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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 12:17 pm | A Few Clouds 62º


The Advantages of Offering Short-Term Rental of Your Home

I’ve always said that Santa Barbara is the best place in the world to come home to, but my homecomings have been even better since I’ve begun short-term renting my home when I travel.

I know that Airbnb and other short-term rental websites have stirred some controversy lately, but I believe that — when used responsibly — Airbnb is a win-win for all concerned.

» Win 1 — I earn relatively passive income when I’m gone.

» Win 2 — The city grows its transient occupancy tax revenue base. That is the money that fills our general fund coffers that in turn provide us such great infrastructure and services.

» Win 3 — Airbnb guests use less water and electricity per night as compared to hotel guests. Given the severity of our current drought, that’s a big deal.

» Win 4 — I’m extra nice and communicative with my neighbors so that they are assured that I care about the neighborhood and don’t want a noisy party in my home any more than they want one next door.

» Win 5 — My guests get a more authentic and affordable Santa Barbara experience.

» Win 6 — When I go on vacation my home gets rejuvenated, too.

Here’s what I’ve noticed about using Airbnb and how it impacts the various stakeholders in our community.

» Money, money, money: What better way to be welcomed home than finding a big check on the kitchen table? OK, Airbnb does not send me a physical check but it does arouse a digitized version of the check-receiving sensation when I see that it has deposited a chunk of change straight into my checking account. Santa Barbara is one of the most searched destinations on Airbnb. That equals premium pricing and high occupancy rates for those of us who take advantage of Airbnb’s service responsibly. Take a look through Airbnb’s “Santa Barbara, California” listings to get a sense of how much homes like yours garner per night. Not bad, eh? A typical three-bed/two-bath home could easily gross $400 a night.

» Regulations, taxes and fees, oh my: While the soul of Airbnb is in connecting out-of-town visitors with local hosts, at its heart, Airbnb is a business. Like all business activities, you need a business permit if you rent your home and you need to pay taxes on your income. Airbnb hosts are subject to a 12 percent transient occupancy tax from the City of Santa Barbara plus a $2/night fee. Hosts in Carpinteria, unincorporated Santa Barbara County, and Goleta are on the hook for similar fees. Bed taxes from short-term rentals already provide a significant revenue stream to our local governments and will doubtless contribute much more as the industry matures and enforcement continues. While it is always a bummer to pay taxes and fees, there is no way to argue that they are not legitimate. Check out the article I published in January if you wonder what I mean by that and are curious about what you would owe.

» Airbnb is greener: Try as they might, it is difficult for hotels to be as resource efficient as well-managed short-term vacation rentals. According to a report conducted by Cleantech Group, “Airbnb guests in North America saved the equivalent of 270 Olympic-sized pools of water while avoiding the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 33,000 cars on North American roads,” over the course of a year.

“These findings suggest that Airbnb, by the very nature of its business, has raised the bar in sustainable tourism to a level that the conventional travel industry will find hard to beat,” says Jonathan Tourtellot, founding director of the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations.

When someone stays at a hotel, they feel less connected with our community and therefore disinclined to take shorter showers, turn of the lights when the leave, walk or use public transportation to get around town, and spend their money at local businesses. Whereas most hotels provide their guests with wasteful single-use packaged toiletries that end up in our Tajiguas Landfill, most short-term rental hosts provide their guests with access to the big bottles of shampoo and other necessities.

» Howdy, neighbor!: They say that good fences might make good neighbors. In my experience, Airbnb makes great ones. The way I look at it, there are two ways to approach being an Airbnb host in Santa Barbara: 1) surreptitiously rent out your place online and hope your neighbors don’t notice or care. That is a bad strategy for a number of reasons, especially compared with how great it feels to 2) explain to your neighbors what you are doing and whom to call in the event that something seems amiss with the folks who’ll be staying in your house. It never hurts to gift them a bottle of wine/local honey/fresh juice to show your closest neighbor how much you appreciate them. You will likely be surprised at how interesting and respectful Airbnb visitors tend to be. Airbnb’s system is optimized to maximize positive person-to-person interactions and my neighbors can attest that most people who have stayed in my home via Airbnb have been pretty darn cool (and quiet) folks.

» Will the real Santa Barbara please stand up?: There is a reason why Airbnb is one of the largest and fastest growing companies in the world right now. People love the way traveling with Airbnb makes them feel. It allows travelers a more authentic experience, with a greater likelihood of meeting locals and understanding how we live, if only for a few days. When visitors have a positive experience in our town, they are more inclined to spend more time and money here. And they are more likely to come back and to encourage their friends and family to as well.

» Home, sweet professionally managed home: While the financial exchange has been digitized, my short-term property management company does leave behind flowers and a pristine home after the guests have gone. If there is time for them to tackle some deferred maintenance, they’ll handle that, too. And it doesn’t feel like I paid anything for all of that because I am still getting a healthy check and didn’t actually do anything. There is no better way to smooth the transition back to “real life” than by feeling like my home has been as rejuvenated by my trip as I have.

» On net, responsible short term renting = wins all around: While there are undoubtedly occasional problem properties or disrespectful renters, these can be dealt with effectively on a case-by-case basis under existing laws. I’m so passionate about Airbnb that I started a OurTown Short Term Management to help our community take advantage of it. As long as it isn’t taking affordable housing units off the market, Airbnb is a huge net benefit to homeowners and our larger community. But don’t take my word for it — give it a try next time you travel and you’ll see what I mean.

— Jack Ucciferri’s OurTown Property Management helps Santa Barbara-area residents earn passive income from renting out their homes while they travel. When he is not in Santa Barbara he can often be found in Nicaragua, where he has a luxury home management business. Jack attended UCSB for undergrad and graduate school.

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