Publication - Research and analysis

Short-term lets - impact on communities: research

Published: 28 Oct 2019

Research to assess the impact, positive and negative, of short-term lets (STLs) in Scotland, with a focus on communities, particularly on neighbourhoods and housing.

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Contents
Short-term lets - impact on communities: research
4. The use of short-term lets

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4. The use of short-term lets

This chapter outlines perceptions about the amount and use of short-term lets (STLs) established through the resident and host surveys, and from qualitative research with the residents, hosts, community actors and local businesses across the five case study areas. The case study areas are Edinburgh City Centre (referred to as Edinburgh), East Neuk of Fife, Glasgow City Centre (referred to as Glasgow), Fort William and Skye.

Perceptions of the amount of short-term lets

Resident and host survey respondents were asked about their perceptions of the amount of STLs in their neighbourhood. As shown in Figure 2, a similar proportion of residents considered that there were a 'reasonable' amount and 'too many' STLs in their neighbourhood (43% and 39% respectively), with 8% stating there to be 'too few' and 11% stating that they did not have a view. Hosts were more likely to say there was a reasonable amount (57%) and much less likely to say there were 'too many' (10%). A further 11% of hosts thought there were 'too few' and nearly a quarter (24%) said that they didn't have a view.

Figure 2: Resident and hosts survey -Which of the following best describes the amount of short-term lets in your neighbourhood / the neighbourhood(s) where you offer such let(s)?

Figure 2: Resident and hosts survey -Which of the following best describes the amount of short-term lets in your neighbourhood / the neighbourhood(s) where you offer such let(s)?

The breakdown of the resident responses by area is shown in Table 4 below.

Table 4: Residents survey - Which of the following best describes the amount of short-term lets in your neighbourhood?

Area Too few Reasonable Too many Don't have a view Base
All residents 8% 43% 39% 11% 197
Edinburgh 3% 38% 49% 10% 39
East Neuk 0% 44% 46% 10% 39
Glasgow 5% 48% 28% 20% 40
Fort William 15% 41% 36% 8% 39
Skye 15% 43% 35% 8% 40

Whilst it should be noted that the base number of respondents at an area level is small, it can be seen that resident respondents from each of Edinburgh and the East Neuk of Fife were most likely to consider there to be too many short-term lets in their neighbourhood (49% and 46% respectively).

The breakdown of host responses by area is shown in Table 5 below[23].

Table 5: Host survey - Which of the following best describes the amount of short-term lets in the neighbourhood(s) where you offer such let(s)?

Area Too few Reasonable Too many Don't have a view Base
All hosts 11% 57% 10% 24% 227
Edinburgh 11% 64% 6% 19% 47
East Neuk 7% 73% 9% 11% 45
Glasgow 15% 50% 4% 30% 46
Fort William 18% 48% 13% 23% 40
Skye 7% 53% 18% 23% 57

It should again be noted that the base number of respondents at an area level is small, but it can be seen that host respondents from Fort William and Skye were more likely than the average to consider there to be too many STLs in the neighbourhood, and those in Glasgow and Edinburgh were less likely to consider this to be the case (the figure in the East Neuk of Fife being very close to the overall average).

Whilst there was a divergence in views between resident and host respondents generally, this was particularly evident in Edinburgh where the proportion of residents that considered there to be too many STLs was highest and the proportion of hosts that considered this was lowest. There was also a high level of divergence between residents and hosts on whether there were too many STLs in the East Neuk of Fife.

Residents and hosts were asked whether they felt the number of STLs had increased, had remained stable or had reduced over the past three years. As shown in Figure 3, the vast majority of resident and host respondents (80% and 70% respectively) considered that the number of STLs had increased in their neighbourhood. The proportion of residents who felt that the amount had increased significantly was larger than for hosts (44% and 30% respectively). .

Figure 3: Resident and host surveys - How would you say the number of short-term lets in your neighbourhood / the neighbourhood(s) where you offer such let(s) has changed over the last three years?

Figure 3: Resident and host surveys - How would you say the number of short-term lets in your neighbourhood / the neighbourhood(s) where you offer such let(s) has changed over the last three years?

The breakdown of the resident responses by area is shown in Table 6 below.

