I Put My House on Airbnb and Lived Nowhere For a Summer

This past spring, I bought a house in Denver and started nesting so hard. Then summer came, and I had an idea. I decided to list my cute little nest as a vacation rental and fly the coop while guests stayed there.

Four months later, I’ve hosted over 25 bookings and more guests than I’ve managed to count. Here are some questions that come up when I tell people about my experiment.

So where did you stay?

Here’s how I explained it to my guests in my Welcome Booklet:

I became a first-time homeowner here in March 2017, and I’ve been in love with this place ever since. It’s my primary residence, so most of my stuff stays here. I’m probably staying at my brother’s house (I’m his substitute caregiver) or camping in the mountains while you’re here. I hope you enjoy this space as much as I do!

What that excerpt doesn’t mention is the long list of friends and family who welcomed me for a night, a weekend, and even weeks on end. I logged the most nights at my brother Phil’s house while his roommates went on vacation. Second place goes to my friend Brian who subleased his Cap Hill studio apartment while he went traveling for awhile, digital nomad style. Honorable mention goes to my parents, who finally drew the line. “Stop staying at our house! You have your own house. Go live there.” Welcome worn.

How strict is Denver with Airbnb?

The Airbnb phenomenon and its impact on cities intrigues me. Here’s an excerpt from my Welcome Booklet about Denver’s regulation of the short-term rental market, staying compliant, and my opinion about it.

The City and County of Denver has cracked down on short-term rentals in recent years, requiring listings to be by homeowners that can prove that the property is their primary residence as opposed to an investment property. The city also collects a 10% lodgers tax that I roll into the price.
I actually like Denver’s strictly regulated and enforced approach to short term rentals — it’s meant to keep the city’s hot, escalating real estate market a little more reigned in.

Did you lock up your things when guests were there?

Nope. I really don’t own many high-value things. I’d usually take my bike and my laptop with me. Over the course of four months, the only item that disappeared was a pillow from the guest room. It threw off my whole pillowcase rotation.

Have there been any incidents with guests?

Aside from the vanishing pillow, no. All my guests were courteous and respectful, and my experiences hosting were overwhelmingly positive. Guests have left me the nicest handwritten notes and all sorts of little gifts and surprises. Among my favorites were a guestbook for future guests to write in, and a really fancy chocolate bar.

Why “Blue Dream”?

The main living area is decorated in a palette of white and cobalt blue, based on a beautiful piece of art that my artist friend Laura gifted to me. It happened to match my blue bicycle that I store on the wall. A piece of Colorado flag art and other blue accents were my attempts to tie it all together.

“Blue Dream” is also the name of a popular cannabis strain. Since I work at a cannabis tour company and list my place as cannabis-friendly, it seemed fitting. The name came to me when I was looking at the strain tee shirts for sale in the gift shop at work. The “Blue Dream” design popped out.

So why did you do it?

I’d be lying if I said money wasn’t the primary reason to go semi-homeless and live out of luggage for a season. The extra income has gone a long way.

Beyond that, I did it because it was a really rewarding experience. The world traveled to me. I reconnected with my hometown and my support network in a new way. I’ve gained experience running a business and I’m now a qualified Airbnb Co-host. I’m also playing with the idea of renting out the space the next time I do any major traveling.

Will you do it again next summer high season?

We’ll see. It’s mid-October, and I’ve closed Blue Dream for the season. Just when I was turning off the availability, I got this email from Airbnb.

Clearly I’m good at this hosting thing, but would I do it all again? I have an entire winter to make that decision. Meanwhile, I’ll be luxuriating in my bathtub and taking a break from all the obsessive housekeeping. My guest room, however, is always open to friends and family, especially those who attempt the same kind of “extreme hosting’ that I did.

This post first appeared on my blog at www.cynthiaord.com.

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