So you want luxury, but for a good price. You want to stay in the best part of Boulder, where no hotels could ever be built. You want the newest amenities and the hippest decor. You want a personal concierge to provide you inside tips on where to eat, shop and party.
You want a vacation rental by owner.
The short-term rental market is exploding in Boulder County, even though Boulder has some pretty strict laws on the topic.
Liz Finkelstein, of Boulder, thinks it’s because these rentals fill one important hole in the Boulder travel scene: upscale, boutique hotels.
Boulder does have large, luxury hotels, and it has some charming, historic B&Bs. But neither quite meet the niche that Finkelstein works in, she says.
She’s an interior designer who specializes in setting up the perfect vacation rental (like this one in South Boulder). She has designed multiple different properties in town and is fine-tuning one that she expects to be one of the very top vacation rentals in Boulder. When it launches this spring, it will be available on Airbnb.
In Boulder, residents cannot just buy a second home and rent it out full-time to guests. The property must be their main residence. Lawmakers said this was to preserve the integrity of the neighborhoods.
Residents also are required to get a specific rental and business license in order to host. This includes a 7.5 percent tax, comparable to what hotels pay.
Even with the stricter rules, between 2015 and 2016, short-term rentals in Boulder surged 54 percent, according to a report by Airbnb. In fact, Boulder was the second busiest host city in Colorado, only behind Denver, Airbnb reports. It was even more popular than Colorado’s ski communities, like Vail and Aspen.
The growth was even higher for outlying Boulder County communities. In the town of Superior, the increase hit nearly 150 percent.
This demand has kept people like Finkelstein busy.
“Coming to Boulder is more of a thing than it used to be,” she says. “That’s why people are transforming spaces they previously probably only used for long-term rentals into Airbnbs: to make more money.”
There are many benefits to staying in a short-term rental, Finkelstein says. All of the homes she designs include a kitchenette or a full kitchen.
Plus, she says, it’s easier to keep a single room updated with the most cutting-edge technology and designs, whereas even the high-end hotels tend to fall behind the rapidly-changing trends.
“Making up-to-date changes to accommodate what the modern, luxury traveler is looking for cannot be done overnight with a big chain,” Finkelstein says. “But you can do that with an Airbnb.”
Plus, these properties may be more private and quiet than staying in a large hotel (although others may be more integrated with the locals; it depends on what you choose).
They’re almost always cheaper, Finkelstein says. There’s no overnight parking fees or valet.
How to Pick
Finkelstein advises looking at all of the pictures and reading the reviews to help decide how to pick a place.
“Also, look for the description of the Boulder experience,” she says.
For example, one of her clients offers a leather-bound, embossed concierge binder with recommendations across 10 different categories, plus info on emergency services and other topics of travel.
“Look for the people who really pay attention to details,” she says. “That’s going to separate the best experience and what you can’t get at a hotel from your average rental.”