Fussy, Fussy? Maybe Not

Do Realtors who stay at an Airbnb have higher standards than the general public?

I don’t know about other agents, but this one does — even if, as a (very) short-term renter vs. long-term Buyer, I usually keep the quibbles to myself.

List of Shortcuts

At a recent Airbnb home in Wisconsin’s Door County — shared by my quarantining family and my sister’s — I immediately noticed the following:

–Cheaper Pergo rather than hardwood flooring throughout the home.

–No central A/C or heat. Rather, the home relied on what are called mini-ductless splits for A/C, and electric baseboards for heat.

No biggie, except that locating and then operating the remote control for each room’s mini-split involved a bit of a learning curve (a Nest thermostat controlled the heat).

–Too-narrow stair risers. “Stair risers” are otherwise known as stair steps; when they’re too narrow (shallow), you feel like your foot is going to fall off the stair.

–Spiral staircases (plural): along with too many mirrors, multiple spiral staircases are a surefire “tell” that a given room is not as big as it appears — or at least, not big enough to accommodate a formal staircase.

–The Owner’s Suite was located immediately off the main level Family Room and adjacent to the open Dining Room/Kitchen — one of the least private locations in the home.

All that was in addition to the Airbnb host cramming two of the five bedrooms full of bunk beds, “upping” their property’s maximum capacity to a misleading 18 people for a mediumish-sized, 5 Bedroom home (admittedly, not an issue for our 8-person group).

“Medium-ish” Home Size

Ironically, the one feature that escaped my attention turned out to loom large during our four day stay.

That would be the home’s well-and-septic plumbing system.

When the home’s (on-the-grid) power was knocked out by an early morning storm on Day #3, we belatedly discovered that, not only was there no electricity for the very full freezer and fridge, garage door, lights, and A/C, but that the well’s electric pump didn’t work.

Translation: no flushing toilets, no working faucets, no showers.

Good thing there weren’t 18 of us!

Achilles Heel: Plumbing

Veteran Realtors know that sump pumps without a battery backup are a red flag.

That’s because the same event (a powerful storm) capable of flooding a home can easily knock out the electricity powering the sump pump (with much graver consequences, that’s essentially what happened to the¬†Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor in Japan in 2011 following an earthquake).

The solution (for a home)?

A backup generator that’s tied into the electric service panel.

“All’s Well That Ends, umm . . . Well” (as in, “Water”)

Fortunately, power was restored by mid-day, and the Airbnb host was in communication with us (and commiserating) while we waited.

Considering the foregoing, plus the relatively brief interruption, the home’s as-good-as-billed location just across from Lake Michigan, great views, and the convivial time everyone was having, I decided to let the lack of a backup power system go . . .

P.S.: Would the Airbnb host legally be obliged to have backup power?

I’m pretty sure there’s no case law on that.

But, as ever, the test would likely be “reasonableness”: given the home’s (relatively remote) location, size, amenities, rental price, etc. — plus the frequency of tree-downing storms — what would guests’ reasonable expectation be?

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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