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The Blue Banner

The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

A local perspective on owning Airbnb

Mike Stagemans Airbnb in West Asheville
Mike Stagemans Airbnb in West Asheville

Asheville is a city built on tourism, and with this comes an explosive influx of Airbnbs which are intended to replace the traditional hotel experience. 

According to Asheville resident Ava Smith, many local citizens are concerned with who exactly owns all of the Airbnb’s in Asheville. 

“I cleaned an Airbnb for someone who had never been to North Carolina. She lived in California and bought the property as an investment. The wages people are making in California are a lot different from what people make in Asheville so she was able to afford the property when people who live and work in the community could never,” Smith said. 

The part time rental cleaner said a lot of the new construction within Asheville seems like it is intentionally meant to be short-term rentals as many people who are from Asheville are struggling to afford housing. 

“Everyone I know lives with a roommate, the cost of living here does not match up with the wages most people are making, and the housing crisis here is just pushing locals out more and more,” Smith said. 

Smith discussed the threats that come along with out-of-state rental owners, and how one person’s investment can be the reason why another person is struggling to find housing. 

“I think Airbnb is a great way for locals to gain revenue off the tourist industry that booms amongst their city, but it becomes a scary issue when you think about large corporations or out-of-state people buying up the housing,” Smith said. 

Colleah Habif has lived in Asheville for 25 years and opened her Airbnb in West Asheville in 2019. 

“I feel that Airbnb helps locals with tourism revenue. The inspiration for creating one came from staying in Airbnb’s when traveling. Some of my local friends had started hosting and helped me get started,” Habif said. 

Habif said she may be unique in the sense that she doesn’t want her property booked all the time as she likes to occasionally enjoy the space for personal use. 

“As a local, I definitely know our city and make recommendations based on what folks want to do while in town. I am also very honest and can help folks who are inquiring navigate the city, the good and the bad,” said Habif. 

Habif said the main drive for owning an Airbnb is the financial positives that can cycle back into the community. 

“With the revenue from my Airbnb, I am able to handle the upkeep of my home and have extra money to give to my community. With out of state owners their money and revenue are going back into their communities, while their guests spend money here in ours. It’s tricky,” Habif said. 

Habif said living in a city built on the tourism industry comes with vast pros and cons. 

“Being a local, I am acutely aware of the loss of community that having too many private homes as short-term rentals is causing. I try to give my guests an overview of the neighborhood, in hopes they engage while here. My location helps with this, being walking distance to many local businesses,” said Habif. 

She said that when guests book an Airbnb from a local they get a more positive experience which comes with catered recommendations. 

“No one can tell you about a place like a local can. I have conversations with my guests before they arrive about what they would like to do when here. Music, restaurants, hikes whatever it is, I can help navigate an experience that someone from out of town just would not be able to do,” Habif said. 

Habif said if she could come up with a solution to create a fair way of owning Airbnbs she would recommend an owner must live in the community they short-term rent in, and they could only rent one property. 

“The issues with Airbnb’s and short term rentals are real. I have my own thoughts and feelings of the loss of our town’s heart in the wake of real estate/tourism money greed,” Habif said. 

Mike Stageman is a resident of West Asheville where he has lived for over 25 years and he works for the Asheville Fire Department. He said he owns two one-bedroom spaces that are attached to his primary residence where he lives with his family. 

“I have always been interested in the hospitality business and developed some skills in construction and remodeling through work and owning an older home. These skills dovetailed well with each other when I realized, based on conversations with friends, I could build out spaces travelers would enjoy as short-term rentals, “ Stageman said. 

Stageman said that due to the layout of his rentals he currently does not see a time where he would rent them long term, but he is aware affordable housing is a difficult issue and many people blame it on the existence of short term rentals.

“I personally believe the City of Asheville has been doing a good job walking a very tricky tightrope by strictly regulating short term rentals, while still giving local people the opportunity to share in the tourism industry,” Stageman said. 

Stageman said his Airbnbs are not a passive or easy source of income. He said he works on them everyday to keep up the maintenance of guests coming in and out. 

“The building, permitting and listing process were all very challenging barriers to entry for rental units that are attractive, convenient and well maintained. My rentals are a hospitality business I work on every day and take seriously. They are not passive income suitable for someone looking for easy money as a real estate investor,” Stageman said. 

Stageman said there may not be as many out of state owners as the narrative permits. He said he must live on his property to be able to operate it as a short term rental. 

“In order to be a permitted operator, I am required to live on the property, be available overnight for the needs of guests and rent out no more than two bedrooms which must be attached to my primary residence. This allows me to be an attentive host in a way that is not possible for out of state owners,” Stageman said.

Stageman said it is common for locals to be upset and annoyed with tourists, but tourism is the reason Asheville exists in its current bustling form. 

“As a short term rental operator, I am happy to have found a way to tap into that industry on a personal level and provide a welcoming environment for visitors to Asheville,” Stageman said. 

Stageman said the business isn’t for everyone, especially those who enjoy privacy. 

“Most people like to separate home from work, but in some ways, I’m at work all the time. I did my best to mitigate those inconveniences with the build and design of the spaces, but they are always present on some level,” Stageman said. 

Stageman said his neighborhood is a very different experience than staying in a hotel. He describes his neighbors out gardening in the summer, kids playing on the sidewalks, and the Airbnbs being surrounded by nature. 

“People who want to go to a hotel go to a hotel. People who want a short term rental experience get an amazing taste of authentic Asheville here at my place,” said Stageman.


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