Real Estate

‘Quarantine in paradise’ rentals draw city dwellers

City dwellers have sharply extended the length of short-term rental stays as they hunt for bolt-holes to escape coronavirus hotspots such as London and New York.

The average length of a holiday let has jumped from 4.5 to nine days, according to data from Guesty, which provides software to short-term rental owners in 80 countries.

AirDNA, a data analytics group that tracks listings from companies including Airbnb and Expedia-owned rival Vrbo, found that 50 per cent of new bookings in recent weeks had been for two weeks or more.

“Length of stay is increasing dramatically,” said Vered Raviv Schwarz, chief operating officer of Guesty, adding that there had been “a rural uptick in some cases”. She said the trends were down to “cityscapers” looking to get away from places where the virus had been spreading rapidly. However, she said booking volumes were down with a few specific exceptions.

While bookings for Airbnb, and Vrbo-listed properties had dropped about 50 per cent in urban areas in the US, Guesty found that in rural locations and suburbs booking were down only 10-20 per cent. It said among the most resilient destinations were places such as the Hamptons and Napa Valley, which were within a two to three-hour drive of large urban hubs.

Owners and managers of short-term rental properties have responded to the demand by advertising discounted rates for longer stays. 

Airbnb, which has been battered by the crisis with bookings down roughly 90 per cent in some areas, said about half of its active listings now offered discounts for stays of a month or longer. Last week it launched a monthly stay option on its homepage.

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Searches for Airbnb homes to rent during government-enforced restrictions bring up a series of properties advertising themselves as open for lockdown stays, from a one-bedroom flat in Queensland, Australia, advertising itself as “perfect for self-quarantine”, to a cottage in Florida touting “quarantine in paradise”. 

Ms Raviv Schwarz said she had also seen properties advertised as including gloves, disinfectant and additional cleaning.

The picture is similar in the UK, despite government warnings that city dwellers should not travel to second homes for fear of spreading the virus further afield. Airbnb last week banned all listings except those open to frontline workers until April 18.

Guesty said that in the last week of March, smaller cities such as Liverpool and Nottingham had all received more bookings than previous weeks as customers hunted for getaways outside of London.

“If [you] are going to work from home for an extended period of time then why would you do it from a 600 sq ft London flat when you can get the connectivity in a nice place by the coast?” said Martin Luen, a travel industry specialist at investment bank Baird.

But Richard Clarke, an analyst at Bernstein, warned that there could be risks for short-term rental owners: “Supply looks to be shifting to longer-term rentals, and those in financial distress will not receive the same government support as hotels. There is also the risk that regulation may accelerate as knowledge on the impact on housing shortages clears.”


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