Lodging - with a twist! To Airbnb or not to Airbnb?

Renovated rentals - former firehouse, church, caboose transformed to getaways


Following a rise in tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic, short term rental properties have sprung up throughout the Catskills. Rural towns, abundant in the area, rarely have hotels, and short term rental properties found on sites like Airbnb or Vrbo have filled the niche. 

Many people visit the Catskills to immerse themselves in the serenity of the mountains, and one of the best ways to do that is to book a stay at a working farm, a secluded cabin or maybe a “glamping” tent in the woods. 

While short term rentals are a great option for visitors, their rise in popularity has caused concerns among residents in those destinations. A major concern has been the effect on the housing market. The availability of affordable housing may suffer as a result of people buying up properties to rent on short term rental platforms or from former long term rental landlords shifting to a short term rental business. One study from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University showed that communities with Airbnb properties experience a slight decrease in the number of long-term rental properties available. 

One of the benefits of living in the Catskills is the peaceful atmosphere - something residents value. An influx of visitors has some residents and municipalities worried about noisy parties, littering, overcrowding and crime.

There are also many benefits to these properties, especially for the local economy. Short term rentals open up new towns and villages for visitors that previously did not have lodging available. Along with financially benefiting the property owners, guests help support local businesses. Also, landlords are not the only ones who profit from their property — cleaning services, property managers and real estate photographers have also begun to take advantage of this growing industry by marketing their services to lodging owners. 

Some localities have implemented local laws regarding short term rental properties to regulate the industry and ensure safety for both renters and residents. Shandaken in Ulster County has created a local law requiring lodging facilities to acquire an operating license which involves an inspection and consultation with neighbors. The law prohibits lodging facilities from hosting gatherings of more than 20 people, sets a two-person limit on each bedroom and limits the number of rentals owned by non-residents to 150. Other municipalities like the village of Stamford, town of Kingston, town of Jewett, the town of Athens, and others, have proposed similar laws or are in the process of doing so.

One of the major draws for people to stay in a short term rental property as opposed to a traditional hotel is the unique experiences available. Lucas Hoeffel, owner of Rise Again Glamping, started his glamp site to allow others to experience camping in the Catskills without sacrificing modern conveniences. 

“We help bridge that gap — we give people this ease into the forest without having to be too far from creature comforts.”

Rise Again Glamping is a lakefront campsite for two people in Woodridge, Sullivan County. The site features a 16-foot canvas bell tent with heat and a queen-size bed. With these amenities, the property offers guests a luxury camping experience all year long. 

Another option for people who are not quite ready to brave a New York winter from a tent but still want to feel close to nature is a farmhouse or cabin. Homegrown Farmstead in Delhi, Delaware County, has a shared farmhouse and private studio apartment available for rent near the top of Bramley Mountain. Its 25 acres are filled with trails and creeks to explore, and in the warmer months you can take advantage of the berry patches and fruit tree orchards on the property. 

In Accord, Ulster County, you can find Mr. Ed’s Cabin which allows three guests to stay on a 27-acre horse farm. The farm houses horses, chickens, rabbits, dogs, cats and other animals, and invites visitors to bring their dogs, cats or horses as well. The trails throughout the property are ideal for snowshoeing or cross country skiing in the winter. 

The Catskills also offer plenty of opportunities to stay in renovated historic buildings, like a former firehouse in Cobleskill, Schoharie County. The four-person apartment is located in the upstairs portion of a 1930 building that was once a firehouse, a police department and a jail. These days, the lower part of the building is home to Bells & Whistles Nutrition, a health food store.

For an especially unique experience, you can stay in a restored 1922 train caboose in Windham, Greene County. The Cozy Caboose is a two-person rental located in the heart of Windham within walking distance of several businesses and shares the property with a movie theater. 

Another historic option is McBride’s Heavenly Getaway in Arkville, Delaware County. This 4-bedroom rental is located in a restored Methodist church built in 1892. Along with the beautiful stained-glass windows, the site contains antiques like an old chairlift from Belleayre Mountain.

The Dharma Dome in Rochester, Ulster County, offers another kind of spiritual stay for two people. The home is located next to a pond and features an outdoor shower, firepit and hammocks. The real highlight, however, is the geodesic dome with its 20-foot ceiling and natural lighting. 

People who are considering renting a property in the Catskills can take several measures to ensure a quality experience for all parties and to help mitigate the potential effects on local economies: Be considerate of neighbors and the land; support local businesses during your stay; educate yourself on local laws especially regarding parking, gatherings and noise limits; and respect the rules put in place by the property owner.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here