Is Airbnb Creating a New Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, or Just Dodging Taxes?

view  the sea from window of HouseGreg Bugay makes $2,000 a week in just five hours by working from home on his laptop!

No, that’s not a spam comment ripped from YouTube. The source is actually the MIT Technology Review, which this week reported on the income generated by Airbnb’s most successful hosts. It’s not quite a get-rich-quick scheme; it’s more like a get-a-nice-secondary-income-in-a-reasonable-time-frame scheme.

Greg and Lorraine Bugay do have one advantage over other Airbnb hosts; they live in the tourism hotspot of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. But they’re also part of a growing wave of homeowner “hoteliers” who have turned their spare rooms into micro-resorts. The Bugays have an enviable 92% occupancy rate on their spare bedrooms, which allows them to pull in an extra $90,000 a year in secondary income. And because they have about 170 positive reviews, Greg spends as little as five to six hours a week on their rental business.

With destination weddings becoming more common, and Americans tightening their belts on vacation, sites like Airbnb offer an alternative to pricey hotels. About 78% of Americans say “total price” was their top priority when booking beach accommodations; compare that to the 21% who said a “stunning view” was important. So for homeowners willing to put in extra work on laundry, meals, and concierge services, any home can be a bed and breakfast.

But not everyone on sites like Airbnb are doing as well as the Bugays. Even in the world’s biggest tourist spots, like London, Sydney, and New York City, the average host earns less than $5,000 a year. Plus, the company has faced high-profile scandals of late.

Cities like New York City are cracking down, arguing that services like Airbnb and Uber are reaping all the benefits and income of the traditional hotel and transportation industry, but without any of the regulations, employee benefits, or taxes. Then there are the conflicts between hosts and guests that make the rounds on blogs every few months. There was the San Francisco housesitter who rented out his boss’s home; the Manhattan man who says he was evicted after an Airbnb guest threw an orgy (not the first Airbnb-related orgy to go viral, either); and the San Diego couple whose guest threw a violent party that did $20,000 in damage to their home.

Welcome to the hospitality industry, homeowners. Such incidents may sound extreme, but they’re not entirely surprising. The extended-stay hotel industry has long had a problem with meth-cooking guests, for instance. And raucous spring breakers and fraternities have been trashing vacation rentals since time immemorial.

Even so, the MIT Technology Review predicts that Airbnb is here to stay, writing: “But as thrifty travelers make use of Airbnb and similar services, job cuts at hotels may be offset by opportunities in the new informal sector. Airbnb may even be creating a new entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

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