Business booming for Airbnb “hosts” who rent out their homes – Orange County Register

Built in the 1950s, Jessika Fairbarn’s Costa Mesa home has no pool or central air conditioning. The only bathroom in the property has no electricity.

Yet since March, about 200 travelers have gladly paid to stay at her house in a quiet residential cul-de-sac instead of a hotel with full amenities.

Part of its appeal is the comforts of a home away from home and Fairbarn’s flair for hospitality, its former guests say in reviews on Airbnb, the short-term rental website that brokered those bookings. She leaves visitors with a welcome basket that includes a s’mores kit. Other touches: a key safe for self-check-in and check-out, and labeled kitchen cabinets.

“It’s always kind of awkward, ‘Am I looking here? Am I allowed?'” said Fairbarn, 34, a contact lens technician. feel as welcome as possible.”

She is right in the middle of a booming industry in Orange County. Call it the Airbnb economy, in honor of the best-known — and in some quarters, notorious — online services.

In just two years, active Airbnb listings in Orange County have gone from 260 to 2,300, according to Beyond the prices, a California-based startup that tracks and reads Airbnb data. There are more than 56,000 hotel rooms in Orange County, according to Visit Anaheim, formerly known as the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau.

An army of Orange County landlords and tenants are offering spare beds, rooms, or entire properties to short-term tenants. In exchange, the “hosts”, as Airbnb calls them, earn a little extra money.

In some cases, a lot of money. A host says she can earn up to $3,000 a month. But incomes are usually much lower, as most hosts only rent out their spaces part-time.

Airbnb, headquartered in San Francisco, and competitors like HomeAway and VRBO offer an easy and transparent way to find, rate and pay for rooms or entire homes – qualities that particularly appeal to young, savvy travelers. of smartphones.

“They’ve created a very efficient and beautiful user experience,” said Douglas Quinby, who researches these services for travel and hospitality analytics firm Phocuswright.


Irvine, Anaheim, and Newport Beach — popular destinations for business and leisure travelers — have the highest concentration of these rentals in the area. Together, they represent 43% of all Airbnb listings in Orange County.

This is great news for Airbnb, which says it is on track to generate $900 million in revenue this year. It was expected to be one of the top tech IPOs this year, with an estimated stock valuation of $25 billion.

For many travelers, Airbnb listings are the first place they look when planning a trip to, say, Paris or Hawaii.

However, some neighbors and county municipal officials are not so thrilled. They worry that more short-term rentals will mean more noise, litter and other neighborhood nuisances.

Laguna Beach officials recently extended a moratorium on any new short-term rental permits through October 1, 2016. City of Aliso Viejo officials approved a ban on short-term rentals in residential areas.

There is also a question of fairness. Should Airbnb charge a lodging tax like hotels do?

“It’s not like you have a uniform national code or regulatory environment,” Quinby said. The problem “is very, very local, which makes it particularly complex”.

Concerns are only heightened by the occasional, well-publicized horror story – from noisy party houses to alleged crimes committed by the hosts.

The most recent cautionary tale concerns a 19-year-old American who alleges his host in Madrid locked him in an apartment and sexually assaulted him. The victim’s mother, who received text messages from her son during the alleged attack, said Airbnb would not release the location of the apartment and told her to call the police.

For hosts and guests alike, stories like these drive home the risks of sharing a home. Airbnb said it would clarify its policy in such situations. Company officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment.


Many people list their homes on Airbnb on a whim. They may have heard about it from a friend or relative and wanted to try it out themselves.

Often it is a slow experience. Some only advertise their rooms when they’re traveling or if there’s a special event in town.

But the experience can turn into a major operation.

Firefighter Michael Bargetto, 31, and his fiancee, Kate Miller, 28, have been renting their Newport Beach condo on the website since 2013. The listing, currently marketed at $122 a night, has done so well that it allowed to buy a cabin. at Big Bear. This property debuted on Airbnb this summer.

“It helped us start a business,” Bargetto said.

