SW AirBnBs

Rose O'Keefe & Chris Jones SWQ Summer 2019

Whatever your style or budget, if you want to live somewhere like a neighbor, then an Airbnb is the way to go.

The online Rochester map shows prices for places from Irondequoit Bay to the suburbs. Clicking on the tags, there’s everything from mansions, bungalows, beach homes, a tiny house, and an eco-friendly home with a sustainable-living collective.

Narrowing the search to the South Wedge, the online maps can differ by whether you want a single room, a whole house or apartment. Check-in and check-out, on-site or street parking, and the minimum length of stay vary. Listed rates change on holidays and weekends, and don’t include fees.

(1) This historic stone house has a second-floor apartment for four guests and is an absolute find. With a two-night minimum it comes to $200. The owners of this gem on Mt. Hope Ave. are listed as superhosts – meaning they know how to please their guests.

(2) As for renting an entire house, there’s a classic 1911 American Foursquare with natural wood trim, stained-glass windows, a new kitchen and bathroom and 4 bedrooms on Hamilton Street. The hosts took great pride in bringing this oldie back to life. The total of $169 is a bargain for a family reunion!

(3) If you’re looking for a single, this home on Gregory Street has a single bedroom with shared bath for $25; another has three private rooms and two shared baths, starting at $58 a night. Owner Elizabeth says of her hosting experience, “I’ve absolutely loved my hosting experience on Airbnb! Many times I’ll walk in to the apartment to clean it and I can barely tell if anyone even stayed they were so clean and respectful of the space. For the most part guests are flexible and have experience with the Airbnb process so they end up being extremely low maintenance, as far as hosting goes. I love it when guests have washed their dishes before they leave.”

(4) There’s an entire apartment in an architectural beauty on Hickory Street – the historic Whipple House, which has been rated as sparkling clean. It lists for $60 a night and can fit 5 people.

(5) That said, who wouldn’t want to stay in an entire townhouse in a fully remodeled Victorian home? This two-bedroom second-floor apartment with a deck, owned by superhosts who have an exceptionally high rating for location, and a two-night minimum with fees comes to $181. Even better, there are two units available at this Hamilton Street location.

Close by, near Highland Park are an ‘upstairs studio’ or an ‘urban retreat’; across the Genesee River, a mansion in Corn Hill; and a ‘cozy studio’ near downtown is in walking distance of Geva Theater.

It would be a crime not to mention a top-of-the-line facility with an excellent rating: the (non-air) B&B at the Ellwanger Estate on Mount Hope. Step back into another century. It’s a sumptuous treat.

Be forewarned, if you need a way to while away the hours on the Internet, this will do it and there are more places listed as South Wedge than could fit here. Most are booked out so plan ahead.

AirBnB Basics

Airbnb began in 2007 as a way for founders and roommates Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia to raise money to pay rent on their San Francisco apartment. They put an air mattress in their living room and called it a bed & breakfast. What began as space sharing and rented air mattresses grew into a marketplace of lodging options hosted by property owners and includes homes, condos, and apartments, private rooms, castles, boats, manors, tree houses, tipis, igloos, private islands and even a potato (in Idaho, of course).

How does it work? Guests register on the airbnb website (or other comparable sites such as vrbo.com) and can then search for lodging using filters such as city, neighborhood, dates, and price. Guests must provide personal and payment information before booking, and hosts can specify requirements too, such as a government-issued ID.

Guests and hosts communicate through secure messaging services provided by the websites and can discuss details prior to booking dates. Hosts can select dates to block or rent, pricing, and check-in and check-out times and details. Payment is made by guests at booking time and paid out to hosts after check-in has been completed.

Superhosts, identified by a badge on the site, have hosted at least ten trips and maintain an average rating of more than 4.8 out 5 stars. The company offers free insurance for hosts and covers liability claims, such as losses to property or if a guest sues a host for bodily injury, but his insurance does not cover damages to the host’s house.

Airbnb has been criticized for increasing long-term rental prices in neighborhoods. A 2017 study on this found that a 10% increase in the number of short-term rentals in a neighborhood resulted in a .42% increase in rents and a .76% increase in housing prices.* According to a study by the University of Massachusetts Boston Department of Economics, with every 12 Airbnb listings per census tract, asking rents increased by 0.4%.

Buffalo has recently been weighing placing restrictions on Airbnb hosts with an eye towards guest safety. Plans being discussed involve registering, inspecting, and licensing each property and possibly limiting the number of properties within an area.

With 350 hosts handling about 29,000 guest arrivals, Buffalo was second to New York City this summer in statewide Airbnb use, according to Airbnb. Statewide, 1.2 million guests used the service this summer, up from 933,000 the year before. On average, New York hosts earned $4,100 this summer, up from $3,400 last year.***

*Barron, Kyle; Kung, Edward; Proserpio, Davide “The Sharing Economy and Housing Affordability: Evidence from Airbnb” (October 5, 2017)

** Holder, Sarah “The Airbnb Effect: It’s Not Just Rising Home Prices” (February 1, 2019)

***The Buffalo News, “Buffalo, Amherst weigh new rules, registries for Airbnb hosts” (October 8, 2018)