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In Louisville, Short-Term Rental Hosts Expect Big Derby Payoffs

John Mahorney

John Mahorney’s backyard garden is filled with tomatoes and radishes. This is a selling point to visitors who want to rent his home when they’re in town.

“I actually offer these things to our guests so it's kind of a perk to our house," he says. "If you did wanna cook, there’s some fresh parsley in the backyard."

His 1,100 square foot home in Paristown Pointe also includes an office space and library. 

Mahorney is one of the 1,500 Louisvillians who opened their homes to visitors on Airbnb in 2016, welcoming 48,000 guests to the city. The site says those guests had an economic impact of almost $23 million.

Mahorney says he knows of six other homes in his neighborhood that are also short-term rental properties.

Since registering with Airbnb last summer, Mahorney says he’s hosted at least 32 guests at his home.

Although more than 1,000 Louisvillians are registered on Airbnb, only a small percentage of them are officially registered with Metro Government — a requirement since August 2016. The city says there are just 129 registrants with about 90 more applications in process. The average Airbnb Louisville host made about $3,700 last year, according to the site.

But we can’t talk about short-term rentals without talking about Derby.

No surprise, but Derby weekend is the time Louisvillians make the most of their short-term rentals. The average price listed on Airbnb for a rental during Derby weekend is almost $1,100 per night. And the site warns that if you’re trying to book those dates — act fast because only 16 percent of Louisville listings are available.

During the rest of the year, John Mahorney in Paristown Pointe usually rents his home for anywhere from $75 to $120 a night.

"And during Derby, it changes everything,” he says. “We’ve been booked for the last few months and it’s probably six or seven times our normal rate.”

You can do the math on that one.

One argument against sites like Airbnb is that they ruin neighborhoods with various outsiders constantly barging in. Mahorney says he's heard a few complaints like this about short-term rentals in his neighborhood. But he's not worried.

"We think Airbnb’s are going to be part of our local economy right here in this area because of the performance hall that’s gonna be down the street,” he says. “People either working or visiting those events will wanna stay here.”

In neighborhoods such as Paristown Pointe, Mahorney says, development will make the city more attractive. And he says that will benefit him and other short-term rental hosts — even beyond Derby weekend.

Roxanne Scott covers education for WFPL News.