Life as an AirBnb Host

We’re coming up on 2 years as short-term-rental hosts and it’s been an amazing gig for us so far. We rent out the Jewel Vinsota Artist’s Guesthouse which is next to our home near Smithsburg, Maryland. We also rent the Burhacienda, my former home in Hagerstown, Maryland.

What I like most about being part of this community is that it reaffirms my belief that most of us are decent human beings. Hosting has a bunch of benefits, and a few drawbacks. Here’s some specifics:

Benefits of Hosting

Sharing This Place We Love

No matter how amazing your home is, it’s so easy to become complacent about what you see everyday. Having people come through on a regular basis, and pointing out what they love, breaks that complacency.

When all we can see are the furballs or the uneven paint job on the ceiling, giving our guests a tour of our home makes us see it in a renewed light. We again can appreciate the light rays beaming in through the clerestory windows, or the window view that lines up perfectly with the guesthouse gable window.

Our guests’ appreciation makes us want to make this place better to heighten their experience and make them want to come back.

Meeting Great People

We’ve had guests from all over the world, here for so many different reasons. In the beginning it was mostly people on longer road trips looking for a place to rest their heads. Now, most are getting away from the cities for a weekend. Some come to focus on writing projects. Here’s a few that stick out in my head.

  • Oli, an artist and AirBnb Host from Iceland, came with a Baltimorean friend and her St. Bernard. Oli gave David great advice and encouragement.
  • Staff from the Maryland Symphony Orchestra used the Guesthouse for a planning retreat.
  • A film student from MICA used our house as the setting for part of her Master’s project.
  • Alison, of My Good Eye Music Visuals, rented the house to record a video for Bottom Feeder, by local band Clutch. She and her partner stayed with us for a couple nights. They set up their equipment, furnished some special props (like Maryland flag hot pads), and had the band Clutch show up for one day.
Clutch drummer practices while singer performs in front of a green screen.
Crabcake Recipe by Clutch

Keeping My Stuff

I loved my home, now known as the Burhacienda. I loved the furniture I put in it, the art I put on the walls, the colors I painted it, the plants I put in the yard, and the graffiti-covered trains that rolled past it. I loved it–but then I fell in love. And my now-husband, Degibnio, had a better house, with plenty of art, and a creek that flowed past it.

I was able to move into his home, the Jewel Vinsota, bringing only clothes, cats, a few bits of cookware, and some favorite art. The rest stayed put. Guests and month-to-month renters come and go, and in between I can go and look at my stuff, soak in my colors, and take care of my plants.

I haven’t had to put my stuff in storage or get rid of it. I haven’t had to sell it for what will definitely be a loss. I haven’t had to find good long-term renters and deal with all that entails.

Money (duh)

Who is going to deny that hundreds dollars of extra income is an awesome thing? After going through the Government Shutdown of 2019 with no paychecks for a month, having that little chunk o’cash deposit several times a week was incredibly reassuring.

Drawbacks of Hosting

Money (huh?)

Even after buying all the stuff to set up the rental, you have to keep buying stuff. At the bare minimum–toilet paper. To make it a nicer space you have to keep stocked on coffee, creamers, tea, paper towels, sodas, some cooking basics, trash bags, and cleaning supplies.

If you didn’t splurge on sheets at the beginning, you’ll be buying more. Whether it’s from fabric pilling or –ahem– stains, nice clean sheets are a necessity.

All these purchases add up and this income is reported to the IRS. So we need to keep our receipts and track what we buy, to soften the blow at the end of the year.

People All in Your Shit

In our case, strangers are living with and using our personal stuff. Both of our rentals have been our homes, and still hold our personal effects, like furniture, books, and artwork. Sometimes I think about the assumptions our guests might make from being around our stuff. Because I damn sure judge them for how they use our space.

The Bad Apples

Truly there have only been a handful of guests that made me uneasy. Sometimes its because they don’t provide any information when they book. Sometimes they ask A LOT of questions and are high maintenance. I’ve learned to say no to anyone asking for a discounted rate because those folks have just been difficult even after I cut them a break.

As far as how they’ve left the house, I can count on one hand the number that have not done their dishes. And one who didn’t pick up the dog poop in the tiny yard of the Burhacienda.

One of our draws is that we allow dogs (and cats!) at both our places. And most have been really good. Usually it just means fur to vacuum up and maybe muddy paw prints on the floor.

But this guy, oh this guy. Turbo. A gorgeous, rescued, literal-junkyard dog of a pibble. Ironically, his human companion was in the area attending a dog-training workshop and she was gone during the day. She kept him in a crate and had a video camera to keep an eye on him from afar. That way she could watch as Turbo worked the latch open and proceeded to scratch up woodwork, strew toys and food around the house, and bust up some blinds and furniture.

Who would ever guess this relaxed guy could have such bad separation anxiety?

She’d then call or message us asking us to check on him. On the day this pic was taken, I was at home and, rather than risk more damage, I just brought him out with me while I worked on the porch. As you can see, as long as he wasn’t alone, he was fine.

Would We Do It Again?

Oh hell yeah. It’s totally worth it.

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