Survey: Short-term rental dreams and nightmares

Key takeaways

  • 59% of people are more interested in taking a vacation now than they were before the pandemic
  • 45% of people are more interested in privately owned rentals than they were before the pandemic
  • Price, location and cleanliness are the three most important things to short-term renters
  • 70% of potential renters are more likely to stay in a rental with enhanced cleaning
  • 55% of potential renters are more likely to stay in a rental with clear COVID-19 policies
Surveys

Time for travel?

After more than a year of various levels of quarantine and lockdown, Americans are starting to see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. With millions of adults already fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the opportunity for travel is finally becoming a reality again. Reports show travel is already on the rise, with an even steeper increase expected into summer and fall.

For people that are desperate for a change of scene but aren't yet ready to be in a hotel full of strangers, short-term vacation rentals can provide a safer, more socially distant solution for getting away. With online searches for short-term rentals surging in Delaware, Colorado, Hawaii, and Florida, Americans are ready to start traveling again sooner rather than later.

Of course, staying in a short-term rental property can sometimes be more of a hassle than an ideal getaway. For a closer look at the state of travel today, we surveyed over 1,000 people, including general participants, renters, and property landlords, to find out who's ready to travel. Read on as we explore how long Americans are looking to get away for, what factors are most important to them in terms of choosing a short-term rental space and the kind of issues they may have run into in the past with these kinds of rental properties.

Ready to get away

More than 12 months after America went into COVID-19 lockdown, many people are ready to travel more than ever before, with over 1 in 3 respondents looking to book longer trips than they've opted for in the past.

Time for travel How do we know people are ready to start traveling again? Ninety-three percent of Americans said they were interested in a short-term rental, and 84% of people said they were interested in taking a vacation in 2021. Reasons why you might choose a short-term rental over a hotel or similar accommodation option include keeping large parties together, having the added space and amenities of a private home, and better immersion into local culture. And although the overwhelming majority of respondents said they were interested in short-term rentals for vacation purposes (91%), 20% would book a rental property as a base for visiting others, while 17% would consider short-term rentals as a form of temporary housing. In 2020, Airbnb announced an initiative to provide temporary housing through its rental properties for first responders supporting the COVID-19 pandemic. Alternatively, now that remote work is the new norm, short-term rentals can be a good way to explore a new area before moving there permanently.

Short-term rental nightmare #1

As a result of the pandemic, 45% of people said they were more interested in vacationing in a privately owned rental than they had been before, and 35% of people said they were looking to get away for a longer period of time.

What matters most in travel booking

After price and location, the most important consideration for travelers in 2021 is the cleanliness of their accommodation, even outranking convenience and size.

Personal preferences When choosing a rental property, respondents indicated the primary consideration was simple: cost. In addition to pricing (85%), other key factors in determining where to stay included the location (77%), cleanliness (61%), convenience (54%) and size (51%). Only 38% of respondents said that amenities were the most important factor in choosing accommodations.

And while the aesthetic of your lodging might not be a make-or-break factor in deciding which short-term rental property to go for, people indicated they preferred traditional (49%) and contemporary (47%) furnishing over other options including coastal and modern farmhouse. When in doubt, keep it classic rather than trying to find a way to incorporate trendy designs that may be off-putting for some. A third of renters said their ideal price range for short-term properties was between $50 and $99 a night, followed by nearly a third who said $100 to $149 a night was ideal. One in five renters said the preferred price range for a short-term rental was over $150 a night.

Short-term rental nightmare #2

Among landlords, the most popular applications for finding renters were Airbnb (75%), HomeAway (33%), FlipKey (29%) and Vrbo (26%). And for landlords thinking about how to attract renters, the factors most likely to encourage potential guests were enhanced cleaning (70%), clearly displayed COVID policies (55%), clearly communicated cleaning procedures (51%) and a lenient cancellation policy (49%).

Deep, clean peace of mind

Overall, renters considered private rentals and short-term rentals to be cleaner than the average motel and were far less likely to have encountered something gross while staying in one.

Cleanliness concerns In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, cleanliness is more important to travelers than ever before. When asked to rank how they feel about each type of rental property, respondents said they felt expensive hotels were the cleanest (90%), followed by private rentals (81%), short-term rentals (69%) and average priced hotels (64%). When asked if they'd ever encountered something disgusting, 64% reported finding something gross in a motel, followed by a discount hotel (63%) and an average priced hotel (47%).

Instead of issues with cleanliness, renters were more likely to report problems with poor internet connection (39%) and disrepair or poor maintenance (38%) when staying at a short-term rental. Ten percent of renters said they'd found something gross while staying at a short-term rental (including stains on the walls and linens), and 2% found something inappropriate, including pornography. No one wants to have to worry about cleaning something gross while traveling or necessities that don't work properly, and thankfully, 55% said their landlord was helpful in resolving their issues.

Short-term rental nightmare #3

Preparing for the future

The last year has been full of challenges no one could have seen coming. For those who are able, the opportunity to travel in 2021 may come as a welcome change of scenery, offering people the opportunity to take a break from spending so much time in their homes. And while people are excited to travel again soon, they're still incredibly conscious of COVID-19 precautions and cleanliness, which may make short-term rental properties the way to go to ensure you're getting deep cleaning and limited personal contact.

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Methodology and limitations

For this study, we surveyed 1,066 respondents. Among these, 555 had stayed in a short-term rental, 91 owned or managed short-term rentals, and 420 were representative of the general population. 482 respondents were female, 575 respondents were male, and 9 respondents identified as nonbinary or did not provide their gender.

In some cases, questions and answers have been rephrased for clarity or brevity. The data we're presenting rely on self-reporting. Potential issues with self-reported data include, but are not limited to, the following: attribution, exaggeration, telescoping and selective memory.

Fair use statement

Are your readers ready to start traveling again? Share the results of this survey with them for any noncommercial use with the inclusion of a link back to this page in your story so they have access to our full findings and methodology.

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