Just like home: Vacation rentals more popular
For South Florida visitors who want to skip hotels, vacation rental websites offer homes, apartments or rooms to rent.
Miami Herald Article – Short Term Rentals
BY HANNAH SAMPSON
After Charlie Ramirez’s two grown daughters moved out and left him and his wife in a 5-bedroom, 3 ½-bathroom empty nest, the Pembroke Pines residents decided it was time to downsize.
The couple moved into a smaller apartment and, earlier this year, listed the family home on vacation rental website HomeAway.com as a “secluded mansion” that sleeps 11 and starts at $1,250 a week.
“It was a perfect choice” for offsetting his costs, said Ramirez, 54, an unemployed Realtor.
With that, Ramirez joined the burgeoning crowd of South Floridians offering second homes, investment condos — and yes, even couches — as vacation options for visitors who want the space, amenities and relative bargain that hotels don’t always provide.
Such rentals have long been popular in South Florida during special events such as Super Bowl and Art Basel Miami Beach. But the growth of websites connecting owners with potential renters has made the process far easier, with more than 1,000 websites aimed at the $24 billion vacation-rental niche, according to the Vacation Rental Industry Association.
The real estate boom earlier this decade — and the ongoing real estate crisis — has increased inventory.
Monica Campana, whose family bought a Brickell condo hotel unit a couple of years “when it was the highest of the market,” was caught in the downturn. Condo-hotel operators weren’t doing enough to bring in guests, she said, so she listed the unit on rental-by-owner site VRBO.com .
While the short-term rental practice is popular with second homeowners and travelers, it isn’t always sanctioned — or legal.
Such rentals recently came under fire in New York, where a measure signed into law this July prohibits some short-term rentals of less than 30 days. Vacation rental websites and proponents of cheap travel cried foul, calling the decision a blow to tourists who want to avoid the Big Apple’s famously high hotel prices.
Officials in Chicago, Paris and Maui also have cracked down.
“There’s budget travel demand for these places,” said Gabriel Amorocho, marketing manager for Miami-based Rentalo.com , which lists rentals worldwide. “These places are going to keep springing up. You shouldn’t be thinking of banning it; you should be thinking of placing some kind of guidelines.”
Locally, regulations vary from city to city — and even condo to gated community. In certain areas in Miami Beach, single-family home rentals for less than six months were banned last year. Some South Florida condo associations prohibit or limit short-term rentals.
But one rule applies throughout the region. Under Florida law, anyone who rents out a home, apartment, room or any other space for less than six months must pay tourist taxes just like hotels.
Tax collectors in Miami-Dade and Broward said they aren’t sure how many people actually comply. But they make a point to seek out listings in classified advertising and on websites and send warnings to potential scofflaws.
Though hotels elsewhere have supported short-term rental bans, the practice hasn’t been an issue here, tourism officials said.
“We haven’t heard that this is a trend going on that’s impacting our hotels,” said Ginny Gutierrez, spokeswoman for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We’re a different destination than a lot of other cities. We have a very large hotel room inventory that turns over pretty quickly. There’s sort of something for everyone in that price range.”
Broward County tourism director Nicki Grossman said she doesn’t see private homes-for-rent as competition for hotels either — especially during special events.
“By then, our hotels are full anyway,” she said.
Experts say hotels tend to attract a different type of traveler than vacation renters. A report from research firm PhoCusWright found that vacation homes typically are rented by groups of at least four, said senior research director Douglas Quinby. The average daily rate for rentals is about 2 ½ times that of hotels, and people tend to stay longer in rentals than they do in hotels, he said.
Steve Krone, 30, considers the “ridiculously stocked” Miami Beach units he rents out on Airbnb.com to be a better option than hotels. Prices for his one-bedroom apartments start at $70 in the off season; renters get wireless Internet access, information about parking and cab fare and recommendations on things to do and places to eat.
“You get friendly, honest people,” said Krone, who rents the units out to bring in a little extra cash when he’s not hosting friends or family. “Each one that’s come in, they’ve ended up being good friends. They’ll send me where they’re going to next. I just e-mailed somebody from Australia.”
Aline Ramos, 29, said she too tries to make her guests feel welcome — and help them navigate South Beach — when they crash on her couch for $30 a night.
“We have fresh linens and towels,” she said. “We give breakfast to the person.”
She and her roommates list the couch on Airbnb.com to help with living expenses.
“If we can get somebody to sleep on our couch for two weeks, three weeks, we can pay the light bill or cable with that money,” she said.
For Ramirez of Pembroke Pines, renting his primary home has worked out well. His first tenants booked for a two-month business stay; early next year, an extended family will stay there for a long winter vacation.
And Ramirez, who left his furniture and years of memories at the house, knows he can always go home again.
“We’ve got a little ace in the hole that we can always come back,” he said. “It was painful, but you can manage the pain.”
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