In this active real estate market, I regularly hear from agents who want to list my home. They seem to know that my wife and I are empty-nesters living in a house where only one of four bedrooms is regularly occupied, save for the odd visit (pre-COVID) from our kids who all live out of town. When agents come knocking, I usually respond with two questions:
1) Why would I want to sell now?
2) Where would I move to?
Lately some friends have suggested that we rent our nicely decorated spare bedrooms through private accommodation platforms like Airbnb. After all, they reason, thousands of people are doing it and earning extra income, as well as providing a much-needed service during COVID-19.
Whenever someone tells me to turn my house into a quasi-hotel, I respond with two questions:
1) What have you been smoking?
2) Why would I want strangers in my house during a time where I’m not even supposed to leave my neighbourhood (forgive the slight exaggeration)?
Aside from the unsolicited advice, I’m offended by the hypocrisy of anyone who admonishes others for gathering socially with their safe six yet thinks nothing of rolling out the welcome mat to transient guests for a few extra dollars.
Unfortunately, I’m hearing more about these types of scenarios all around the province. While many hotels and their employees sit idle due to travel restrictions and visitor misperceptions, private accommodation providers are thriving in several communities. Some homeowners appear to be giving the middle finger to government mandated health and safety regulations such as cleaning protocols, social distancing, gathering restrictions and other directives at the expense of hotels who have done everything possible to keep guests safe.
There are those who would argue to each his own, it’s a capitalist society. Government has no right to deny anyone the opportunity to earn money however they choose, especially during these trying times. You’ll get no argument from me except when it comes to fairness. As it relates to guest accommodation, allow me to pose two more questions:
1) Why should hotels be forced to implement and abide by strict health and safety protocols, but no one is holding private accommodators to account until a large social gathering leads to complaints and ultimately action by authorities?
2) Why are hotels so heavily regulated, licensed and taxed, yet many private accommodators don’t face the same government oversight or accountability?
I’m not anti-Airbnb, Flip Key, Home Away or VRBO. Heck, I’ve even stayed in private accommodations when travelling with a larger party. But I made sure the proprietors were licensed, legal, safe, and were not frowned upon by their neighbours. If homeowners are renting rooms or suites to visitors during the pandemic, I don’t think it’s too much to ask they follow the same protocols and regulations that hotels must (for those that are, I applaud you). It’s simply not right to enforce rules for one entity and not the other for essentially providing the same service.
As for the extra rooms in my house…they’ll remain empty until such time we can welcome friends and family from out-of-town once again. In the meantime, I’m thinking of putting my own real estate sign on the front lawn with two questions:
1) What part of the message no it’s not for sale do you not understand?
2) May I remind you that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic with no outside guests permitted to bunk in the spare bedroom of your primary dwelling?