Steamboat Springs’ short-term rental owners don’t want to have a bad reputation
Owners cite benefits of flexibility, income, offsetting vacation home costs
While the April 30 deadline is looming to license an estimated 2,900 short-term rental units in Steamboat Springs, some short-term rental owners say they’ve received an undeserved bad rap.
As the overlay zone and licensing requirements made headlines, multiple short-term rental owners reached out to the Steamboat Pilot & Today to voice various concerns ranging from rebutting the idea they are getting rich off their rentals to disputing that short-term rentals are worse for their neighborhoods and debunking that short-term rentals are the main cause for the lack of long-term rentals.
“There is a lot of animosity in this town of people thinking short-term rentals have ruined the housing market for rentals,” said Yves Patty, who rents his home in Old Town part time to vacationers.
Rebecca Bessey, city planning and community development director, said she hears three top reasons why owners engage in short-term rentals of their homes — flexibility in use, rental income as a source of financial support or to offset the costs of owning a vacation or second home in Steamboat.
For 69-year-old Steamboat Springs resident Tom Williams, who retired earlier this month, his short-term rental of a renovated duplex in Old Town is his retirement income. After living in the area since 1979 and working for decades in physical pursuits ranging from wallpaper installation to rooftop snow removal and exterior wood restoration, Williams is counting on the rental income while he and his wife live in a trailer in the West Acres neighborhood.
“It allowed me to retire and gives us a more comfortable retirement,” Williams said.
Williams said he believes some residents think short-term rental guests “are here to party and make a lot of noise and not care about the neighbors.” However, he said his extensively remodeled and higher-end duplex attracts just the opposite kind of guest and that vacation rentals can institute quiet hours along with other rules.
His units have earned a “superhost” designation on Airbnb, and guests can bring their dogs and plug in an electric vehicle under the new large carport. Williams invested some $700,000 across multiple years in enlarging and remodeling the original 1907 home, which he purchased in 1991 as a long-term business investment.
That hefty investment is a key reason why Williams said his short-term rental is better for the neighborhood. He turned to short-term renters at $600 per night for the three-bedroom, two-story units after becoming frustrated with hassles from long-term tenants.
He said many of his tenants through the years had jobs working evenings and then partied in the backyard by the firepit when they came home very late. Some tenants also left behind everything from dozens of bags of trash to broken snowmobiles.
“It doesn’t compare, no hassles,” Williams said of the short-term renters versus long-term tenants.
The fees and costs associated with operating an Airbnb or VRBO or a professionally managed short-term rental keeps profits in check, owners say, when accounting for cleaning fees, service fees and city taxes, which as of Jan. 1 are 9%.
Patty in Old Town has owned his home for 18 years and grew weary of long-term tenants while he lived in the garage apartment. He also wanted more flexibility to accommodate when family members visit for extended stays.
“Short-term renters are incredibly kind and thoughtful, and they take great care of the house,” Patty said. “And, yes, short-term (renting) is a lot of work, but the benefits are awesome.”
“Basically, renting short term has helped me hold onto my house that I raised my son in,” Patty said. “The cost of living is high in Steamboat, and while I could rent long term, I don’t want to. This is my house that I’ve been fixing up and creating a sweet yard for the past 18 years.”
“Honestly, it was driving me nuts,” Patty said of having long-term tenants with issues ranging from too many cars to roommate squabbles. “I am too old, and I’ve worked too hard to have people every day in my house and their drama.”
Other long-time Steamboat residents bought and remodeled homes with long-term investment opportunities in mind, but some of those owners ended up in areas of the city where new regulations do not allow new short-term rentals.
Steamboat residents since 1977, Ulrich and Janet Salzgeber “scrimped and saved” to purchase their current home in 1985 near Steamboat Springs High School with an eventual retirement income property in mind. Much of the renovations completed at their home through the years focused on needs of vacation renters rather than their own family’s needs. The home eventually ended up with four bedrooms and four bathrooms and a finished basement.
Janet recently retired after working for 45 years in food and beverage at Steamboat Resort, and Ulrich planned to retire in June. They wanted to rent their home to short-term vacationers most of the winter, travel in their RV to spend time with their grown daughters and allow their electrician tenant of five years to remain in the 400-square-foot garage apartment. They want to come back to Steamboat and live in their home for the summers, but that retirement plan is now in flux.
“From what we are going to charge for a long-term high-end family (for the winter), we are never going to supplement what we could have garnered from short term,” Ulrich said.
Short-term rentals are only one piece of a larger puzzle that is limiting long-term rental options in Steamboat, said city officials, rental owners and property managers.
“It’s not STR versus LTR. Short-term rentals do not displace long-term rentals for locals I don’t think to the degree that people think it does,” Bessey said. “The majority of STR properties had, prior to the new ruling, been built specifically for a STR.”
Other pieces to the complicated local housing crunch include the rising cost and low stock of middle-income housing, area home builder capacity limits and thus a focus on constructing high-end custom homes and the full-time home occupancy rate of about 50% that has been a factor for decades.
After the April 30 deadline to issue annual licenses for three types of short-term rentals, city officials plan to work with consultants from Granicus to issue more data and reports, Bessey said.
The city webpage Steamboatsprings.net/STR currently notes: “Statistics, information and a selection of short-term rental reports Coming Soon!”
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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