Today, I wanted to address a pretty big debate that has been going on in our comments sections anytime we talk about our bnbs. Upfront I want to say that I think these types of debates can be healthy and educational, and that’s something we encourage! I love to learn from your experiences and stories. We know some of you have passionate opinions about short-term rentals, we’d love to hear your thoughts and we hope you will take the time to hear ours.
This issue is complex and varies so much from city to city, so I want to encourage everyone to avoid oversimplifying it. The point of this post is to share our opinions and experiences with our bnb properties in the two cities we live in. The laws in cities around the country can be very different. The pros and cons list can be different for every city as well. It’s so interesting to learn how people feel about short-term rentals in different parts of the country. I hope the conversation around short-term rentals can become more nuanced because I truly think it’s an important ongoing conversation. Please keep in mind, we are here to share our experiences in Nashville and Springfield, not to speak for every different city.
We love our bnb properties and are so proud of them. We work really hard on making them special, beautiful homes. The home we are renovating in Missouri will be a part-time home for my family and I when we visit. We love to stay with our families, but now that we’re adopting our second child we realized we needed our own space to pace the busy holiday schedule, make some memories on our own and charge our introvert batteries. Last Christmas, I ended the night in tears because it was just so overwhelming. After that, we began to make plans to go at a slower pace that works better for our family.
We have been remodeling the Springfield home with love and care and the intention of it being a holiday home for my family. We have met the neighbors, and they understand and support our reasons for renting the house out when we’re not in town. Long-term renting would not be an option for us since we plan to use the home often, but short-term renting gives us a chance to not let the house sit empty most of the year.
In Springfield, there are new laws to moderate short-term rentals (I’m going to say STR from here on) that are really great and protect neighborhoods. First of all, there is a regulation that there cannot be too many STRs too close together. So there will never be a neighborhood or a street that is all bought up by investors looking to do STRs. (This is only for homes that will be second homes, like ours. For primary residences that only rent out their home three months out of the year or less, there is a different permit that is a bit easier to obtain.)
Next, you have to get signatures from the majority of your neighbors to show they support your intention to use your property as a STR. And, after that, you are required to host an open house where neighbors can come meet you face to face, ask any questions they may have and raise any concerns.
These are all new regulations in Springfield, Missouri. In our opinion, they are very fair and overall balanced. Neighborhoods are protected, but people like us can still rent out a property that is empty for months at a time. Best of all, relationships with neighbors are valued and protected. Even though Emma was a little nervous to host her open house (our property was mostly gutted and under major construction at the time), it was so good to be able to talk face to face with the neighbors. Best of all, we were able to give them our direct contact info, so in case they ever notice an issue, they can call us right away.
Once we are done renovating and the house is furnished, we will also be required to get another approval from the city. They will be checking that our property has enough (and working) smoke detectors and other safety necessities. Personally, we really like this oversight measure. If we were to rent the property as a long-term rental, it’s possible we would go for years without really being able to check in on smoke detectors or other wear and tear to the home. But with short term this is much more accessible and I think makes the property even safer for not only our family but anyone who chooses to rent an STR.
In Nashville, the regulations are much different. Most residents can get permits on their primary homes that they live in, but if it’s a second home it has to be commercially zoned or you cannot get a permit. These are also new laws that are ever changing.
For this reason, Emma and I chose to buy a duplex that was commercially zoned. It currently sits next to two empty lots. There are very few properties like this available, so we chose the best one we could find. It was a new construction with very little (old house) charm or details, so we have spent the past few months adding a lot more detail to the homes and furnishing them. Emma is planning to live part-time in her property and I’m so happy about it. This week, she and her husband are there and we’ve been hanging out almost every night with Nova. It’s been really great.
Since the STR laws in Nashville have become so much more strict, there are now less bnbs in the city than there have been in a long time. I understand when people say they worry investor-owned STRs will take inventory away from people trying to buy their primary home. Due to the new laws, this is no longer an issue.
