Read Part 1 here
Last week The Valley Reporter took a look at how Airbnb rentals are impacting conventional inns and bed-and-breakfasts. This week’s story takes a look at several local Airbnb hosts, why they rent, their experiences and their thoughts.
The Valley Reporter offered hosts the opportunity to remain anonymous about their rentals.
A Warren woman, A, who has had an Airbnb rental for six years, said travelers who book with her from the site were not all younger folks. She said she hosts a mix of ages and families. Asked if she had ever considered renting long term instead of for travelers and why she decided to renovate and become a host on the Airbnb site, she said, “We already were renting a cottage on our property in the winter and we converted it. It was easier. I have another property I continue to rent out that we’ve had for 26 years. We have an apartment we rent long term; I house a regular person who works nearby to offset my Airbnb rental. I have a conscience about owning an Airbnb. Affordable housing in The Valley is definitely an issue. A lot of these properties are not for long term; they’re for short-time rental.”
Another Mad River Valley host, B, who has been renting properties in Warren via Airbnb for 15 months and typically seeing younger travelers, agrees that there is an issue with affordable housing in The Valley.
“I’ve done it all. I’ve been in business for 35 years. I’m not new in the game; Airbnb is. There are lots more people out there renting out. I’ve had rental homes since the late ’80s. I think affordable housing in The Valley is an issue for those looking to rent in the long term,” said B.
On a related note about housing in The Valley, B said, “I think there is a shortage of affordable housing in the Mad River Valley. I couldn’t point my finger at the Airbnb community and long-term renting facilities being the sole cause. I do think they (Airbnb housing opportunities) are helpful for those that have a space, so it could produce additional income. There are people that could use it here.”
K, who hosts an Airbnb with his wife, is in his third year of renting. They see mostly people in their 20s through 40s. They were motivated to try Airbnb after reading about it. They renovated a space on their property in 2005 and tried renting it short term without getting much traffic. Once they listed it on Airbnb it took off, he said.
Asked if Airbnb hosts thought their business was hurting the community, responses varied.
“I think it does hurt it because it was the only option before, you only had inns. But what I like about Airbnb is I use it myself to travel a lot and it’s a different perspective. You explore, you don’t have to deal with people, it’s more private. It’s a unique way to go places and it attracts different people who might not want go to an inn,” said A.
B commented, “Definitely, they’re (the Airbnb community) offering other options to the lodging community but not holding them to the same standards as a regular lodging business.”
Areas inns and lodges have to meet state safety regulations and yearly inspections, something that inn and lodge owners felt might create an unfair advantage for Airbnb hosts.
“I have a lot of those measures in my Airbnb, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. There’s a competition that exists. There’s nearly 400 Airbnbs in The Valley. The inns are just a piece of our competition. It’s a complicated market,” said A.
B agreed that the field is slightly uneven, with changes coming. “Yes, but the government is trying to regulate and even the playing field. They’re trying to make sure that they carry insurances needed and adding rooms and meals tax.”
“I’m sure it takes rentals away from them. I don’t think it’s an unfair advantage. There are some of us that abide by the regulations and register with the state. We have our water tested; we had a fire marshal come through and see the property. There are some of us that do it the right way,” said K.
Next week The Valley Reporter will take a look at the impact of Airbnb on the year-round housing market and on affordable housing.