Once upon a time, Airbnb was simply a way for well-meaning homeowners to make a bit of cash to support themselves and their families while they went on holiday. But as the property-sharing startup has grown, it's become an entirely different beast. Granted, Airbnb is efficient, convenient and does a huge amount of social good, but it now also enables many rich people to get even richer.
Case in point: the yearly earnings of the world's "most successful" Airbnb landlord have just been revealed and – surprise, surprise – they made their riches in London. According to Airbnb analysts AirDNA, they earned an eye-watering £11.9 million in the last year by renting out their 881 properties in the capital, the Telegraph reported. Even for those of us used to paying through the nose to rent in London, it's a shocking sum and goes some way towards explaining the shortage of affordable homes available to Londoners.
The second highest-earning landlord in the last 12 months made their moolah – £11.8 million of it – by renting out 504 properties in Bali, the research found. Property owners in cities including Cape Town, Sydney, Paris and Barcelona also raked in at least £1 million by renting dozens of properties, reported the Telegraph.
Scott Shatford, the CEO of AirDNA, which compiled the data, said it was evidence that Airbnb is "no longer a community just for individuals renting out their space or properties on their own.” Instead, property management companies are now advertising as many as 1,000 listings on their accounts.
“These numbers don’t show a multimillionaire sitting on a gold mine. These are businesses that have emerged in this new economy, with hundreds of employees, managing other people’s second homes,” he said.
While London plays host to Airbnb's highest-earning landlord, the capital isn't actually the most lucrative place for individual hosts. That crown goes to Bali, where the average Airbnb user makes £31,294 – equivalent to a pretty decent salary in the UK, followed by Tokyo, where hosts make £27,581.
Meanwhile, London hosts make an average of £16,003 – significantly more than the £3,000 a typical UK host made in the last year by renting out their home for three nights per month, the Telegraph reported.
The data isn't only shocking, it's also terrible news for those of us who use Airbnb as an alternative to traditional hotels, said Shatford. “These people want to meet people, and for them it’s getting harder and harder to decipher what is a corporate rental hotel against the one where Jane is going to meet you at the door and tell you all about the cool things to do in town.” While nearly two thirds (65%) of Airbnb users are still individuals, according to AirDNA, the rest are property management companies and the proportion of these is growing rapidly.
Airbnb defended itself by saying the vast majority of its hosts "are regular people who share their homes - typically their greatest expense - to boost their income and support their families", reported the Telegraph. In addition, London recently introduced hosting limits which mean that entire homes now cannot be shared for more than 90 days at a time, the company pointed out.
“The Airbnb model is unique and empowers regular people, boosts local communities and is subject to local tax. It also makes Airbnb fundamentally different to companies that take large sums of money out of the places they do business," a company spokesperson insisted. Let's hope it stays that way.