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Insight – London agency reveals return to long-lets as Airbnb landlords seek tenants

The effects of coronavirus on the short-lets market is continuing to see Airbnb landlords and the like switching back to long-term lets.

Leading estate agent Winkworth says that flats and houses once let through platforms such as Airbnb and Booking.com, often with 'Insta-worthy' interiors, are returning to the market as long-term lets as Covid-19 continues to have a major impact on the short-let sector. The restrictions on travel, tourism and business during lockdowns across the globe have proved devastating to an industry which relies on these things to function and succeed.

Dominic Agace, chief executive at Winkworth, said that many of the 60 Winkworth offices across London, part of a nationwide network of 100 offices, have reported an increase in landlords looking for longer lettings for properties. Before, these homes had been occupied by tourists and corporate tenants.  

“These attractive flats and houses in good locations would have been filled with Airbnb and other short-stay tenants,” Agace said. “They are now standing empty as a result of the ban on international travel and tourism.  We are seeing landlords, some of whom were customers before the short-lets boom, coming to us for expert advice to find long-term tenants.”

Tom Street, the regional lettings manager for Winkworth estate agents in Shoreditch, Islington and Highbury, said the first signs of the trend for short-term lets returning to becoming long lettings started in March, just before the lockdown was introduced.

“We are working with landlords who had been using Airbnb or letting to corporate tenants,” Street commented. “The scale of short-lets across Shoreditch, Islington and Highbury is huge and demand for them has just dropped off a cliff.” 

He added: “We are currently handling a block of multiple flats in the Brick Lane area, which is very popular with tourists and these were let on Airbnb. They are all empty and we will be offering them for long lets. We have another landlord in Islington with five properties, which were formerly short-lets and will be available for longer lettings. Around 25% of our lettings are former short-lets.”

He insisted there are some great deals to be found on ‘Instagram-worthy properties’. These very attractively dressed lettings, with bed linen, crockery and pictures on the walls, are all fully equipped to hotel standards.  

“We are offering video or FaceTime tours on empty properties for tenants and virtual valuations for landlords, in line with government guidelines. However, we are expecting to see significant pent-up demand released once we are able to conduct proper viewings again.”

Max Chaudry, lettings director of Winkworth Knightsbridge, Chelsea and Belgravia, has also witnessed a return of landlords seeking long-term lets. The offices handle lettings ranging from an average of £300 a week to £25,000 a week in the capital’s plushest districts.

“We have been contacted by landlords who have been offering short lets for the past five years on Airbnb, Booking.com and other platforms. They are now looking for long-term tenants as their properties are empty,” Chaudry said.

“In this area, there are entire blocks owned by landlords who were offering short-let serviced apartments. We have also had international tenants at university or school in England, who returned to their home countries at the end of the spring term and they are not coming back. They have left clothes and belongings behind that will need to be couriered to them.”

Charles Peerless, director of Winkworth’s West End offices, said the short-term lettings and, most significantly, the daily and weekly rentals have been decimated.  

“I don’t see this changing until international travel and tourism returns. I have a client who has been in the short-term lettings market, with many properties across London, who will be renting out the properties on long-term lettings.”

Airbnb, a travel and tourism-reliant company which has been one of the worst hit by coronavirus, recently announced that it was laying off 25% of its workforce - albeit with support measures in place to support these laid off staff. You can read the message CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky sent to Airbnb employees here

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