What Happens When Airbnbs Hit the Rental Market?

Changes are afoot as as result of the pandemic

Liz Chair
If your new apartment looks like this, you might be living in a former Airbnb.
ClaudioBelliniDesign/Creative Commons

The pandemic has been a hard time for Airbnb — both the corporation itself and those who’ve used the service to rent out spaces to travelers. Last month, Airbnb announced substantial layoffs from their staff as a result of the ongoing downturn in travel. A report by Dain Evans at CNBC in early May noted that Airbnb’s policies in response to the coronavirus frustrated guests and hosts alike:

The company is struggling with cancelations and reimbursements after Airbnb announced it would be refunding customers whose reservations fell within a certain timeframe. This angered many hosts, who were stuck having to pay back most, if not all, of the cost of the rental.

It’s led plenty of writers to ponder what Airbnb might look like after the pandemic. Might it be less disruptive to the local real estate market? In an article for Condé Nast Traveler, Ashlea Halpern noted that this “reckoning” might be a good thing in the long run. “If there is any silver lining to this pandemic, the cream will rise and the 20 percent of hosts who truly care will triumph,” Halpern wrote. “These are the hosts who are present, meaning they live on-site or close by.”

In the shorter term, though, there have been other consequences for Airbnb’s recent maneuvers. Specifically, it’s led to a lot of onetime Airbnb spaces being made available for rent — albeit with some under onerous terms for would-be renters. Writing at Curbed, Emma Alpern explored this strange new phenomenon. Alpern also offers tips for renters to determine if their potential new home might have been a bookable space a few months ago:

Unlike many rentals hitting the market, Airbrbs are furnished, albeit sparsely. There are no more than 25 books on the shelves, probably artist monographs or city guides, and the sofa is the second-least-expensive option from Ikea. There are four mugs, four plates, and four bowls in the cupboards. It is uncluttered. It is clean. If you see a dish of cat food next to the fridge, it is not an Airbrb.

It’s a fascinating look at the way a city’s rental marketplace can shift at a moment’s notice. It’s also a memorable look at how Airbnb has created its own aesthetic — and what what aesthetic might look like in an era where the service is less ubiquitous.

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