Airbnb, HomeAway & Wimdu Outperform Traditional Long-Term Lets

23 February 2017 – El Confidencial

Traditional rental agreements (…), which are governed in Spain by the Urban Rental Act (LAU) and which allow a tenant to live in a home for an extended period of time, are starting to become scarce in some very specific areas of large cities such as Madrid and Barcelona. They are falling victim to the unstoppable progress of so-called tourist apartments or short-stay lets (available on a daily, weekly or monthly basis), which have grown like wildfire in recent years, thanks to the development of platforms such as Airbnb, HomeAway, Wimdu, Niumba, Rentalia and Booking.

Users consider that these assets offer a much more flexible and economic alternative than the product offered by the hotel sector. Meanwhile, homeowners have found a business niche and are generating extra income both from their own homes and from properties acquired as investments. Moreover, their yields are ranging between 4% and 8%, which is well above those offered by other traditional investment products at the moment, including traditional rental properties.

To give us an idea of the volumes being handled by these types of platforms, Airbnb has 13,000 online adverts in the city of Madrid, whilst Idealista has 8,700 adverts for rental homes. In Barcelona, the online platform has 20,000 adverts compared with 6,400 on the real estate portal.

Nevertheless, the problem is limited to very specific locations, such as Malasaña and Chueca in Madrid and Las Ramblas and El L’Eixample in Barcelona. There it is almost impossible to find a long-term rental home. As such, the few products that do come onto the market are leased in a matter of hours and at much higher prices than they were just a couple of years ago. (…).

Rental prices in Malasaña now rarely fall below €800 for a one-bedroom flat measuring just 40m2, but on average, homes there cost between €1,200 and €1,300 per month. On the real estate portal Idealista, there are a few 60m2 flats for rent, for which the owners are asking €2,700/month and even €3,500/month for luxury properties.

Emergence of individual investors

Airbnb defends the “home-sharing” concept, saying that it does not remove available housing from the market because people who live in these homes are still around, they are just sharing their primary residences. Some of these people are using the money to pay for their housing costs”, says the platform. “Studies have been carried out in several cities around the world, showing that the number of homes advertised on Airbnb for exclusively professional use is too low to have any impact on the housing market”.

Nevertheless, the high returns offered by tourist apartments have led many individuals and small-time investors to buy homes in these areas, to subsequently sell them or rent them to tourists. Specifically, individual investors are behind 3 out of every 10 house sales in Madrid, according to data from Tecnocasa. (…).

A very localised phenomenon

What is happening in Malasaña is also being seen on some other very specific streets both in Madrid and Barcelona, where rental prices have really soared. According to Urban Data Analytics, rental prices have risen by more than 20% in neighbourhoods such as Sant Andreu and Sants-Montjuïc, and by 15% in areas such as Gràcia, where prices decreased slightly during the crisis. (…).

According to Bankinter, in its latest report about the Spanish residential sector, these price increases will not last forever. “In our opinion, these double-digit increases, which are driven by a shortage of supply and the boom in tourist rentals, will not last in the long term, nor will they spread to the market as a whole, especially if new legislation is introduced to limit the number of tourist homes a given owner may rent out”.

Sources at Airbnb insist that “The increases in house and rental prices are due to normal factors at play in the real estate market, including: the high demand to live in cities, the appeal of real estate as investment property, the lack of space to build new developments…also, the pressure on house prices is not just being seen in Barcelona, it is happening in all of the large cities around the world (….). House prices were rising before Airbnb ever existed (…)”.

Original story: El Confidencial (by E. Sanz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Tourist Sector Hits Back At Airbnb, HomeAway & Niumba

18 May 2015 – Expansión

The sector is demanding a stronger institutional fight against the intermediaries. The Government says that each region is responsible for its own response.

The main Spanish tourism companies have teamed up in an offensive with the aim of limiting the power of the proliferation of unregulated tourist rental accommodation, which do not pay taxes and do not meet the safety, hygiene and space requirements and other guarantees offered by legal accommodation. The sector wants to curb the platforms (websites such as Airbnb, 9flats, Wimdu, Rentalia, Niumba and HomeAway, amongst others) that make money by acting as intermediaries. And to that end, it has been pressuring the Spanish Government for some time to prohibit them, since they think that the autonomous communities are not fulfilling their regulatory duties.

Over the last few months, the tourism association Exceltur, whose members include prestigious companies such as NH, Melia, Iberia, American Express, Hotusa and Globalia, has been holding conversations with the Secretary of State for Tourism (who reports into the Ministry for Industry, Energy and Tourism). Exceltur thinks that the Executive “could do a lot more” to regulate the operations of these rental companies, which it considers are unfair competition and which threaten its business. The main trade association for Spanish hoteliers, Cehat, estimates that between 2010 and 2013, the number of customers staying at these establishments increased by 300%, and it calculates that the number of foreign tourists who use them represents more than 20% of the total.

To support its position, Exceltur has commission the consultancy firm EY (Ernst & Young) to conduct a study analysing the impact that this illegal rental accommodation is having on the tourism sector as a whole, not just on the hotel segment. To date, EY has prepared a report about the consequences for the Balearic Islands if this rental accommodation continues to grow at its current rate over the next ten years. According to its calculations, the hotel sector would lose between 5,000 and 13,000 jobs and forgo a gross added value of between €211 million and €529 million.

Regional jurisdiction

The Government says that tourism is a regional jurisdiction, and so the Central Administration cannot do much beyond trying to standardise the regional regulations as much as possible. Moreover, the upcoming regional and general elections are likely to scupper any attempt at reform.

To date, the regions that have endeavoured to do the most to regulate tourist rental accommodation are Madrid and Cataluña, although the former received a blow from the National Competition and Markets Commission (CNMC) in March when it ruled that the Madrid law (which only allows accommodation to be rented provided the minimum stay is five days) is a barrier to free competition.

Meanwhile, the Catalan Generalitat requires intermediary websites to ensure that each property offered for rent has a kind of identification number plate to accredit it as accommodation with its license in order. Last summer, Cataluña imposed a fine of €300,000 on the web portal Airbnb for allegedly failing to comply with that standard.

On an international level, cities are taking a variety of decisions. Thus, for example, New York has declared war on tourist rental accommodation, with coordinated teams of tax inspectors, police and lawyers; and the town hall of Amsterdam has just approved an agreement with Airbnb, which requries the platform to coordinate the collection of the tourist tax that is applicable to the activities of its users.

The so-called “collaborative economy” represents a real headache for legislators, both in Spain and across Europe. In Spain, Article 16 of the Law for Information Society Services (2002) states that intermediaries (such as Airbnb, Uber and others) are not liable for the possible unlawfulness of the people they host, unless they have specific knowledge thereof. Meanwhile, the European Commission is drafting a directive that may ease restrictions on the European market and facilitate the activity of these platforms.

Original story: Expansión (by Yago González)

Translation: Carmel Drake