What is the Coronavirus Doing to AirBnB’s Listings?

The answer is more complex than you might think

Apartment buildings
How is the coronavirus affecting AirBnB?
Tdorante10/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / March 28, 2020 9:00 am

The last year has been a challenging one for AirBnB. The popular home-sharing service has faced tighter scrutiny from local governments and bad publicity courtesy of scammers looking to game the system. The good and bad elements of AirBnB’s service have been discussed in depth in many an article and think-piece. You yourself may have had a heated conversation about its merits and issues.

But now, AirBnB finds itself with a new threat — and one that could be an existential one. At Daily Intelligencer, Brian Feldman explored the effect of the current coronavirus pandemic on the service. It’s possible, Feldman writes, that it could be having a seismic effect on both AirBnB and the larger rental market in certain cities:

A number of viral tweets and subsequent speculation have posited that the coronavirus has caused a spike in long-term rentals. The theory is that as the short-term market drops off a cliff, those properties are being taken off of platforms like Airbnb and moved onto long-term platforms like Zillow or Craigslist.

Feldman takes a more measured tone here, but also notes that the current crisis isn’t affecting all AirBnB users equally. He cites a conversation with David Wachsmuth, the Canada Research Chair in Urban Governance at McGill University — and someone who’s long been a go-to source for all things AirBnB.

Wachsmuth notes that AirBnB hosts who use the service to rent out a spare room are relatively fine right now. However, users who have used the system to rent out multiple homes or apartments…well, they may not fare so well. “For the more aggressive speculators, who purchased condos with the intent of continually renting them out year-round, this is a disaster,” Feldman writes. How you process that news will likely depend on how you feel about that sort of speculation — and how you feel about its effect on cities worldwide.

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