Search escalates for short-term beds

LIZ MCDONALD
Last updated 09:07 02/04/2012
Julia Charity
Supplied

BED SEARCH: Julia Charity, of Look After Me, a website that runs like a virtual hotel, listing people's spare rooms.

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New short-term accommodation businesses in Christchurch houses say the city needs their service but they are struggling to find beds.

At least two new short-term providers in Christchurch are looking for more houses, units and rooms for guests.

Demand is from tourists, visiting workers and locals displaced during home repairs, as well as construction and insurance companies.

The city's hotel room inventory has dropped from about 3700 before the February 2011 earthquake to 850 now, New Zealand Hotel Council figures show.

Most motels carry no-vacancy signs, and the city has a severe shortage of rental properties.

Property managers Sue and Paul Robinson, of Christchurch, set up HotelHomes in January after testing their model in other centres during last year's Rugby World Cup. They are trying to find beds in the city for overseas visitors as well as workers for three construction companies.

"We've started putting the feelers out but the biggest thing is trying to find homes," Sue Robinson said. "There's not enough long-term accommodation, so how are we going to solve the short-term accommodation crisis?

"At the moment, demand is way outstripping supply. We don't want to get into a market fight, but everyone is competing for the same bed."

Robinson declined to say how many short-term furnished rentals the company managed, but it would like to have 50 to 100 more on its books. It also provides homestay-style rooms for rent in occupied homes.

She said the industry was creating jobs in property maintenance, cleaning, gardening and laundry services.

"It's got a huge future. The first step, though, is getting the numbers up."

Robinson hoped landlords considering selling would instead join the short-term rental pool. Rents were higher at $600 to $800 a week than long-term rentals, but homes must be furnished and neat and could often be vacant.

Landlords paid management fees as a percentage or flat rate, and most rental terms were for three to six weeks.

Rotorua-based Look After Me expanded to Christchurch at the request of the Ellerslie International Flower Show last month and is staying for the rebuild.

It charges homeowners a yearly fee, listing their spare rooms on its website and handling bookings.

Owner Julia Charity, formerly of Christchurch, said it had just a handful of homes on its website now but would like 1000 within a year.

Charity described the concept as a virtual hotel, with the website acting as a reception desk and people everywhere providing rooms.

She said renting spare rooms could provide a supplementary income for people who had lost work since the quakes, and homes and hosts were thoroughly vetted.

"I think Christchurch is in a very unique situation to make the best of this," she said.

"We need to bring tourists back to the city.

"And for big employees, instead of just putting their new recruits into a hotel room, why not put them in a real house with real people?"

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- The Press

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