They plan to grab a third property, probably out of state. Bargetto says he and his fiancée love their jobs, but they also appreciate the financial options offered by their short-term rental portfolio.

It’s unclear how many hosts in Orange County operate multiple listings. So far, there’s no indication the market is anything like Seattle, where property management companies are overtaking the Airbnb market, said Costa Mesa host Fairbarn. Most local listings are more like its small-scale operation.

The Orange County native lists two of the three bedrooms in her home, which itself is a rental. (Her owner is fine with that, she says.)

With the extra income, she more or less covers her monthly rent, which allows her to take a day off to go back to school. She is in the early stages of nursing prerequisite courses at Coastline Community College.

“Without Airbnb…I’d be hard-pressed to pay for this,” Fairbarn said of the 1,000-square-foot home with a spacious backyard.


Airbnb renters in Orange County primarily fall into three groups: Disney fans, beach lovers, and business people.

Fairbarn’s Costa Mesa home is a short drive from Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach, making her listing popular among beachgoers who want the Orange County experience, she said. declared.

Bargetto, the Newport Beach host, is attracting more business people — everyone from the founder of Acorns, a mobile investing app, to middle-aged men in corporate jobs.

Price is an obvious reason to choose Airbnb over a hotel. Cindy Kirby, who rents out a spare room in her Anaheim home, charges $89 a night. The Anaheim Marriott Hotel and Embassy Suites in Anaheim-Orange were both charging at least $139 a night as of Thursday.

But it’s not always the case. At least two Anaheim hotels offered their rooms at or below Kirby’s price.

Kirby, 55, says customers gravitate to Airbnb because they want more personal hospitality when they travel. Often, Kirby and her husband, David, recommend things to do in town. Sometimes they even offer to pick up customers at the airport.

“In a hotel, they feel very isolated,” said Kirby, who previously hosted international students. “Some people go to Disneyland and come back to the hotel. But with us, they can interact with us.

His guests agree. One wrote: “Everything was perfect, we felt like at home or at our aunt’s!


Many Airbnb tenants are value-driven millennials looking for unique experiences.

Newport Beach’s Holly Phillips skips hotel booking sites and goes straight to the Airbnb app. She’s booked homes in Rio de Janeiro and all over California, from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara.

“It’s good value, you (can) have a whole place, and it’s much more affordable” than a hotel, said Phillips, 24, a product manager at a multimedia company.

Kirby and many hosts like her also use Airbnb as a guest. Another attraction for her is the camaraderie.

She immediately felt a connection with an Airbnb host in Port Angeles, Washington, where she rented a room in a mobile home on a 5-acre farm. Owner Adrienne Pereira lamented an unfinished treehouse on her property that had been abandoned by an unreliable contractor.

Kirby proposed to her husband, who is in construction. He flew in from Anaheim and completed most of the renovation in nine days at a lower rate than he usually charges.

“He was sent home with a dozen eggs and scones and jam,” Kirby said. The treehouse “is up and running and is its own listing.”


So far, there is plenty of room in the accommodation industry to accommodate short-term rental outfits. Last year, hotels broke pre-recession records for occupancy and revenue, and they’re on track to do so again this year. Indeed, construction of new hotel rooms all but came to a halt during the recession, leading to a shortage as consumers and businesses started spending on travel again.

That’s not to say hotels shouldn’t be monitoring guest and Airbnb activity closely, especially in areas where the sharing service is entrenched, analyst Quinby said.

The share of travelers who rented accommodation on vacation rental sites, including Airbnb, for personal or leisure travel more than doubled to 25% from 2011 to 2014, according to research by Phocuswright.

Hotels are trying to catch up with more modern competition. New strategies include connecting travelers with locals and checking in by cell phone.

But even rabid Airbnb users doubt that hotels will really be replaced. Fairbarn recently booked a night aboard the Queen Mary for her birthday.

“You can’t find an Airbnb on the Queen Mary,” she said. “Until Airbnb gets room service and pool boys, I’m pretty sure hotels won’t close.”

Contact the author: 714-796-4976 or [email protected]. Twitter: @LilyShumLeung.

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