Airbnb Listings in San Francisco, December 2014

According to a new Legislative Analyst’s report, an estimated 25 to 50 percent of all Airbnb listings in San Francisco are for “commercially hosted” units, units which are continuously rented on a short-term basis and never occupied by their owners, “removing housing units that would otherwise be available for the long-term rental market.”

Based on the number of short-term listings versus available rental stock, the areas which are most impacted by commercial hosts in San Francisco are: the Inner Mission, the Haight-Ashbury/Western Addition, the Castro/Eureka Valley and Potrero Hill/South Beach.

And based on the findings, the City’s Budget and Legislative Analysts have four policy recommendations for San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, recommendations which should look rather familiar but were mostly ignored by the Board when the supervisors voted to legalized short-term rentals in the city:

  1. Enact legislation requiring hosting platforms to provide host address information and booking information on a quarterly basis for enforcement purposes.
  2. Enact legislation requiring hosting platforms to only list units and hosts that are registered with the City.
  3. Enact legislation limiting the number of un-hosted nights allowed per year.
  4. Amend the Planning Code to allow the Planning Department to levy fines on platforms that list unregistered hosts.

79 thoughts on “Analyst’s Airbnb Findings And Recommendations For San Francisco”
  1. You guys can use these for bumper stickers. I got ’em for days:

    “If we criminalize homestay providers, only the criminals will provide homestays.”

    “Homestay providers don’t displace long term residents, tourists do.”

    “You can try to take my homestay listing whenever, but you’ll have to pull it from my slow-dripped coffee encircling pudgy fingers.”

    “Looks like another encroachment on my rights by HOMEBAMA”

  2. Love those dots in Bayview/Hunters Point.

    I imagine some tourists didn’t quite the experience of SF living that they anticipated.

    1. Wow. Racist much?

      No comment about other poor neighborhoods. No comment about Italian neighborhoods. No comment about Asian neighborhoods. No comment about Hispanic neighborhoods.

      But you feel the need to comment that a poor black neighborhood is not a authentic San Francisco experience – even though the people and the neighborhood have been there for 100 years?

      1. That is the poorest, most crime ridden neighborhood. I don’t think he was thinking about race.

      2. Wow. Miss the point much? Knee-jerk much? Paint with a broad brush much? See racism in things that aren’t racist much?

        The point is crime. Tourists usually have no idea of what all of the different areas of a city are like. They might know a little about the most popular areas, but know nothing about where the highest crime rates are. I’m only guessing, but I suspect that a naïve tourist who is thinking about cable cars and Fisherman’s Wharf doesn’t know what he or she is getting into when they sign up for an Air BNB room in a high-crime area.

        I’m also guessing that the Air BNB hosts who list places in high-crime areas don’t mention that they are.

        1. Oh yeah, let’s all play dumb, like the racial angle wasn’t exactly what ecce was referring to!

          1. Huh? Obama is black? I thought he was half-white.

            Look, the mind sees what it wants to see. If you want/need to play the race card, go on and admit doing so. When I look at people, I see socio-economic class. And I have an excellent hunch that once you get up to the higher levels, everyone (regardless of race) is pretty much the same in terms of goals, wants, and needs. Same with the other end of the spectrum. Life is too short to get bogged down with racial issues. Next thing you know, you will be dead without accomplishing a single worthwhile thing.

      3. The neighborhood has existed for longer than 100 years. However, it did not become a primarily African-American neighborhood until approximately the early 1960’s. Also, a 100 years ago, the neighborhood would have been viewed primarily as a sleepy backwater of the city.

        Whether or not you think the original poster’s comments were rude, they certainly were not “racist.” Also, there absolutely NOTHING in the comment that said the Bayview was “not an authentic San Francisco experience.” It is not a desirable neighborhood to visit or live in, but it is a neighborhood that exists in San Francisco, so by definition it is “authentic.”

