To be or not Airbnb

By Stephanie Riegel

When Babs and Tommy Talley moved back to Baton Rouge from Los Angeles in 2009, they bought a small house in Hundred Oaks with a 1,000-square-foot apartment in the rear that they decided to offer as a short-term rental on Airbnb. Their kids were little at the time, and they thought it would be a fun way to share their new city with visitors and acquaintances from the movie industry while also generating a little extra income.

It was.

Two years later, the Talleys sold the house and moved to a bigger place in Old Goodwood, this one with a pool house that they, again, rented out on Airbnb. It, too, did well. So they branched out and bought two more houses as investment properties—one downtown, the other in Mid City. They renovated them and offered them as short-term rentals. Today, they own three houses with a total of seven rental units that, together, generated nearly $150,000 in rental income last year, roughly 40% more, by their estimates, than they would as long-term rental units.

“A lot of people demonize Airbnb as the death of cities but it is a bit of hyperbole,” says Tommy Talley, who owns marketing firm Echo Tango. “We generate a lot of extra revenue and we have a real estate portfolio now but we have also put some houses back into commerce that no one quite knew what to do with. We’ve invested in them and fixed them up and that’s good stuff.”

The Talleys represent one perspective on an increasingly rancorous debate that is playing out in Baton Rouge, as it is around the country, over short-term rentals and how they should be regulated. Like ridesharing apps did with taxis and e-retail with brick-and-mortar stores, platforms that enable short-term rentals—of which Airbnb is the most dominant—have upended the traditional lodging market by giving travelers an alternative to hotels that in many respects is more preferable.

Read the full Business Report article here.

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