Make Money From Home

What’s Lost When a Home Becomes a Working Site of Capital – The Conversationalist

I found my dead father’s house on Airbnb. It looked nothing like it.

Recently, while looki…….

I found my dead father’s house on Airbnb. It looked nothing like it.

Recently, while looking for an Airbnb in my hometown for an upcoming visit, I found my dead father’s house.

Bewildered, I scanned the listing. Could this really be the same house where I’d scrambled eggs for him every morning and watched his favorite movies on TCM every night? The new owners had stripped the place of its shabbiness, though I wondered as I read whether they’d been able to do the same with its termites. Back when I’d lived there, an unusually ballsy mouse had ruled over the kitchen, where one side of the fridge stood on bricks because otherwise it tilted to the left from the warped tile floor. When the mouse startled me one day, calmly eating an English muffin on the countertop when I went to make coffee, my father had rolled his eyes at my scream. “That’s Mister Jingles,” he said with exasperation. “Be nice.”

The house was no “castle,” as the ad’s headline claimed. Each of its rooms was a quarter of the size that the wide-angled photos made them appear to be. Photos of the kitchen diligently cropped out the bottom left corner of the fridge, where the bricks held it up. Yet, brightened by a ring light and stuffed with the same West Elm bric-a-brac that furnishes every Airbnb, it did look like a plausible getaway. “Nobody lives here full time,” bragged the ad. “You can make yourself at home” for $145 a night.

“Nobody lives here full time”—that opposed the entire ethos of Airbnb as it once was, when it presented itself as a cheaper alternative to hotels and a win-win for everybody who used it. Founders Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky say the idea for Airbnb came to them when they were struggling to afford the rent on their San Francisco apartment in 2007—they crammed in a few air mattresses and charged guests $80 a night to sleep on them. A year later, they turned their “Air Bed and Breakfast” into a business. 

Supposedly, the idea was always for the experience to be somewhat personal, on both hosts’ and travelers’ sides. Travelers could see a new place from a lived-in home base that lent the trip some local flavor; hosts could make money off their spare rooms while offering a little hospitality. But as Airbnb’s popularity exploded, so did its problems. Tourist-heavy neighborhoods became Airbnb hubs where long term residents could no longer afford to live. Landlords converted rental units into more-profitable Airbnbs and stopped renting them to tenants. Cities’ attempts to regulate the app’…….


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