Our Thoughts on Short-Term Rentals
Today, I wanted to address a pretty big debate that has been going on in our comments sections anytime we talk about our bnbs. Upfront I want to say that I think these types of debates can be healthy and educational, and that’s something we encourage! I love to learn from your experiences and stories. We know some of you have passionate opinions about short-term rentals, we’d love to hear your thoughts and we hope you will take the time to hear ours.
This issue is complex and varies so much from city to city, so I want to encourage everyone to avoid oversimplifying it. The point of this post is to share our opinions and experiences with our bnb properties in the two cities we live in. The laws in cities around the country can be very different. The pros and cons list can be different for every city as well. It’s so interesting to learn how people feel about short-term rentals in different parts of the country. I hope the conversation around short-term rentals can become more nuanced because I truly think it’s an important ongoing conversation. Please keep in mind, we are here to share our experiences in Nashville and Springfield, not to speak for every different city.
We love our bnb properties and are so proud of them. We work really hard on making them special, beautiful homes. The home we are renovating in Missouri will be a part-time home for my family and I when we visit. We love to stay with our families, but now that we’re adopting our second child we realized we needed our own space to pace the busy holiday schedule, make some memories on our own and charge our introvert batteries. Last Christmas, I ended the night in tears because it was just so overwhelming. After that, we began to make plans to go at a slower pace that works better for our family.
We have been remodeling the Springfield home with love and care and the intention of it being a holiday home for my family. We have met the neighbors, and they understand and support our reasons for renting the house out when we’re not in town. Long-term renting would not be an option for us since we plan to use the home often, but short-term renting gives us a chance to not let the house sit empty most of the year.
In Springfield, there are new laws to moderate short-term rentals (I’m going to say STR from here on) that are really great and protect neighborhoods. First of all, there is a regulation that there cannot be too many STRs too close together. So there will never be a neighborhood or a street that is all bought up by investors looking to do STRs. (This is only for homes that will be second homes, like ours. For primary residences that only rent out their home three months out of the year or less, there is a different permit that is a bit easier to obtain.)
Next, you have to get signatures from the majority of your neighbors to show they support your intention to use your property as a STR. And, after that, you are required to host an open house where neighbors can come meet you face to face, ask any questions they may have and raise any concerns.
These are all new regulations in Springfield, Missouri. In our opinion, they are very fair and overall balanced. Neighborhoods are protected, but people like us can still rent out a property that is empty for months at a time. Best of all, relationships with neighbors are valued and protected. Even though Emma was a little nervous to host her open house (our property was mostly gutted and under major construction at the time), it was so good to be able to talk face to face with the neighbors. Best of all, we were able to give them our direct contact info, so in case they ever notice an issue, they can call us right away.
Once we are done renovating and the house is furnished, we will also be required to get another approval from the city. They will be checking that our property has enough (and working) smoke detectors and other safety necessities. Personally, we really like this oversight measure. If we were to rent the property as a long-term rental, it’s possible we would go for years without really being able to check in on smoke detectors or other wear and tear to the home. But with short term this is much more accessible and I think makes the property even safer for not only our family but anyone who chooses to rent an STR.
In Nashville, the regulations are much different. Most residents can get permits on their primary homes that they live in, but if it’s a second home it has to be commercially zoned or you cannot get a permit. These are also new laws that are ever changing.
For this reason, Emma and I chose to buy a duplex that was commercially zoned. It currently sits next to two empty lots. There are very few properties like this available, so we chose the best one we could find. It was a new construction with very little (old house) charm or details, so we have spent the past few months adding a lot more detail to the homes and furnishing them. Emma is planning to live part-time in her property and I’m so happy about it. This week, she and her husband are there and we’ve been hanging out almost every night with Nova. It’s been really great.
Since the STR laws in Nashville have become so much more strict, there are now less bnbs in the city than there have been in a long time. I understand when people say they worry investor-owned STRs will take inventory away from people trying to buy their primary home. Due to the new laws, this is no longer an issue.
All in all, I think cities moderating STRs so that there aren’t too many is a good and important step. We are obviously not anti-bnb, but we still believe regulations should be in place so that investors cannot buy up whole neighborhoods. All of the worst stories I have heard have been situations like that where no oversight was in place.
Another thing I want to mention is the responsibility of STR owners to screen their guests and have strict rules that protect neighborhoods. I remember years back we rented a home in Palm Springs and one of the rules was that if a neighbor called the police on you due to noise you would be kicked out immediately. These type of serious rules being enforced keep neighborhoods safe. We don’t allow any kind of parties in our houses (Nashville is popular bachelorette/bachelor party destination). If we had a downtown property, we would allow party groups to stay. But since we have a neighborhood property, we don’t.
