If you like HGTV (like me) then I’m sure you are fans of John and Sherry Petersik, founders of one of the most popular DIY blogs on the internet, Young House Love in Richmond VA. They have been blogging about their adventures in renovating, decorating and raising a family since 2007.
They started their blog because they wanted to share their passion for DIY, since 2007 they have renovated three homes, shared thousands of DIY projects, wrote books, designed products for Target Home Depot and Wayfair, starting a podcast, bought an old beach house to fix up (and then another one), and a whole bunch of other things.
I receive numerous calls from folks who want to explore buying a second home in Williamsburg to rent on Airbnb and felt their recent post on airbnb hosting experience was great reading.
As an FYI the local governments all have different regulations that can be difficult to accommodate when trying to rent a home on a short term basis. Most homes/ Townhomes and condos within an HOA cannot be rented on a short term basis. One exception would be the resort condos in Kingsmill.
The City of Williamsburg will only allow one room in the principal dwelling to be rented. Rentals are limited to owner-occupied single-family detached dwellings and the owner must be physically present at the property during any rental period. No more than two visitors shall occupy a room at the same time, excluding minor children.
No visible evidence of the conduct of a short term rental is allowed on the outside of the property. Event rentals are not permitted. Rentals are limited to not more than 104 nights per calendar year. You can read their other rules here
Hampton is the most Airbnb-friendly of the cities and counties here. It doesn’t require approval from any board, but you have to be in a zoning district that allows for short-term lodging. There is an annual $50 Business license fee. There is also a Lodging Tax, which is 8% of gross revenue for every month you operate. If you rent from June to August, you only pay the tax for those three months.
York County/ Yorktown
Like the surrounding counties, in Yorktown homeowners must apply for a special use permit which classifies your property as a “Tourist Home.” You pay an upfront, nonrefundable $450 fee.
A Planning Commission hearing is set where neighbors can voice their opinions on how it would affect them. The Planning Commission can make a recommendation to approve or deny. If approved, the Board of Supervisors has a meeting a month later where public input is requested and used to come to a decision.
You have to apply for a business license and pay a license fee according to how much you plan to make in sales. There is a “Transient Occupancy” Tax of 5% in addition to a $2 per night usage fee for every night the property is rented.
James City County
James City County requires a special permit for use as well. There is a $1200 one-time application fee. There are pre-approved zones but neighborhoods still require a Board of Supervisors approval. A Lodging Tax is 5% of gross revenues as well as a room tax per rental unit of $2.
King William County Attorney Daniel Stuck said the county has no regulations for short-term rentals, but regulations are in place for bed and breakfasts. Bed and breakfasts operating in the area out of a private home are permitted in the majority of the county, but they are not allowed in scattered locations where primarily businesses and suburban residential areas lie.
New Kent County has the highest concentration of short-term rentals and bed and breakfasts in the area due to its proximity to both Williamsburg and Richmond and the number of wineries in the area.
County Administrator Rodney Hathaway said the county is considering whether to set regulations for hosts using short-term rental websites, but setting new regulations isn’t a priority. Hathaway said the county wants to be proactive in case the need arises and is weighing the costs and benefits of setting regulations for short-term rentals.
Today, short-term rentals fall under the same regulations as bed and breakfasts and are allowed to operate in the more rural areas of the county. Hathaway believes the growing industry will be beneficial to the area’s economy, as it allows tourists to stay in the area and support local businesses.
Newport News is still finalizing its Airbnb rules and until that happens, it is technically illegal to have real estate for rent on these “Sharing” sites. The city issued some fines in the beginning of the summer to deter hosts, but a City Council vote is planned in the near future. When it was operational, it was subject to a local 9.5% “Transient Room” Tax.
West Point has decided that homeowners who use popular websites such as Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway will fall under the same regulations as local bed and breakfasts.
Residents who want to rent out either their whole home or just one room online must first obtain a special use permit. Permit holders do not have to pay a special tax, but if they wish to serve food to their guests, they must be inspected by the health department.
