The last two months of summer seem long to Rick Carlson, an Airbnb host in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. He looks forward to September 6, the day he plans to remove his four homes from the short-term rental platform.
“It’s like my birthday. I can’t wait for it to happen,” Carlson, a 46-year-old realtor and mortgage broker, told Insider.
Carlson resigns for his financial results and his peace of mind. He said high-maintenance customers and an unexpected drop in summer bookings have made the headaches of welcoming new customers every week no longer worth it.
He also senses that the gold rush — the pandemic-driven surge in vacation rental host profits that lasted from 2020 until recently — looks set to end soon. Carlson said too many people in town, and even some of his own guests, have told him that they also plan to find homes to list on Airbnb.
“It’s definitely a sign that I should get out, because everyone is coming in,” he said.
Carlson is just a host trying to find a way forward in a turbulent market. National demand for short-term rentals rose 18% in May 2022 over the previous year, which is promising given the peak travel season of 2021. But a record number of listings competing for these travelers means overall occupancy rates fell 9% in May, according to industry data firm AirDNA.
Further challenges loom for owners and short-term rental operators. Hosts are worried about a summer slowdown and could face growing regulations.
For Carlson, it’s time to stop.
This summer it has seen fewer bookings
Nestled in the northwest corner of Idaho across the border from Spokane, Washington, Coeur d’Alene is a classic summer retreat with access to an idyllic lake, plenty of hiking trails, and parkland. Silverwood themed. During the pandemic, as remote workers moved to vacation destinations nationwide, it became one of the most popular relocation destinations in the country.
Carlson bought two duplexes — one in 2014 and one in 2017 — about a mile from downtown Coeur d’Alene. In the past, he’s been able to cover annual mortgages with just his summer earnings, charging between $180 and $260 a night.
But the picture is different this summer. Last August, he earned over $20,000 in earnings. In August, his bookings total just $2,700.
Carlson decided he’d rather find a long-term tenant for the duplexes than deal with the capricious whims of vacationers.
He would also like to recover his summers. Catering exclusively to seasonal guests means it’s been tied to Idaho for five straight months, doing everything to earn a 5-star review.
“From Memorial Day to Labor Day, I usually don’t travel at all,” he told Insider.
He’s done haggling with new guests every week
Carlson says this year in particular has brought an exhausting guest turnover.
The guest called around midnight, well past check-in time, as he did not understand the keypad instructions.
There was the guest who didn’t call, but instead harassed Carlson through the Airbnb app complaining that the toilet wasn’t working and demanding a full refund for the weekend.
“These travelers are getting ridiculous,” Carlson said.
Carlson added that he’s frustrated that customers are taking advantage of perceived slowdowns and trying to haggle prices. Last week, he said, a guest quoted the rate of a nearby property to get nearly $100 off a night. He refused.
A deluge of other hosts makes it hard to stand out
Carlson said that until this summer he had been happy to advise other local hosts about getting into the business. Lately, he feels like he’s reached a tipping point.
“I believe we are oversaturated with the number of units we have,” he said. “For me, the best cover is: jump ship now.”
For him, a telltale sign is that people are buying up expensive houses to rent just when Carlson feels the market is peaking.
In May, median home prices in Coeur d’Alene reached $590,000, according to Zillow. That’s a jump of nearly 60% since May 2020, nearly double the national rate over the same period.
“There’s just no way you can buy an $800,000 property and make Airbnb five months a year to support the house payment,” he said.