News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

How do I AirBnB my house for big events? — Dear Property Guy

Dear Property Guy-

We live in downtown Sisters in a cool little house. We love living here, but just need a break during some of the big tourist events. We’re thinking of putting our house on AirBnB for a few weeks out of the year. What do I need to know?

— Tourist Trapped

Dear Trapped:

Property Guy loves the whole AirBnB/VRBO concept. It can be a great way to make a few extra bucks and meet new people.

There are about a million different ways to handle a Short Term Rental (STR). From renting a single room to renting the whole residence. The major STR sites (VRBO and AirBnB) make the process painless. They handle the money, guarantee the integrity of your property while guests are there, and have very easy-to-use digital platforms.

If you are just renting your place for major events, consider leaving your contact info with the event organizers. They always have people calling up trying to get space, especially around Quilt Show season. Of course you won’t have the protections afforded by going through an STR site.

The main challenge most people face who do this part-time is handling all their personal stuff. For many people the easiest thing to do is just lock it all up in the garage or separate room. It’s also a great time to review all your stuff and make a donation run to Habitat for Humanity.

Next is ensuring your guests have all they need for a happy stay. The key to 5-star reviews seem to be quality, local coffee. And plenty of it. Beyond that make sure your place is spotless. Most hosts find it best to hire pro cleaners before and after a guest stay.

I’m no expert in the legal aspects of STRs in Sisters, so I reached out to Cory Misley, city manager of Sisters, for his take. The rules regarding STRs in Sisters are relatively new, and will be up for review this winter to adjust for what has been learned along the way. Cory was super cool, patient, and used small words that even I could understand.

Cory told us that VRBO regulations in Sisters started because of concerns of STRs contributing to a housing shortage — as well as addressing potential quality-of-life concerns. Fair enough.

Long story short, to be eligible for an STR permit in Sisters, one needs to be located more than 250 feet from another registered STR. Then you pay an annual permit fee. Then pay for a business license. Then pay a transient room tax based on revenue. The key word here seems to be “pay.” But it’s all pretty straightforward, and similar to how other cities handle it.

One side-effect of limiting permits is that the city has inadvertently created “haves” and “have-nots” among neighbors, with one neighbor being able to make a little side money, and the other not. Or the scenario of a house with an STR permit selling for more money than the same house next door without a permit. This pricing difference could equal tens of thousands of dollars in value depending upon how a potential owner values the revenue opportunity.

Then there is the simple fact that (like it or not) Sisters is a tourist town — dependent on guests for broad swaths of our economy and revenue.

Misley confirmed this view: “The city is aware that there isn’t enough lodging for large events. Short-term rentals are an important component of addressing this.”

Cory continued, “No policy is going to please everybody. Codes are meant to be dynamic and living documents to reflect places as they change through time — we will be reviewing the city’s STR rules.”

Mr. Misley also mentioned that some of the previous discussion included homeowners who only rent a couple times a year, finding that balance of equity and enforceability, all the while being cognizant of quality-of-life concerns. Stay tuned for more discussions this winter.

So there you have it, STRs are an important part of Sisters’ economy. Leadership seems to be addressing concerns in a very reasonable manner. And whether it’s a full-time investment or a side hustle, there is something for everybody in Short Term Rentals.

— Mike

Mike Zoormajian is principal at WetDog Properties in Sisters, providing local property management and investor services. Questions, comments to: [email protected]

Free legal advice is worth what you pay for it. Consult a real attorney before doing anything crazy.


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