Vassar Quarterly - Spring/Summer 2017 - 18
house in a transitioning neighborhood in the H Street
Corridor in DC. Two years later, I began renting out the
flat (a.k.a. the basement) to short-term guests, a move
that gave me the flexibility to house my children in an
otherwise small row house when they returned from
college and/or life.
I listed the flat on Airbnb, VRBO, and FlipKey by
TripAdvisor with little knowledge of what I was doing. In
fact, my launch was a strategic disaster: I missed cherry
blossom season, DC's seasonal tourist mecca. A year and
a half later, however, I netted $30,000.
Like many hosts, and 30 percent of the Pew Research
respondents, I am using my home to earn money in a way
that can fit into the other demands on my time. I run the
rental as a business and pay taxes on my income.
My experiences have been fascinating and exhausting. I am not complaining, but hosting is not simply a
case of "if you build it they will come"-especially when
you live in a short-term-rental- and hotel-heavy area
such as Washington, DC. Pew Research Center reports
that a mere "1 in 10 American adults (11 percent) say they
have stayed overnight in a private residence that they
booked using a home-sharing site ... and around half
(53 percent) have never heard of these services before."
"The genius of Airbnb," NYU's Arun Sundararajan
has written, is "in designing something that works for
the host and the guest. ... They have actually invented
the experience that allows 2 million people to say
'I'm willing to open up my home,' and 10s of millions
of others to take the leap into this unfamiliar situation
of paying to stay in someone's home instead of going to
But a survey by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. found that
once a consumer uses a home-sharing site, they "do a
180" in their preferences and actually begin to prefer
"peer-to-peer" rentals over traditional hotels.
This is literally what hosts are banking on.
Cari Shane '87
Shane, Maximilian Franz / Zilboorg, Frederic Renaud Photography / Courtesy Jim Leu
1 in 10 people say they have stayed overnight
in a private residence that they booked using
a home-sharing site.