        Moreover, there was no reference at all to race in the original comments. A high-crime neighborhood that is mostly devoid of anything 99% of tourists would want to see is what it is, regardless of what ethnic group or race lives in the neighborhood. Your point seems to be that simply because the neighborhood is known in contemporary times for being a “poor black neighborhood,”(there is actually a fairly high number of Asian people that live in the neighborhood, too) this somehow means no one should state the simple fact that for most tourists, regardless of their color, it is not considered a desirable neighborhood to visit.

        1. Aren’t the BV AirBnBs cheaper to rent per night by virtue of the fact it is an undesirable neighborhood? I doubt it could command Mission or Pac Height prices. So you have these budget conscious or naive tourists learning the lesson “there is no such thing as a free lunch.”

        2. I’m white. My family is white. We’re being OMI evicted (for the 3rd time) and moving from Bernal to Bayview. We’ll be renting additional rooms for short-term tenants. I don’t think our new neighborhood is shitty. All the neighbors I’ve met are exceedingly kind and polite. We love that we have an easy bike route to downtown and the K/T line if we want to use public transit. It’s a hidden gem, IMHO.

    1. I don’t think that’s really true – because then the most over-listed neighborhoods would likely be the Tenderloin and Chinatown. Instead we have a map that seems closely correlated with neighborhood cost of living / desirability (more rentals in the trendiest hoods).

      1. Most of ofTenderloin and Chinatown residences are SRO hotels where short-term rental is prohibited.

        1. Most airbnbs are in buildings where short-term is prohibited (by law) but people continue to do so if they think they can make $.

    2. No, actually they are distributed proportional to neighborhood desirability. There’s lots of AIRBNB density in the Castro, Haight, Noe Valley, Marina and Pacific Heights. These aren’t necessarily the densest neighborhoods in the City, but they are desirable to tourists. Nob hill is dense on both measures. Looks like there is very little in the Tenderloin, which IS one of the densest neighborhoods.

        1. yeah, I may have been misreading the map a bit, but I was thinking of eastern Pacific Heights, where there are more apartment buildings.

  3. What is amazing is that the city is spending a fortune on studying and addressing the SYMPTOMS while not giving one hoot about the cause of the problem.

    Rent control is the problem. The rest is just people trying to move around the problem the best they can.

    I can’t believe they haven’t figured this yet.

    1. That’s pretty much it. I told relatives that are visiting from the former Soviet Union that here in SF we can’t evict tenants, and they were shocked. They even asked the most obvious questions: “How about with a 30 day notice?” “How about if you have a lease agreement signed by both parties?” They were completely dumbfounded when I told them what we have to deal with here.

      1. Even in France you can decide to make your place available prior to a sale and the tenant has no recourse. As long as you give proper notice.

        I have made multiple lease terminations in Paris without any opposition from tenants. Of course you have to sell the place.

        Even in socialist France the laws are there to protect you against elements that could diminish your equity.

        But SF? Land of the taking where people will pick the pockets of the landlord in all legality.

  4. Yup. No talk of the root cause; rent control. My belief is so many of these listing would be available for long term stay if it weren’t a legal nightmare to provide such rental options. I Really think SF should $hit or get off the pot; make all housing government property or stop rent control all together

    1. Government property?

      You’ll have to “pull it from my slow-dripped coffee encircling pudgy fingers”

    2. Per night rentals are much more lucrative than market rate housing, particularly if there was no rent-control and the market rate re-aligned. People would certainly continue to use their units as illegal hotel rooms because renting a few weekends a month would make as much as a having a long-term tenant, even at market rate. How would ending rent control end the use of units as illegal / tax-evading vacation rentals?

      1. First, no, night rentals are not always more lucrative than market rate housing. Let’s take a 1BR apartment that would fetch 3500/month. If the average stay is 4 days and you have to allow for 1 day to clean and stuff, and you have some natural downtime, you’re probably going to be at a 60-70% fill rate or 20 nights a month. Then you need to pay someone to clean 4-5 times a month, AND you are paying all utilities, or roughly $500/month. If you ask $200/night, you’ll collect roughly the same as with a regular rental. And this will keep you pretty busy.

        My 30+ days model works a bit better. My monthly ask is 25-30% over regular market rate and I get an annualized 90% fill rate. Minus the expenses, utilities, I am ahead by 5%-10%.

