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Liz Finkelstein admits that inside a two-bedroom Boulder townhouse, she may have gone overboard with green accents: throw pillows, fabrics, wall hangings. “But when it’s essentially a hotel…you get to do more unusual things,” says the stylist and owner of Mile High Style, a boutique style-consulting business in Boulder. She recently redecorated the property for a client looking to get Ritz-Carlton rates from short-term renters through Airbnb and VRBO—and that’s not her only such project. Demand for design services for short-term rentals has become so great, she’s even devoted a section of her website to it. “You put money into the design, then you can get top dollar,” Finkelstein says.
Airbnb and VRBO are websites that allow property owners to rent homes, single rooms, and even treehouses to short-term guests. Despite the fact that short-term rentals are illegal in Denver and Boulder, the number of Colorado listings on both online market-places has skyrocketed the past two years, Finkelstein says. As competition swells, property owners are tapping interior designers and decorators to help transform their digs into higher earners. The average Airbnb rate in Denver is a modest $117 a night (as of June 10), but the swankier listings charge several hundred dollars and even into the thousands.
The higher rates derive from giving travelers something La Quinta can’t: unique experiences, such as a 19th-century blacksmith shop transformed into a contemporary dwelling with flourishes like rustic barn doors and fabricated steel shelving. Jonas DiCaprio, owner of Design Platform in Denver, recently renovated just such an abode (with, of course, modern comforts such as a washer and dryer) for a Highland homeowner who is renting it out for $180 a night.
Finding a way to command a premium might become a must: Boulder and Denver are considering extending lodging taxes to short-term rentals (after making them legal, of course). That threat hasn’t done much to discourage investors from entering the market. In fact, one of Finkelstein’s clients poured $20,000 into a property and earned it back in just six months. That’s the kind of green no client will complain about.