For many people, Pettis County is not the first place they think of when they think of Airbnbs, but several local hosts are seeing success.
With the influx of popularity in Airbnbs, several Pettis County residents have jumped on the opportunity whether it be renting out a room in their house or an entire residence. The site allows renters pick out the times their spaces are available whether it be a day, weeks or even months. Airbnb also allows renters and rentees to leave reviews of each other on the site and renters get to make their policies for their spaces. For several Pettis County residents they have found putting their spaces up on the site to be successful, but still require work.
Centrally located, welcoming house
When Heather Mountain first began her Airbnb roughly four years ago, most people in Sedalia hadn’t even heard about them. Mountain grew up in Smithton and moved to California for her husband’s work in the military. The family continued to return for extended visits in Sedalia during the summer and wanted a place to stay.
Mountain decided to buy a house in Sedalia, renovate it, furnish it and rent the house through Airbnb during the times the family was not there. Mountain said they started getting rentals almost immediately.
“Pretty much as soon as we got it opened up for rentals we started getting rentals pretty regularly,” Mountain said. “Our first guy was actually from Amsterdam and some of his family were from Sedalia and he rented it for the fair.”
Mountain said their busiest times are during the Missouri State Fair, Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival and wedding season in June but they are “pretty much booked solid” from May to January. She said they also get people from the Katy Trail, fairgrounds events, and family reunions.
Mountain said there was a lot of interest in Airbnbs but is unsure if there is more room for growth. She has considered opening another one but is hesitant for that reason. They are also a lot of work.
“It’s a lot more work than I think people know because it’s not just another rental,” Mountain said. “The biggest is meeting people’s expectations. Even though you’re not a hotel, people almost want like a hotel feel. So people are really particular, if you have one little thing not quite right they’re going to make sure and say something about it.”
Mountain’s main piece of advice for those wanting to start their own Airbnb is to have a good security system in place.
“A lot of people starting out just have a simple code or key,” Mountain explained. “It was surprising the first few years how many little security type things we had to work out. Put a little more money and time into thinking about security.”
The Meyer House
Christene Meyer has several rental properties in the area and decided to put one of her properties on Airbnb instead in December after her daughter suggested it. The Meyers have had rental properties since 2012 butMeyer would “absolutely” prefer to do Airbnbs “all day long.”
“I’m super excited,” Meyer said. “I was super excited to do it, get ready for it. We’re working on a second one and it’s basically going to be a one-bedroom one again. We’re going to have two and if one of our other renters ever decides to move out I’ll have a third one.”
The Meyer House was put up around Christmas and was booked within 12 hours of being posted online.
“We had one that came for three days at the end of December,” Meyer said. “Then we had a guy that booked from Feb. 1 to April 27. Then I put a girl in it just a few days ago up until February...I have somebody that’s coming for the fair already. That one surprised me. The guy that booked it, he booked it like Dec. 29.”
Meyer said she got a lot of ideas for her own Airbnb after staying at one in Tennessee. One of her main goals is to make people feel at home.
“My husband travels a lot so we know what it’s like to be in hotels,” she said. “So next to the bed and the couch I’ve got a pad of paper and a pen. It’s just those little things. What I would have liked to have had in the Airbnb that we rented. I even bought a crockpot. Everything you can think of where I would feel at home...Make people feel at home, anything that they need.”
Meyer said she was not sure if there is a lot of demand for more Airbnbs in the area right now, but thinks some smaller ones could work. She also thinks they will become more popular.
“Until the last couple of years I never heard of them (Airbnbs),” Meyer said. “I think it will become more of a trend with people. Hotels are great too but if I was going to be staying somewhere for more than a few days I might want to just go look for an Airbnb.”
Todd Fraley said he got the idea to put a spare bedroom up in his Pettis County residence on Airbnb before the 2017 eclipse.
“I had the wild idea because people were like, ‘Man there’s nowhere to stay’ and I’m like ‘You know what, I’ll just throw that on Airbnb and just for the heck of it see if i can make a couple bucks,’” Fraley said. “No sooner had I done that I had a couple from Texas contacting me, wanting to come up.”
Fraley now leaves the room up on the site for limited times during the year but said the fair is his busiest time. One couple has even returned to his listing two or three years in a row. He has even considered putting his whole house up on the site for some weekends.
Fraley said he tries to make his location as welcoming as possible. Little details like having drinks, condiments, extra toothbrushes or toothpaste make a big difference.
“I try to make them as welcome as possible,” Fraley said. “‘Help yourself, make yourself at home.’ That’s what it should be. I want them to feel comfortable and make sure they know that.”
Fraley said he has been surprised by how conscientious people have been of his property like making the bed even when he has said they don’t need to. He thinks attention to detail helps make people’s experiences better and not having too strict of policies.
“If you want to get good reviews, which will in turn relate to more business, I think it’s attention to detail,” he said. “I’ve read some and their (other Airbnbs) policies are so strict it almost scares you off. Not that I want to do anything at all, but to me it makes you feel like you're scared to touch anything. Making them feel that they can use it like their own home is important.”
All properties in this story can be found at www.airbnb.com by searching “Sedalia, MO.”