  5. 58 days of renting is now called commercial! My family visits me for about 6 months throughout a year. The rest I try to rent out short-term. No way that room will be on the long-term rental market.

    1. Do not forget that people who pull these statistics are doing it for free, and because they want to prove a point.

      In short, they have an agenda and are very likely to be pro-rent-control and against balanced rental markets.

      1. If they had an agenda, they’d use a bold, dominant color for the set of dots they want to complain about and a softer, pastel-y color for the ones they want to de-emphasize. Ahem.

          1. By using oversized dots they exaggerate the relative scale. If the dot sizes were normalized to the proper size wrt to the total SF housing or even just rental housing, they would all fit in an area on the scale of Mission Bay or Chinatown. Individually in context they would be hard to see. An old infographics trick. Always good to compare the underlying numbers to the subtle lying graphics.

            Same optics have been used with the maps showing many years of Ellis evictions (namelink for one that went to the extra effort to add emotionally effective but meaningless airburst animations).

  6. I’m shocked that it took more than two hours before the first comment blaming all of the city’s ills on rent control.

    This AirBnB business is showing that attempting to build our way out of this housing crisis may bring more units to the city but it is unclear how many of them will be available on the local long-term rental market at affordable prices. If employment softens in San Francisco and vacancy rates move up for long-term rentals, building owners always have the option to rent to transient visitors.

    Rent control has been around for decades and has only reached its current level of contentiousness as local employment has strengthened and AirBnB has come into use. Economic cycles rise and fall…eventually, there will likely be times of lower demand for housing here. However, this option to use our housing stock to house tourists and other visitors is a real game-changer. Cities (ours and others) are going to have to address the “sharing economy” or the implications on our quality of life will be pretty serious.

    Incidentally, if I’m buying a building and I know that one of my options is AirBnB or VRBO, that makes the building more valuable. Sellers understand that and will price their properties accordingly. This is just making housing *more* expensive in the city (particularly in the higher-end traditional residential neighborhoods like The Marina, Russian Hill, Pacific Heights). Business cycles and capital markets limit the number of units that will be built here to levels well below what some commenters here would want to see. Trying to build our way out of this predicament is likely to be a fruitless exercise.

    Eliminating rent control won’t help either (in the absence of rent control, all of the better units in the prime neighborhoods will be converted to condos). That’s great if you own a building. Not so great if you want to rent (even if you’re willing to pay market rent).

    1. Yet another poster very confused about causality.

      – People go towards airbnb because of rent control.
      – Scarcity is caused by rent control – the scarcity is reflected by people either creating TICs, not renting their units or using another means like airbnb.

      As I said earlier airbnb is a SYMPTOM, not the source of the problem.

      1. Here’s some causality for you: Prop 13 passed June 1978. SF rent control passed June 1979.
        By all means let’s get to the source of the problem.

        1. Dead horse. Prop 13 has to go. Everyone who wants rent control gone also agrees it’s a given.

      2. I believe that this causality is in the mind of San Francisco rental property investors.

        AirBnB is a world-wide phenomenon having an new, un-planned for impact in many locations, and you can post charts for many cities that would look like the SF map. Owners of housing units now have a simple structured system (AirBnB) that gives them the option to either traditionally rent out their housing unit full time, or harvest the same amount of money through part-time, short term rentals that gross the same amount and avoid the messy social issues that arise when one person’s business is another person’s home. This is the new kid on the block that this study is interested in.

        In most internet debates there is an old truism that it takes only a couple posts to get to the mention of Hitler. In San Francisco on real estate sites, the substitute for Hitler is “rent control”, followed in a beat by “Prop 13”.

        1. Godwin’s law does not apply there, since Hitler died 50+ years prior to its invention and Rent Control is a present issue, not a virtual “look what can happen!” one.

        2. Agreed – we could abolish rent control, but vacation rentals would always be more lucrative for landlords / leaseholders. Why would anyone rent month-to-month if they believed they could make more money renting a few days per month. The one constant is that humans are self-interested, and the vast majority are looking to make a buck.

