Opinion: How the people of Queenstown are seduced by Airbnb
OPINION: There is a mutual love affair going on between Queenstown home owners and Airbnb.
About 10 per cent of dwellings in the Queenstown Lakes District are now listed on Airbnb – that is 2000 homes in the district – and its hosts earn an average of $8600 a year compared with $2900 in the rest of New Zealand.
What better way to offset a crippling mortgage or cover your rent, than have guests willing to pay a premium to be there for a few days?
You don't even need to own your own home to do it and there is serious financial motivation. In Queenstown, average house prices now sit a nudge under $1.1 million and rent for your average unfurnished three-bedroom home starts around $700.
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It doesn't need to be in a swanky area either. A lake view and walking distance to town will put your property at the top of the heap but there's hundreds of bedrooms in the suburbs also being marketed and filled via Airbnb and various other online short term accommodation facilitators.
Building a unit on to your home is the new in-thing-to-do. I know this because my family has similar plans. Our house is small. Building a unit would give us an extra bedroom for visitors (amongst the joys of living in Queenstown are the additional visitors – you can read that with or without sarcasm). While not occupied by friends or family we could lease it on Airbnb and make a bit of cash on the side.
It doesn't suit everyone and I have heard plenty of stories from people who just couldn't abide having a holidaymaker wander through their house in the their underwear, or have had guests who expected a full concierge experience. There's also the difficulty of washing sheets and cleaning the place before the next guest arrives in between work, looking after the kids and cooking dinner. I wonder if the time and materials could eat some way into that just-pocketed $150 a night.
I suspect smart people manage the short-term accommodation on their own home and maybe two or three other people's homes. Good money if you can get it.
Of course the commercial accommodation operators don't like it. They see it as a threat to their businesses and object to the large commercial rates they pay to cover the cost of the additional pressures on infrastructure every flush of the toilet brings.
Their arguments don't wash because Queenstown is undergoing a commercial accommodation crisis (as much as a residential one). Accommodation is getting so scarce, costs are increasing driving visitors elsewhere. Airbnb has actually helped fill the demand while new hotels are built.
Furthermore, any Airbnb operator is subject to the laws of the land.
In Queenstown and Wanaka that means that once you lease your property for visitor accommodation you pay an extra 25 per cent in rates. Do if for longer than 90 days a year then you require a resource consent. There are also tax implications. And because these businesses are marketing themselves online – there's a good chance you will be caught out if you're not paying your share.
The real issue with Airbnb is the reduced housing stock it brings to a market desperate for worker accommodation. The stories are real.
A recent Chamber of Commerce survey found 71 per cent of businesses are short-staffed.
The main reason – a lack of suitable housing.