The August solar eclipse is expected to bring a lot of people to the Jefferson City area, but residents are already cashing in on renting out their properties on lodging websites like Airbnb. It is a simple way for property owners to make extra money offering tourists, business people and politicians a place to stay in the Capital City.
"I enjoy (meeting the new people)," Jefferson City Airbnb host Dottie Dallmeyer said. "We've had a couple from Germany and their daughter. I guess we are going to have a Japanese couple this week, and then on the weekend, a man is flying in from the Netherlands. I've met some interesting people."
Airbnb is a website that lists residences or rooms for short-term rental. Hosts sign up to list their rental properties for potential guests to view, complete with descriptions, photos and fees. Guests can make their reservations to stay at any time, whether long in advance or the day they plan to arrive.
The Dallmeyers rent out their two-story guest house — a rustic stone-sided garage conversion — for prearranged amounts of time. Dottie said the guest house was built from the same cotton rock (magnesian limestone) as the main house, mined from a nearby site circa 1922.
"It was (more than 20 years ago), an old garage where they stored the farm trucks and had a lean-to on the back for tractors, and then the upstairs was used by farm hands, but they didn't have a bathroom," she said.
Now, the guest house contains a kitchen and living area beneath a second floor bedroom and bathroom. Located beside Dallmeyer's home and well house on a nearly century-old family farm overlooking the Moreau River, it offers what she considers to be one of the prettiest sunset views in Jefferson City.
Since opening for business in December, Dallmeyer said she has been booked 70 percent of the time. There have been no fewer than two guests per week, and the schedule is often completely full. It is a family operation. Dottie manages the property, cleans and cares for guests. Her grandson, Bryce Dallmeyer, takes care of the bookings and other online business from his Florida home. Her son, Rudi Dallmeyer, serves as the handyman.
Dottie's grandson suggested Airbnb as a simple way to make extra money after using the service in Fort Lauderdale. "Bryce came up with the idea because the person I had as a renter in the guest house had moved out, and we were sort of in a little transition period," she said. "Bryce actually came and got all the pictures taken and set it all up. I'm not a computer person, and he is, which is kind of fun."
Bryce spent a week repainting and cleaning up the house with friends before creating an Airbnb account. He posted the guest house listing and photos taken with an aunt's camera to highlight the property's features and attract online attention.
"Nowadays, you want to get people's attention as quick as possible," Bryce said. "I used Airbnb's platform on my computer first. It's really easy. They have a visitor function and a host function, and it's very user-friendly."
Dottie said she used to rent the house out to long-term occupants, but renting to temporary guests is much simpler, because they prepay on the website. She also likes that hosts and guests can rate each other on the website, which gives guests more incentive to behave. Hosts have the option to refuse reservations from guests with poor ratings, and visitors can avoid rental properties that received negative reviews.
After guests leave, Dottie checks the house and calls Bryce to say if they left the house sufficiently clean or if they deserve a bad rating. "They really try hard to be on their best behavior," Dottie said of her guests. "I give Bryce my review of how well they did, and then he puts that online. After he puts what our review is, then they can give a review. So far we've had four or five stars all the time. I've appreciated that. We've tried very hard."
Dottie has to clean up more often than before, since new visitors are always coming and going, but Bryce takes care of the arrangements online and notifies his grandmother when guests are scheduled to arrive.
Managing the property can get a little hectic. It is one of about three jobs in her 55- to 65-hour work week. Dottie is also a nanny and substitute teacher. "I work a lot," she said. "The TV hasn't been on for a couple weeks."
It also gives Bryce several hours of extra work per week, but they said it is worth it to help pay the mortgage on the family's 40-acre farm. The Dallmeyers may also begin renting out a room from the main house for a bed-and-breakfast-style operation. Bryce said that was something they considered before Airbnb. The property — which has remained in the family for almost 100 years — was a resort in the 1920s and '30s.
"(Rudi and Bryce) wanted to keep me solvent enough that I can pay for this house," Dottie said. "It's a labor of love, because they both love this place, too."