Airbnb, and other things.

(One last holiday-related post, sorry. But I think many of you can relate.)

I love Airbnb. Also, I hate Airbnb. It makes the sort of travel we’ve been doing in recent years not only affordable, but possible; there’s no way we could have stayed deep in the medinas of Morocco without it. Our last place, in Essaouira, was magical – it looked like the set of a French New Wave movie. The feral cats knocked on the door to the courtyard at 2 a.m., and were somehow charming rather than annoying. The host stopped by one day, and we got into a conversation about the difference between vegetarianism and veganism, both of which he found baffling. In other cities, Airbnb has given us space to spread out, to make simple meals, to take refuge in a place other than a hotel. On a couple of trips, traveling alone, I’ve done the single-room-in-a-house deal, and had not only comfortable lodging but made great connections.

However. When we met friends for dinner in Barcelona, I told her we were staying on a particular street in La Gracia. “Our Airbnb was on that street too,” she replied, and as we walked around the neighborhood, the signs were ummistakable: The doorbells/street mailboxes that all carried the same label, because a management company was renting them all. The “Tourists go home” graffiti everywhere. Airbnb had so infiltrated that charming neighborhood that locals were being priced out of it.

This isn’t a matter of opinion; short-term rentals are driving housing shortages in desirable cities everywhere. And problem rentals, like those in any hot American city where young people hold destination bachelor/bachelorette parties, are a headache for everyone. A friend here lives in Midtown Detroit, another area with skyrocketing rents, especially in Midtown. On a recent stroll down his own street, he said, he realized all the closest blocks were thick with Airbnb. In Detroit.

In west Michigan, a few communities have tried to enact local ordinances governing them, which prompted an influx of Airbnb lobbyists to the capital, who had little trouble convincing the GOP-controlled legislature that their allegedly foundational belief that small government knows best is wrong, at least in this case. Now there’s a law that says you can’t restrict short-term rentals in your own community.

And not all of our experiences have been great. We had to wrangle with our Madrid host, who took one flat and turned it into three, and stuck us in one that was decidedly not the one in the photos when we booked. He moved us after a couple days, which was fine, but the two unpictured flats were likely inescapable in a fire, something I think about a lot, especially in Europe. Our friends who met us there had an even worse experience, arriving to find their building wrapped in scaffolding, and workmen clambering around on it with very loud power tools, starting at 8 a.m. They bolted for a hotel after two days.

VRBO, I’m told, is better, but it’s much rarer, too. (We rent a VRBO cottage in northern Michigan, far from neighbors, and our cleanliness and care with the place inspired the owner to offer to deal with us directly, waiving the VRBO fee, etc. I treat rentals the same way I treat my own house.)

In the end, I feel like Airbnb is one of those supremely irritating move-fast-and-break-things products of Silicon Valley, where some guy says hey I got an idea, more guys shower him with money, and a few lucky people walk away multi-millionaires, while the rest of us get to sort out the inevitable consequences.

Nevertheless, we’ll probably use it again. Sigh.

How was everyone’s weekend? Ours was fine. We’re still working on the house, or rather, Alan is. (I provide domestic support in the form of laundry and meals.) Cooked some, shopped some, went out some. Shadow Show opened for another all-girl band at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit, which was an excuse to get out and about. Talked a lot to a random kid sitting nearby, who told me all about his Birthright trip to Israel. I found a reference to a previously unknown biography of Warren Zevon, which prompted me, the Zevon superfan, to look it up on Amazon. Used the look-inside feature to get a sense of it. The epigraph alone put me off:

It didn’t improve. Here’s something I’m always telling writers I edit: Don’t use a quote to repeat something you just said, not in a quote. Do they listen? Maybe some do. This guy didn’t:

And now the same writer is doing a biography of Elmore Leonard. Guess I’ll be giving that one a pass, too.

So. The week ahead yawns with possibilities. So far I’ll be…meeting with a Medicare guru, schvitzing with a swimming friend, taking online training to be a poll challenger. I was going to work the absentee counting boards, but all the training — required by law — was held during our time away. My job is literally, LITERALLY, pulling the stubs off ballots, but I can’t, by law, work without being retrained in how to pull the stubs off ballots. Remember, Donald Trump told you Detroit was a lawless place, “so corrupt,” and that, my friends, is bullshit. So I’ll help out this way.

Good week ahead to all. Don’t use quotes to repeat something you just wrote! Use quotes to illuminate and add dimension to what you just wrote!

Here’s a random Spain pic for you, the high altar in the cathedral in Toledo. Notre Dame looks like a simple country church compared to this place:

Posted at 10:48 am in Media, Same ol' same ol' |

30 responses to “Airbnb, and other things.”