After more than three years of wrestling with how to regulate short-term rentals through sites like Airbnb, the City Council passed sweeping new laws in 2019. The rules limit the number of guests who can stay overnight at homes, restrict how often a place can be rented during the week and in most cases, require new short-term rental owners to get a conditional-use permit.
Here’s an overview of the regulations in VA Beach:
Hosts who rent out their primary residence must be home during the guests’ stay if they don’t want to apply for a permit. Owners who don’t stay overnight in rentals are required to get a conditional-use permit.
More than 2,100 rentals that have paid the transient occupancy tax and have registered with the Commissioner of the Revenue by July 1, 2018, will be grandfathered in and do not need to get permits. Sandbridge properties also don’t have to go through this process.
Property owners will not be allowed to rent out structures such as carriage houses or garages with apartments in them. Short-term rentals will need to carry $1 million in liability insurance coverage.
Permits must be renewed every five years, and extensions will be granted if no violations occur during that time. The permitting process gives the City Council an opportunity to approve or deny rental properties and provides an avenue for neighbors to report concerns.
Here are just a few of Young House Loves top five lessons: Read the full story here
- THERE ARE HIDDEN “COSTS” TO EVERY EXTRA AMENITY
We worked hard to be a well-stocked rental with lots of features and amenities that would make our guests feel welcome and at home (this is a regional thing, but many other rentals in Cape Charles provide beach gear, towels, soap, detergent, etc – so we wanted to do the same). We know not every renter expects coffee and sugar packets or an optional high chair (we also had an available Pack & Play), but we always appreciated those things when we stayed at Airbnbs (the less you have to bring = such a perk to us), so we consciously went above & beyond to make sure our guests had a great experience and a house full of functional and useful stuff.
- TURNOVER DAYS CAN BE CRAAAAZY
Our summer rentals were weekly Saturday to Saturday bookings, so every weekend we had one family leaving by 10am and another arriving at 4pm. Some days this felt like plenty of time (six whole hours!) but other times things came down to the wire. Six hours sounds like forever, right? I know going into the season that’s what we thought! But regardless of the state that your renters left the place in, there’s LOTS to do between guests: cleaning bathrooms (we have 6!), resetting kitchens (there are 2 and you have to check every drawer & cabinet to make sure the items you promised didn’t walk away), making beds (there are 8!), getting rid of sand and cleaning the floors (sand is like glitter, it gets everywhere).
- OUTSIDE AREAS ARE A WHOLE OTHER CAN OF WORMS
The thing we were least prepared for was how needy the outside areas of the duplex would be on each turnover day. Maybe this boils down to us needing to lower our standards, but we knew that the front porch and back patios would be our guests’ first impressions of the place (the keypad is on the back door) so we wanted them to look like they did in the pictures they’d seen online… not spotted with leaves and grass clippings and the occasional bird poop.
- YOU CAN TRY TO PREVENT ISSUES, BUT THEY’LL STILL HAPPEN… SO IT’S ALL ABOUT HOW YOU HANDLE THEM
We got advice from a friend/fellow Airbnb host early on that boiled down to “you can’t always fix problems, but you can at least respond to them well.” The example they gave us is that their fridge broke during one of their guests’ stays. They couldn’t get a replacement in right away, so they brought their guests a big cooler filled with ice, a gift card to a local restaurant, and some cash to buy more ice once the first batch melted. Did it make the situation perfect? Not exactly (a working fridge would’ve done that). But they still earned a good review from their guests because they did their best to be responsive, thoughtful, and caring hosts.
5. BEING TWO DOORS DOWN IS A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD
We stayed in our pink beach house for most of the summer so we could manage the two units of the duplex without being 2.5 hours away if some emergency popped up. There were MANY great things about that close proximity – like being able to pop over one morning when the duplex internet went down to fix it right away – or being able to swing by when a guest asked if we had an extra extension cord to charge their rented golf cart. But we also realized there are some downsides to being so close to your rental and your renters.
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