Airbnb Rules in Watauga County, North Carolina ?

18 Replies


I wanted to know what were the rules associated with Airbnb or Vrbo in the Watauga County in North Carolina, more specifically in areas including Boone, Blowing rock or Banner Elk or other places in the High Country of NC.

Is there a maximum days per month limit that you can rent a place ? Does it have to be your primary residence ? Is there any HOA that might prevent any of this ?

I am really looking to get more local knowledge on this area, any help would be greatly appreciated !


@Tristan S. I know we've got some people on the board (@Adam Payne) with rentals in that area, but regardless of what information you receive here, always check with the local city/county zoning and codes administration to make sure you have official, up-to-date information.  (do a search for these government entities and you might be able to find the info on their website)

@Tristan S. we have a STR with a Blowing Rock address that is outside of the city limits. We are not in an area with an HOA, so I have no information on that. You'll have to check with the individual HOAs where you're investing. As for the county, I echo what @Julie McCoy said. I have found nothing so far that limits us using AirBnB (which we use exclusively), but do your own research. Do not trust me or any other individual in this forum as the ultimate authority. I am not an attorney, Watauga county official, or anyone with authoritative knowledge on the subject. 

Thanks for the answer @Adam Payne , I will make sure to do my due diligence. I think that being outside of city limits (either boone or blowing rock) would probably be better.

How has been your experience so far ? How many days a month are you booked on average ? Is there any major slowdown during winter ?

Thanks for your help!

@Tristan S. we have been on AirBnB for almost exactly a year with our 2 bed/2 bath cottage. Our occupancy rate is fantastic (hovers around 80-90% for most of the year (going from memory; no numbers in front of me at the moment)), but our rent still reflects "get to know you" prices (i.e. we are intentionally under priced to build AirBnB ratings and develop some regular customers). We also had a horrible experience having to drill a well that meant we had to dump $10k into cap. ex. while our cottage sat empty for the first 6 months we owned it. That was a sour experience that I still taste.

There is a bit of a slow-down in winter, but not as much as we anticipated. We had a handful of tenants who came up for a long weekend in Jan/Feb just so they could see the snow. Plus, we are close to App Ski Mountain, so I think we get a few rentals for that.

In the end, we should show a net profit by the end of this year. I've mentioned this in other posts, but I will work harder to buy a better deal on the next one. 

@Tristan S. , I cant speak to Blowing Rock or Banner Elk, but looks like @Adam Payne is a great resource.

I live in Boone working on my first house hack and tend do do some STR with it periodically. If you're thinking about Boone, where you are located in Watauga county can make a significant difference. Make sure you know the zoning of your house. Zoning and HOAs will be items to consider for sure. If you're outside the town limits it won't matter as much. Also make sure to check out the recent articles in the local paper (Watauga Democrat paper online) about STR noncompliance and the plan to start enforcing it over time.

Finally, you have to pay county occupancy tax monthly to Watauga county with STRs.

Happy to be a resource as you’re figuring things out.

@Zach Sprau thank you for your input, it was very helpful, I found the article talking about the recent town meeting on STR.
I think we would be fine with either Boone or Blowing rock but would most likely try to look outside of city limits to not get too many constraints. 

Can you tell me more about your house hack ? Did you get a duplex planning on renting the other side? 

@Adam Payne

Adam, we've been investing in conventional rentals in Greensboro for about 25 years. We are considering dumping (cashing out) a couple of our worst performing houses and possibly buying STR in the Blowing Rock area. Your vacancy rate experience sounds fantastic. Way better than I expected. I have friends with NC beach property who feel lucky to get 8 or 9 weeks a year.

Do you do your own management, booking etc. using AirBNB? The toughest part for me would be managing the cleaning etc on each turnover since it's a almost 2-1/2 hours from my house to downtown Blowing Rock. 

@Doug Garrison We manage ourselves, but use a cleaning service up there who has been absolutely amazing. If you get a STR up and running up there, I cam put you in touch with them. We live about an hour away from BR, and if it wasn't for that whole well drilling issue, I'd only need to go up there about once a month or so (probably less, but I like to keep an eye on things since this is our first one). I'd say its totally do-able for you from Greensboro.

As for your friend on the coast, I'm going to go out on a limb and say they do only week-long rentals...? We allow daily rentals, and I think that (along with our rates) is why our occupancy is so high. It is more hassle, but in Blowing Rock, people mostly want 2-3 nights at a time. We used to live on the SC coast, and we have on our radar to look into STR down there. We've seen the same thing there with people only wanting to rent homes out for a week at a time.

@Emir Dukic thanks for sharing! That is good to know but I will make sure to make my due diligence before pulling the trigger.

Do you have any investment in the high country Emir, or you do focus on Charlotte ?

Thanks everyone !

@Tristan S. I don't have any experience with STR in the area, but do live in Boone and I believe STR in Boone are not allowed in areas that are zoned R-1. I live in a neighborhood where this is the case, but have a couple of neighbors who do it and don't have any problems. I also know Blowing Rock recently passed a city ordinance banning STR in the downtown area - I'm not sure exactly what is defined as downtown. But the move by the General Assembly is very interesting, I hadn't seen that. Again, this is just what I'm aware of being a Boone resident. Hope that helps and best of luck!

Little details... the NC state general statutes (NCSG) prohibit some of the items identified in the stories linked above. From the NCSG 160A-424. Periodic inspections for hazardous or unlawful conditions, text states: 

(c) In no event may a city do any of the following: (i) adopt or enforce any ordinance that would require any owner or manager of rental property to obtain any permit or permission from the city to lease or rent residential real property or to register rental property with the city....

there are exceptions, but the gist of the SB 326 bill clearly made these type activities by cities against the rules that the committees passed back in 2016. Raleigh and some surrounding cities had rental registrations until SB 326 passed. 

Note that I am not an attorney. If a city requires you to register your STR, you may want to read the applicable state statutes and then decide what (if anything) you want to do... hopefully with the help of an attorney.