Airbnb revenues and rentals up in Hancock County

ELLSWORTH — Bar Harbor and Ellsworth were among the top five most popular destinations for visitors using the home-sharing site Airbnb this summer, according to data released by the company this week.

Revenue for hosts was higher in both municipalities than the statewide average between May 25 and Sept. 3. A typical Bar Harbor host made just shy of $8,000 and one in Ellsworth made nearly $6,000 this summer (compared to $4,800 statewide).

Overall, hosts are expected to bring in $2.5 million in Bar Harbor and $1.1 million in Ellsworth this summer.

This “Coastal Maine Cottage” in Surry was among the “most favorited” homes this summer on the home-sharing website Airbnb. Bookings were up this summer, with Bar Harbor and Ellsworth among the top five destinations statewide between May 25 and Sept. 3, according to the company.

The data also show two properties in Surry and Sullivan as among the three most “favorited” Airbnb homes in the state, according to Josh Metzer, head of Northeast Policy for Airbnb.

More residents in Bar Harbor and Ellsworth are renting their properties, with 140 hosts in Ellsworth (up from 110 last year) and 200 in Bar Harbor (up from 160). The two municipalities saw 17,600 visitors booking rooms using the site between May and September.

Statewide, guest arrivals were up nearly 50 percent over last year, with around 229,000 expected visitors between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Although short-term rentals have faced backlash in some communities, City Manager David Cole has previously said he does not plan to implement regulations in Ellsworth.

“I don’t get the sense that it’s been a big issue here,” Cole said in an interview earlier this spring.

Bar Harbor has regulations requiring short-term rentals to be registered and inspected. There are over 400 vacation rentals (a property rented for between five and 30 days) active in the town, Code Enforcement Officer Angie Chamberlain told the Mount Desert Islander.

Rockland, Portland and South Portland are among the cities with regulations on short-term rental units. South Portland voters will likely vote on a measure imposed in July that significantly curtailed the practice, including banning non-owner-occupied short-term rentals in residential areas.

Airbnb reached an agreement with the state to pay taxes on behalf of its hosts last year, announcing in June that it had collected $5.3 million in taxes since April 1, 2017.

“We were proud to have reached our tax agreement with Maine last year, and are now glad to see our partnership generating such a significant and vital revenue stream for the state,” Metzer said.

Other short-term rental companies such as HomeAway and Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO), a division of HomeAway, also collect taxes on behalf of hosts in some locations.

Airbnb has tax remittance agreements in 46 states and nine countries, according to its website. There is no set amount collected. Taxes vary by state and even, in some cases, by county.

Lena Hatch co-owns Heathwood Inn & Suites in Bar Harbor with her husband, Dana, and has two properties rented out via online companies. Hatch told The Ellsworth American in an interview this summer that the voluntary collection of taxes has simplified her books.

“Before, when I would list my property I would need to think ‘Oh, I have a 9 percent tax,’ and then I’d have to go back to the total before commission,” Hatch said. “It just took more of my time.”

Kate Cough

Kate Cough

Kate covers the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. She lives in Southwest Harbor and welcomes story tips and ideas. She can be reached at [email protected]

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