A growing number of property owners in the Dayton region are making money by opening their homes to travelers and other guests using Airbnb, the largest home-sharing website in the nation.
Using the online platform, property owners are turning their spare bedrooms into vacation rentals and renting out homes they own when they’re gone or not in use.
There has been a 30 percent increase in Airbnb hosts operating in the Dayton market since spring, according to the company’s data.
Some local residents and professional developers see Airbnb as a smart investment as well as an innovative and convenient way for people to travel or make good use of spare rooms and places.
“It’s been going really well, and for the first two months, it’s really exceeded my expectations,” said Mike Schena, 38, who along with his wife, Sarah, recently started hosting people at a home in Historic South Park using Airbnb.
Airbnb is an online platform that connects people who want to rent out their homes and condos or extra rooms to travelers and other people looking for a place to stay.
The accommodations offer a different hospitality experience than hotel and motels, and some people choose Airbnb because their listings can be cheaper than traditional lodgings.
The Dayton area now has north of 90 hosts, which is at least 20 more than it did in March, according to Ben Breit, an Airbnb spokesman.
There were 2,500 Airbnb guest arrivals in 2016, which was up more than 200 percent from 2015, the company said.
About 56 percent of Dayton Airbnb listings are extra, unused rooms that hosts choose to rent out, Breit said. Dayton hosts on average earn about $4,700 annually from renting out their spaces.
Local listings include a one-bedroom apartment in east Dayton (starting at $35 per night); a bungalow near Carillon Park and the University of Dayton ($110 per night); a New York-style modern loft in downtown ($149 per night); and one of the Charles Simms’ Patterson Place townhomes near Fifth Third Field ($160 per night).
Schena and his wife earlier this year purchased a two-story home in South Park to use for storage on the ground floor and rental housing upstairs.
They soon decided to rent the space out on Airbnb and welcomed their first guests in late May.
Schena said originally he was hoping that the unit would be occupied about 50 percent of the time.
But, he said, the rental had a 75 percent occupancy rate in June and an 88 percent rate in July. Some days are blocked out when Schena or his wife are not in a position to accommodate guests.
Guests have included a diverse mix of people, ranging from business travelers to people in town for concerts, events or activities at University of Dayton and Wright Patterson Air Force Base.
People are drawn to Airbnb rentals, according to Schena, because they can be a lot cheaper than hotels and they tend to be located in quaint or interesting residential areas or activity centers with unique amenities, instead of near highway exits, along major thoroughfares, surrounded by fast-food, national chains and truck stops.
The Schena’s rental is very close to the Brown Street business corridor and not far from the Oregon Historic District.
Hosting through Airbnb generates more revenue than renting a unit on a month-to-month or longer-term basis, but expenses are higher too, Schena said.
The units need to be cleaned after every stay, and landlords have to pay utilities and other costs.
“It’s extra work and it’s a little bit harder than a normal rental,” Schena said. “But it’s a good service and people who know about it, and have done it, prefer it compared to a standard hotel.”
People want interesting and distinctive places to stay, and Airbnb rentals stand out from the typical hotel experience, Scott Gibson, CEO of the Ellway Group, told this newspaper in June.
The Ellway Group is developing the Fire Blocks District, an area primarily concentrated along the 100 block of East Third Street.
The group wants to convert a three-story DP&L building at 18 S. Jefferson St., next to the Century Bar, into Airbnb rental housing on the upper floors.
“Having flexible housing opportunities and options is key to having a neighborhood grow and develop and progress,” Gibson said. “I think Dayton doesn’t have enough Airbnb.”
Gibson said the Airbnb space should serve the friends and families of future tenants, who will occupy the apartments and other housing his group plans to build in the district.
Airbnb has become a major lodging player and rental competitor in many U.S. markets, especially in larger metro areas, like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and even Cleveland and Columbus.
The sharing economy is definitely an emerging segment of the lodging landscape, said Jacquelyn Powell, president and CEO of Dayton Convention & Visitors Bureau.
However, the convention and visitors bureau has no mechanism to track or measure the impact of Airbnb bookings in this market, and hotel occupancy numbers in the area have remained steady, she said.
Critics have accused Airbnb of driving up rents in other cities, because landlords can charge more for short-term business and vacation rentals than they can get from tenants for longer leases.
So far, such complaints have not been widely voiced in Dayton.