In Leelanau, AirBnB is a financial boon | News

MAPLE CITY — It was a risk at first.

But an idea Mary Buschell had six years ago – to build a habitable yurt on her farm – has paid off. Even in the dead of Michigan winter, visitors pay to stay at her place. In the summer, their rental brings in more than $4,000 a month.

“When we were building it, we were planning on $8,000 a year, and I thought I was being pretty generous,” Buschell said. “It’s crazy, because it has far exceeded that.”

Where there is pushback against short-term rentals, local landlords like Mary and her husband are proposing that companies like AirBnB, VRBO and HomeAway provide a cash lifeline to landlords.

In February, AirBnB announced general figures for its hosts’ earnings in a calendar year. In Michigan, counties like Leelanau and Grand Traverse top the charts in county-by-county comparisons.

Hosts in Grand Traverse County led the way in gross revenue, raking in $20 million between January and September 2021. Leelanau also generated big revenue, especially compared to its significantly smaller population. On a per capita basis, Leelanau owners brought in more than double.

Companies like AirBnB do not publicly list granular data on short-term rentals. But data pulled from the company’s website shows 722 short-term rental listings in Leelanau County. Grand Traverse County has 1,106 rentals.

For several years now, housing advocates and city officials have been asking pointed questions of owners of short-term rentals, saying that when more homes are bought to become short-term rentals, fewer are left for workers. and families. Fewer families means fewer neighbors who care about the neighborhood.

Marie and her husband are allowed to see their rental differently. For one thing, they built their yurt themselves – they didn’t take a property off the market. On the other hand, it would make a poor house, even if it can accommodate a family of four, Buschell said. It’s built like a getaway – no dishwasher, no stove, not even a driveway for a car.

“That might be fine for one person, but not for a family,” Buschell said.

When Buschell stopped by 9 Bean Rows bakery last week, she said she felt a pang of guilt at the sight of a sign looking for an affordable home.

“I always feel a little bad when I see this,” said Buschell, who is 73. Her husband, Dick Flowers, is 74 years old. “But it’s been a huge boost to our financial stability. We’re eating out more, we’re traveling, we’ve done renovations in the house.

When Dick was recently diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, the rental income helped the family pay their hospital bills. Most importantly, says Buschell, it’s helped them manage their home as they get older. She and her husband can no longer work as farmhands, burying hay in the lofts of their barn. Profits from the rental allowed them to hire workers to help out, Buschell said.

“It kept us on this farm,” Buschell said. “That’s the most important thing.”

The broader argument for rentals is also economic. Year-round visitors bring money to a retirement county. Tourists frequent restaurants, wineries and farms.

“They’re buying gas, they’re going to the dunes, they’re supporting the National Lakeshore – everyone who comes here and stays here pays at least $25 for a day.”

They’re also bringing in new neighbors, said Ranae Ihme, who manages more than 120 rental properties in Leelanau County. Ihme – whose company both manages rentals and sells real estate – said it sold 23 of the rentals to out-of-town families who fell in love and decided to move in permanently.

It’s a small reversal of the trend that housing advocates are depleting the long-term housing stock. About half of those 23 moved to the area, Ihme said, enrolling their children in school and starting a life in Leelanau County.

“I hate the idea that people think people are buying these vacation properties and weeding out the people who live here,” Ihme said. “More and more it’s younger families saying, ‘I grew up coming to Glen Arbor and now I want to be here. »

It is true that many rentals do not see their usual owners for a large part of the year. Yet part of Leelanau’s history is out-of-town property. Parcel listings show that 65% of county property listing owners have downstate or out-of-state addresses. It’s not an exact indicator of ghost houses — mailing addresses are unverified — but it’s the best indicator Leelanau County officials can provide.

By renting, these houses bring money to tourism for a greater part of the year.

When Mary Buschell cleans up her rental after the guests stay, she notices pizza boxes, receipts, leftover tickets from parks and tours. She thinks their project has done some good.

“When we take out the trash and realize the money that people have spent, at Grocer’s Daughter, at all the businesses here – we need these places,” Buschell said, adding, “We get people who wouldn’t even come not in Leelanau if they haven’t seen the yurt.

“It has been a huge boost to our financial stability. We eat more at restaurants, we travel, we have made renovations in the house. Marie Buschel

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