There is no denying traveling has its pros — exploring unknown places, tasting exotic foods, learning a foreign culture and language. For a lot of adventurers, though, traveling also comes with its cons — being away from the comforts of home.
Airbnb, founded in August 2008, has fought this by connecting travelers to local hosts in more than 191 countries and 65,000 cities throughout the world. In 2017, Indiana hosts welcomed 175,000 Airbnb guests and earned a combined $20.7 million.
While only ranking 10th on the list for total guest arrivals in Indiana — greeting 1,670 visitors and earning $163,700 — Evansville also has found its place in the Airbnb world.
Kevin and Danny Fulton, The Loft on 6th
Kevin Fulton was tired of crashing at his parents’ place. The Nashville, Tennessee, resident and commercial real estate broker wanted a place to stay in his hometown that could double as an investment opportunity, so he and his brother Danny opened an Airbnb in Downtown Evansville.
“I’ve got friends in Nashville who have spent millions and millions of dollars buying brand new construction homes simply to do Airbnb out of, so I’ve witnessed the success of it,” says Kevin.
The brothers purchased the L.E. Long Building off Main Street and within 90 days finished construction and renovation on the three-bedroom loft, which mainly has seen guests going to concerts, weddings, and visiting family members. Unlike some Airbnbs, the Loft on 6th is a completely private and fully renovated apartment with a full kitchen, one bathroom, and laundry room.
“He’s in commercial real estate in Nashville, and I’m in construction here. Our end game was let’s do this together,” says Danny. “He brings one side, and I bring the other side.”
For Kevin and Danny, using the space as an Airbnb has given them more flexibility and profitability and less wear and tear than leasing to a permanent resident would allow.
“We were told we were crazy for doing a lot of the stuff we did in here,” says Danny. “But we also believed from the get-go we could create one of the nicest places in Downtown Evansville.”
Kristen Burkhartt, The Bee’s Knees,
The Bird Cage, and The Nest
As an Airbnb host, Kristen Burkhartt sees herself as an ambassador for Evansville — and it’s a role she takes seriously.
“When people stay at my Airbnbs, they actually are coming and seeing Evansville,” she says. “They are getting to know the city and see it in a really good light.”
One of the first to offer rentals in Evansville through the site (she has been booking guests for almost three years), Burkhartt has three available listings. The Nest, a small luxury apartment behind her home on Sunset Avenue in Downtown Evansville, is a unique listing that almost always is booked. It offers a rustic, quiet retreat in a historic carriage house surrounded by the gardens of Burkhartt’s home. The Bird Cage and Bee’s Knees are two separate spaces that occupy the bottom floor of a home on Cherry Street in the Riverside Historic District, which she purchased in September. Bee’s Knees has a very Mid Century feel, complete with vintage furniture picked up from several local consignment stores. The Bird Cage features more of a modern vibe, with hardwood floors and light, neutral colored walls.
A unique aspect of the Bird Cage and Bee’s Knees is a connecting door that can be opened allowing both units to be rented at once, accommodating up to seven guests.
“The one thing Airbnb people like, I have found, is something really odd and different. Especially if they are not coming to Evansville for a specific reason,” says Burkhartt.
Her listings have entertained visiting guests from all over, including couples from as far away as Atlanta, Georgia, many just looking for a weekend getaway.
“Why come here from places like St. Louis? Well they have fun. They really do,” says Burkhartt. “They think Evansville is so cool, and I think that’s really great to hear.”
Kayla DeWeese, The Farmhouse
After a friend told her about their experience using Airbnb, Kayla DeWeese checked out local listings online and thought her place would look at home on the lodging site.
Located on the West Side, DeWeese separately rents out two rooms of the main floor that share common spaces like a bathroom, kitchen, dining room, and living areas. Since moving into the house in April 2017, DeWeese has completely renovated the space, which also serves as her personal residence and home office.
“I love people, and I love hosting,” she says. “I don’t know if it’s just how I am, but it’s almost like we’re friends right when they walk in the door.”
DeWeese says Airbnb has been a good supplement to her other work selling Norwex cleaning products, and she approaches it like a second job. Since she first began renting her space in September, she has had about 50 bookings through the site.
“This is a business to me,” she says. “I like talking to people, but I’m not hanging out. It’s more ‘How can I help you? Let me know if you need anything.’”
The majority of guests at DeWeese’s Airbnb are for work trips, weddings, and other events, though she has had some guests who have come simply to enjoy the house and get away for a weekend.
“I just love having people here,” says DeWeese. “It’s a blessing for me to have this opportunity. I love being able to bless others with a comfortable stay during their travels.”
Griffin Norman, Home in New Harmony
Griffin Norman admits the concept of Airbnb is a little strange.
“They call it the sharing economy, and really it’s a trust economy, too,” he says. “It’s pretty weird having somebody in your space and sleeping in your bed.”
The New Harmony, Indiana, resident has been listing his home on Airbnb for almost two years and says on a busy month he averages about four or five guests. The space gives visitors access to the entire main floor with a private bedroom and bathroom, kitchen, and living room. There is a separate, private entrance for an apartment upstairs, where Norman stays while Airbnb guests are renting the first floor.
“I’m happiest when people really love looking at the books, listening to music, and really taking advantage of the place being a home and not just a place to crash,” says Norman.
Unlike many places in Evansville, guests to New Harmony are rarely coming for business. Local events like Kunstfest and the First Brush of Spring workshops attract many visitors to the historic town.
For the most part, Norman leaves his guests to their own devices. The best experiences, however, are the visitors excited to be welcomed into a new friend’s home.
“It’s hard to say that you really connect with somebody in 10 minutes when you’re showing them around the house,” says Norman. “But occasionally it’s really obvious; somebody is like ‘I really love your place. Can I look at books or listen to music?’ It’s always really gratifying when people do.”