Internet rentals complicate housing | VailDaily.com

Internet rentals complicate housing

EAGLE COUNTY — As housing has again grabbed the top spot among local issues, there's been a lot of talk about internet rentals.

Services including airbnb and VRBO hold out the promise of big money with little impact. But residents and local officials alike worry that internet rentals are cutting the inventory of long-term or seasonal rentals.

That concern is why Lana, a restaurant manager who owns a condo in Avon, didn't want her last name, condo complex or workplace used in this story. Lana isn't violating any of her complex's covenants. And, although she was willing to talk for this story, she doesn't want to attract the attention of her homeowners association or management company. Besides those concerns, Lana regularly hears the question: "Do you feel bad for contributing to the valley's housing shortage?"

In this case, the short answer is "no."

"I'm not taking a bed off the market because I haven't had roommates," Lana said.

After living by herself for most of the time she's owned her unit, last year Lana made her spare room available on airbnb. In those 12 months, she's had roughly 100 people at her place.

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Most stay a night or two, but she's also twice rented our her room for a few weeks at a time.

Better than roommates

"It's working amazingly," she said. "It's been a boost personally — I'm making more than I would with a roommate."

Working long hours at her job, Lana often doesn't see her guests, and said the only semi-relevant problem came from the guest who didn't care for dogs, but apparently didn't notice that her listing notes there are dogs in the home.

Lana said she doesn't rely on the income from putting her room online. But, she added, she'd been able to pay off her car early, take care of some other work around the house, build up her savings and pay for a vacation or two.

On the other hand, Lana said she's aware that internet rentals are a "super hot topic these days," noting that Denver has recently imposed restrictions on those rentals.

Some residents aren't happy to see units in their neighborhoods given over to short-term rentals.

At a late-June public meeting to discuss Vail's draft housing plan, one resident complained that internet rentals bring too much traffic and too many people to her street.

It's hard to tell exactly how many unit owners have switched to internet rentals.

The town of Vail requires people who rent their units on internet services to obtain a sales tax license and pay a percentage of their rental revenue. At the moment, about 300 people have those licenses.

Lana said she won't be surprised if the town of Avon makes a similar move in the near future. If she has to pay lodging taxes, she will, adding that having a room to rent is worth some extra work.

Switching to the internet has affected business at property management companies.

Vail Resort Rentals owner Dale Bugby said his company used to get a number of calls from condo owners wanting him to manage their units.

Hard to track

"We hardly get those calls any more," Bugby said. "People I know have taken their long-term rentals and put them on VRBO."

The problem, from a municipal perspective, is that those owners are hard to track.

Vail Housing Director Alan Nazzaro said the town has hired consultants to try to get a more definitive look at just how many internet rentals there are in town.

"I wish we had a better handle on it," Nazzaro said. "But I was speaking to a long-term rental guy, and he said people are getting fed up with (internet rentals)."

But how many people are making the switch from long-term to short-term, Internet rentals?

Bold Property Management Solutions in Avon manages about 130 long-term rentals in the valley. Karen Harsch, the company's manager of long-term rentals, said Bold has had one property owner switch from long-term to internet rentals in more than a year.

That said, Harsch said the company has had tenants who have tried to use internet rentals on a spare bedroom to offset high housing costs. That's a quick way to have a lease voided by the landlord, Harsch said.

"That's why if I was an owner, I'd use a property management company, to keep on top of that sort of thing," Harsch said.

In Harsch's experience, a bigger issue in the loss on long-term rentals is the recovery of the local real estate market.

"A lot of owners are seeing that it's time to sell, and that's taking those units out of the program," Harsch said.

By the numbers

163: One room rentals* available for Thanksgiving weekend on airbnb.com.

$140: Average price per night.

300: Approximate number of Vail homeowners who have sales tax licenses for internet rentals.

11.2 percent: Total Vail lodging tax, which includes a 1.4 percent local marketing district tax.

Source: airbnb.com, for one person, for one room.