All in all, I think cities moderating STRs so that there aren’t too many is a good and important step. We are obviously not anti-bnb, but we still believe regulations should be in place so that investors cannot buy up whole neighborhoods. All of the worst stories I have heard have been situations like that where no oversight was in place.
Another thing I want to mention is the responsibility of STR owners to screen their guests and have strict rules that protect neighborhoods. I remember years back we rented a home in Palm Springs and one of the rules was that if a neighbor called the police on you due to noise you would be kicked out immediately. These type of serious rules being enforced keep neighborhoods safe. We don’t allow any kind of parties in our houses (Nashville is popular bachelorette/bachelor party destination). If we had a downtown property, we would allow party groups to stay. But since we have a neighborhood property, we don’t.
We also now have ring doorbell cameras on our doors so we can make sure that our house isn’t getting a huge number of people when only a small group is supposed to be staying there. I’ve never had my property used for a party or trashed, but I have met people who have. This is why it’s important to us to give our information to neighbors so they can let us know if they notice anything out of the ordinary.
In the best-case scenario, a STR will stay in excellent condition and be used respectfully. Jeremy and I were blown away by how respectful our guests were in our first experience owning a STR last year. As an owner, the other thing that is night and day different (from long-term rentals) is that the property stays in absolute mint condition and we had a chance to make tiny upgrades all throughout the year. This is why I would personally rather live next door to a (well managed) STR than a long term. I mean our STR properties get professionally cleaned WAY (like, wayyyy) more than our personal home.
The last thing I want to talk about are my own customer experiences. I sometimes like staying in short-term rentals and sometimes I prefer hotels. It depends on the city and whether I am traveling with my whole family. If you’ve ever traveled with a kid who goes to bed early (Nova’s current bedtime is 7 p.m.), staying in a single hotel room together is difficult. Suites can work well, but they can also get expensive fast. If you’ve ever traveled with pets, same thing. And if you’ve ever traveled with a group of 2-3 couples or a big family group, you know how much more functional a short-term rental can be. Short-term rentals are something I use often and appreciate as a customer. Bottom line, they are two totally different experiences. Do you want room service or a kitchen? Are you spending a lot of time in your rental or will you be out 90% of the day? There is a need for both and having options is a good thing!
Every summer, my in-laws rent a big house with a pool for our whole family to stay in. The first few years we did it we stayed in hotels and condos. I can tell you from that experience the house is 100x better for the quality time our family is trying to achieve. When we start a new property, I always think about what kind of families might stay there and try to make it really special for them. A big part of our motivation when we decorate and furnish is envisioning the memories we have made and new memories being made.
Nashville has awesome fancy hotels, but not a ton of affordable (but still nice) ones. When we were moving here four years ago, we were staying in hotels a lot and we stayed in a couple of the worst hotels we’ve ever stayed in. That’s one of the things that inspired us to look into making a bnb—I felt like there weren’t enough medium-priced options.
Springfield is a smaller town. It doesn’t have a hotel industry like Nashville and it doesn’t have a ton of “cute” places to stay. We love that we can offer something really beautiful for people to rent in our hometown. (Although for the record, there are a few cute spots to stay and we have a couple friends who also have bnb properties around our hometown that they put so much love into just like us.)
Emma’s and my goal is to create STRs that add value to our city and the people who visit our cities. We go the extra mile to give our guests a full experience. We respect the neighborhoods as these are communities we are a part of. We really care! I hope if you get anything from this post you can see that we’re trying to do a good job. I think a lot of people who own STRs are (and I’m sure there are some bad ones too—who I am not defending). I hope if anything that I’ve shared how we’ve made our decisions and how we are trying to run a side biz that contributes positively to our communities in every way.
Short-term rentals can be good and can be bad. Like almost all other tasks in life, it needs to be done responsibly, not recklessly. We want to do it the right way. We take that responsibility seriously. And although we are forever imperfect and always learning, we felt it was worth it to share all this today.
