Last August, Ben and Elana Vorspan bought a cabin in Big Bear City, California, a two-hour drive from their home near Los Angeles, thinking it would make a cozy family vacation and a place they could rent, too.
As it turned out, the cabin was in such high demand, with so many people seeking a socially distant haven during the pandemic, that they could barely keep up.
Reservations poured in as soon as the three-bedroom property was listed for sale, and on weekends they paid $500 a night. night: double the typical high season price. On holidays, some paid as much as $1,000 a night, "which is crazy for someone to pay that much to travel," said Mr. Vorspan, the creative director of a synagogue. "They were very Covid prices."
Sure, the money was good, but the feverish market presented problems the couple hadn't anticipated, such as properly cleaning and tossing the cabin for the arrival of each new guest.
As the country opens up after nearly a year and a half of pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, many travelers are opting to stay in rental houses over hotels as a way to maintain a safer bubble, which will make the summer of 2021 will be a bonanza for homeowners in tourist areas. Rentals sold out early. On Cape Cod and the Jersey Shore, 90 percentVRBO listings had already disappearedbefore the end of March. Holiday weekends are particularly crowded, medAirbnbsearches for the July 4th weekend are up 57 percent over 2019,according to the company.
All this demand comes at a time when there are fewer rentals available. As of May 2021, around 52,000 new units had been added.Airbnband VRBO, about 10 percent less than a typical year over the same period,according to AirDNA, a data analysis company. In April, Brian Chesky, Airbnb's chief executive, told CNBC that the company needed millions of new hosts to keep up with demand.
But the local real estate market in Big Bear City, where the Vorspans were, exploded, with new owners and, as a result, new vacation rentals flooding the area. Many of these new hosts needed property managers and housekeepers, as did Vorspans, who found that these service providers were struggling to stay ahead of the rise.
The first management company they hired could not cope with same day guest turnover and once left wet bedding in the washing machine. Another company left a vaporizer on the mantel and trash in the trash can. The company, which kept 30 percent of the list price, provided bedding "and the quality wasn't even what you'd get at a Motel 6," Mr. Vorspan said. "It was the lowest and cheapest quality."
In the spring, the Vorspanians saw cause for concern. The city was considering changing its short-term rental regulations, and with so many new rentals saturating the market, prices could drop in a post-pandemic ski season. "There is a lot of potential risk," Mr. Vorspan said.
In June they signed a one-year contract with a company specializing in short-term rentals. Like a typical tenant, the Vorspans company pays a fixed monthly rent and is responsible for maintaining the property, taking care of snow removal in winter and gardening in summer. The company then rents out the cabin to short-term guests at the price it sets and keeps the profits. Vorspans no longer benefit from market increases, but they also don't have to worry about whether the place is rented or whether the sheets are laundered. They can use the cabin four weeks a year: two in high season and two out of season. "We just didn't want to deal with any of it," Vorspan said, referring to the volatility and uncertainty.
Even the most seasoned hosts have been racing to keep up with the madness.
I Kauai, Jed Stevens, director general deplenty of food, which manages 15 properties on the Hawaiian island, said rental demand rebounded to pre-pandemic levels in three weeks when the state eased its quarantine restrictions in April. "Now instead of managing zero properties, we're trying to drink from a fire hose," she said, speaking from southern California where he works remotely.
Indicate the hosts. Airbnb recently simplified its hosting platform and added features that make it easier for hosts to upload listings, manage reservations, and manage messages. New hosts can also attend webinars from experienced hosts.
But learning to drive is not easy, especially in a season like this. Many guests who haven't left home for over a year pay high prices and expect a dream vacation.
"You're hiring for a whole job of managing someone else's holiday," said Mr Stevens, who oversees a team of workers who were able to turn around when tourists returned and sell leases efficiently. "People think, 'I'm going to pitch it on Airbnb or VRBO and I'm going to make a lot of money and everything will be fine.'"
Sometimes it isn't.
Facebook groups for vacation rental owners are abuzz with questions from owners trying to decipher cryptic messages from guests or respond to riotous parties or sudden cancellations.
en tiktok, Christina Zima, who manages 13 vacation homes in Silicon Valley, talks about unruly guests. There was the one whose emotional support bunny destroyed the baseboards. Another tried to hide a soft blanket covered in foxtail seeds, ruined by an impromptu picnic.
Before the pandemic, Zima primarily catered to business travelers. But with the drop in business travel, anything goes. At a seven-bedroom share house she manages, a guest, a middle-aged man, decided to parade around in a Speedo and then attempted to return to the hostel once his stay was over. "Seriously, almost anything can happen," he said.
Ms. Zima added that many guests expect top-notch service. If someone finds stray hairs in the bathroom, be prepared. "People can't find a hair," she said. "You might think that hair is super toxic or contagious. Hair is a problem that nobody really thinks about."
Guests also come looking for an experience. Think log houses, yurts, and houseboats. New hosts must be ready to level up. "You have Instagram. You have HGTV shows. People want that dream," said Evelyn Badia, who has been an Airbnb host since 2010 and now runsThe Host's Journey, a website, a YouTube channel, and a podcast to educate hosts. "They don't have it in their houses, do they? But they want to come to a house and be impressed."
Of course, some newcomers have a natural aptitude for the hospitality industry. In June 2020, Jeff Dickerson and his wife, Tracie Howard Dickerson, listedtwo-bedroom wooden housethat Mr. Dickerson built himself outside of Atlanta, Georgia. The treehouse, which sits behind his house and adjoins a 2,500-acre nature preserve, has been booked almost constantly ever since.
"Originally we thought maybe on the weekends we'd have people out walking and exploring," said Ms Dickerson, a novelist. "This month and next, all available dates are booked."
The couple hired a property manager to handle the listings, but Mrs. Dickerson handles the decorations, leaving bottles of wine and personal notes for guests. Last winter she wanted to make the room feel cosier, so she bought some fuzzy socks, rolled them up, and put them in a basket in the living room.
"I thought it was crazy," said Mr. Dickerson, a communications consultant. “A basket of fuzzy socks? Actually? Are we going to have a basket of fuzzy socks now? And then came the criticism.
The socks were a hit. After that, he knew that he shouldn't doubt his wife's instincts.
To receive weekly email updates on residential real estate news,sign up here. Follow us on Twitter:@nyrealestate.
A version of this article appears on the tap, Section
from the New York edition
with the headline:
Hosting an Airbnb is now more difficult than you think.order reprints|Today's newspaper|Subscribe