  1. LAMary said on October 23, 2022 at 11:08 am

    Air BNB hasn’t made any friends around here. Someone across the canyon behind my house attracts renters who party a lot and sound bounces around in the canyon. Calling the cops does nothing and calling my city councilman is useless. He’s one of the three in LA who got into trouble for racist comments in a recorded meeting and he’s not resigning. He’s never responded to any calls I’ve made to his office anyway and now he’s in hiding. Google Gil Cedillo, Kevin DeLeon and Nury Martinez if you haven’t heard of this current scandal. The councilman who preceded Kevin DeLeon was busted for taking huge bribes. There were closets filled with cash in his home.

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  2. David C said on October 23, 2022 at 12:35 pm

    I did Turo, the Airbnb of cars. Not a great experience. The owner said there was dog hair in the car when I returned it and charged a $75 cleaning fee. I told him we didn’t have a dog and I was the only one in the car all weekend. He still charged the fee. Turo did get involved and the fee was removed so good on them. Other than that it was fine. I rented a nearly new Mazda CX-5 for less than I could get a Sentra at Enterprise. I’ll probably try again.

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  3. brian stouder said on October 23, 2022 at 1:42 pm

    We did an Airbnb in New Orleans, and loved it. Knocked around all the places for a week, and having the kitchen/refrigerator must have saved us lots of dollars

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  4. Jeff Gill said on October 23, 2022 at 8:18 pm

    We’re dealing with an eruption of Airbnb rentals in the downtown of our relatively small village (just under the Ohio metric of 5,000 to declare us a city). It pushes political buttons in both directions; the usual allies are somewhat at odds on this one, but it’s certainly growing quickly.

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  5. beb said on October 23, 2022 at 10:20 pm

    Airbnb is to hotels what Uber is to Taxi service, a dodge around meaningful regulation and taxation.

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  6. susan said on October 23, 2022 at 10:45 pm

    Perfectly said, beb. They are part of the housing shortage problem, too.

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  7. Dexter Friend said on October 24, 2022 at 1:51 am

    I knew the big old mansion in Waterloo, Indiana, the town where I went to school, had been listed as an Airbnb, but had no idea all the small towns and cities, Butler, Auburn, Garrett, Kendallville, Angola, had listings. Why would people visit desolate decrepit towns like these except to visit relatives?
    I stayed in a rented room in Montreal 45 years ago before the term Airbnb was around. It was cheap as hell and ultra-clean and nice. Since then, motels. Hotels. Campgrounds.

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  8. alex said on October 24, 2022 at 7:22 am

    Dex, you’d be surprised how many people do extended stays for business with companies in the desolate decrepit towns you mention. When I’m dining out in Auburn or Garrett or Angola I occasionally get chatted up by people who are here on business and want to know what are the good restaurants and which ones to avoid, whether there are any attractions worth visiting, etc.

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  9. ROGirl said on October 24, 2022 at 8:03 am

    Toledo (the one in Spain) also has 2 churches that were converted from synagogues after the expulsion of Jews in 1492.

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  10. nancy said on October 24, 2022 at 8:14 am

    Right you are, ROGirl, and add Muslims to that. Somewhere in the cathedral statuary is one of the so-called “Wise Moor,” who brokered the handover of the land from the Moors to the One True.

    And yes, late in the trip, we called the the “Moops.”

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  11. JodiP said on October 24, 2022 at 8:29 am

    I heard reporting about 2 years ago that short term rentals were making New Orleans unaffordable. Significant numbers of Americans moving abroad can also raise prices–it seems as if the confluence of these two trends are really raising prices in Lisbon.

    I did our first apartment rental in 2016 in Paris through Trip Advisor. Since then, we’ve often opted for apartments, except when the they are really expensive, as in NYC. Our place in Delft was listed on VRBO, even though it was a 3 room hotel above a restaraunt. FYI, the whole business is for sale if you’re feeling adventurous. We were the last guests.

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  12. Mark P said on October 24, 2022 at 9:14 am

    We live on top of a mountain outside Rome, Ga, a smallish city of around 50,000. There are 12 houses up here, and the next closest houses are more than a mile away. A developer decided to buy a lot right on the ridge top and build treehouses as rentals. It’s a very nice building lot, but I cannot figure who would want to come from Atlanta and rent a tree house here. Of course there are multiple large hotels in and around town, and I can’t figure out who stays in them. Most of the bigger factories closed down years ago, and we’re 20 or 30 miles from an interstate. So what do I know.

