Amy Edwards stands in the kitchen of her home on Pepper Drive in Columbus Wednesday afternoon. Edwards' home is one of the most sought-after Airbnbs in Lowndes County. Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff
September 20, 2018 10:20:35 AM
Amy Edwards keeps separate books for her business, but there is nothing nefarious about it.
In one book, she accounts for the income she has received since starting her Airbnb in Columbus a year ago. By those standards, the business has been an important supplement to the income she earns at her regular job.
The other book recounts the people she's met and the friends she has made. For Edwards, that book is the most profitable part of her enterprise.
"It's been very successful," Edwards said. "The best part of it is meeting new people from all over."
Airbnb is a web-based accommodations company that allows people to rent out space in their homes or other properties.
On its site, Airbnb's "wish-list" function allows users to save the listings they most desire when planning trips, whether it be a beautiful kitchen, a peaceful backyard or a charming neighborhood that catches their eye. The most wish-listed listings in Mississippi are among the most unique and special homes on Airbnb's platform.
This week, Airbnb analyzed and compiled data of thousands of users to form a Top 20 "Wish List" in each state.
Edwards' "Amy's Cozy Place at Truelove End" made the list, as did an Airbnb in Starkville called "Cozy Cabin Get-Away." The owner of the Starkville location declined to be interviewed for this article.
Based on her Airbnb customer reviews, it was Edwards' personal charm that made her Airbnb one of the top "wish-listed" options in the state.
"I love people," said Edwards, who moved to Columbus two years ago and rents the property she uses for her Airbnb, with her landlord's blessing.
"Actually, it was my landlord who suggested Airbnb to me," Edwards said. "He called me and said, 'You know, you have the personality to run one of these. Would you like to try it?' At first, I wasn't sure what I was getting into. But I said to myself, 'Let's try it.' You can always take down your listing if it isn't something you like."
Edwards began her Airbnb in September 2017. After a thorough process -- Edwards said vetting for both hosts and customers helped assure her it would be safe -- she entertained her first guest the following month.
"My first customers were from Utah," she said. "They were here when Brigham Young came to Starkville to play Mississippi State in football. I'm still in touch with them on Facebook. It's like that for a lot of my customers."
Airbnb allows hosts wide latitude in the amenities they offer and fees they charge. Edwards' listing offers a bedroom, access to a common room and a private bedroom for two at $40 per night.
"I'm not really trying to make as much money as I can," Edwards said. "While the money helps, what's important for me is meeting new people and learning about their lives. I've always been a people person and I like meeting people from all over and getting to know them."
Ben Brett, a public affairs specialist with Airbnb, said Airbnbs in Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties have seen explosive growth over the past year.
There are 164 Airbnb listings in the two counties.
"In the past 12 months, we've seen 500 guests in Lowndes County, which is an 80 percent growth over the previous year," Brett said. "It's even bigger in Oktibbeha County. We've seen 2,600 guests there, which is 134 percent growth."
Brett said the typical Airbnb host in Lowndes County earns about $3,500 per year. In Oktibbeha County, hosts earn about $1,800 a year, he said.
Edwards said while she hasn't "hit it off" with all of her customers, she's never had what she would call a bad experience.
"I never thought, 'This is a mistake,'" she said. "I've enjoyed it all. It's been fun."
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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