I traveled for over six months, staying at various Airbnbs up and down the West Coast. In search of a cheaper place to live—a native of Seattle-lite experiencing gentrification and skyrocketing rents. Travel in short-term rental areas became an option and somewhat a great way to sample cities. In the beginning, Airbnb was a great way to experience modern nomadic life by staying in short-term rentals in different cities. Airbnb’s model is to live like the locals by matching a travel guest with a host in an apartment, or house at a monthly rate. Sounds easy right?
The house-sharing experience has not been easy. I had encountered a few bumps with other Airbnb guests and hosts along the way. It was not until I stayed in a small town called Summerville when I really considered moving to Nevada permanently. I arranged a meeting with a Local Realtor, Stormy Ingersoll, to get more information about the local housing market. Stormy explained it may take a while to find something in my price range. I informed Stormy I was staying an Airbnb monthly stay when Stormy burst out, “Airbnb is putting agents out of business! I bet the host you have now has at least three homes. If I was just buying a home to turn it into an Airbnb, I need to research how Airbnb contributes to the rising price of homes in the area.” I was shocked because I had never used Airbnb before, and honestly, I did not know much about the home share economy. I followed her advice and searched Airbnb to see if my Nevada host had multiple listings. To my surprise, he had almost ten different home locations.I didn’t believe it. I was curious when the change to long-term stay began. Did Airbnb know what would happen? In my research, I found out Airbnb, before the pandemic, was doing very well with the majority of their listings for short-term stays.
Airbnb announced its IPO debut with opening shares at $146 on December 19,2020, with plans to go public. Then in March 2020, Coronavirus began to sweep across the United States, causing massive guest cancellations resulting in a decrease of 40% of Airbnb‘s US market for the following year.
After laying off twenty-five percent of their staff, to desperately appease shareholders and keep hosts from removing listings, or moving to other competing vacation rental platforms. Airbnb founder Joe Gebbia launched a global campaign for long-terms stays to Covid -19 responders such as healthcare workers and emergency relief workers dispatched to various cities through airbnb.org. Many Airbnb hosts did want to volunteer their homes to relief workers, but they were not excited to change to a monthly stay program. However, Airbnb was willing to provide account discount incentives, additional financial insurances, free marketing, and a host-only support team.
In just a few months, Airbnb was a success seeing an increase in revenue in many cities. As a result, the tech company radically changed its business models to keep profits up to appease investors and make long-term stays a permanent part of the platform. In a press release, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky explained Airbnb’s true vision is to expand beyond short-term vacations, because of the big inflection point brought on by the pandemic. Chesky claimed millions of people live at Airbnb listings on a month-to-month basis primarily because they no longer need to live and work in the same city. Airbnb Quartly 2021 report revealed an industry shift from traditional travelers to local guests booking a monthly stay in their own communities.
Chesky stated that Airbnb represents a new future for the rental market in which guests do not need to prove income, credit check, or pay deposits and Airbnb is a secure model to back. Resulting in the migration of Airbnb into the housing market without any regulation, restrictions, or taxes that hotels or long-term landlords would be required to conduct business.
More importantly, who would want to live in Airbnb permanently over long-term housing with legal protections and rent control. I always considered my stay in Airbnb temporary. So I started apartment hunting in Nevada with a plan of moving into a permanent place if buying a house takes more than a year.
I wanted to speak with other guests residing in the same Airbnb rentals since most seem to be locals. We would often gather in the common area to discuss how hyper-sensitive the neighbors were to the five-bedroom house turned Airbnb rental with absentee landlord. During my stay, neighbors would mail letters threatening to call immigration and deport us if we did not keep the noise down. This happened even though there were no parties in the house during my stay.
I met with the guest in room#2, Kendra, who arrived about 30 days ago and seemed to be constantly on the phone with her caseworker searching for permanent residence. Kendra being on disability for the last few years, was on a fixed income. She eventually was priced out of her apartment due to a significant rental increase. She stated Airbnb was easy and cheaper than a weekly hotel and safer than staying in a shelter. Kendra has been a guest in over 50 local bookings for about 2 years. “It’s better than a shelter, but it’s kind of expensive because, after one month, the price may go up a hundred dollars because of an increase in cleaning fees, or just an increase for the room fees. That’s why I only stay a few months then find a cheaper one to move to.” Kendra hopes to find any soon, but she is on the low-income housing list and hopes to open a space in one of those listings soon.
Kendra and I are using Airbnb long-term stay as a temporary option to permanent housing within our community, which is positive. Pre-pay monthly stay concept does haves some benefits, but should not be the primary business model generating the majority of Airbnb’s revenue. It is not hard to see it is not sustainable when a community has too many empty homes and apartments is contributing the housing crisis.
First-time home buyers like myself directly compete with real estate investors with the financial upper hand. Without regulation the number of absentee landlords on Airbnb contributes to low housing stock in the rental market and increases the cost of living. People like Kendra in need of low-income housing get priced out with no other options available to address the need. So why can’t Airbnb adopt a sustainable business model and make money? Instead of a ban against Airbnb, regulations may be the best option for communities to financial rebuild communities for residents and travelers.