“This is a wonderful place to live and I get to share it with others and they pay me for it!” laughed Santa Cruzan Tara Gasta, who lives close to one of the best surfing spots around. She rents her upstairs, which includes a master suite with large balcony, through www.airbnb.com , which has booked over 2 million stays around the world since the company’s founding in 2008.
The private home rental website, recently valued at $1.3 billion, offers places to stay from L.A. to Lisbon, from rooms to the most elegant homes. Gasta said that the company does all the vetting of the guests who pay Airbnb and all communications goes through the website until payments are complete. They even provide a professional photographer to shoot pictures of your place.
Her first guest stayed for five months, and currently a single woman from Spain is staying for a week to surf. “Surfers come all year round,” she said, but Gasta has scheduling flexibility, so she can invite family and friends when she wants to.
Soon a couple from the U.K. will be her guests for 28 days while they visit their daughter who lives in the neighborhood.
Like tripadvisor.com, the website offers reviews: “I spent a great week at Tara's. I was in town visiting friends and surfing. The room is lovely. I was so busy that I didn't see Tara that much, but the times I did she was very friendly and helpful. Fresh fruit from the farmer's market was a delicious treat. If you're a surfer the location is unbeatable--- Brad.”
Gasta said she has to educate her guests on Santa Cruz culture, like “no smoking” and “recycling” house rules. Different amenities are listed on the website and potential renters can filter for things like “kitchen” and “pets allowed.” She offers a small refrigerator, coffee maker, granola, yogurt, fruit, and hard boiled eggs in the suite, and charges $30 for dogs.
Advertised as “Craftsman in the Cruz” on www.airbnb.com, Rob and Amy Smet could have advertised their house as “Must Like Cats” or “Cat House in the Cruz.” The two Santa Cruz teachers actually leave home with their kids and dog, and guests get the run of their Westside home. But the two cats stay.
“Our cats are very mellow. We always keep a window open so they can go outside and we have a self-feeder for them, too,” said Amy.
Their first renters were from Pennsylvania visiting Santa Cruz for their son’s graduation, and she said, “They had a huge party in our house with family and friends. We always let our neighbors know that we’re having guests and will be out of town.”
Special amenities include two adult bikes, two kid bikes and a 9 foot longboard. A recent review stated, “We had a terrific time in this lovely, comfortable home. The hosts were terrific about communicating and let us know about all kinds of neat stuff close by. This was a delightful retreat at the end of days of romping. Austin.”
Amy said,“We always get little gifts from our guests, like one man, who noticed we had a lot of condiments in the refrigerator, left us a special mustard he thought we had to have. One woman who was an author, left us her book because we have a lot of books. We get bottles of wine and flowers because we leave flowers in the house for them. Our kids even got a thank you note from the kids that used their bunk beds during their stay.”
According to San Francisco Chronicle Columnist James Temple, “Airbnb is considered an exemplar of the shift to a sharing economy - the concept that people will increasingly use bikes, cars, office space and more on a temporary basis, preferring to rent instead of own.”
The company recently announced that it has signed a 10-year, 170,000-square-foot lease in San Francisco, big enough to expand their workforce from their present 125 employees to 800 employees.