I personally have had two experiences with Airbnb. One was in Southern California a couple of years ago; the other in Naples, Fla., just a couple of months ago.
In the first instance I had my own wing of a house -- not a separate entrance, but my own bedroom and bathroom, with the rest of the house up a flight of stairs. The woman who hosted was perfectly nice -- friendly but not intrusive. But the real appeal to the place was the view. The house sat on a bluff high above the Pacific and offered a spectacular panorama with Catalina Island off in the distance.
This past winter, in Naples, I had to share a bathroom with another guest. That was unexpected. I went back and looked at the listing, and while it didn't explicitly say "private bath" it did advertise "privacy" -- which I took to mean my own bedroom and bathroom.
But other than having to share a bathroom, the place in Naples was great, located in a quiet neighborhood with a friendly married couple as hosts. They had a big-screen TV where I watched the AFC championship between the Denver Broncos the New England Patriots. A great game. But the real bonus? They cooked a fabulous breakfast, served at a big, comfortable dining room table.
Have you ever used Airbnb? Were your experiences similar or different? B has never been to one; but now we are talking about using Airbnb to book a beach cottage outside of Charleston, SC, in September.
There was an article in the NY Times last weekend about some of the problems posed by Airbnb and its cousins HomeAway and VRBO. The piece focused on New Orleans where apparently there are so many Airbnb rentals that they are crowding out regular residents. Similar problems have cropped up in certain neighborhoods in other urban places like Portland, Ore., Philadelphia, Pa., and Austin, Tex.
One New Orleans resident complained that his neighborhood now consists mainly of strangers carrying suitcases, who arrive on Thursday or Friday and depart a few days later. But it seems the real problem comes with the few troublemakers who inevitably show up -- visitors who make a lot of noise, throw garbage on the street, even vomit on the front steps.
Honestly, I can't imagine becoming an Airbnb host. Well, first of all, we don't live in a tourist area where anyone would want to stay overnight. We're too far from New York City, and we're not near the water or any major tourist attraction. There's nothing even remotely interesting about the town where we live. But even if there was, I don't think I'd like the idea of strangers coming and staying over at my house.
And then, you're in business, so you have to keep track of all your expenses and your income and report to the IRS. That's a job in itself. And what if something goes wrong? A crime, for instance, or an injury? Would you feel terrible? Do you need special insurance? Could you get sued?
But I do enjoy going to an Airbnb rental -- is that hypocritical, to patronize a service but not to want to participate in the sharing?
I haven't ever tried using Uber to get a taxi (although my son swears by it) -- not because I wouldn't, but because I don't live in the city and so don't have occasion to. This so-called sharing economy definitely has its benefits; but sometimes it can be a little unsettling.