Doing more STR properties is a goal of ours for the future. We’re at the prime of our careers and it makes sense for us to invest money in property and it is something we really enjoy working on. It’s a bonus that we can share some of these projects and tours here on our blog and it’s an extra special bonus that some of the guests who choose to rent our properties are readers who have been following us for years.
After our last big announcement, we had a real talk about whether we needed/wanted to share our short-term rental projects here on the blog. Believe it or not, my friends who don’t promote their properties to their followers at all make basically the same money on their STRs. The point of why we share isn’t to get people to rent it, they pretty much stay rented either way and from what I can tell most of the people renting our property have not all been “fans” by any means.
After thinking it over, we have decided to keep sharing this part of our business for now because A. We love doing it (really really enjoy this!) and B. We want to continue to be a part of this conversation. It’s 100% OK with us if some of our readers don’t like STRs or don’t like that we own them. We can agree to disagree and we plan to keep listening, keep learning and trying to do better. STRs are still a relatively new option (or at least recently popularized) and with anything that new there is going to be some back and forth before things are properly regulated and best practices are fully established.
Thank you for reading! xx. Elsie
Thanks for posting, I loved reading a little about this side of your airbnbs. Great post!
I have definitely considered this and it is a great option! Unfortunately, we have not come across any townhouses that we like. If we see one though, you know we’ll be taking a look into it!
I’m curious what happened with your other Nashville Air BNB since the laws changed. Did you sell it or were all existing Air Bnb’s grandfathered in?
Please keep sharing! I think it’s so interesting learning about the business and besides that, I like seeing the decorating styles and renovations that you guys have made!
We recently bought our first home, which had been an AirBnB for ~6 years before we bought it. We definitely benefit from the private investment the previous owners put into it. (We were able to buy a moderately-priced, rehabbed home in a neighborhood full of homes that were otherwise unaffordable or needed too much work for this stage in our lives.) Neighbors say they preferred having long-term renters as neighbors compared to the AirBnB — but they prefer us to the long-term renters. 😉 However, we never would have bought a house that’s in the condition most of the LTRs are in— so it’s a give and take. I have all the feelings about STRs, and housing in general, and all I can say for sure is it’s complicated! I understand if y’all decide to limit what you share in the future, but for now I really appreciate your willingness to share your experiences owning a STR.
I would be afraid of guests leaving bedbugs — difficult to eradicate.
Thanks for this post. I have mixed feelings about STRs for a few of the reasons you mentioned. Honestly, I’ve opted out of your posts about your STRs so far because of my feelings about them, so I haven’t seen that it’s been a big topic of conversation here. I grew up in the Nashville suburbs, and I’ve always dreamed that my husband and I will get to move to Nashville one day. Since it became a vacation destination and before Nashville’s legislation, I felt like STRs were a huge contributing factor to making that dream impossible.
Right now we own our home close to downtown Atlanta, on the edge of a historic, trendy neighborhood. It’s because of my experiences here that was surprised that you said you’d actually rather live next to a STR than a long term rental. On my street, we know all of our neighbors. We have a neighborhood Slack, and we get together all the time. It doesn’t even really come up who is a long-term renter and who is an owner. In the one house on our street that recently became a STR, we lost a neighbor who was present and got temporary neighbors, in town for one or two nights a week. Even though there haven’ been any incidents with the AirBnB guests, the house may as well be empty for all it contributes to the culture in the day-to-day. The owner lives in metro Atlanta, but he doesn’t have any reason to be interested in our street beyond his property.
On the block behind ours it has been worse. In a stretch of 7 houses, 4 are full-time Airbnbs. The past owner of one of them fully locked out their low-income tenants one day, kicking them out to prepare to show the house to investors. We lost some of the longest-term residents of our neighborhood, long-term renters, and we’ve gained streams of short term renters. Because of STRs the long-term renting stock has plummeted around here. The first time I looked at my neighborhood on Airbnb on a whim, I was shocked to see how many homes on the blocks surrounding mine are on Airbnb. I truly think it explains why rents have skyrocketed.
