By Karen D. Lorentz
Nationally, the Airbnb trend has caught on in ski towns, so it’s not too surprising that it is popular in Killington. In fact, Killington ranks no. 1 for having the most Airbnb accommodations in Vermont with 453 listings (from 161 hosts). Four of the five towns with the most Airbnb rentals are ski towns – Killington, Stowe, Warren and Dover, according to Airbnb reports.
And the growth has been exponential over the past seven years. In 2011, the town was not on the Airbnb map, by 2013, it had a couple dozen listings, then 2014-2018 it’s surged.
Airbnb rentals are popular for the savings and convenience they can afford, and in some places supplement limited accommodations by offering a room in a home or an entire home to rent.
AARP magazine reports that “Americans over age 60 are the fastest-growing group to become Airbnb hosts,” and also notes that “Older Americans get more five-star ratings than any other demographic.” Hosts 60 and up have 13 percent of market share, have grown as a sector 102 percent in one year, and 62 percent of stays are rated five stars, the magazine reports, in accordance with Airbnb company reports.
Homeowners say that one of the biggest benefits of Airbnb is that it enables them to make use of a spare bedroom or two while earning extra income and making it possible to meet people through the sharing of their home.
However, a perusal of Airbnb mountain town listings shows that most ski-country Airbnb offerings are for entire apartments, condos, and homes as well as hotel or motel rooms. Some come with amenities like pools, spas, hot tubs, adventure centers, on-site restaurants, or breakfasts.
Rooms in private homes are in the minority at destination resorts, including in Killington, but they often offer the best prices.
On Airbnb’s site, 453 listings in Killington range from an entire apartment with two bedrooms for five guests – with shuttle service to the mountain – to an entire home that can accommodate 24, and from a private room with shared bath to a private room in a condo or chalet with private bath.
The convenience of online rentals has even led some people to purchase a vacation home or condo(s) to rent out online. While not yet cited as a problem in Killington, some destination ski towns have found that workers fear losing rental homes to new owners who might make more income through vacation rentals.
Airbnb listings can also be utilized by professional management companies, traditional inns and hotels, too.
Killington Group proprietor Bob Montgomery lists “all the vacation rentals our firm handles and manages on Airbnb and numerous other social media sites such as HomeAway.com. It is good exposure and has increased rentals,” he stated.
Having been in business of as a full-service real estate company since 1971, Montgomery said he has observed a major change in the way people rent, noting, “today people get their information digitally, especially Millennials. The banner I had flown by a biplane from the Jersey shore to Montauk and back on Labor Day Weekend said “Killington Rentals.” That was in the 1970s and 80s before the internet, but I consider it the same as the headline banner on social media today, and we get the same good results.”
Montgomery also noted that he thought the increase in real estate sales in 2017 in Killington was in part due to the influence of sites like Airbnb. Not only are more people buying property to use and rent out, he noted, they also are doing so as “a result of a vacation experience they had in renting themselves. And it’s not just for winter. We are seeing more families who want to vacation here with more to do in summer now,” he added.
A perusal of Airbnb local properties shows that rates depend on the time of a stay and location. Non-holiday midweek stays can be bargains but rates go up over holidays, weekends, and other high demand times. And location also can make a huge price difference, with slopeside properties commanding higher rates than those located several miles away. A two-night minimum stay is common.
People like Martin and Jill Griff (skiers from New Jersey) who use Airbnb regularly note that it is generally more cost effective. Once you have found a place that you like, you can communicate with the owner to get questions answered which is very helpful, they note.
In the past decade, ski-country properties have become a popular segment of the online rental business, but for private homeowners it may not be quite as easy as it appears.
Fire and safety
Airbnb rentals in Vermont are regulated by fire safety regulations. Public buildings like inns and condos already meet fire and safety codes.
However, individual homeowners may not be aware that once they rent out a room or rooms, they become a public building and therefore must meet those state fire and building safety codes, notes Butch Sutherland, regional manager at the Rutland Regional Office of Vermont’s Fire Safety Division.
He advises anyone thinking of renting out rooms to call that office (802-786-5867) to speak to a fire marshal to learn more about the rules or visit the website, firesafety.vermont.gov/buildingcode.
It’s not just smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that are required. He noted that a sleeping room (in a public building) must have two means of escape, a door and a secondary means of egress like a window that meets requirements for size and height (from the floor).
Michael Desrochers, executive director of the Department of Public Safety-Division of Fire Safety, noted in an email that a bill (S.204) has also been introduced this session. “This bill proposes to require the registration of short-term rentals and that registrants of short-term rentals self-certify compliance with certain health and safety provisions,” he wrote.
Desrochers, however, also admitted that the Division of Fire Safety does not have the resources to inspect all internet-based lodging facilities, noting that there isn’t yet “a good picture of how many and where all these places are. We do inspect in response to a complaint but are very limited in doing pro-active inspections,” he explained.
In addition to information on the website, he noted, “We are going to develop a general safety brochure explaining some of the key issues – smoke and carbon monoxide alarm requirements, second means of escape, guards, handrails, heating system safety, electrical safety, and other general safety items – people should be aware of.”
Tax and reporting
Other considerations include property insurance, taxes and the rooms and meals tax.
According to the state’s website tax.vermont.gov/sites/tax/files/documents/RoomwithaviewFS.pdf: “Vermont law states that sleeping accommodations offered to the public for a consideration on premises operated by a private person, entity, institution, or organization is subject to the Vermont Meals and Rooms Tax if those rentals total fifteen (15) or more days in any one calendar year.” (In rentals to the same person for 30 or more consecutive days, the person is considered to be a permanent resident and different rules apply.)
The state’s website also notes that beginning on “Oct. 1, 2016, Airbnb began collecting and remitting the meals and rooms tax and local option tax on behalf of their hosts.” However, where sites don’t provide this service, then the host is responsible.
Montgomery noted that because Airbnb collects the state and local options tax, it can be easier to use.
The state also advises that hosts “should make sure that all rental income is included on your income tax return.”
A warning advises: “You are personally responsible for collecting and remitting tax” and could be subject to up to seven years of tax, interest, and penalty if this hasn’t been done. The Department’s Voluntary Disclosure Program could reduce that to three years of tax and interest if one voluntarily comes forward (802-828-2514 for more information).
IRS rules say that money earned from the short-term rental of a personal home does not need to be reported as income to the IRS if the home is rented out for fewer than 15 days.
Still Airbnb is growing exponentially in popularity among owner-hosts and travelers alike. Airbnb has 1.2-plus million listings worldwide in 34,000 cities and 190 countries, according to Tripping.com.