Rental lodging

Airbnb restrictions make home exchange more attractive


The rules and laws governing Airbnb are a contentious subject in many cities around the world. There’s a lot of concern about the impact of short-term rentals on housing availability and price. Some studies have validated this affect. And of course the hotel industry doesn’t like short term rentals stealing their clients. Some also complain that a concentration of Airbnb rentals leads parts of popular tourist cities to become tourist ghettoes, with loud obnoxious tourists making life unpleasant for locals.

To address these problems, some cities are enacting restrictions on peer-to-peer rental lodging. And as the laws become clearer, and home rentals become more mainstream, Airbnb is becoming more compliant with city demands. This means it’s harder for people listing on Airbnb to skirt the regulations.

Common restrictions on rentals include:

  • Hosts can only list their primary residence.
  • Rentals are restricted to a specific number or days per year (60, 90, 180).
  • People must register and pay for a license before they can list a home on Airbnb.

A few examples of city laws that have been enacted recently:

  • In New York Airbnb rentals are not allowed in buildings with 3 or more units unless the owner is present during the rental.
  • In Austin a short term rental can’t be used by more than 6 unrelated adults, regardless of the size of the home.
  • Tokyo hosts must register and pay for a permit to operate an  Airbnb rental.
  • Barcelona requires hosts to apply for a license, which will be rejected if the home is in an area considered saturated with tourist accommodations.

Airbnb is starting to cooperate with cities, proving access to data that will allow easier enforcement of these regulations. For instance, after facing a hefty €600,000 fine in 2016 (which Airbnb still hasn’t paid), Barcelona and Airbnb came to an agreement on data sharing this past June.

I expect we will see more and more regulations restricting Airbnb type rentals. If you just want to rent out your primary residence for a few months the year while you’re away, I think you’ll be fine. And those renting out a spare room on Airbnb while they are at home will also likely survive the new laws. These activities don’t have much impact on rental stock. Further, the positive effect of helping home owners pay their mortgage should encourage more home ownership. But opportunities are shrinking in prime tourist cities for those making a lot of money listing rental property on Airbnb.

Will Airbnb regulations lead to more home exchanging?

I think there’s an overlap between people who run Airbnb rentals and those who do home exchanges. I’ve stayed in some second homes on points-based swaps. They were clearly set up for Airbnb rental use as well. Some folks even link to their Airbnb profile in their home swap listing. As cities crack down on second home Airbnb use, owners will have more incentive to home exchange to get greater value out of their property.

Those who bought specifically to profit off of Airbnb probably won’t get enough value out of home swapping, unless they decide to switch to a nomadic lifestyle. I bet it’s possible to live most of the year in home exchanges if you have a property you’re making available for swap full time. Especially if that property is in a desirable city like New York or Sydney. For people who like to travel a lot, this might be a fun lifestyle. I think the big home exchange networks should suggest this as a challenge to their members, maybe offering some incentive and using the story for publicity.

There are no regulations on how long you can let guests stay in your home, or how often you can host guests, when you aren’t charging money. And I don’t see any reason to expect more restrictive laws will be enacted. It will be interesting to see if home swapping can lure in some of these now-restricted Airbnb hosts. For those who were traveling anyway, home exchange means earning back the money they were previously spending on hotels.

1 Comment

  • Definitely a topic I think about a lot… there’s no way cities can regulate home rentals, exchange, swapping among closed/private networks. The growth of those activities is something I see as inevitable, as regulations increase.