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North Hills Monthly

Local Travelers Find A Lot to Like with Airbnb

Jul 31, 2018 02:20PM ● By Kathleen Ganster

Sierra Downing outside the family's rental.

By Kathleen Ganster

Just as Uber has changed the transportation industry, Airbnb has changed the hotel industry.

Airbnb is comprised of private owners making their homes and other properties available for rent—usually at much lower pricing than hotels. Owners list rentals on the website where folks who are traveling can check out the listings and book properties. 

Airbnb was started in 2008 and today, there are more than 4 million properties to rent in nearly 200 countries. 

Amy Haldeman rents her home and finds places to stay through Airbnb. Haldeman has a house in the North Hills that she rents while her family travels.  

“My friend was renting out her home on Airbnb and shared that the extra income was fantastic,” she said. 

The Haldemans had purchased a house and spent five years renovating it, so they felt that sharing it while they were traveling would be fun. They’ve rented their home for two years.

“We’ve tried to be thoughtful in making our home a comfortable place for guests as we’ve redone it, which included building a spacious kitchen and an outdoor patio with a fire pit, and we’re currently building a pizza oven/theater in the basement,” Haldeman said. “A home does not need any of these things to be an Airbnb, but it is really fun to have these items be appreciated and used by others.” 

Unlike many who rent rooms or part of their homes while in residence, the Haldemans only rent while they are on vacation—two to five rentals a year. But those rentals mean that there is more money for vacation, so that number may increase. 

“We just love that it gives us more money, giving us more opportunities to travel,” Haldeman said. 

The Haldemans have also used Airbnb while traveling during the past four years. With children who have “unique food challenges,” having a kitchen while traveling is helpful. It also allows them to look for other amenities such as swimming pools, laundry facilities or even unique locations—like staying in a caboose, which they did recently. 

Erica Rocchi Brusselars of the North Side has rented rooms in her own home and a separate property since 2015. “I started renting rooms for an additional source of income,” she said. 

In addition to the extra income, Brusselars has made some friends with long-time rentals. With more than 1,200 guests in the two properties over the years, she feels that it is a good fit.

“I tell people to give it a try—go with your gut. If it doesn’t feel right whether you are renting out or renting, you will feel it,” she said. 

Camille Downing of Hampton frequently uses Airbnb for personal and business travel. 

“I liked the idea of the spaciousness of staying in more than a crammed hotel room during vacation, especially when traveling with kids,” she said. “Second, I liked being able to save money on meals by having a kitchen to prepare food. Finally, the pricing of some of the places we stayed was less expensive than hotels, and the homes were much roomier.” 

Downing has used Airbnb for nearly 10 years and has rarely had an unpleasant experience. When they found a house dirty, complete with a cat who expected to sleep in bed with them, Downing remained calm and flexible, but learned from the experience. 

“There were red flags all over the place that I ignored because the price was so good,” she said. 

Downing looks at photos, reads the reviews (in her 'cat' experience, she was the first renter), and looks at Google maps to see the neighborhood and actual house. 

“I also send notes to the owners asking a lot of questions, especially if something is not answered in the listing,” said Downing, adding that there is a new feature on Airbnb called Airbnb Homes Plus for homes that have been verified for quality and comfort. “I haven't had a chance to check this out yet but will use it in my searches in the future.”

Downing loves the Airbnb experience. “The best part is the convenience of having a place to yourself that is more than just a cramped hotel room with two beds,” she explained. “Typically, the cost is less than hotel rooms, but even when we pay more than a hotel room we are getting so much more.”  

She added, “I have even booked Airbnb's for business trips instead of paying the high cost of hotel rooms at conferences. More than once, a few of us who were in town for a conference chose to rent an Airbnb house and saved quite a bit of money while having a great meeting place to hang together during off hours.”

Like Brusselars, Haldeman encourages others to give Airbnb a try. “Do not expect it to be the exact same as a hotel, but go into it knowing a fun adventure will be had,” she said.