          1. You need to charge at least 40% more for Airbnb than for long-term just to break even.
            Commission, time involved managing (or hire someone for 20% of the total revenue), all utilities, supplies, plus initial investment for furniture.
            It doesn’t look that lucrative if you start looking at a real data, not suck it out of your index finger.

          2. Yes, and there’s downtime. Because a lot of people will show up on week-ends with one day prior and one day after. It’s virtually impossible to fill a one night gep. This means you’ll get 4 to 5 stays a week and at least 8 days downtime. The downtime IS the biggest cut in revenue.

    2. Rent control became contentious when two identical units started being 2, 3 or 5x different in price. When someone is paying 800 dollars when the unit could go for 3500 dollars to a new renter, it’s in the landlord’s best interest to get the new renter. That’s a 30k difference per year. It has nothing to do with airbnb and everything to do with a very constrained housing supply and that rent control doesn’t make sense.

      The problem is that you are asking one landlord to subsidize one tenant. Change the tenant and suddenly the landlord is happy. In this case, there is a lot of pressure for each landlord to find the best tenant they can. If we were serious about helping people in a fair way, we would find some way to subsidize at the city level, not at the individual level.

      Even if you agree with the goals of rent control, the way it’s implemented is just awful.

      1. Imagine if we subsidized food the way SF subsidizes rent. Instead of all taxpayers paying the subsidy through SNAP, you’d just get a knock on your door. Standing outside is a gov’t employee and a family of 4. Gov’t employee says, “Hello, this is the Smith family. They need a subsidy for food, so from now on you’ll be providing that. Have a nice day.”

        1. Interesting cause no one has shown up on my door and forced renters on me. Seems it would be a better analogy if a governmentry official shows up at a restaurant and randomly picked a few tables and told the owner he could never refuse service to those prole nor raise their prices.

          1. Even better: force groceries to give their stuff for a 75% discount to certain recipients. His shelves become empty and he’s selling at a loss.

            The grocery next door has a captured market (the ones who do not have access to grocery #1) with limited supply and the prices he applies are as high as the wealthiest buyers can afford.

          2. But make sure you couple that with a prop 13 for food, so that the grocer’s wholesale food costs can only go up 1% a year, and this applies to the food sold at retail to all of its customers, even those paying full market retail prices. That will keep the shelves become empty or selling at a loss.

          3. Prop 13 and rent control are horrible. They severely limit mobility. A person with rent control can’t move and a person protected by prop 13 could double their taxes by moving into a similar dwelling.

            I understand what both policies are trying to do, but I can’t imagine a worse way of doing either.

      2. As a first step, rent control should be means tested so if you make a lot of money you don’t qualify.

  7. The estimates in this report don’t make it look like Airbnb has much impact on the overall rental market. The 25-50% of Airbnb units they estimate have been removed from the rental market is less than 2k units which is less than one percent of all the rental units in SF and even in the neighborhoods they identify with the highest concentrations it is well under 2%.

    This report has big margins of error in their estimates because Airbnb doesn’t provide much info. SF could easily amend the law to get data that would make all this much easier to assess. Fog city.

    1. Depends how you look at it. The report concludes that between 11% and 23.2% of vacant units are instead being used as airbnb units. Prevailing rents are set at the margins. Would an additional 11-23% supply of units on the market affect rents? One would think so, although that would take a more complex analysis than this report contains.

      Lots of caveats and issues with the report’s methodology. And sure, some of the airbnb units would simply be kept vacant w/o the airbnb option, but surely some number of landlords would prefer to earn something rather than nothing by renting the places out. This report obviously has some biases, but it is not a complete hack job. The proposed ballot initiative would permit the gathering of much more data, which would be good.

      1. Suppose they’re correct that all of these Airbnb “Commercial Entire Unit Listings” have been removed from the rental pool by Airbnb. Adding them back into the SF rental pool that has a less than 5% vacancy rate and 90+% of them would get rented out. So, it would be much more reasonable to expect less than 10% of them would be currently vacant and available to rent. And that gets us right back to a 1-2% of a market segment, whether it be the rented or the vacant segment.

