SHERIDAN — As communities gear up for events like the Sheridan WYO Rodeo, outdoor adventures and a rare solar eclipse, many Wyoming residents have considered renting their homes to those that will visit the state.
But what does it take to welcome complete strangers into your home?
For many, it requires trust, the right personality and, sometimes, a cleaning service.
Brady Mclean, who works for Flood Marketing, posted his home on Airbnb just a few months ago. He said the decision came about primarily because he was looking for some additional social interaction, and he thought opening his home up would be an interesting way to present Sheridan to visitors.
“To me, if you’re a semi-lonely guy and you don’t mind having strangers in your house and you’re outgoing and adventurous, go for it,” Mclean said of whether he’d recommend others sign up to rent their homes through Airbnb or other home rental websites. “You have to go into it with a mind for service, though, and not a mind for money.”
According to surveys on a number of travel websites, an increasing number of people planned to spend their 2017 vacations in a rental home rather than a hotel. Reasons include cost savings for larger groups, the ability to cook and provide your own meals, service and the availability of creature comforts.
According to Phocuswright market research, in 2015, nearly one in three U.S. travelers stayed in short-term rentals that were privately owned. That’s up from 24 percent in 2010.
Mclean said he believes the trend has a lot to do with how much more willing families and individuals are to open their homes.
“I think before, a lot of people’s homes were more sanctuaries than they are now, and I think people are more open to travelers due to the amount of information you can have about them,” he said.
Most vacation rental sites allow for private messaging and reviews of both those renting their homes and those who rent.
Renting your home does require some work, though. With the ability for renters to review their stay comes the pressure to provide top-notch service. Sometimes that goes beyond clean sheets and bath towels.
Mclean keeps a basket of toiletries stocked in his home, including bath soaps, spare toothbrushes and other items. The effort is reflected in the reviews of his rental online, which include phrases like “bath salts provided” and “great bathroom and bath products.”
“It’s a service,” Mclean said of renting his home. “If you want to get into it to make a lot of money, buy a hotel.”
Those who rent their homes do have some obligations similar to hotels and other establishments, though. Like hotels and motels within the city of Sheridan, those who rent their homes are required to collect lodging taxes.
Sheridan County levies a 4 percent lodging tax within city limits, a fee that must be collected and paid by those renting their homes, unless the service they advertise their home through collects it for them.
Kim Lovett, the administrator of the Excise Tax Division of the Wyoming Department of Revenue, said providing lodging services is a taxable event, so sales and use taxes along with lodging taxes apply. That is true whether you rent your home for two nights or 200. She did say if an individual rents a home for more than 29 consecutive days, that person is no longer considered a transient visitor, and taxes would not apply in those circumstances. But, she said, most individuals who rent through websites like Airbnb, HomeAway and others are required to collect taxes. Some property management companies take care of the tax collection, but most online vacation rental sites do not in Wyoming.
She added that those individuals renting their homes are required to apply for a sales and use tax license through the Wyoming Department of Revenue, a task that can be completed online.
With the required cleaning and tax collection, renting your home might sound like a chore, and Mclean admits it isn’t for everyone.
“If you’re social and you love people and you love service, it’s great,” he said, adding that opening your home to visitors is a great opportunity to be a representative of Sheridan and be somebody’s first point of contact to make it special. “If you don’t enjoy that, it may not be your thing.”
Sheridan County currently has approximately 26 rentals listed on Airbnb — many of which are also listed on VRBO and HomeAway — but the number of individuals willing to welcome strangers into their homes is on the rise.