Average Singapore Airbnb host 'makes about $5,000 a year'

An Airbnb office meeting room is designed to look like one of its hosts’ home. Home-sharing business Airbnb, which set up its regional headquarters in Singapore in 2012, has about 7,000 property listings here as of November 2016.
An Airbnb office meeting room is designed to look like one of its hosts’ home. Home-sharing business Airbnb, which set up its regional headquarters in Singapore in 2012, has about 7,000 property listings here as of November 2016.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Airbnb's Mr Persaud says safety is the No. 1 priority for the firm and it has a slew of measures to tackle the issue, including a verified identification process for guests and hosts and reviews for both parties.
Airbnb's Mr Persaud says safety is the No. 1 priority for the firm and it has a slew of measures to tackle the issue, including a verified identification process for guests and hosts and reviews for both parties.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Mr John Kim, president of Texas-based vacation rental site HomeAway, said that complaints about disturbances from guests are "very much the exception".
Mr John Kim, president of Texas-based vacation rental site HomeAway, said that complaints about disturbances from guests are "very much the exception".ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

S'pore data shared by firm for first time shows local home or room let out for 45 nights a year

The average Singapore Airbnb host who lets out his home or room makes about $5,000 a year. On average, he receives guests for 45 nights a year.

"There is a thought that this is a full-time occupation," Airbnb's Asia-Pacific regional director Julian Persaud told The Straits Times last week. "(But) the average amount of time our hosts are renting out is like three or four days a month."

These hosts are doing it despite the fact that home-sharing in Singapore has yet to be given the green light by the authorities. In Singapore, home rentals shorter than six months are deemed illegal. Because of this, home-sharing businesses like Airbnb - whose hosts overseas can rake in thousands of dollars in rentals a month - have had to tread a fine line here.

Worries over the side effects of home-sharing have also plagued the sector, with residents raising concerns about safety and noise from transient tourists in their backyard. Hotels have also questioned hygiene and safety standards of unregulated accommodation.

Revealing its Singapore numbers for the first time, Mr Persaud stressed that safety is the "No. 1" priority for Airbnb.

"The most important to us is the safety of our community. And if we don't have that, we don't have a business," he said, adding that the portal has a slew of measures to mitigate any potential issues. These include a verified identification process for guests and hosts and reviews for both parties.

In June, it also rolled out a new Neighbour Tool which allows neighbours of hosts to flag any concerns they have about Airbnb listings. When asked for the number of reported cases via this tool here, Mr Persaud said it was "negligible".

Airbnb, which set up its regional headquarters in Singapore in 2012, has about 7,000 property listings here as of last month. Some 242,400 visitors have checked into Airbnb lodgings here in the past year.

Mr Persaud added that problems arising from Airbnb arrangements are generally rare. Of the 17 million tourists who used Airbnb globally from May to July this year, there were fewer than 300 urgent customer service calls, he said.

Mr John Kim, president of Texas-based vacation rental site HomeAway, also said that complaints about disturbances from guests are "very much the exception". HomeAway, which comes under parent company Expedia, focuses on whole-home rentals.

Public sentiment is likely to feature prominently in the debate on whether home-sharing in Singapore will be given the green light.

Last year, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) ran a public consultation to see if there was a need to review short-term rental rules for private housing. It said in May this year that it needs more time to study the matter as views are split. Those in favour of short rentals argue that it can help boost tourism and cultural exchanges between hosts and guests.

Noting that most Airbnb listings (78 per cent) are outside main tourist areas such as Orchard, Mr Persaud said home rentals can bring tourist dollars into other areas.

"We're very keen for them (the URA) to... make a ruling on it because I think our guests, hosts and community here of Singaporeans who want to rent out their homes on an occasional basis... are looking for clarity," he said.

The Government has hinted that there could be room for regulations to co-exist with home-sharing here. National Development Minister Lawrence Wong told The Straits Times in October that while he understands the misgivings about home-sharing, attitudes may change and Singapore is not closing the door on it.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at the Apec CEO Summit in Peru last month that old rules may no longer be relevant to disruptive economic activities such as Airbnb, but stressed that rules are still required.

Mr Persaud said his company hopes to adopt a collaborative approach with regulators here on private housing. He said: "We know in Singapore, it's a unique situation (due to) the housing stock (where private housing makes up only 20 per cent of Singapore homes).

"It's very different from most of the world... and we're very cognisant of that. We, as a company... have a broad mission where people can belong. And... the last thing we want to do is to cause any sort of issues in the local community."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 06, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore Airbnb host 'makes about $5,000 a year''. Print Edition | Subscribe