Buzz has been building around short-term rentals for the better part of a decade, thanks to companies like Vrbo and Airbnb offering flexibility in travel with all the comforts of home. Sometimes referred to as monthly, vacation, sublet, or corporate rentals, most of the attention on the subject goes to “Millennials” living a nomadic life.
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Research & Reports
Buzz has been building around short-term rentals for the better part of a decade, thanks to companies like Vrbo and Airbnb offering flexibility in travel with all the comforts of home. Sometimes referred to as monthly, vacation, sublet, or corporate rentals, most of the attention on the subject goes to “Millennials” living a nomadic life. Where young people who work remotely move from place to place and live in short-term rentals to experience different parts of North America—and even the world. With no commitments, ultimate flexibility, and the ability to work remotely, it’s easy to see why this lifestyle is so appealing.
But there’s more to short-term rentals than just transient, trendsetting early adopters. A variety of people use them for various purposes, and understanding those people and intentions expands our view of what short-term rentals are and what they can become.
To gain more insight, Zumper conducted two surveys of short-term rental users—one in 2021 and another in 2022—and found that monthly rentals are more than just a fad for young people but an integral part of the housing for millions of people in the United States and Canada.
Short-term rentals are in demand.
To say monthly rentals are in demand is an understatement, but the usage pattern shows how often people move from one to the other and how many rentals they stay in during a year. Zumper’s 2021 survey revealed that 49 percent of users remain in one unit between two and six months, suggesting that the migratory pattern doesn’t churn as quickly as one might think.
Reinforcing that conclusion is that 71 percent said they stay in one to two monthly rentals per year. These results suggest that short-term rental users stay in fewer places for longer than the “nomad life” moniker suggests.
Demand is coming from more places than you think.
What do people use short-term rentals for? It turns out nomad lifers are only one piece of the puzzle. In Zumper’s 2022 survey of monthly renters, only 12.3 percent of respondents said they use short-term rentals for nomad life, while 35.2 percent said they use them to accommodate a temporary gap in housing, by far the most common use. The housing gaps can result from a recent move or renovations at their home, among other things.
Monthly renters also use them for work travel, as 21.3 percent said that was why they used short-term rentals. Think of a traveling nurse or someone whose job is location-specific but at multiple locations. Rounding out the use cases were people scouting locations before a move (19.4 percent) and students who didn’t want to commit for an entire year (8.1 percent).
What do monthly renters look for in a short-term rental?
Given that digital nomads are only a tiny segment of monthly renters, it makes sense that short-term rental users would have different preferences when looking at properties. Given that most monthly renters are accommodating a gap in housing or using them for work travel, the things they look for the most are related to the logistics of day-to-day living.
In Zumper’s 2022 survey, we asked monthly renters to rank what was most important to them. The item with the highest score was Wi-Fi, followed by a fully equipped kitchen. Next was an in-unit washer and dryer, and then a living room or shared room for relaxing. The lowest scores were office spaces, followed by backyard and pet-friendly policies.
But monthly renters aren’t finding what they’re looking for
While demand is growing for short-term rentals, there’s ample evidence that this demand is not being met, at least not in the way monthly renters want. In Zumper’s 2021 survey, almost 50 percent said they’re not sure where even to find monthly rentals, suggesting that there’s a need for a go-to platform that caters to these renters.
Monthly renters complained that fees and rents associated with traditional vacation rental sites were too high for people who need to rent on a longer timeline. The third most common issue was that short-term rental users found keeping up with family and friends challenging when on the road. Another 23.1 percent said they were concerned about safety.