March 4th, 2015
In July of last year, the city of Portland voted to allow homeowners to offer short-term rentals in their homes or accessory dwellings. Are they the new threat to the sanctity of Portland neighborhoods, or a smart way for first-time home buyers to earn a little money off their investment?
Short-term rentals have been embraced in Portland and the world over. Through sites like Airbnb and VRBO, home owners (or renters, with a landlord’s permission) can open up their homes to guests – the paying kind.
If you’re the kind of person who likes their space and isn’t into sharing, this probably isn’t for you. But if, to you, a stranger’s just a friend you haven’t met yet, renting out part of your home or a guest house can make the difference in making that monthly mortgage payment. It’s also a great way to finance a vacation — Portland law allows you to rent out up to five bedrooms, so you could rent your whole house while you’re gone.
Airbnb is by far the most popular short-term rental website, with over 1,000 units for rent posted. Right now, a room in a Portland home can be rented for anywhere from $50 and up, while an entire apartment or house starts at $100 per night. (For fun, check out Portland Monthly’s list of the 10 Best Airbnb Rentals.)
This isn’t easy money for home owners — you have to think about cleaning before and after your guests stay, and pay Portland lodging tax. Airbnb and other host sites take a small commission off each rental. There’s also a permit you need to get through the City of Portland, which requires an inspection to check for safety hazards, escape routes and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Because the permitting process is new, many short-term rental holders have not gone through it and are still offering spaces that are not designated “sleeping rooms” for rent (eg. a couch in the living room). To operate legally, your short-term rental must be a bedroom, defined as a space that was permitted as a sleeping room when it was built. Not sure? Permit history and building plans for your home can be found on www.portlandmaps.com (More information on checking your property’s permit history can be found at http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bds/54330.)
As Portland’s popularity as a tourist destination grows, short-term rentals are only going to get bigger, especially now that the city has legalized them. If you’ve seen your neighbors doing it, you probably already know that there’s no real danger to the quality of your neighborhood, because the number of renters is low and they are usually more interested in sight-seeing than hanging around at the place they’re renting! However, I’m sure not everyone is having a positive experience. Time will tell.
Selling a Portland home? Your potential buyers may be interested in learning about its potential as a short-term rental. Do the research and let them know.
If you’re buying a home in the Portland area and interested in entering the lodging business at the same time, why not plan ahead? Ask your Portland real estate agent to show you listings that have a guest house or mother-in-law suite, or just a big back yard where you could put up a little cottage. Welcome to the sharing economy!