We also now have ring doorbell cameras on our doors so we can make sure that our house isn’t getting a huge number of people when only a small group is supposed to be staying there. I’ve never had my property used for a party or trashed, but I have met people who have. This is why it’s important to us to give our information to neighbors so they can let us know if they notice anything out of the ordinary.
In the best-case scenario, a STR will stay in excellent condition and be used respectfully. Jeremy and I were blown away by how respectful our guests were in our first experience owning a STR last year. As an owner, the other thing that is night and day different (from long-term rentals) is that the property stays in absolute mint condition and we had a chance to make tiny upgrades all throughout the year. This is why I would personally rather live next door to a (well managed) STR than a long term. I mean our STR properties get professionally cleaned WAY (like, wayyyy) more than our personal home.
The last thing I want to talk about are my own customer experiences. I sometimes like staying in short-term rentals and sometimes I prefer hotels. It depends on the city and whether I am traveling with my whole family. If you’ve ever traveled with a kid who goes to bed early (Nova’s current bedtime is 7 p.m.), staying in a single hotel room together is difficult. Suites can work well, but they can also get expensive fast. If you’ve ever traveled with pets, same thing. And if you’ve ever traveled with a group of 2-3 couples or a big family group, you know how much more functional a short-term rental can be. Short-term rentals are something I use often and appreciate as a customer. Bottom line, they are two totally different experiences. Do you want room service or a kitchen? Are you spending a lot of time in your rental or will you be out 90% of the day? There is a need for both and having options is a good thing!
Every summer, my in-laws rent a big house with a pool for our whole family to stay in. The first few years we did it we stayed in hotels and condos. I can tell you from that experience the house is 100x better for the quality time our family is trying to achieve. When we start a new property, I always think about what kind of families might stay there and try to make it really special for them. A big part of our motivation when we decorate and furnish is envisioning the memories we have made and new memories being made.
Nashville has awesome fancy hotels, but not a ton of affordable (but still nice) ones. When we were moving here four years ago, we were staying in hotels a lot and we stayed in a couple of the worst hotels we’ve ever stayed in. That’s one of the things that inspired us to look into making a bnb—I felt like there weren’t enough medium-priced options.
Springfield is a smaller town. It doesn’t have a hotel industry like Nashville and it doesn’t have a ton of “cute” places to stay. We love that we can offer something really beautiful for people to rent in our hometown. (Although for the record, there are a few cute spots to stay and we have a couple friends who also have bnb properties around our hometown that they put so much love into just like us.)
Emma’s and my goal is to create STRs that add value to our city and the people who visit our cities. We go the extra mile to give our guests a full experience. We respect the neighborhoods as these are communities we are a part of. We really care! I hope if you get anything from this post you can see that we’re trying to do a good job. I think a lot of people who own STRs are (and I’m sure there are some bad ones too—who I am not defending). I hope if anything that I’ve shared how we’ve made our decisions and how we are trying to run a side biz that contributes positively to our communities in every way.
Short-term rentals can be good and can be bad. Like almost all other tasks in life, it needs to be done responsibly, not recklessly. We want to do it the right way. We take that responsibility seriously. And although we are forever imperfect and always learning, we felt it was worth it to share all this today.
Doing more STR properties is a goal of ours for the future. We’re at the prime of our careers and it makes sense for us to invest money in property and it is something we really enjoy working on. It’s a bonus that we can share some of these projects and tours here on our blog and it’s an extra special bonus that some of the guests who choose to rent our properties are readers who have been following us for years.
After our last big announcement, we had a real talk about whether we needed/wanted to share our short-term rental projects here on the blog. Believe it or not, my friends who don’t promote their properties to their followers at all make basically the same money on their STRs. The point of why we share isn’t to get people to rent it, they pretty much stay rented either way and from what I can tell most of the people renting our property have not all been “fans” by any means.
After thinking it over, we have decided to keep sharing this part of our business for now because A. We love doing it (really really enjoy this!) and B. We want to continue to be a part of this conversation. It’s 100% OK with us if some of our readers don’t like STRs or don’t like that we own them. We can agree to disagree and we plan to keep listening, keep learning and trying to do better. STRs are still a relatively new option (or at least recently popularized) and with anything that new there is going to be some back and forth before things are properly regulated and best practices are fully established.
Thank you for reading! xx. Elsie
Credits//Author: Elsie Larson, Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photo edited with A Color Story Desktop.