Zillow data shows owners of vacation rentals are now looking for longer-term renters

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    A house available for a seasonal rental in Avon-by-the-Sea, New Jersey.

    Scott Mlyn | CNBC

    Zillow has seen significant increases in listings for furnished rentals and rentals of six-months or less, a sign that hosts of Airbnb and other vacation properties have pivoted to the residential rental market as the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically curtailed travel. 

    Zillow’s listing for furnished rentals increased 42.8% from March 1 to May 21, the company said on Thursday. Total furnished listings were up 44% compared to the same time frame in 2019. 

    Meanwhile, listings for rentals of six months or less rose 23% between March 1 and May 21. These type of listings typically fall in March, but this year, there was a large spike around the time that shelter-in-place orders went into effect, Zillow said. 

    “With travel banned, vacation home owners may be looking to avoid the uncertainty of when the economy might open and look to get a longer term renter in their home,” Zillow Economist Joshua Clark told CNBC. “Conversely, longer term landlords may now be open to three-six month leases to appease renters who don’t want to lock into a year-long agreement.”

    Vacation rental hosts who have spoken with CNBC have said that they saw a wave of cancellations for bookings as events began to be cancelled in March and lockdown orders went into effect. Several hosts said they were pivoting their properties toward long-term rentals, and some hosts said they were looking to sell their properties

    The U.S. travel economy has lost more than $195 billion since the start of March as a result of Covid-19, according to a May 28 report from the U.S. Travel Association. 

    This move to residential rentals may not last.

    As more states end their shelter-in-place orders and re-open their economies, bookings for short-term vacation rentals are starting to rebound, according to data from AllTheRooms Analytics, which aggregates data on the vacation rental market. Airbnb occupancy over the last 30 days has rebounded 23.2%, but it is still down 31.6% compared to 2019, the firm said.

    “There are more listings and hosts on Airbnb today than there were on January 1, and the vast majority of Airbnb hosts have only one listing,” a spokesman for Airbnb told CNBC. “Last month, we announced our industry standard-setting Enhanced Cleaning Initiative and are seeing demand and bookings.”