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VOL. 37 | NO. 36 | Friday, September 06, 2013

HomeAway offers an alternative to Airbnb

By Linda Bryant

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The peaceful porch at Holly and Barry Tashain’s HomeAway.com rental property is one of the reasons renters choose their property.

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Airbnb is a hot choice for property owners and adventurous travelers, but the popular alternative rental service has competition.

Holly and Barry Tashian rent a spacious two-bedroom mother-in-law apartment attached to their home in Green Hills through Home Away, a fast-growing company based in Austin, Texas. HomeAway (homeaway.com) represents over 775,000 paid listings in 171 countries, including many in Tennessee.

Although similar to Airbnb, HomeAway is more focused on second home rental properties and is slightly more upscale, according to Tashian.

The second bedroom in Holly and Barry Tashian’s HomeAway rental property offers a Murphy bed. “It was a peaceful oasis in the city where we could relax after a busy day,” wrote one reviewer.

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By contrast, Airbnb, in addition to renting out homes, apartment and rooms, also is known for offering eclectic, offbeat rental choices, including an igloo in Greenland, a gypsy caravan in France, a airplane converted into a two-bedroom apartment in New Zealand and a historic – and allegedly haunted – lighthouse in New York.

“Renting the space turned out to be much bigger than I thought it would be,” Holly Tashian says. “I’m booked solid at least 75 percent of the time.”

The Tashians, both well-known Nashville musicians, first converted space in their home for an apartment about 10 years ago when Barry’s mother moved in. After she died, they discovered they could tap the space for a healthy second income.

Holly says they make sure the apartment is kept in pristine shape. It is sound proofed, meticulously decorated and rents for $150 a night. The apartment is currently booked through June of 2014.

“You have to be very conscious of the quality of the surroundings,” she says. “You cannot have someone’s hair on a towel.”

Tashian is quick to emphasize that the rental is not a bed and breakfast. Guests are responsible for their own meals, although the Tashians are on the premises to help with any issues or questions.

“A lot of people come here to be near family,” Tashian says. “One of the reasons why we stand out is that we have a full kitchen and an outdoor porch.

“We’ve had so many nice people stay,” she adds. “We haven’t had one clunker.”

According to data provided by HomeAway, 49 percent of the hosts generate enough rental income to cover at least three quarters of their mortgage payment. On average, properties are rented out for 19 weeks a year at an average weekly rental rate of $1,493 or $213.29 per night.

Hosts earn $26,000-$39,000 in annual income. Some earn more than $100,000 a year. Hosts owners spend an average of 8.6 hours per week marketing and managing their vacation rental properties.

On average, vacation rentals are at least 50 percent less expensive per square foot than hotels, according to HomeAway. About 43 percent of owners use the income generated from their vacation rental almost like they would a salary, for everyday living expenses, discretionary spending and saving for the future.

Tashian says time spent as a HomeAway.com host brings a “fantastic” return on investment.

“I don’t see quitting anytime soon,” she says.