Among the trendier topics in real estate in 2019 is renting, and in particular, listing sites like Airbnb, which allow homeowners to list their home for short- and longer-term guests. Airbnb statistics from 2018 show that Georgia hosts earned $158 million, while welcoming about 1.1 million guests into their homes.
Two Jewish Atlantans spoke to the AJT about their experiences renting their homes on Airbnb.
Terri Jacobson, along with her husband Eric, has been listing her home on the site since February. In fact, the idea played a role in their home search, as they left their previous home in East Cobb.
“When we were looking for houses, we were looking for that ideal house where we could live in part of a house and rent out the other part,” she said. “We found the perfect situation where we live on the top level of our bungalow, and the Airbnb is a separate entrance and it’s on the bottom level.”
The location also seems to have been a perfect fit for Airbnb appeal, splitting the difference between downtown and the airport.
“We have been booked since February, every single weekend,” she said.
Sandy Bailey, on the other hand, started with Airbnb following her son’s suggestion.
“He has stayed in Airbnbs all over the world and suggested it because I live one mile from the Braves stadium,” she explained. “My interest in people are big parts of why I did it.”
Unlike Jacobson, Bailey’s entrance for guests is not separate.
“Every friend that I have thinks I’m crazy, but I trust people and I’ve never had a problem,” Bailey said. “Each of the 10 couples that have been here have been nicer than the last.”
Given the location, many of her guests are seeing a game or an event at SunTrust Park, and Bailey likes to offer them a little extra help.
“They usually come about five or six o’clock, and I run them up to the stadium and then they usually walk home, and it’s about a 25-minute walk,” she said. “It’s convenient and people don’t have to pay for $20 parking.”
While the appeal of meeting new people is certainly at the core of the experience for Bailey, Jacobson explained that keeping her home separate from her listing was very important.
“It was extremely important to keep it separate. We stay in Airbnbs all the time and we don’t mind staying in somebody’s house, but if someone can find a separate place, I’m going to prefer it,” Jacobson said. “They’re in my house, but they’re separate from us if that makes any sense.”
Jacobson noted that most of the work entailed getting the downstairs unit ready for guests, which involved getting furniture and appliances, and figuring out how to balance the workload.
“I didn’t want to be the one cleaning the place, so we do charge a cleaning fee, which we don’t make any money on,” she said. “My work involves doing the laundry, all the towels and all the sheets, and doing the dishes. It’s a couple hours a week, not too much, but it’s totally worth it.”
In terms of advice and lessons learned from her experience, Jacobson offered a few tips for first-time hosts.
“I would start by talking to people who host already, so that you can get some ideas,” she said. “There are also Facebook groups for hosts, and I think that’s a great way to get started. I found my cleaners that way.”
As for more observant members of the Jewish community who have specific needs regarding kashrut or Shabbat, Airbnb’s Head of Trust & Safety Communications Ben Breit offered a few suggestions.
“If you jump on the platform, you can see that we have dozens of ‘filters’ to whittle down your search, and one is for homes that have a kitchen,” he said. “From there, our messaging tool allows prospective guests to talk to hosts in advance of booking and get their questions answered (such as the particulars of the kitchen and silverware, etc.)”
Chrental.com is another resource for those looking for short-term accommodations that fit their religious needs. While it does not currently feature listings in Atlanta it can be a resource for those traveling, and account manager Eli Chaim said that those wanting to list their home can reach out.
“Jewish community members who are looking to travel can get a home within a close proximity to synagogues, have kosher catered food or a host who would be sensitive towards your needs, including kashering the kitchen,” Chaim said.
While there is some uncertainty regarding the future of short-term rentals in Georgia, particularly as legislators both in state and city governments grapple with licensing questions, Jacobson explained that regulations may or may not affect her.
“It would depend for us on what the cost and the requirements are. If they’re just doing it to make money, which they might be, then the intentions are not good,” she said. “If it’s to license so that the city knows you’re operating and to make sure you pay taxes, and are above-board, then it’s legitimate.”
As for Bailey, she noted that while the host experience isn’t necessarily for everyone, she has really enjoyed her experience welcoming guests into her home.
“I definitely recommend it if you don’t mind having strangers in your house,” she said. “I was slightly anxious at first, but you get a picture and a bio so they’re not really strangers when they walk in.”