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Kepa Askenasy became an Airbnb host for the money but stayed for the friends.
After a car accident limited her ability to work, she rented out a guest room to travelers and had a great experience. So she turned her home office into a suite. Then she remodeled a bike storage area.
Now she has four separate suites surrounding her verdant garden, where guests relax amid an eye-popping collection of succulents.
“Initially this was for financial necessity, but I found I really enjoyed the people,” said Askenasy, 58. “The sense of community is palpable.”
She has hosted at least 650 singles and couples; many return whenever they visit San Francisco. In the world of Airbnb, that makes her a prom queen, a “superhost” whose multitude of five-star guest reviews vault her into the top tiers of popularity and frequency of use.
Superhosts rack up so many guest reviews that their listings appear to be full-time Airbnb rentals. Are these units being removed from the stock of rental housing? Are they empty nesters’ spare rooms? Are they pieds-a-terre that would otherwise stay vacant much of the year?
In Askenasy’s case, she had not previously rented out her rooms and wouldn’t choose to make them full-time rentals.
Airbnb income “has allowed me to pay down my medical bills, pay my mortgage, cover the costs of not being able to work full time and make property improvements,” said Askenasy, whose suites each rent for $190 a night.
Like other hosts, she monitors the controversies swirling around Airbnb and the fact that it flouts local laws barring short-term rentals.
From the beginning, she made a point to inform her neighbors of what she was doing and to address concerns about issues like parking.
She’s happy that Airbnb will start to collect and remit the hotel tax this summer as a step toward legalization.
One analogy she cites: A couple of decades ago, she drew up architecture plans for several clients who wanted home offices. The city rejected the plans, saying that was a commercial use.
“Over time, this will get ironed out,” she said. “It’s a cultural shift that regulators are still catching up with.”