        FWIW, the short term Airbnb rentals are counted as vacant units by the Census ACS (namelink): “A housing unit occupied at the time of interview entirely by people who will be there for 2 months or less is classified as “Vacant – Current Residence Elsewhere”. Such units are included in the estimated number of vacant units.”

  8. Yes, but for the BoS one airbnb rental is a landlord collecting undue money, just as an Ellis eviction is one too many. Expect the pitchforks soon enough: “thousands over thousands!!”

  9. Look, the earlier recommendations weren’t “ignored”, they were just overridden by campaign donations.

  10. Well, they created the law to legalize, regulate, and tax it. That gives them some ownership of the results going forward. If they don’t like how it is going, they should change the law. If they don’t have enough info to know how it is going, they should change the law to get the info.

  11. This map shows the bright red dots OVER the faint blue dots.

    This is not by accident. The purpose of this map is to create fear and make us believe that “commercial” (whatever that means) dwarves the rest.

    1. The airbnb map will place the location of the rental in an approximate location. The goal of course is privacy. Sometimes it’s on the same block. Other times it’s 2 or 3 blocks away.

      1. If it’s a map of where things aren’t, then why pick a map at all? A bar-graph by neighborhood would be more informative, though perhaps not as terrifying…

      1. “Want to really experience San Francisco’s legendary fog? Room-share, leafy, rustic furnishings, easy access to inexpensive restaurant. Bring your pit bull!”

  12. As of 2013, SF has 376,083 housing units (Per the City’s official “2013 Housing Inventory”.)

    This Policy Analyst Report identifies a grand total of 6,113 units being used either “casually” (part time) or “commercially” (full time) as short term rentals.

    That represents a whopping 1.6% of all units in the City.

    The Map makes it look like short term rentals are an “out-of-control epidemic”.

    It is not.

    1. Moreover a listing does not necessarily equal a rental unit. If there are two rooms available in a flat or house it can result in three listings. One for each room, and for both rooms together.

  13. Expect coders from Sweden to create a viable alternative to AirBnB. Good luck forcing them to give up their data, San Francisco bureaucrats! LOL.

  14. However the most telling conclusion (as pointed out above):

    “the Budget and Legislative Analyst estimates…. At between 0.4 and 0.8 percent, this number of units is a small percentage of the 244,012 housing units that comprised the rental market in 2013”. The remainder of the listings are assumed to be from casual users who would not otherwise offer their units up for rent. This is below the 1 to 2 percent as discussed previously.

    In reality their definition on the difference between commercial and casual hosts hinges on the number of nights rented and comparison to the response rate on the host’s financial intent. However this conclusion does not take into account the fact that:

    a. an undetermined number of units would still be withheld from the market place due to rent control limitations (especially in advance of a planned sale). They make allusions to this but don’t include the factor in their numbers.
    b. An unknown portion of the units are second homes in which the owner retains part time access, and has no interest in long term rental conversion
    c. A cited portion of the respondents of the surveys have reported they are doing it to supplement income or help defray expenses. The report uses this percentage to frame their estimate of commercial use as conservative. However no assessment was made on the response rate on the extent that this extra income was required. Once a user has raised income using this method and has experienced success, they may decide to continue well beyond the point of any financial need. To assume that these people would have turned to a roommate situation (rather than another job or some other area of expense cutting) is at best a guess without firm data. The AirBnB survey, in fact, was phrased to encourage people to highlight the fact that the part time rentals were used to supplement income.

    As the report is quite long, I have not studied all aspects of it. However the major conclusions failed to mention why the definition of commercial users was not adjusted on a per-neighborhood basis to not exceed the revenue break even point for a long term rental. (Deep in the report they make comparisons between the average rental rates and prevailing commercial rents in each neighborhood ).

  15. These people saying Prop 13 should be abolished must not have owned their home. This is a federal law and it applies to HOMEOWNERS, not just landlords..

  16. Why should my rent-controlled (already subsidized) tenants be able to make a profit renting out rooms?
    Why should I be liable for any injury that occurs on the property that has been rented out against my knowledge?
    Why should I be responsible for treating a bedbug infestation that an Air BnB customer brings?
    and so on…..

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