Anyway, those are reasons that they need to be regulated, and I’m glad that you support the regulations. Personally, I do still use Airbnb, but I try to only stay in properties where the owner primarily lives onsite. Housing availability is such a crisis in many of the places I travel to, and staying in a place that has been removed from the rental housing market to be part of the tourism industry doesn’t feel good to me. Your two bnbs in Springfield and Nashville do seem great, and you seem like the best case scenario for Airbnb owner neighbors.
I so appreciate you and Emma being so honest and open about this process! I had no idea that a) there was any type of different feedback in comments or that b) some people aren’t fans of BNBs…but it was so interesting to learn more about rental properties and thoughtful investments. Please keep sharing! I love the variety of your posts.
I like seeing this content from the design standpoint and I appreciate you addressing the other issues. Airbnbs will continue whether people approve or no, so fair legislation and responsible owners are the best bet for lessening any negative impact. I hope you’ll con tinue sharing!
I’m not the world’s biggest fan I will admit. In Toronto the vacancy rate is so low and rents are so high people are struggling, and that is largely to do with Airbnb. It is also not a great way to build a community when your neighbours are a parade of strangers filtering in and out. To each her own.
It’s always interesting to know what other places do to regulate STRs. In my area, local government has been been incredibly slow to catch up and regulate. It has been a source of much conflict and struggle within the community. It sounds like my town could take a lesson from yours!
Thanks for sharing, I loved reading a little about this side of your bnbs. Great post!
Thanks for the thoughtful and open discussion; it was especially interesting to read about the differences between Springfield and Nashville laws regulating STRs. One issue not yet mentioned here is how STRs can bypass anti-discrmination laws, and how much harder it is for people of color, especially African Americans, to be accepted as renters or to find renters for properties they own. This 2016 NPR article sums it up nicely: https://www.npr.org/2016/04/26/475623339/-airbnbwhileblack-how-hidden-bias-shapes-the-sharing-economy
I’m glad you’re planning to share them on the blog. ☺
I just want you to know that I have visited Springfield, MO solely because of the way you love and promote it on your blog. We stayed at a BnB in an old Victorian house, shopped at the vintage and book stores, ate at local restaurants, and even had drinks at the Golden Girl! Sharing your Air BnB journey on your blog actually brings visitors to your towns, which is good for the local economy. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and reflections on the matter.
That was a very interesting , authentic and well-written article. And I’m glad you decided to share cause I love to see the design process !
Thank you for sharing this, and especially explaining the local laws in the cities where you rent out properties. Those are some good rules, especially the ones with meeting the neighbors! I wish my city had those.
In my (large, popular, European) city, short term rentals are a menace. The city is experiencing a massive surge in rents and a shortage of places to rent, too – so it’s not just expensive, but super hard to even find anything in the first place. I love my neighborhood and the people who live here, and it’s really discouraging to see places rented out to tourist instead of people who will make a life here.
I absolutely loathe Airbnb the company. They ignore local laws and do not cooperate with local law enforcement. For example, it’s not legal to rent out an apartment here unless you have a permit. But Airbnb neither checks that people have them, nor do they provide contact info for the ones who don’t to the local government. I think it’s because we’re in Europe and they basically don’t care. In the US, it might be different.
For people planning a vacation, I encourage you to google “airbnb rules” + the name of the city you want to visit before you book. You may find that for that particular place, it would be more considerate to stay at a hotel or proper apartment rental. Please don’t destroy what you come to visit.
Thank you for posting this. Airbnb is a lot like Uber in this way. They try to influence local laws and oppose any of the regulations that cities are trying to promote to protect their residents. Elsie, and Emma, I appreciate the heart of this post and understand the amount of internet hate that running a blog generates and how hard that must be. However, the bottom line that I can’t seem to shake is that you’re promoting the ownership of your second and third home. The amount of privilege it takes to buy a home so your family can be less inconvenienced during holidays shouldn’t be a right. The airbnb in my neighborhood is the same and the lady at the meeting was very incredulous when she had to pay a fee for a year long permit. She actually stated that if she wasn’t allowed to profit from the home she’d have to sell it. Which is like wow, do you not see that this is your SECOND home? The part that really makes me a little queasy is the fact that you use your platform to promote this as an idea for others and it’s spreading. The idea of the flip house and the airbnb house as a fun easy way to redecorate a space and make money is having a damaging effect on property values nationwide and it is seen on so many blogs and on HGTV these days. I’m glad you took the time to discuss these issues in depth. I just hope it’s enough.
