In the past five months, the COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed nearly everything about how Americans travel. Many are eschewing planes in favor of cars. And rather than shelling out for a huge pool and all-you-can-drink margaritas at a massive resort, they’re kicking back in the relatively safe, secluded confines of a cute little cottage or cabin they’ve found on Airbnb.
So what does this mean for the many homeowners who currently rent out their properties on Airbnb, VRBO, or other short-term rental sites—or people who are pondering this possibility to make some extra cash?
It means making some adjustments. In the best of circumstances, running a successful short-term rental isn’t easy, and the coronavirus has complicated matters further. Still, if you have space you don’t need to use yourself in a vacation-friendly area, turning it into a rental could result in a nice pile of cash.
So if you’re considering the idea of renting out your house, there are a few things you should know about how the coronavirus has affected short-term rentals. Here are seven things every Airbnb host should know that could help you decide whether this endeavor is worth giving a go.
1. Despite what you may think, Airbnb hosts aren’t rolling in dough
In April, some states banned or restricted short-term rentals—including Florida, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. And even in states that allowed these rentals to continue, many people who’d booked places ended up canceling for fear of catching COVID-19.
As a result, many short-term rental hosts initially took a big hit on revenue.
Anne Shoemaker, an Airbnb superhost who rents out a property in Greensboro, NC, says her Airbnb income has dipped 14% since the pandemic began. Nearly all of her bookings from March through September were canceled, although she was able to recover some money through last-minute bookings later on.
Ryan Fitzgerald, who manages two Airbnb rentals in Raleigh, NC, has also lost significant revenue because of COVID-19.
“My income as a host went from averaging over $10,000 per month to half of that during April and May,” he says. “We lost all of our bookings [those two months], which resulted in over $20,000 in [lost income].”
2. Now that quarantine restrictions are loosening, rental income may bounce back
The good news? Now that shelter-in-place orders are loosening up, most states have begun lifting their restrictions on short-term rentals. As a result, many short-term rental hosts have noticed a post-COVID-19 uptick in bookings that could cause their income to bounce back big-time.
“Most regional vacation rental markets are seeing a boom post-COVID-19, as most people are dying to get out of their homes,” says Avery Carl, who rents out six units on Airbnbs in Tennessee and Florida. “We are getting higher prices per night in both markets than we have ever seen.”
Of course, this could end if the coronavirus infection rates continue to rise. Keep up with the news and local regulations in your area.
3. Although bookings are down overall, last-minute reservations are up
Although most Airbnb hosts experienced cancelled bookings in March and April, last-minute bookings have increased for many hosts. Shoemaker, for example, saw an increase in last-minute bookings in May and June.
Connor Griffiths, who manages two rentals on Airbnb in British Columbia, Canada, has also seen an uptick in last-minute bookings.
“I’ve noticed guests are booking more last minute than in previous years,” he says. “They are also looking for deals and often ask for further discounts.”
4. A new type of guest emerged: long-term renters
Since the coronavirus has many more Americans working from home, this has given rise to a new type of renter: One who, rather than book for a weekend, wants to hunker down for a couple of weeks or months at a time.
Fitzgerald also recouped some of the money he lost by hosting a family for an extended period of time from late March until May.
Carl did the same. “We lost tens of thousands in bookings for March and April, but we were able to break even on all of our properties due to work-from-vacation-home guests,” she says.
5. Most owners have adapted their cleaning protocols
Fitzgerald says his cleaning protocols have changed to some degree. Instead of doing a deep clean twice a month like he used to, he does a deep clean with each turnover. Plus, his cleaning team has focused more on things like changing air filters and cleaning door handles, knobs, and other surfaces people are likely to touch often during their stay.
Both Shoemaker and Fitzgerald have also practiced additional caution by leaving a full day between guests instead of doing same-day turnovers.
6. If you adhere to new cleaning standards, you’ll receive a listing highlight from Airbnb
Airbnb has asked hosts to use an enhanced five-step cleaning protocol, Shoemaker says, which includes waiting 24 hours before entering a property to clean the space. Hosts who adhere to this protocol receive an Enhanced Clean listing highlight, which guests can see when booking, she says.
7. You could receive better reviews by offering pandemic-friendly amenities
We’re still in the midst of a pandemic, which means renters still want peace of mind about their safety. In addition to following Airbnb’s new cleaning protocol, many hosts have begun offering additional amenities. For example, Shoemaker says she now leaves a travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, and paper towels for all guests to use at their discretion.
“Each guest is different,” she says. “Some have appreciated this extra step of caution.”