Airbnb is in an interesting position: These super hosts provide a good experience to guests, but they present problems when it comes to local regulations and the brand’s sharing-economy-is-good-for-little-guy narrative.
Editor’s Note: This is second in a series of data dives into Airbnb’s listings in New York City. We believe Airbnb vs NYC is the defining fight of the sharing economy, and some understanding of how the platform’s being used will help clear up the laws as they change. Part one here.
These are the hosts that Airbnb would rather not talk about, and the New York State Attorney General may like to have a chat with.
They’re the hosts that don’t appear in Airbnb case studies, or show up on marketing materials from the Peers lobbying group. They don’t fit the narrative of the sharing economy, mainly because they operate on Airbnb like entrepreneurs.
These 10 people run 313 units in the city. That’s a drop in the bucket when you consider that there are over 19,000 listings in New York City. But hosts who have more than one listing in New York on Airbnb represent 30% of the total inventory on the site, according to data collected for Skift by Connotate, a data extraction and monitoring firm.
[Update April 22: Airbnb removed 8 of the 10 hosts from the site prior to a hearing before a judge who would rule whether Airbnb must honor a subpoena from the state Attorney General for some user records in New York City.]
Some of these hosts rent multiple units in the same apartment building, some have rentals spread throughout Manhattan, and one even has a (possibly) legal hotel.
It should be noted that these hosts often market their listings on other websites — like Craigslist, Yelp, and TripAdvisor — and are not exclusive to Airbnb. And while their multiple listings may go against the narrative that Airbnb has driven home about its users, they aren’t necessarily breaking the law in New York, although it appears many of their listings wouldn’t pass muster in a hearing with the city’s Environmental Control Board.
|Host Name||Number of Units||Neighborhoods||Number of Reviews|
|NY Furnished Rentals||80||Upper East Side and Midtown||1,347|
|Ray & Russ||31||Bushwick and Bed-Stuy||250|
|John and Lucy||29||Lower East Side and Chinatown||890|
|Metro Apartment NY, Inc||24||Midtown||452|
|Eran||20||Upper East to Lower East Side||86|
Dana in Brooklyn may be a host that both critics and proponents can agree on. He uses Airbnb as a marketing platform for The Box House Hotel in the Greenpoint neighborhood. Unlike other users that call their converted homes “guest houses” or “hotels,” the Box House is classified as a hotel by the Department of Finance, and the certificate of occupancy confirms this. The hotel did not respond to questions from Skift.
But Dana is in the minority here.
What the Hosts Look Like
NY Furnished Rentals, which has 80 listings, states on its profile that it provides furnished rentals for 30 days or more, but it’s possible to book for fewer days. The sheer volume of user reviews is a sign of how active the host’s listings are.
Metro Apartment NY, Inc states on its profile page that all of its units are legal. Photos and user feedback point to this being a residential building on 46th St where multiple units have been converted for transient use. There are numerous notes on the listings that photos are representative of the type of accommodations available in the building.
Ray & Russ are operating a hostel in Bushwick. With rooms priced under $29 it’s popular with students who don’t mind sharing a room with a few other budget travelers. Users praise it for being cheap, and also complain about it being dirty. Considering the challenges required to set up a hostel in New York City, and the lack of a listing on Hostelworld, it’s likely that they are not permitted to operate in the city.
Eran lists 20 properties in Manhattan from the Upper East to the Lower East sides. Like a mini-Toshi, he’s more real estate agent than host. And from the wealth of positive user reviews he appears to be doing a good job. “I needed to find a temporary apartment for a few weeks upon moving to New York,” reads on guest’s review. “Eran was an excellent host, arranging for someone to meet me upon my arrival in Manhattan from the airport.”
John and Lucy have a similar business. They have 29 properties in Manhattan and an enviable 890 user reviews that praise the hosts for their attention to detail and prompt replies to problems. “John and Lucy were great at responding to my emails and telling me about the whole process. Everything went smoothly from check-in to check-out,” one review reads.
The other hosts have similar types of listings, from lofts that have been subdivided into private rooms to multiple studio, 1-bedroom, and 2-bedroom apartments spread throughout the city.
Yesterday, Airbnb responded to a list of questions from Skift about its users with the statement “87 percent of Airbnb hosts in New York share only the home in which they live.”
A Note About Numbers
Airbnb’s main New York City page says it has 34,020 listings spread between 60 neighborhoods. This is different than our total of under 20,000 listings. It appears that this discrepancy is due to Airbnb counting listings twice that are in overlapping neighborhoods. For instance, on the site all locations in the South Street Seaport area are also listed in the Financial District.