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  13. Deborah said on October 24, 2022 at 10:20 am

    We are back in Chicago, alas our France trip is over, but lots of good memories. I would very much like to do AirBnB someday in Paris but my husband is leery of it. We liked our hotel this trip and it was cost effective but the 2 trips before this one we had mediocre hotels, serviceable but worn.

    Santa Fe is full of short term house and casita rentals making prices outrageous for people needing to rent long term. One of the owners in our condo building wanted to turn his unit into an AirBnB but luckily the property insurance rate increase put an end to that.

    Our coop building in Chicago only allows owners to sublet for one year for the entire time the owner is a resident. They don’t like renters in the building but an owner might want to take a year sabbatical so they’ve allowed it for that limited time. There are lots of professors in the building, mostly architecture professors.

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  14. Heather said on October 24, 2022 at 11:00 am

    Yes, New Orleans has been hit hard by rising rents due to the AirBnB market. Lisbon as well. I love staying in them for the reasons Nancy mentions, but it’s also getting expensive. Sometimes I think it would be cheaper to stay in a hotel with all the cleaning fees and so on.

    We had to crack down on AirBnbs in our building a few years ago after we noticed someone was renting their unit out. Mainly a security issue, as the same key opens both front doors and basements, but we also don’t allow any rentals except in cases of financial distress.

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  15. Deborah said on October 24, 2022 at 1:12 pm

    Merrick Garland and some others in DOJ are having a press conference at 1:30pm today EDT. I wonder if they’re going to announce that Trump is finally being indicted? Nah, wishful thinking.

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  16. Joe Kobiela said on October 24, 2022 at 1:36 pm

    Got home Sunday from 2 weeks of training on the Pilatus PC12 in Denver at flight safety international. I knew Denver was growing but holy cow, the airport used to be in the middle of nowhere and now the city has spread out almost to the runways. The houses and condos are listing at between $400,000 and 500,000 what do these people do to afford those kind of payments? There were also a lot of homeless in the area mostly living in motor homes and pop up campers. We were warned to be vigilant as there has been a huge upturn in crime, but other than a murder a mile or so away I never felt uncomfortable in the time I was there.
    PC12 is like flying a space ship, no gauges just 4 big screens in the cockpit, synthetic vision so good you can land it without looking outside if you had too, the wing is so efficient if I loose the engine at 30,000 ft I have over 30 minutes of glide time.
    Pilot Joe

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  17. Julie Robinson said on October 24, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    Airbnb is great until it’s not. We had all kinds of problems with our reservation for the family wedding last year in New Orleams, enough that I question using them again. I’ve thankfully forgotten all the details but we eventually learned the house had been destroyed in the flood and the host was in the hospital with Covid. We also learned the company expects you to wait until 24 or 48 hours of your reservation before they will give you a definitive answer as to the actual availability.

    So, host not responding, Airbnb not giving a flying f**k, we were left searching for a new reservation at the last minute. Also, they had our money. A lot of it.

    About 36 hours ahead of the trip things got resolved and they put our money toward another reservation. But it was dicey and took many hours on the phone, talking with people who had no power to actually help us.

    I should add that when we built our addition we had a lot of extra scrutiny from the city, who was convinced we were going to Airbnb it. We had planned for a kitchenette and the architect advised against even mentioning one. On the plans it says nook, and the plumbing is back behind the wall but completing it hasn’t been a priority yet.

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  18. basset said on October 24, 2022 at 5:08 pm

    Nothing quite like that one, Joe. Charter trips like the King Air and Cessna?

    Hope the big panels are more reliable than the ones in recent Subarus.

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  19. Joe Kobiela said on October 24, 2022 at 5:25 pm

    Yep back to charter only this time I’ll be home most nights instead of 8 on 6 off.
    Loved the King Air but this bird hauls a big load and can go off a shorter strip is just as fast and does it on one engine. My company has 2 with 2 more on order 2nd quarter of 24 before we will get them their that popular.
    We do get into Tune, I’ll let you know when I’m going to have a layover, I’ll buy you lunch.
    If a screen fails I can move the information to a different screen and split the info among the other screens so I always have the info I need.
    Pilot Joe

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  20. LAMary said on October 24, 2022 at 6:29 pm

    Ditto, beb. I don’t like the way those things became ok.

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  21. Julie Robinson said on October 24, 2022 at 8:26 pm

    So, there is a birthday happening and everyone wanted to know what to get me. I spent hours researching a new food processor and sent them the link, on the big terrible site that already has all our information saved. Easy, right? For the last 20 minutes I’ve been listening to them struggle through this. I just want to go out there and show them–click, click, click, done. Ack.

