How Airbnb is changing hospitality into a commodity
Annie Engman’s last guests have barely checked out when the next ones arrive: First one Australian, ambling up the slender staircase, then another, then a third in what appears to be a very warm ladybug costume (it’s Halloween).
“Hi!” the ladybug sings, placing his bag on the floor.
Engman welcomes them into her small, impossibly cute studio apartment, 450 square feet and decorated to within an inch of its life (it was once featured on the Apartment Therapy blog, which has elevated interior design into a kind of pornography) ??a Victrola on the bookshelf, a vintage butterfly table squeezed into a nook, a queen-sized bed perched atop stilts, nearly at the ceiling. Two metal cables running from the bed to the wall support two surfboards. Engman apologizes for not having finished cleaning and suggests the guests take a hike in Runyon Canyon.
Engman, 30, is as confident as any hotel concierge, and why not? She’s what you might call a professional Airbnb-er, part of a small but growing group of people who generate a large chunk of their income by renting all or part of their homes to out-of-towners via Airbnb. Engman rents hers for $120 a night, plus a $30 cleaning fee. Hardly a day goes by that her place isn’t booked.
As she readily admits, it’s not a life for everyone. “I’m just really into hospitality,” she says. “I was raised that way. I’ve always thought my mom should run a bed-and-breakfast.”
For years, Engman enjoyed a rather peripatetic life, compulsively traveling (she’s driven through all 50 states) and living off an array of freelance jobs: acting, dancing, producing, singing, figure modeling, tutoring, even organic farming. It seemed as if she was always out of town.
Why not, her friends suggested, try this new website that helps you rent your apartment?
A little more than a year later, Engman rarely sleeps in her own bed. Reluctant to give up the steady income her home provides, she in turn sublets at various friends’ houses.
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