Though Howard Payne University has purchased almost every home around it, Dallas real estate agent Sharron Sadacca still owns an old family property next to campus. Recently, in an effort to generate a little extra income, Sadacca decided to list the room on Airbnb.
    Sadacca’s listing on the site is very to-the-point. “HUNTERS!” it reads. “Sleepover in Brownwood.” It makes sense—Brown County is one of the most heavily-trafficked hunting areas in the state. Why wouldn’t people want to stay in town?
    “I think Airbnb is a great thing,” Sadacca said. “We haven’t had any luck with it, but it is available if someone should call.”
    Airbnb—as in “air bed and breakfast”—is an eight-year-old website based in the tech hub of San Francisco that lets everyday people list their homes, apartments and properties for travelers to book. “Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week or a villa for a month,” their website boasts, “Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than … 191 countries.”
    The company has grown rapidly in the last half-decade or so, becoming a severe disrupter—and arch-nemesis—of the hotel industry. To that end, Airbnb is currently fighting court battles in New York and, ironically, San Francisco to keep operating in two of its most lucrative markets. Airbnb did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
    Hotels say it’s bad for business, city officials say it makes housing shortages worse, apartment owners say it allows tenants to casually violate their leases.
    But users like Sadacca say the site comes with great benefits. “All in all, I feel that it is a good thing for everybody that’s concerned,” she said.
    For hosts, Sadacca said, Airbnb is not only an income source but also a reason to keep up the house and a way to meet good people. “It’s a motivating thing for that person … to say, ‘Oh, company’s coming!’” she said. “It feels like you’re having a visitor, so to speak. Someone interesting.”
    After a visit, Airbnb requests that hosts and guests write a review for each other, giving each party a rating from one to five stars. That way, future guests can see what kind of experiences people have had and future hosts can assuage worries about strangers in the house.
    “Everybody tries very hard to be a good host and a good guest,” Sadacca said.
    While listing a private residence on Airbnb is straightforward enough, apartments can be trickier. There are many apartments available in large cities, but currently no Brown County apartments are listed on Airbnb.
    Diane Black is the president of the Big Country Apartment Association. For her and other apartment owners, the fear of mysterious tenants is a big drawback to sites like Airbnb.
    “I would say the [potential for criminal guests] would probably be my biggest concern,” she said. “You don’t know who you’re letting into your home or who you’re bringing into your neighborhood.”
    Ross Settler owns The Oaks apartments in Early. “It just creates an unknown for us,” he said of Airbnb. “Whenever we lease an apartment, we’re going to run a prospective tenant on a piece of software called Tenant Tracker, and it tracks their record. We find out if they have a criminal history.
    “So what happens if somebody Airbnbs that to a registered sex offender?” he said.
    Black and Settler use a lease agreement prepared by the Texas Apartment Association. While Texas apartments are not legally required to use the TAA lease, Black said most do because the organization makes sure to meet all legal requirements for apartment owners.
    “Per the TAA lease, you can’t have anyone staying with you longer than three days in a row or six in a month without it being approved through the office,” Black said.
    Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that Airbnb has offered apartment landlords a portion of the profit if they allow their tenants to rent their rooms. It is unclear if the effort is causing landlords to rethink their relationship with the website.
    Airbnb on Thursday also announced a new effort called Airbnb Trips, which aims to change the company from a mere rental service into, essentially, a travel agency. Instead of just rooms, people will now be able to book activities through the site as well. The company’s Thursday press release said the site “aims to make it easy with one app to book most of your travel needs.”
    Theoretically, this could make it possible in the future for Brown County residents to not only lease their homes to hunters, but take their guests on a hunting trip as well.
    For now, though, it’s still unclear if Airbnb has a place in small communities like Brownwood.