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Short term, Airbnb-style rentals may be popular, but that doesn’t make them a sustainable real estate investment strategy.
Airbnb may wind up winning the legal battle for short-term rental landlords in many areas. Still, that won’t ensure the sustainability of this strategy for buy and hold or retirement investing. The high rents may be alluring to investors, and the destinations can be attractive. However, I see at least six flaws that could cause Airbnb investors a lot of pain down the road.
6 Reasons Short-Term Rentals Aren’t a Sustainable Investment Strategy
1. Short-term rentals depend on the tourism industry.
These rentals and their high rates rely on tourists and some business travelers. We’ve been through plenty of fluctuations before, where when the economy winces, tourism grinds to a halt. This could be due to terrorism, a natural disaster like a hurricane, or simply the economy tightening. That can evaporate demand for these units fast.
Related: How to Use Airbnb to Travel & Live for Free in Retirement
2. Short-term rentals create artificially high rental rates.
These types of rentals are often marketed at two to three times annual rental rates. Those rates simply aren’t affordable for local workers. This causes two issues. First, it drives out key workers like good teachers, law enforcement, service workers, and entrepreneurs, who just can’t afford to live there. This can have a long-term negative impact on a location. Secondly, these rates cause buyers and sellers to trade properties based on these artificial and often temporarily inflated incomes. When that income dries up or pauses, many landlords will find themselves underwater and in negative cash flow on an asset that is far overpriced.
3. Short-term rentals increase landlord competition.
Now that everyone can be a landlord, many are. That’s an enormous amount of competition. When things get tougher, it will be a race to the bottom of who can charge the least.
4. Short-term rental gain are often offset by high fees.
Higher rents on short-term rentals are often offset by higher management fees as well. Airbnb, VRBO (to learn more about how to rent your place and list for free on VRBO, click here), and HomeAway (click here to list your place for free on HomeAway—only pay when you get a booking) all charge fees. Professional managers can sometimes charge as much as 30% on short-term rentals.
5. Short-term rentals don’t support reliable, long-term tenants.
Savvy buy and hold investors prize long-term tenants. Investors who have tenants who stay for years save money on marketing, screening, cleanup, and turnover costs. When you rent to people only staying for a week or a month at a time, who have no vested interest in taking care of your property, that can lead to high costs for cleanup and repairs between tenants.
Related: With the First Airbnb Landlord Conviction, Should Vacation Owners Be Worried?
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6. Short-term rentals provide inconsistent cash flow.
In some popular vacation destinations, it is possible to have your unit booked out for 12 to 18 months in advance. However, most landlords will struggle to piece together the occupancy puzzle—with some tenants staying for days, others for weeks, and a few for months. Will you still be profitable if you only manage 30% occupancy for the year?
Short-term rentals are alluring. Having one in your favorite vacation destination that you may go and use for 3-6 months of the year yourself may not be a terrible idea. You’ll enjoy using it. Those can be your best returns. However, those looking for long-term, consistent passive income and optimal returns may be best served sticking with annual rentals.
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What do you think? Would you use Airbnb as a primary investment strategy? Why or why not?
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