What happens when AirBnB comes to the suburbs? It’s a tricky question, since AirBnB is primarily associated with areas that are heavy tourist draws, which suburbs generally are not.
Sure, they might thrive seasonally – for example, in residential neighborhoods near a college, where hotels tend to book up quickly near graduation – but the rest of the time, it seems like they would mostly sit empty, right? It turns out that recent shifts indicate this might not be the case.
Even before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people were working remotely than ever. That meant that people had more freedom to change locations and travel on their own schedules, a change that AirBnB took notice of.
As the company’s CEO put it in a recent announcement, “People aren’t just traveling on Airbnb; they are now living on Airbnb.” As a result, the company is planning for a lot more domestic travel, specifically travel oriented toward family gatherings and smaller attractions and locales.
Profit and Process
If property owners and managers are interested in developing a profitable AirBnB operation in a suburban location, they’ll have to do more work than homeowners in larger, more central areas. No one needs to tell travelers why they want to come to New York City or Houston; there’s plenty of information out there.
More to the point, millions of travelers have already visited these urban metro areas and will continue to do so. Suburbs, on the other hand, can leverage their proximity to cities, but they need to offer more than just that.
Suburban AirBnBs: Close-Up on Strategy
What does it take for suburban AirBnBs to succeed beyond mere niche scenarios? There might be multiple routes to success, but one approach that can be particularly fruitful is employing a property management service for your short-term rentals.
A property management service is better equipped to handle year-round traffic, rather than brief, seasonal openings, and to do the promotional work of “selling” the property to potential visitors. In addition, now that so many people travel while also working, property managers can ensure that their clients provide the right services and tools for remote workers, such as access to high-speed Internet services and printers.
Outperforming the Hotel Sector
One of the major advantages suburban AirBnBs have over hotels is that they let families spread out, prepare their own meals, and even enjoy open space, like a backyard or even a pool. This is ideal for people who want to visit relatives who live in the area but who don’t have room to host them.
We’re likely to see a spike in such travel over the coming months as people reunite with relatives they haven’t seen in more than a year. This is also ideal for families that prefer a more low-key holiday: one focused on spending time with each other, instead of rushing from one tourist attraction to another.
The Conversion Option
Despite the growth and diversification we’ve seen in the AirBnB industry in recent years, one final salient factor makes testing the waters in the suburbs worth a try: the ability to convert to long-term housing. As it stands, many already worry about how AirBnB afffects local rental markets and because of this, they’re regulated differently in various regions.
When you offer a property as an AirBnB in a suburban area, you’re taking a risk because you can’t guarantee there will be sufficient traffic to make the property profitable … but there’s nearly always a demand for housing in these zones. That means that, if you try to run a property as an AirBnB and it doesn’t succeed, you always have the option to convert it into a long-term rental.
You could also choose to diversify your holdings, with both AirBnB and long-term rentals under the same management in the same general region, so you can adjust your offerings based on the demand over time.
Not every suburb can support short-term rental properties, but many areas can, so it may be quite reasonable to test the waters. Be prepared either to take a financial hit or be overwhelmed by demand.
It could go either way or some outcome in between, but you won’t know what’s possible unless you give it a try.
Photo by Jamie McCaffrey on Flickr – Some Rights Reserved
Guest Author Bio
Jamie is a freelance writer who covers trends in business, technology, and health. She loves to go skiing, camping, and rock climbing with her family.
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