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Coronavirus Update: No Evidence Airbnb Hosts Are Moving to the Long Term Rental Market

Ever since the coronavirus pandemic started plaguing the vacation market, journalists have been writing articles detailing the move of short-term rental listings to the long-term rental market and how this has caused rental prices around the world to drop (1-4). However, when you take a closer look at these stories, you see that all the evidence is purely anecdotal. As the leading provider of data and analytics for the short-term rental industry, AllTheRooms Analytics aims to describe trends in the market using evidence-based approaches. In this report, we use our data on the short-term rental market to show that, contrary to the narrative, there is no sign of significant reduction in supply nor an increase in blocking of calendars by Airbnb hosts. For all intents and purposes, Airbnb hosts are staying put on the short-term rental market, for now. 

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The United States

We performed a content analysis of online news articles to compound a list of US cities where there was reported moves from the short-term to the long-term rental market (3). The first step was to assess the supply levels of STRs in these markets and see if we saw a significant reduction in Airbnb listings in 2020, which would be expected if the narrative were true. In Figure 1 below, we see the average listing count for Airbnbs in cities mentioned to have seen this trend across the United States. It is quite evident from the data visualized in Figure 1, that there has been no significant reduction in STR supply levels across these cities in the United States in response to the coronavirus crisis. If this narrative were true, we would expect to see significant drops in supply as Airbnb hosts removed their listings from the platform.

Figure 1: The average daily Airbnb listing count for six US cities in 2020.  

Another angle we wanted to consider was if hosts decided to block off nights instead of completely removing their listings from Airbnb. If you scroll through Figure 2 below, you can see the break down of vacation rental nights by percent booked, blocked and vacant in Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle. We can observe from these figures that there is no huge shift in the percentage of listing nights blocked off. This shows us that Airbnb hosts across these US cities are not making a huge push to block off nights on the calendar in response to coronavirus.  

Figure 2: The percentages of booked, blocked and vacant nights on Airbnb for Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle. 

We also analyzed the data to see if there was a significant increase in the supply of non instant-book listings on Airbnb, since it may be possible for hosts to keep their properties on the platform and just remove the instant book option to avoid any fees if their properties were booked on the long-term market. From the following two figures below, we see that is not the case in any of the US cities we analyzed. 

Figure 3: Active nights for non-instant book Airbnbs in six US cities in 2020.  

We also wanted to see if the percentage of blocked nights went up in the Airbnb listings that remained instant book rentals. From the following figure, we see that there are no significant changes of the break down of instant vs non-instant booking. If there was a huge push to move towards the long-term rental market, we would expect that a good portion of Airbnb hosts would remove the instant book option from their listings since having a listing with an instant book option could cost a host fees if their vacation rental isn’t available but being booked.

Figure 4: Break down of active nights for instant and non-instant book Airbnbs in six US cities in 2020.  

As we have seen from the US data above, the different metrics we have access to have not shown any signs that STR hosts are leaving the market in favor of the long-term rental market. Data from Rentonomics also showed that there were no meaningful changes in rental prices across cities in the United States (5). If there was a shift from the short-term to long-term rental market, we would expect that rent prices would drop accordingly, but as of now, there is no real evidence that this has been happening.  

Europe

A content analysis of news revealed reports of rent prices dropping around Europe and the world (1,4). We wanted to test these reports with real data since all the articles we came across cited anecdotal evidence only. We started by assessing the supply of the short-term rental market across major cities cited in these articles. If the theory that Airbnb hosts were moving their listings to the long term rental market in response to the coronavirus pandemic, we would expect to see a sharp drop in STR listing count in 2020. As we see in Figure 5 below, that is not the case. In fact, we see a small increase in supply levels in mid-March. Thus, our data on STR supply does not feed into this narrative that has become more and more widely accepted.  

Figure 5: The average daily Airbnb listing count for six European cities in 2020.  

Our goal in this piece was to leverage all the data we have from the STR market to try to address this growing narrative. We wanted to also check whether Airbnb hosts were blocking off nights on the calendar in response to the crisis. As we see in Figure 6, there is no significant change in the percentage of blocked nights in the STR market in these major cities across Europe. 

