Airbnb hosts share their experiences

SARANAC LAKE — For local Airbnb hosts, offering their extra rooms for short-term rentals through the service offers them economic security and flexibility, while still maintaining control over the property.

After Emilie Allen’s old landlord decided to stop renting out the unit she was staying in, she had trouble finding another long-term rental in the area that would also allow her large dog. She made the decision to buy a small house in Saranac Lake, as she said the cost of rent was equivalent to the cost of a mortgage. She then listed the house on Airbnb to help bolster her salary.

“I was living in the house at the time, so I would only rent it when I was away visiting family,” Allen wrote in an email. “This extra income was and is hugely helpful for me — particularly as far as paying back my student loans and beginning to save for retirement, which I was not able to do in my 20s due to the recession.”

She said nearly all of her guests have been respectful, and her neighbors only ever contacted her once with concerns about a renter. After Allen met her husband and moved into his Saranac Lake home, she continued to use her house as an Airbnb rental.

“For many middle-income earners, living in this region often requires having a second income stream,” Allen wrote. “I consider the management of my Airbnb property a second job.”

She cites three main reasons for keeping old home an Airbnb. First, She can block out availability on Airbnb so her family and friends have a place to stay when they’re passing through.

Next, without a long-term renter in the building, Allen can keep a constant eye on any maintenance issues.

“The property is a valuable, long-term asset that I may choose to sell in the future and, as the owner, I have the right to protect the value of my asset,” Allen wrote.

Lastly, she said the rental income was integral to her financial security.

“I pay Essex County bed tax for that privilege,” Allen wrote. “I used to clean the house myself, however, I now employ two local women — both mothers — who clean the house for me between turnovers. I pay them a fair wage for a job that is flexible and relatively easy.”

About a year-and-a-half ago, Corey Iaria said she and her husband started renting out the guest cottage behind their house through Airbnb. She rents it out all year. Since Airbnb handles the taxes and provides free host protection insurance, Iaria said renting is easy to manage.

Iaria said her experience with guests has been positive.

“We have self-check in so a lot of times we don’t even meet them,” Iaria wrote in an email. “A majority of the guests are first timers to Saranac Lake just getting away to somewhere new. Others have some sort of ties locally. They always say they’ll be back. We’ve even made some new friends.”

She said that the service helps to pay the heating bills for their main house and the cottage, plus a little extra.

Kathleen Bullard, a teacher at Saranac Lake High School, has been using Airbnb since she opened her three-room bed and breakfast in 2013. The service accounts for 60 to 70 percent of her business, Bullard said, with the rest coming through bookings through the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, and directly through her website.

“We do the bed and full breakfast in the morning,” Bullard said. “I bake homemade scones, and so one of the biggest things — I’ll have people book because of the review on the scones. If I have a bad scone day, I’m in trouble.”

The reviewing feature provides a measure of security that Bullard said she doesn’t get through direct booking.

“Basically, you get to communicate with the guests before they get there. You don’t have to accept if you don’t want to,” Bullard said. “You review the guests, the guests review us. So there’s a lot of open communication that way.”

In addition, Bullard said she’s noticed a demographic difference through Airbnb. She gets a lot of Europeans passing through.

“It’s a traditional cure cottage, so it doesn’t have private baths. And the Europeans, they don’t care,” Bullard said. “The millennials, they don’t care. We’ve hosted people from all six continents. We know somebody that lived on Antarctica — we’re trying to invite her over so we can get all seven. It’s the social studies teacher in me.”

If you have an opinion on Airbnb, as a host, guest, or otherwise, email Jesse Adcock at