adidas adilette Airbnb enables homeowners to rent properties
Outside the hospitality business world, Airbnb was relatively unknown until a destroyed house in Calgary garnered national attention in April. Jeff Sands, real estate broker by day and host of three Airbnb properties in Kingston by night, only found out about the online hospitality booking site on a business trip.
“I started to do some research, one thing led to another, and I ended up using the site,” Sands said. “It’s been great, very popular. We often turn people away.”
It’s been a year and a half and Sands hasn’t looked back. The business surprised him, hosting guests from all over the world. In the summer of 2014, a majority of his guests were European.
“I was really surprised right off the bat how many people that were contacting us from China or Germany, and southeast Asia,” Sands said. “The Thousand Islands were a big pull last summer.
“We’re still fairly new at this, so to track exactly why people are coming and staying in Kingston, it’s kind of all over.”
Airbnb was started in 2008 in San Francisco and enables homeowners to rent out their properties, or portions of them, much like a bed and breakfast or hotel. Its website boasts more than 25 million guests in more than 34,000 cities around the world.
With 170 listings in Kingston, the site calculates, on average a person could make $651 a week if they rent out their entire home, or $459 a week for a private room. Sands rents out his best location a two bedroom, 710 square foot suite at the corner of Wellington and Queen streets from $189 to $255 a night, depending on the length of a guest’s stay.
Though there is no fee to join or list a property on the site, Airbnb makes money by charging host and guest service fees on every transaction. When a guest books a room, 3% of the total cost goes to Airbnb as a host fee. The website explains the host fee covers the cost of processing guest payments. A guest service fee varies from 6% to 12% with every reservation based on the subtotal. The site explains this covers the cost of running Airbnb.
“We do regulate lodging houses which include bed and breakfast, but it appears these are rentals of people’s personal home, which we do not license,” wrote Kim Leonard, manager of licensing and enforcement for the city, in an email. “We do not license hotels, motels or resorts.”
A lodging house is “every premises in which four or more persons, exclusive of staff, are lodged, with or without meals, in return for a fee,” according to bylaw 2006 213, a bylaw to regulate and govern certain businesses.
A hotel, under the Hotel Registration of Guests Act, is defined as a separate building or buildings “used mainly for the purpose of catering to the needs of the travelling public by the supply of food and also by the furnishing of sleeping accommodation of not fewer than six bedrooms.”
Murray Matheson, executive director of the Kingston Accommodation Partners, said Airbnb, like the Uber taxi business, is not large enough of an issue in Kingston for his group to be worried.
“Obviously we would prefer our guests to stay in approved and regulated accommodations when they come to Kingston so they can be assured everything will be safe and clean and tidy,” Matheson said. “And that contributes to the tax base as well, but Airbnb does not contribute to the tax base.
“We don’t have an official stance, other than we’re just keeping an eye on the progress and we’ll be communicating with the municipal government as it becomes an issue, but at this point it’s not really an issue.”.