Alison Buehler stands in front of the Bouchillon Lodge, located outside of Starkville. Buehler and her family rent the house, which can sleep 20, to large groups and families. It is one of nine homes and apartments in Starkville listed on AirBnB.com, a website that allows homeowners to rent out their property to vacationers and temporary residents in 33,000 cites in 192 countries. Photo by: Zach Odom/Dispatch Staff
July 31, 2014 9:55:15 AM
STARKVILLE -- There are 1,846 hotel rooms in the Golden Triangle, but few are like the Bouchillon Lodge.
The Lodge is different in that it is a bed and breakfast, which is typically defined as a hotel with 10 rooms or fewer that provides a more home-like feel. The Lodge takes that a step further: It is an entire home people can rent. The five- bedroom, four-bathroom homestead runs on one-third solar power and has beds for 20 visitors.
Stays at the Bouchillon Lodge are made online, directly with property owner Alison Buehler. It is one of nine homes and apartments in Starkville listed on AirBnB.com, a website that allows homeowners to rent out their property to vacationers and temporary residents in 33,000 cites in 192 countries.
Since its inception in 2008, AirBnB.com has booked over 17 million stays for travelers.
The Lodge is also listed on VRBO.com, which has 17 listings in the Golden Triangle, three of which are listed on AirBnB.com, too. VRBO.com is part of Home Away, a company founded in 2005. VRBO.com has over one million paid listings internationally. Neither website charges a booking fee and both claim to offer travelers more space at a cheaper rate than typical hotels.
There are 23 homes and apartments in the Starkville area that can be rented via these Online services. The rates range from $99 to $1000 a night and range from downtown after-bar crash pads to resort-style experiences. Most of these properties are focused on visitors attending Mississippi State football games. Price varies based on the capacity, location and amenities offered by the residence. Average units are in the $200-$250 per night range.
The Bouchillon Lodge is the former home of Alison and Mike Buehler. About 10 minutes drive from downtown Starkville, it is an impressive, rustic estate with access to a pond and saltwater pool. The Buehlers had turned it into a farm.
The couple moved back to Mississippi after Mike Buehler, a radiologist, completed his medical residency in Tennessee.
The Buehlers decided to move their family to a new home across the pond, but they couldn't give up the home.
"We could sell, but we'd put an awful lot of work into it," Buehler said.
She wanted to keep the property to use it for education purposes, but that was not going to pay the bills. People started to ask her if she would rent the space out.
The Buehlers had used AirBnB.com to find accommodations for a trip to Europe, so she decided to give it a try. The Buehlers added bunk beds into the basement rooms to fit more children. Additional beds were moved into alcoves. Another set of bunk beds is being added. There are no TVs. It's supposed to be a country experience, though the home has WiFi.
The property was listed on VRBO.com and AirBnB.com. The reservations started coming fast. In fact, Buehler, 39, said that she believes there to be only two or three weekends when the home isn't booked through Christmas.
It costs $495 a night to stay at the Lodge. A full week is $3150.
The Buehlers use the money to support the summer camps and workshops they put on through their non-profit organization, Gaining Ground. They had hoped that after three years of renting their place, they would break even. It has been a little less than two years since they began renting and they have already reached that goal.
Most of the income now goes toward the utility bills and insurance.
"Our insurance company doesn't know what to make of us, so they just charge the highest rate," Buehler said with a laugh.
Recently the Lodge was the site of a family reunion, a good meeting ground between Tennessee and Alabama for the group. Next week, the Greek Life planning committee from Mississippi State will move in for 10 days.
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