So just to clarify, Marisa—do you see people working in the home improvement sector (whether it be a flip, renovating a property to then rent out part-time, etc.) as an inappropriate way to earn an income? I’m thinking of contractors (not necessarily people like Elsie and Emma) who see a dilapidated/outdated house that needs love and attention to be revived using their talents and hard-earned skills to renovate it and then sell it… Do you see that as problematic?
No, because they’re not in the business of glamorizing it as part of a lifestyle. Big difference. Also, part of my comment was about how AIRBNB as a company actively campaigns against regulations that protect residents. As nice as Elsie and Emma seem to be and as much thought as they put into this post, which is admittedly more than most people, this is still a problem. Property values going up nationwide, less availability of housing stock, none of that happens in a vacuum. STRs are defiantly part of the problem. Posting about how great, fun, and pretty it is on your blog is part of the problem.
With respect Marisa, I think the way Elsie and Emma write their posts makes it abundantly clear that they know they are blessed and lucky (although they have worked very hard to EARN their privilege the way I see it) and I have never felt that they have put the owning of a second property as a right. As a long time follower, I would hate for them to think that that is how they come across.
I prefer working hard on my own situation as opposed to tearing others down. For the record, I live in Australia where owning your own home is viewed as ‘severely unaffordable’. For such a small population the housing prices in Sydney are rated as the second most expensive in the world (after Hong Kong – and LA is third after that). I believe this was caused by overseas investors, loooong before airbnb was a thing. For mine, I think STR are making it much more affordable for people who could otherwise not afford it travel and to me that is a massive pro. I also find it interesting that while some people oppose SRT due to perception that they drive up housing prices but when it comes to saving themselves money on a trip or holiday some of the same people will use them.
It’s a very interesting topic and I thank you for your habit of not shying away from the hard conversations, even though I know it must be causing you so much anxiety.
There should definitely be more city oversight of STRs. Last 4th of July, our neighbor’s AirBnB guests lit our front yard on fire. The mature landscaping has not recovered, and won’t for another 45 years, as it was original to the house. In Seattle, there isn’t any neighborhood approval or a meet-n-greet. Sounds like you guys are taking this very seriously. More seriously than our neighbor who didn’t help pay for the damage his guests caused.
I live in edinburgh Scotland and I HATE STRs. My children will never be afford to buy a flat in my city. It was a possibility before this boom.
My friends are plagued with people using the flats as holiday places with no thought for the residents. The streets are clogged with the service vehicles changing the linen and cleaning. I work in a library and I spend my day printing off boarding cards for tourists who don’t have a hotel reception to do it for them. Edinburgh residents have a reputation for hating tourists and this is only adding fuel to the fire. I will never ever stay in an air BnB.
I used to love staying at STRs when traveling, but I’ve been burned way too many times by homeowners cancelling at the last minute and leaving me in the lurch paying hundreds if not thousands more dollars to find lodging. For example, in the past year I’ve had three STRs cancel on me in short notice when I’ve booked months out…obviously causing panic and money to travel. So I’m pretty much done from a renter standpoint.
In this experience (and my experience as an attorney) I’ve learned that the current state of the law doesn’t protect the short term renters from this type of fraud. They will try to work things out with you but if you’ve booked a popular weekend and there is no inventory available there’s essentially no recourse other than filing a lawsuit. If a renter cancels less than 60 or 30 days in advance the property typically gets the full payment but sadly there’s no mutual protection for the renter.
None of this is to imply that Elsie or Emma are being unscrupulous STR landlords. It’s a developing area of the law and both parties need to protect themselves.
Suffice it to say for peace of mine I now only book hotels.