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Home Away From Home

Castro Valley family finds market for vacation rental homes; people booking from far and wide by Jim Knowles San Leandro Times © March 16, 2006

The Robertsons have some visitors coming over next week…and the week after that…and the week after that… They’ll be booked up through the summer. But the people coming to the Robertsons’ house aren’t freeloaders. They’re paying customers.

The Robertsons found that the East Bay has a shortage of vacation rentals. Since Don and Krista Robertson have a 3-bedroom guest house on their property, they’ve gone into business. People from all over the world want to visit Northern California and they need a place to stay.

“There are lots of vacation rentals in San Francisco, Tiburon, places like that,” said Don Robertson, “But there aren’t many in the East Bay, and it’s a lot less expensive here.” “The East Bay is an even better location than San Francisco for tourists”, he said.

“It’s centrally located, not far from the Napa Valley, or Great America, and all the places people want to go,” Robertson said. The Robertsons redecorated their guest house and included all the amenities: a phone and TV in every bedroom, DSL internet connections and WiFi, a complete home entertainment center, and a laundry. “Our thought was, ‘What would make it a place where we would want to go?'” Robertson said.

The living room of the guest house looks out over the Castro Valley hills, and on a clear day you can see the bay in the distance. The house is new and completely furnished.

“Half of the bookings come from local people who have families coming out here for things like weddings,” he said. “A whole family might need to book three hotel rooms, and that can get expensive.” The Robertsons know, since their own family is big. “We have a family of nine,” he said. “With three hotel rooms and eating out at restaurants, it’s enough to bankrupt you.” The Robertsons are looking forward to meeting people from all over.

“We have people coming from Washington this week,” said Krista Robertson. “We have people coming from England, Oklahoma, British Columbia and Minnesota.” The guest house sleeps six people, with room for eight with temporary beds. If the family visiting is bigger, the Robertsons will also rent out a section of their own house, adding two more bedrooms. And if the group needs more room, they can also rent the entire main five-bedroom house, with a huge living room, kitchen and entertainment room with a giant TV screen. “We’ll just go on vacation for a week or two,” Robertson said. With summer coming, the couple is looking forward to meeting their guests. “It’s great to meet people from other parts of the country, people from different backgrounds,” Robertson said. “This is bigger than we ever expected.”