The US-based home sharing website Airbnb, which enables its users to search through a database of over a million homes worldwide and 25,000 in the UK, has this week launched a professional property management software suite called Guesty aimed at professional landlords.
At first glance the move would seem to contain little to worry the UK’s letting agents. Airbnb markets itself as a way for holiday makers to find affordable accommodation and avoid paying the high night rates that hotels and B&Bs charge. Described as part of the ‘sharing’ economy and using a model that’s compared with taxi service Uber, Airbnb recently claimed to have so far generated over half a billion pounds of economic activity in the UK.
But what Airbnb is really muscling in on – in a way that might alarm some lettings agents – is the peripheries of the private lettings market as the service becomes a new and low-cost alternative income stream for landlords.
The Guardian newspaper recently analysed more than 13,000 Airbnb listings in London – by far its largest UK market – and discovered that 6,600 of them offered an entire home or flat, rather than a spare room – a clear sign that its user base is increasingly professionalising.
Airbnb, during research carried out within the UK last year, revealed that the typical Airbnb host occasionally rents out the property in which he or she actually lives. Some 80 percent of Airbnb hosts rent out only the home they live in and the typical host earns £2,822 per year by renting 33 nights a year.
But the site wants to appeal to much more than cash-strapped holiday makers looking to dodge the expense of a hotel stay. It has already set its sights on the corporate let market with a dedicated page on its website, and in London’s frenetic and expensive short lets market Airbnb is increasingly seen as a more affordable option.
The website also gained regulatory backing recently. This May a set of 1970s regulations that prevented homeowners in London from renting out their homes for more than 90 days without planning permission were axed, paving the way for sites like Airbnb to offer six-month rentals and challenge the traditional lettings model.