introducing them to friends.

So how do you make money from this? By saving it! Instead of paying for services, you get them for nothing, saving you money each month. If a cleaner costs RM20 per hour on average, that might be RM40-RM80 saved per week. That’s just on cleaning; the same goes for gardening and cooking. There are some tasks that would cost you a lot more, and some are priceless.

Before you can say, There’s nothing I need strangers to help me with, just think: do you put off major projects due to lack of time? Look at this job list sampled from Malaysia’s Helpx pages: cleaning, housekeeping, cooking, chopping, guest check-in, gardening. With a little more thought, both parties could benefit a lot more. Ask your guests to show you how to use computer programmes, make their national food and cakes, teach you their languages, plus their skills and hobbies, their favourite song, poem, dance or party trick. Get them to anticipate things that need doing, and keep you to schedules.

The list is limited only by your imagination. As long as you don’t expect one person to do everything listed (not in one day, anyway), and that’s clear on your page, you should be OK.

Most Malaysian hosts use help with homestays and hostels, wellness retreats, or other such organised entities. In Europe it’s mostly families who need help with kids, or just daily life chores, plus all of the above. 

Duster Girl Flexi Blog 3.5 Ways August 2017

Boleh-wood Days

This next method to make money from your spare bedroom is an unusual one. Your home could be the star of the latest Malaysian version of Breaking Bad, or The Wire. It could, it could – Boleh-wood! How? Locations Hub is a fast-growing website that exists to connect homeowners with film crews, who can use your home as a location. A nominal fee applies. While this sort of site needs to gain popularity over here, you could Google film production companies and Malaysia, or the name of your town or city, see what comes up and ring them. 

Clapper Flexi Blog 3.5 Ways August 2017

The Social Side of Sharing

Finally, if you’re reading this to meet people rather than for money, and you’re truly an internationalist, Couchsurfing is for you!  It’s pure cultural exchange – Helpx without the helping (nothing’s written in stone), or the food necessarily; Airbnb without money. Look at the website – lifelong friendships and cultural exchange are priceless.  It’s not just for ex-hippies, and you don’t have to hug anyone.

To sum up: if you need to make money, the room rental sites are there. You’ll have to try harder to make friends with those, but it’s easily possible. Addressing the natural inclination to share, Helpx is a good mix of saving and socialising. Couchsurfing will bring great friends into your life, but not money, so it all depends on your priorities. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you alternating between two or three of these sites.