Figure 6: The percentages of booked, blocked and vacant nights on Airbnb for Dublin, London, Madrid, Milan, Munich and Paris.

We also analyzed the data to see if there was a significant increase in the supply of non instant-book listings on Airbnb, since it may be possible for hosts to keep their properties on the platform and just remove the instant book option to avoid any fees if their properties were booked on the long-term market. From Figure 7 below, we see that is not the case in any of the European cities we analyzed. 

Figure 7: Active nights for non-instant book Airbnbs in six European cities in 2020.  

We also wanted to see if the percentage of blocked nights went up in the Airbnb listings that remained instant book rentals. From the following figure, we see that there are no significant changes of the break down of instant vs non-instant booking (Figure 8). If there was a huge push to move towards the long-term rental market, we would expect that a good portion of Airbnb hosts would remove the instant book option from their listings since having a listing with an instant book option could cost a host fees if their vacation rental isn’t available but being booked. 

Figure 8: Break down of active nights for instant and non-instant book Airbnbs in six European cities in 2020.  

As we see from the figures above, the data from the short-term rental market do not support the ongoing narrative that vacation rental hosts have been moving their properties to the long term market. We assessed this by looking at metrics such as supply, nights blocked and instant booking options. All of these metrics in these major cities across Europe revealed that we could not support this narrative with our data. The data just does not show that people are moving their Airbnb listings from the market in lieu of the long-term rental market. 

Asia

Since Asia was the first continent impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, we wanted to analyze some cities to see if the narrative held true there. We included Beijing and Seoul because China and South Korea were most deeply devastated by the pandemic. Tel Aviv was included because of multiple accounts that rent prices were dropping in Israel (2). We can see from Figure 9 that there was no drop in supply in Seoul nor in Tel Aviv. In Beijing, we do see a drop in early February, but overall the supply has remained stable. 

Figure 9: The average daily Airbnb listing count for three Asian cities in 2020.  

As you scroll through Figure 10, you can see that there was no significant change in the percentage of nights blocked off in the STR market in Seoul nor in Tel Aviv. In Beijing, we do see a huge increase in percentage of nights blocked off in early February, but we can attribute that to Airbnb blocking off listings in Beijing until March (6). Otherwise, we see that there hasn’t been any meaningful changes in nights blocked off by short-term rental market hosts in Beijing, Seoul or Tel Aviv. 

Figure 10: The percentages of booked, blocked and vacant nights on Airbnb for Beijing, Seoul and Tel Aviv. 

We also analyzed the data to see if there was a significant increase in the supply of non instant-book listings on Airbnb, since it may be possible for hosts to keep their properties on the platform and just remove the instant book option to avoid any fees if their properties were booked on the long-term market. From Figure 11 below, we see that is not the case in any of the Asian cities we analyzed. 

Figure 11: Active nights for non-instant book Airbnbs in three Asian cities in 2020.  

We also wanted to see if the percentage of blocked nights went up in the Airbnb listings that remained instant book rentals. If you swipe through Figure 12 below, we can see that there are no significant changes of the break down of instant vs non-instant booking. If there was a huge push to move towards the long-term rental market, we would expect that a good portion of Airbnb hosts would remove the instant book option from their listings since having a listing with an instant book option could cost a host fees if their vacation rental isn’t available but continues to be booked. 

Figure 12: Break down of active nights for instant and non-instant book Airbnbs in three Asian cities in 2020.  

As we have seen from the data from cities across Asia above, the different metrics we have access to have not shown any signs that STR hosts are leaving the market in favor of the long-term rental market.

Conclusion

The narrative in the short-term rental market world during the coronavirus era has been that Airbnb hosts have been moving their listings to the long-term rental market. However, this narrative has been built purely on anecdotal evidence. The truth is that the data shows a different story. While gross revenues and occupancy rates have been down overall, there has been no big push from hosts to remove their listings in favor of the long-term rental market. The data does not yet reflect this narrative that we’ve seen being reported around the world. If rental prices have dropped this is the consequence of some other factors and not of the failing of the short-term rental market. For now, it is safe to say that Airbnb is surviving the coronavirus pandemic. 

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