A home away from home

Published 8:36 pm Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Investors transform houses into short-stay rentals


Seeing a need in Albert Lea, a few area investors have transformed some of their properties into short-stay units for families visiting from out of town or workers passing through the area.

Email newsletter signup

As part of a growing trend nationwide, these homes are posted on Airbnb, an online marketplace and hospitality service that allows people to lease or rent cottages, apartments, homestays or other units on a short-term basis.

One of those units, at 508 Harriet Lane — which is known as The Harriet House — has been open for over a year under the management of Complete Property Managers, which manages for Complete Investments.

Lanier Pratt, part-owner of both companies, said one of the owners of the property travels a lot and had stayed in other properties through Airbnb previously.

The second bedroom of the Harriet Lane house also has a fold-down bed for extra sleep space, a microwave and refrigerator. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

“He thought, ‘Why don’t we do that? We don’t have that here,’” Pratt said.

The Harriet House, a duplex, presently has a long-term rental unit on one side of the house. On the other side is the renovated Airbnb unit on the upper floor, and the company is working to fix up the main level into a second short-term unit with two bedrooms, a kitchen and a dining room.

Pratt said the short-term unit already complete upstairs essentially had to be gutted, though the original hardwood floors and baseboards remain. New windows and electrical systems were installed, the walls were skim-coated, sanded and primed, and the closet was turned into a combined laundry room and closet.

The unit has what could be two bedrooms and a bathroom, and is outfitted with other amenities such as a stocked refrigerator, a microwave, a Keurig coffeemaker, a rainfall shower head, a bluetooth exhaust fan speaker and a smart TV with cable.

It features a headboard and artwork from Albert Lea artist Shane Taylor of Davinci’s Skillsaw in one bedroom and a Murphy bed and a desk in the other bedroom, along with historical photos throughout from the Freeborn County Historical Museum that are printed on canvas.

The unit has a lake house theme, being only a few homes away from Fountain Lake.

“We’re glad we can provide something like this,” Pratt said. “We have lots of hotels, but not everyone wants to stay at a hotel.”

Though the unit was not as busy in the winter, he said it has been booked most days in the nicer weather, with about half of the tenants being nurses. Others who have stayed there are family members who have come to visit or people who wanted to check out the community.

Minneapolis resident Tom Wozniak, an organic farm inspector, stayed at The Harriet House in the beginning of August.

The owner of his own Airbnb property on the bluffs of Lake Pepin, Wozniak said he liked The Harriet House unit.

“I like that it doesn’t feel like I’m living in someone else’s space,” he said.

The entire home at Grace Place can be rented out at a time or also rented out by a single occupant. – Renee Duncan Photography

About a block over, at 506 Grace St., is another Airbnb unit known as Grace Place, which is owned by Bill and Pat Schuster, who also own The Bean in Wells and its accompanying Airbnb unit known as The Bean Stay.

Their son, Lucas Schuster, who manages the Albert Lea property, said his parents have owned the house for about two years and other than some renovations in the bathroom, kept much of it as the original owners had it. He said the traditional woodwork is one of his favorite features.

The home, licensed to operate as a bed and breakfast in Minnesota, has four bedrooms, is able to accommodate a larger family and includes all of the amenities of a regular house including a living room, dining room and kitchen.

Single rooms can also be booked separately.

He said he targets the house to the transient workforce and family groups for reunions and weddings.

Each of the four bedrooms at the house on Grace Street includes its own key entry pad for privacy in case there are multiple single-occupant rentals. – Renee Duncan Photography

“You can stay at one place together and pay less than you probably would at a hotel and can save money by cooking your own meals,” he said.

Grace Place offers many of the same amenities as the Harriet Lane property, including complimentary coffee and other snacks and a washer and dryer.

In early August, Lucas Schuster said Grace Place had bookings for 22 out of the previous 30 nights and on average sees more gross rents than the average rental property.

The only drawback, he said, is having to pay costs such as utilities that are often paid by renters in long-term units.

“If you want to be hands-on or have the space in your home, it’s a good thing,” he said of having an Airbnb property.

If you just want an investment property, however, a traditional rental is probably a better option, he said.

The kitchen in Grace Place includes several amenities, such as a Keurig coffeemaker and snacks for guests to enjoy. – Renee Duncan Photography