    It’s better than the Florida Gubnatorial debate though. I only lasted 11 minutes before the weaselly lying drove me from the room. It was equally awful on both sides.

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  22. basset said on October 24, 2022 at 9:27 pm

    Sounds good, Joe, I know just the place.

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  23. Sherri said on October 25, 2022 at 12:23 am

    VRBO predates AirBnB, and if it is better, it’s probably because it wasn’t started with a ton of VC money. It’s owned by Expedia now.

    I’ve had good experience with VRBO in the past, though I haven’t used them lately. I used them 15 years ago to rent a place in DC for a week, and ten years ago to rent a place in London for two weeks.

    AirBnB demonstrates that just because something is relatively harmless to a community (short term rentals) doesn’t mean that if you massively scale up that thing will remain relatively harmless. There’s a reason hotels are regulated. And taxed.

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  24. Deborah said on October 25, 2022 at 11:06 am

    The fire codes for short term rentals is very strict in Santa Fe, and for good reason, a lot of them have fireplaces and outdoor fire pits. That’s what mostly scared me about the owner in our condo building who wanted to turn his unit into an AirBnB. All of the units in the building have fireplaces and lots of people are careless with fire, especially when they’ve been partying.

    LB said it snowed in Santa Fe yesterday, she had to turn on the heaters for the first time this season, and she had a fire. Meanwhile it was 75° in Chicago yesterday, today is a little cooler and it’s raining.

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  25. Suzanne said on October 25, 2022 at 12:40 pm

    We rented an AirBnB in 2021 and it was great but I don’t know how often we will do so again. It worked because we had 5 people, 2 of whom are great cooks. It was in NE Indiana in Beverly Shores on the coast of Lake Michigan and was a lovely place. But I have heard AirBnB horror stories, too, so I don’t feel super comfortable doing so again.

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  26. Bruce Fields said on October 25, 2022 at 1:21 pm

    Ann Arbor passed some short-term rental restrictions a couple years ago. But despite (unsurprisingly) some demand around the stadium, it didn’t look like the absolute numbers were actually that high. It seemed to me a case of a NIMBY-controlled council wanting to look like they were doing something about housing affordability without, you know, actually zoning for more apartments or anything.

    There was also a certain us-vs-outsiders flavor to the whole discussion that bugged me. Short-term renters include people visiting for work, people with family in the hospital, etc., it’s not all fun and games.

    Independent of the market effect, there’s also occasional nuisance issues for neighbors, etc., and I think *some* level of regulation makes sense if only to keep tabs on the issue. Really, I’ve got no strong opinions about it either way. I’m just a little worried that in cities that aren’t Barcelona or New Orleans, it may be a scapegoat and a distraction from more important work.

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  27. Sherri said on October 25, 2022 at 4:14 pm

    Bruce, I’m concerned about that, too. It’s hard to get any numbers about short term rentals and their impact. They’re definitely an affordable housing bogeyman, along with foreign ownership, corporate ownership, and vacant housing, but whenever you try to determine what the real impact of any of those are, no one seems to know. It must be those and not the 3 to 1 jobs to housing ratio we have!

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  28. Jeff Gill said on October 26, 2022 at 8:17 am

    So are only old idiots staying in hotels now? The last three or four Hampton Inn stays I’ve had it’s been noticeable that my fellow breakfast room inhabitants are uniformed military or contractors of various sorts with a set of Halliburton cases and the like waiting on their post-waffle departure.

    I’ve yet to Uber or VRBO or go on Tik Tok, for that matter.

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  29. Julie Robinson said on October 26, 2022 at 9:17 am

    All of those things only happen when we travel with the young people, Jeff. Tik Tok is a complete mystery. I barely even do Instagram but got a notification that I’m no longer allowed to do some kind of advertising that I didn’t know I could do anyway. Okay, then.

    At least we can use Google maps to take us to places like last night’s organ concert. Yep, another old fart activity, though most of the players were Millennials. And it was fabulous.

    Reading about the Pennsylvania senatorial debate was painful. Fetterman doesn’t seem fit to serve even though he’s in better shape than a dozen current senators. And he gave some weasel answers. But Oz wants abortion decisions in the hands of women, their doctors, and local legislators? Oof.

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  30. Deborah said on October 26, 2022 at 10:59 am

    I gave Fetterman more money today because we can’t lose the senate and because he will get better after having his stroke. I read an opinion piece today in WaPo by a woman who had a severe stroke and completely recovered. My dad had a number of strokes before the last one took him down. As long as Fetterman is transparent about his condition he will be fine.

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