As the number of travelers with their sights set on Cleveland rises, so too does the number of entrepreneurs willing to rent those visitors a place to crash. From a spare room in one’s home to the entire home itself, the number of available short-term rentals in the area has spiked in the last year alone. Almost without exception, these would-be innkeepers are turning to Airbnb
, a darling of the new sharing economy that acts as the go-between for guest and host.
While the motivation to rent space often begins as a financial one, property owners soon discover that the rewards go well beyond mere dollars and cents. “Hosts” in the truest sense of the word, these folks take the satisfaction of their guests very seriously, acting as caretakers and unofficial ambassadors of the city they call home.
Joy Valentine, Serial Landlord
“This is a funky fun space in the center of Tremont. Decorated with Mid Century Modern furniture, stainless steel appliances, and countertop. Private deck amidst a landscaped yard. Great neighbors in the building and about the entire area!”
Joy Valentine is a get-your-hands-dirty entrepreneur. She purchases, fixes up and rents out properties in some of Cleveland’s most desirable neighborhoods, including Tremont and Ohio City. One such property in the heart of Tremont fetches $900 per month for each of its four well-appointed units.
Make that three units; Valentine recently converted one of the units
from a long-term rental to a short-term pied-à-terre devoted entirely to Airbnb users. The rise in local tourism combined with the desire to earn some extra income convinced this savvy landlord to give the sharing service a try. The listing went live earlier this month and already Valentine has secured a reservation from a California-based traveler.
One of the reasons behind Airbnb’s success is that rentals often can be found where traditional lodging options cannot. While hotels tend to be clustered in urban cores, Airbnb hosts often reside in more tourist friendly sectors of town, such as our own top spots Ohio City, Tremont or Detroit Shoreway.
“Sure, this could turn out to be great money, but part of the reason I’m doing it is because Tremont is a great location to see Cleveland,” Valentine says. “It’s walkable, relatively safe and close to everything.”
But the transition from long-term rental apartment to short-term crash pad isn’t as straightforward as snapping a few pictures and setting up an Airbnb profile, Valentine warns.
“This unit was originally built as a fulltime living space, so there’s a full kitchen and bathroom,” she says. “Then I added furniture, a television, cable and thought I was done. Oh, no. I realized I needed everything -- silverware, plates, lighting, sheets, towels, pillows, hangers…”
The unit fetches $150 night, a rate that Valentine believes is high enough to attract responsible guests and low enough to bring them back time and again.
Don Hallum, Empty-Nester
“1929 vintage brick warehouse in historic Ohio City with exposed brick, high ceilings, garage parking. Walking distance to West Side Market, restaurants. Two miles from Indian's stadium, Horseshoe Casino. Two miles from Brown's Stadium, Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame.”
Don Hallum has lived in Ohio City since the 1970s, giving him a firsthand view of the remarkable transformation of his neighborhood. He owns a stately brick warehouse
on a fashionable block, in which he and his wife occupy the upper level. The lower level does double duty as guest quarters for their grown children and an Airbnb rental.
“We originally built it as a place for our kids to stay when they visited, but realized that it was empty most of the time,” Hallum explains. “We had no interest in long-term tenants because we still want our kids to have a place to stay. With Airbnb, we just block out the dates of their visit and get the best of both worlds.”
Hallum first listed his property this past fall, and he’s been amazed at the response so far. Already he’s been host to guests from California and Australia, who are attracted by the neighborhood in general and the warehouse-style digs specifically, he believes. To prepare his spacious unit for short-term rentals, Hallum divulges that he spent upwards of $10,000 -- money he’s already recouped.
“This is a service that you are providing people, and you want to provide the best possible experience,” he explains. “You want to think of them as your guests and try to make them as comfortable as possible. I always ask them after their stay if there is anything I can do to improve the stay of future guests.”
Jeannie and Alejandro Petrus-Rivera, In Search of Like-Minded Individuals
“Alejandro and I are artists and gardeners, conservationists, creators, travelers, vegans and lovers of life. We are constantly creating something in the kitchen, or behind the camera, or in the garden, or just about anywhere! We like to take the time to sit down for at least one meal with our guests.”
Other than a case of bed bugs, which may or may not have come from Airbnb guests, Jeannie and Alejandro Petrus-Rivera have been thoroughly enchanted with the entire experience. For two years, the couple has been renting out a room in their Detroit Shoreway home
for both “financial gain and cultural exchange.”
“The whole idea of this is to find some connections with our guests -- why would this person be a good fit for us,” says Jeannie, adding that a guest in one’s home is a very different proposition than one in a separate space. “We do connect very well with virtually all of our guests.”
Their Airbnb profile makes it clear, for example, that they are vegans who don't allow the cooking of animal products in their home. The result of that upfront disclosure nets the couple like-minded tenants who respect their wishes.
“We enjoy meeting cool people,” she says. “We stay in touch with some after they’ve gone and have received amazing presents and thank-you notes.”
Sally Matia and Peter Kochera, City Boosters
“Experience an exciting studio renovation. Privacy, safety, comfort and inspiration are all a part of this art filled space in Cleveland's premier residential neighborhood. An apartment full of amenities close to all of Cleveland's hot spots!”
Sally Matia and Peter Kochera were unaware of Airbnb until they used the service themselves on a recent trip to Panama. The experience was such a positive one that they decided to turn the tables and rent out a unit in their restored Victorian home
At 65 years of age, Matia admits that she is the furthest thing from tech-savvy, but the process could not have been easier, she says. “It’s a very simple process; I literally listed the unit on June 1st and hours later I started getting bookings -- and it’s been almost nonstop ever since.”
Airbnb handles most aspects of the transaction, including providing the platform, managing communications and bookings, handling all payments, and screening both guests and hosts. Airbnb will even send out a professional photographer to shoot your space for the website at no charge. In return, the company skims a flat three percent off every rental.
Matia gets $100 per night, $600 per week or $1,700 per month for the charming space, which has been rented by visitors from San Diego, Columbus and Austin. What stands out in her mind the most is the near-universal appreciation for the city she calls home.
“I have been so completely impressed by how much people have loved Cleveland and this neighborhood,” she says. “They are a sophisticated and knowledgeable crowd who can’t wait to come back. Cleveland obviously is on a high right now.”
The Forty-0-Five Place photos Bob Perkoski