You’ve been there: Cousin or Aunt So-and-So is coming to town and needs a place to stay. Even for the friendliest relative, this can be an exhausting prospect. So imagine inviting a total stranger who’s in town for business or to wobble through the next music festival. For the 1.5 million people who list their properties on the vacation-rental website Airbnb, this is exactly what they’ve signed up for.
How it works
Founded in 2008, Airbnb allows “hosts” to rent either whole properties or individual rooms to travelers. Rentals are available in more than 190 countries and offer unique accommodations, often at much cheaper fares than traditional hotels-making for cheap getaways for thrifty travelers.
In the last year, Airbnb users sold almost 24 million nights. And some Detroiters are getting their own slice of the pie. Search for listings in Detroit, and you’ll get around 300 options spread out across the city and Windsor.
Industrial hygienist Chinonye Akunne rents the second bedroom of her spacious West Village apartment at an average nightly rate of $85. Akunne joined the site as a host in February at the encouragement of her brother who also hosts in Chicago. Her work schedule keeps her away from home three weeks a month, so her space is rented by everyone from traveling professionals to visiting musicians. Akunne takes care to keep the minimal but beautifully decorated unit clean. Because she values privacy, she keeps her bedroom and personal items locked up.
Akunne has yet to experience the unsavory side of folk, but others have been less fortunate, like a well-reported story of a New York host who came home to a trashed apartment littered with condoms and feces. Incidents of properties turning into brothels while hosts are away have also been reported.
Whole nine yards
When Judith Doss signed up to host nearly a year ago, she had reservations-mostly concerning her unique art collection. Her seven-bedroom, six-and-a-half-bathroom mansion boasts a gym, sauna and pool guests are welcome to use.
But the socially savvy Doss says the opportunity to meet new people played into her decision. “I’m enjoying this,” Doss says, “and it helps with the taxes.”
Doss says she’s made $10,000 so far in 2016 renting out the entire property $1,700 a night. Individual rooms are also available for rent.
Doss was concerned about prejudice – there have been reports of travelers preferring white hosts, and vice versa – and one visitor did look taken back.
“I knew when I opened that door that he did not want to deal with me,” she says, though Airbnb displays photos of property hosts. But when it comes to her houseguests, Doss is warm and welcoming, often doing extras like grabbing an expensive case of wine or cooking a lavish meal.
Despite opposition, hosts like Akunne and Doss plan to continue offering good, old-fashioned Detroit hospitality.