Cindy and Dave Fera’s house feels like home; their tiny dog Lucas is curled up in front of the fireplace, soft music plays, and a pleasant scent fills the air. The house is not just home to Cindy and Dave, but to many guests who stay there through Airbnb, a company that enables people to book “unique accommodations around the world.” It’s often an alternative to a hotel (but a hotel tax does apply) as travelers can stay in a private home like that of the Feras.
In fact, Airbnb is known in many states as major competition to hotels, but Dale Venturini, President and CEO of the Rhode Island Hospitality Association, said it doesn’t appear to be an issue in Rhode Island.
“I know it affects hotels [elsewhere], but I don’t think it’s a major effect here in Rhode Island because there aren’t as many as in other states,” she said. “I’m not hearing that it’s a major problem yet.”
The Feras have rented two rooms in their home to travelers for about 3 years, sometimes both at once, which means they have to sleep in Cindy’s “spa room.” They’re “superhosts,” as indicated by Cindy’s profile on the site. The majority of their 89 reviews are 5/5 stars on all the categories: accuracy, communication, cleanliness, location, check in, and value. They charge about $150 a night per room (though the price is subject to change depending on the season or holidays, and they offer discounts on stays longer than a week), which includes breakfast.
“People love the space, the food. The food her and I cook is second to none,” Dave said, detailing the eggs benedict, hash and eggs, frittatas, and various breads they make for their guests. In addition, each guest leaves with homemade artisan soap and body butter.
Most of the time, the operation runs like a hotel. People drop off their things and are gone for the day, perhaps to do some of the activities Cindy recommends for them in a book full of coupons and travel guides she leaves in each room. But sometimes, the Feras do get to interact with their guests. In the summer, they might sit outside at the fire pit or take people on bike rides to Rocky Point.
“People say ‘how can you stand to have people in your house?’” Cindy said. But she doesn’t mind as it gives her the opportunity to do what she loves: learn about people.
When she worked in nail salons, Cindy’s favorite part of the job was learning about other people’s jobs. She gets to do a lot of that with Airbnb – people come from all over the world for different reasons. Some are visiting family, coming home for a high school reunion, furthering their education, or just being tourists. They’ve met people from states like New York and Texas, or even further from countries like Germany, France, and India.
“People are really nice, respectful, and interesting,” she said.
But running the spot isn’t always easy. Cindy said she had to make changes at the request of the city after someone filed a complaint. However, there weren’t clear guidelines on what was required for her to keep up her business, she said. She went through adding handrails to her house, making her driveway larger, and fire safety inspections, among a few other things, she said. She also claims she did not change anything about the property before the city told her to do so.
“Why not say ‘here’s a folder of all the stuff you have to do?’” she said.
Director and Building Official Alfred DeCorte did not respond to request for comment.
It seems the issues were resolved, though. The two continue to host many happy guests that rack up the good reviews.
“Cindy and Dave were super duper hosts. We had a great time. The room was impeccable and beautifully decorated. The view from the patio is breathtaking! Would definitely recommend staying here,” reads one.
“We had a lovely stay. Very comfortable and pretty room,” another says.
That’s what Cindy likes to hear.
“The money is great, but I love the people,” she said.