Airbnb: The cheapest real estate in Wellesley?

airbnbAirbnb, the startup that helps people find relatively inexpensive and sometimes pretty unusual places to stay, has begun making its mark on Wellesley. Figured you might be wondering about this if you come across the new Airbnb promotions that are part of its first big national ad campaign, which kicks off this week.

Wellesley is pretty limited when it comes to accommodations for visitors outside of excess room in mansions and the facilities at Wellesley College and Babson College. So Airbnb — which lists about a half a million properties all over the world — is proving to be a nice fit for some who want to stay in town for a brief period and for those with room to spare that want to make a few extra bucks and meet some out-of-towners.

When we looked on Airbnb we found several Wellesley homeowners willing to rent out a share of their homes to travelers, with prices for private rooms ranging from $65 to $150 per night. We attempted to contact a few of the homeowners renting out their places, though the only one who got back to us right away said she has only rented out her place once and it happened to be to people she had a neighborhood connection with (it went fine).

airbnbPerhaps those renting out rooms on Airbnb are trying to keep a somewhat low profile, though it’s easy to check out the properties by poking around the Airbnb website.

We first started wondering about whether Airbnb had come to Wellesley after reading about an Airbnb-related controversy in Brookline, where a resident was under fire from neighbors for attracting a steady stream of visitors to his house via what turned out to be an Airbnb listing.

We asked Michael Grant, Wellesley’s inspector of buildings/zoning enforcement officer, about whether he’s had any Airbnb-related questions from residents and he said he hasn’t yet. He said property owners using Airbnb should be fine as long as they comply with local zoning bylaws, which vary by district in town. “The town’s zoning bylaws do allow for a Bed and Breakfast to be run in a single residence zone but it must meet the definition/regulations of a home occupation and family.  There cannot be separate cooking facilities as this could make it a separate dwelling unit pushing the property into violation,” he says. “I would recommend that anyone that contemplates doing any change to the use of their property contact the Building Department so it can be discussed to make sure [changes] will comply with the Zoning Bylaws of the town. Many times when a violation is discovered we find the owner of the property did not do their due diligence before commencing.”