Open Air Homes on the Importance of Being a Good Neighbor
Why Short-Term Rentals Get a Bad Rap
When working with homeowners and listing their homes on sites like Airbnb and VRBO, there is almost always some degree of nervousness. Nearly all of us have heard horror stories of unruly guests, raucous parties going late into the night, and the general destruction of communities.
In 2016, when Open Air Homes was 4 years old, I almost left short-term rentals behind entirely. I struggled with the same issues mentioned above and found myself beginning to distrust the entire industry.
Before bowing out, I turned to a few mentors for insight on navigating a brand-new industry that was fraught with these sorts of problems. I quickly learned from my mentors that Open Air Homes had to become the change we wished to see in the industry, and began pushing back against the narrative that contributes to short-term rentals’ bad reputation.
Fast forward to today, and the changes we put in place show new homeowners that it’s possible to protect the community while monetizing their homes. These changes often went against the grain of the industry, but we are starting to see a stronger adoption of clear guidelines, whether by property management companies themselves, or local governments.
Can you own and operate a short-term rental while being mindful of community? The short answer is that we’re trying in every way.
And while we don’t have the perfect solution yet, being a good neighbor who seamlessly adapts to communities rather than trying to change them is something we work at daily.
What changes has Open Air Homes Made to Preserve & Protect Communities?
There are five major actions we take to ensure neighborhoods continue to function peacefully and undisturbed:
1. Disabling instant booking functions.
Transparency and clear communication are the bedrock of any successful short-term rental venture. We require potential guests to message us prior to booking and ask clarifying questions to gauge their commitment to respecting the home, the community, and our rules.
2. Focusing our efforts on Month+ bookings.
In 2018, Open Air Homes made the conscious decision to retrofit a significant portion of our portfolio to exclusively Month+ stays. Knowing that long-term guests tend to respect the home and community more than weekend renters, pivoting to a longer-term market felt like a wise decision. As of Sept 1st, 2022, an average stay at one of our properties is 17.7 nights. Many property management companies rely almost exclusively on 2-3 night bookings. We have been able to be successful in this emerging way of travel by designing fully-realized homes. Longer-term stays also mean less wear and tear on properties!
3. Ensuring our guests understand Open Air Homes’ policies.
During our thorough vetting process, we require every guest to acknowledge and agree to our Good Neighbor Pledge. Open Air Homes believes that cities around the world need to adopt stronger regulations to ensure the peace, quiet, and safety of our neighborhoods. We value respect over profits and only rent our beautiful homes to travelers who commit to respecting the community and its members.
4. Building relationships and an ongoing dialogue with neighbors.
We provide residents near our properties with Open Air Homes’ centralized texting service, so they can reach us at any hour. This allows us to address issues in real-time and maintain the integrity of the neighborhood. We encourage neighbors to reach out and report anything at the home that doesn’t seem right. This open communication strengthens trust and has the added benefit of allowing property managers to resolve issues instead of relying on local police resources.
5. Security and noise level detection.
We install video cameras (in the front only) and Minut noise devices in the majority of our homes. The Minut device tracks noise levels and can be used both inside and outside, and only alerts us if the noise reaches a certain level. This is not a wiretapping device and only monitors noise. The video cameras allow us to have a recording of the neighborhood to keep both our guests and our homeowners safe.
Being a Good Neighbor in the Short-Term Rental Industry
The vacation rental industry still has a long way to go, and no one can ever guarantee that every guest will be a stand-up individual. However, since implementing the above changes, we’ve seen a tremendous amount of positive change when it comes to finding the right balance between communities and short-term rentals.
We believe that homeowners shouldn’t have to choose between monetizing their homes and leaving their neighborhoods safe and relatively undisturbed. At Open Air Homes, we are committed to acknowledging and addressing issues caused by short-term rentals in communities. We only look to partner with homeowners that are equally committed to this goal.
Founder and CEO of Open Air Homes
Read more letters from Brad here.