More than 3,800 Airbnb hosts charged nearly $58 million for their accommodations in the last 12 months in Nova Scotia.
That’s according to estimates provided to CBC News by AirDNA, a company that compiles market information on short-term rentals.
“That sounded high, but I guess not,” said Andrew Murphy, an Airbnb host who offers more than a dozen loft apartments in north-end Halifax through Airbnb.com.
A former head of the North End Business Association, Murphy believes Airbnb is driving a local proliferation of bars and gourmet eateries.
“Tourists are coming to Halifax to do that foodie thing and live among the people,” he said. “This is the extraordinary thing about Airbnb, is that it opens up whole new markets that never were there before.”
A lucrative industry
Based in Denver, AirDNA scrapes online short-term rental listings every three days, much like Google scrapes the contents of web pages for its search engine.
That allows AirDNA to calculate market-specific information right down to individual hosts.
The company then sells that information to Airbnb hosts, the hotel industry and local governments wanting to track the short-term rental market.
“AirDNA is the best commercial source of short-term rental data available to us, and is used by other jurisdictions as well,” said Afton Doubleday of Tourism Nova Scotia.
A wide range of incomes
The figures from AirDNA show the full range of the market.
The 2,363 hosts who offer a single home or apartment for rent earn an average of $12,160 per year.
That includes both rental fees and a one-time cleaning fee per visit.
Incomes range upwards to a single Airbnb host who rents out 47 units in the Halifax area, earning an estimated $896,342 per year.
The vast majority of hosts offer one or two units for rent. Only 86 hosts offer four units or more.
Not always individuals
A spokesperson for AirDNA said it’s probable that hosts offering large numbers of units are management companies rather than private owners.
“Above four it starts to become very difficult and the likelihood is they are employing somebody else to help you and then taking a percentage of the profit,” said Abigail Long, a spokesperson for AirDNA. “And certainly 10 or above would be a professional company, for sure.”
Not so short term
This makes Murphy an exception.
The chartered accountant rents out his Airbnb units in Glube Lofts, an apartment complex that fronts on both Gottingen Street and Cornwallis Street in Halifax.
Murphy takes pride in offering a tourist experience that’s different from what’s offered in Halifax’s downtown hotels.
But most of the year, his guests aren’t tourists.
Murphy’s tourist season runs between June 1 and Sept 30. But during the winter and spring, his units are usually taken up by monthly rentals.
Currently, Murphy said he’s landlord to two immigrant families moving to Halifax, a doctor as well as two engineers working at the Irving shipyard.
In Toronto and Vancouver, online short-term rentals have been blamed for increasing rents and creating a shortage of affordable housing.
Murphy doesn’t believe that’s the case in Halifax.
“I think there is some displacement But there’s so many new units being built in Halifax this year — 4,000 new units and more than half of them on the peninsula and in the core areas. I’m not seeing a big increase in rents.”
The Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia would not comment on the figures from AirDNA.
In an email statement, Darlene Grant Fiander, the executive director, said: “Your reference to the multiple units by one owner is a growing element of the short-term rental economy and extremely concerning.
“The lack of regulatory compliance and enforcement is absolutely unacceptable. … TIANS is continuing to push for concrete solutions that will level the playing field and protect the lucrative tourism economy.”