Do YOU know anyone that feels this way?
According to the National Association of Realtors online magazine, Porch.com, a home improvement site, recently surveyed 990 people about short-term rentals (STR). The results weren’t as shocking as they were dependable when you consider the millions of people that own short term rental property and/or choose to use them when they travel. Another article, by CityLab.com reports that legislators across the country are not happy with AirBnB.
AirBnB is the goose that dropped the golden egg. Dropped as in SPLAT. New Orleans has legislation in place that limits STR: restrictions because of the swift emergence of AirBnB, and other municipalities are threatening to follow suit. Why? AirBnB was founded in 2008 as a STR platform and seemingly exploded right before everyone’s eyes- especially the eyes of city and county legislators, many of whom are left wondering, “What’s in it for me?”
A study from the University of Massachusetts found that for every twelve AirBnB listings per census tract, the long-term rental prices raised by 0.4%. One reason cited: homeowners find that renting STR are much more lucrative than renting long term rentals which leads to scarcity of long-term rentals, which drives the price of long-term rentals up. Without long term rentals, the workforce has nowhere to live.
Another byproduct is less hotel rooms are being rented nationwide because people are choosing AirBnB. One way hoteliers are dealing with this is to offer STR suites in addition to the nightly one-room hotel fares. We’ve seen this happen here, when a few years ago several of the hotels and inns changed their names to include the word ‘lodge’ which denotes accommodations larger than a room and with more amenities.
Don’t even get me started on the tax issue. All of that has been dealt with recently after a few years of going back and forth. Years ago, our office received a monthly report from Macon County listing the amount of occupancy tax received from Hotels, Inns/Bed & Breakfasts, and Realtors. The stat sheet let us know how we stood month by month with our short-term rentals. In the last decade, despite the advancements in computer technology, those kinds of reports are no longer available, and maybe it didn’t make any difference anymore because they would’ve had to add another column ‘short-term-rental-owners’, and they said there was no way to keep up with that. In my opinion, our county government has given in to the Big Daddy, AirBnB, by accepting their occupancy tax offerings. Maybe they figured on the adage of a bird in the hand, but I guarantee you AirBnB won’t be on the short end of that shtick.
Are there any winners? Sure. Vacationers may be able to get accommodations at lower prices than other STR companies, B&Bs and hotels can offer, but at whose expense? Is the fox guarding the hen house? Washington, DC has started to limit the number of days a homeowner can rent their homes in the homeowner’s absence. There are some municipalities that will start allowing STR to happen ONLY when the homeowner is present (which sort of brings it back around to when AirBnB started with people renting out a room or two in their home.) It reminds me of growing up in my small southern town. There were large homes, once occupied by families, left to the matriarch to handle by herself after all the birdies flew the nest. Some opened their homes to strangers, and ‘let the rooms out’ to boarders, and those homes became boarding houses.
Back to that survey. Here are some of the reasons people are against STR.
64.4%- say is disrupts the neighborhood. Everyone wants peace and quiet
64.1%- creates safety issues (not sure if this is due to traffic or crime)
63%- allows unvetted strangers into the neighborhood
60%- claim renters don’t care about the neighborhood values (noise, litter, etc.)
52.8% -say renters come and go at all hours of the day and night (wedding parties, etc.)
The survey also said that property owners that use STR themselves tend to be more in favor of having them in their own neighborhood than those who have never used STR services.
I can tell you most renters that complain AND are complained about are the renters that come from VRBO (aka Vrbo, pronounced Verbo- they’ve changed their name recently (to sound more like AirBnB) to make it easier to pronounce. Even though most of our vacation rentals offered by Chambers Realty & Vacation Rentals are listed on HomeAway and VRBO (and FlipKey/TripAdvisor), we still get a chance to talk with the renter before confirming their reservation. That’s when we spend a good portion of time describing Highlands and the Highlands experience. People that ‘shop rentals’ on STR sites are far more likely to have never visited here before. Once we get them here, our goal is to make sure they call us direct the next time they visit the area, which would be in their favor since they wouldn’t be paying the rental fees to the various STR sites.
Another thing all STR sites are doing is reviews. Not just reviews of the properties rented, but they want the homeowner (or the person managing their rental home) to rate the renter. There are some sites that allow a homeowner to restrict renters based on the renter’s rating.
Vacation rentals are becoming a lot like shopping on Amazon. We all know what great deals we can get on Amazon, but at the same time, we also know what shopping on Amazon does to local businesses.
I’d like to add that at Chambers Realty & Vacation Rentals, we think we have the BEST renters. We have renters that have been finding homes through our office for over two decades. We have rental owners that have been with us for longer than that. Are we for everyone? No, probably not, and that’s OK. We think we offer the most varied rental properties anywhere on the plateau, and the reason we do that is because we know everyone has different tastes and budgets.
Jeannie and Tucker Chambers are owners/Brokers of Chambers Realty and Vacation Rentals located at 401 N. Fifth Street in Highlands. [email protected] They believe there’s a happy medium to short-term rentals. Let us show you how to think outside of the ‘big box’.