EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part two in a three-part series exploring what short-term rentals mean for Manistee County. Part one focused on the costs of short-term rentals. When the series continues on Wednesday, part three will look at what it means to have short-term rentals in residential districts.
MANISTEE — Short-term rental owners in Manistee County are a diverse group, with a variety of reasons for and approaches to renting their property to visitors.
The News Advocate talked to two such owners to get their perspective on the business and a potential ordinance from Manistee City Council.
Cory Lupinacci and his wife bought a second home in Manistee in the summer of 2014. They planned to use it as a vacation home in the winter and rent it out in the summer, while they stay at their primary residence in Wixom, a suburb of Detroit.
“My wife had a long history of having family vacations on the Lake Michigan shoreline, so when we decided that we wanted to look for a vacation home, the Lake Michigan shoreline was our key requirement,” Lupinacci said.
Lupinacci said they looked at a few cities on the shoreline and tried to get a feel for the appearance, amenities and how it felt as a community for each.
“Manistee was far and away our preference,” he said.
The Lupinaccis rent their property out through Century 21, which was also the real estate company they used to buy it. They have a minimum of seven days required to stay in the property — a Harbor Village condo. Guests are there for seven to eight weeks in the summer and Lupinacci said there’s been “nothing significant” in terms of noise complaints.
Lupinacci doesn’t believe the rental is interchangeable with a hotel room, as some studies have suggested.
“The people that are coming to our property are generally families, sometimes including grandparents. They’re coming to spend quality time together,” he said. “They’re not looking for hotels, they are looking for a place where they can share meals and go to the beach together.”
Multiple families have come back to stay in consecutive years, Lupinacci said.
“I think that people like the destination. They like coming in restaurants, they like shopping in the stores downtown, they enjoy chartering fishing boats, they like to go to the Vogue Theatre,” he said. “It has a nice feel if you compare it to other towns. It’s much more of a community feeling for us. I think that makes Manistee a better destination.”
Lupinacci understands county officials’ concern about displacement and the feeling of a community, but said his property will remain a vacation home, not a long-term rental if he and his wife were no longer able to rent it out in the summer.
“These aren’t places that would be viewed as low-cost in any way. They are expensive and so we have this dichotomy: the city is looking for low-cost rentals, but you’re not gonna find those in Harbor Village,” he said.
Kirk Tompke is another Manistee County short-term rental owner.
He grew up in Onekama and bought a five-bedroom property in the county hoping to bring in extra income and sees it as an asset for his and his child’s future.
He remodeled the building and started listing it on Airbnb last summer.
“It’s paid for itself — paid the mortgage itself and paid the taxes. With all the construction and remodeling and furniture, I haven’t made a lot of money yet,” he said. “But it is there and it’s providing people with a nice place to come and visit Manistee.”
Tompke only rents the property out in the summer. He decided that to rent for six months in the winter would be too much of a hassle.
“This summer, it was every single weekend. A majority of the time, people would choose to stay for three or four days or five days,” he said.
Like Lupinacci, Tompke said most of his renters are families. He agreed that hotels would not be interchangeable to his renters.
“Say they have four adults with two kids. I don’t know any hotel room that would comfortably fit a family of six, other than a $1,000 suite,” he said. “It just seems like a really affordable, practical way for a family to get away without having to get hotel rooms — just having all the conveniences of home.”
Tompke said there’s been absolutely no complaints about his renters from neighbors.
“I think I’m like a lot of people who have a short term rental,” Tompke said. “They’re just trying to get ahead in life a little bit. It’s just so hard these days to work 40 hours, get your paycheck, try to save something up. It seems like if there’s not some kind of extra passive income coming in, it’s hard to try to take the next step where you’re able to save some money and get into that next kind of upper echelon of life and enjoy it.”
Tompke said he was considering purchasing a second property in Manistee but has stopped his search as he waits for the ordinance from city council.
“I don’t understand why you would want to limit the money coming into Manistee because Manistee and all of these small towns are all tourist towns. The only way to thrive in a tourist town is to have more tourists,” he said. “If you want to expand the economy, you want to bring in as many people as you can. So I don’t really get the point of capping off a lot of people coming in.”
City council will hear a report from staff before making a decision regarding a short-term rental ordinance.
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