Table 6: Resident survey: How would you say that the number of short-term lets in your neighbourhood has changed over the past three years or so?

Area Increased significantly Increased a bit No change Reduced a bit Reduced significantly Don't know Base
All residents 44% 36% 11% 3% 1% 7% 197
Edinburgh 54% 31% 5% 3% 0% 8% 39
Fife 38% 38% 10% 3% 0% 10% 39
Glasgow 18% 55% 13% 3% 0% 13% 40
Fort William 62% 21% 8% 5% 3% 3% 39
Skye 48% 35% 18% 0% 0% 0% 40

The relatively small number of respondents at an area level should be noted. It can be seen that in each of Fort William (62%), Edinburgh (54%) and Skye (48%) resident respondents were more likely to suggest that the number of STLs in their neighbourhood had increased significantly. Glasgow residents were much less likely than others to indicate that the number of STLs in their area had increased significantly (18%), although a further 55% of Glasgow residents indicated that this number had grown 'a bit'.

The breakdown of host responses by area is shown in Table 7 below[24].

Table 7: Host survey: How would you say that the number of short-term lets in the neighbourhood(s) where you offer such let(s) has changed over the past three years or so?

Area Increased significantly Increased a bit No change Reduced a bit Reduced significantly Don't know Base
All residents 30% 40% 13% 1% 0% 15% 227
Edinburgh 32% 32% 19% 0% 2% 15% 47
Fife 9% 49% 20% 2% 0% 20% 45
Glasgow 11% 39% 17% 2% 0% 30% 46
Fort William 45% 43% 5% 3% 0% 5% 40
Skye 51% 39% 5% 0% 0% 5% 57

Whilst the relatively low base number of respondents at an area level should again be noted, it can be seen that host respondents in each of Skye (51%) and Fort William (45%) were more likely than the average to consider that the number of STLs in the neighbourhoods where they offered such lets had increased significantly (with an average figure of 30%). Conversely, hosts offering properties in each of East Neuk of Fife and Glasgow were less likely to consider that this figure had increased significantly (9% and 11% respectively), whilst the figure in Edinburgh was slightly above average at 32%.

Qualitative findings generally reflected the survey findings about the amount and change of STLs. All resident, host, community and business participants stated they were aware of STLs in their neighbourhood and had noticed an increase across all areas. There were differences in perceptions and experiences by area.

The amount of STLs - differences by area

In the Edinburgh case study area, all qualitative participants were keenly aware of the scale, intensity and rate of increase. In particular, most resident and community participants saw the increases as excessive, with some participants using descriptions such as 'exponential', 'meteoric', and 'insanely excessive'.As one resident stated:

"It's been increasing. Three years ago there was one in my stair, then a year ago one other and now another one, all within three years. Things are changing and fast. There is a student next to me, one other resident and me; the rest are tourists." (Edinburgh, resident)

There was a common view from most Edinburgh host participants that there were a lot of STLs, and that there had been a meaningful increase over the last few years. While hosts did not discuss the intensity, or the scale, of increase in the same way as all other participants, some of them did talk about the amount of STLs reaching saturation point, particularly in the Old Town. Examples of this perceived saturation included reduced takings, and reduced occupancy rates due to increased competition. Some hosts discussed the fact that location is critical to ensure optimum property occupancy rates, even more so with increased competition.

Many Edinburgh business participants noted that short-term, or holiday/festival lets had always been a feature of Edinburgh's city centre, but remarked on the change in volume and concentration, and the extended nature of the tourism season increasing demand for accommodation all year round.

Three social/affordable housing providers had been made aware of the presence of STLs in their rented stock (both whole flats and private rooms), alerted to these through complaints from tenants which have been increasing rapidly over the last three years. One landlord had an awareness campaign in 2018 to encourage information from tenants about STLs in their stock, and another landlord had evicted a mid-market rent tenant for sub-letting their whole flat to tourists, using platform adverts as evidence.

For private letting agents in the businesses participant group the increase was associated with landlords shifting from long-term residential lets to STLs. For cafés and restaurants their measurement of growth was associated with the positive increase of trade from tourists, and the visibility of tourists on certain days of the week arriving or leaving with their trolley bags. Self-caterers and a property manager noted particular concentrations in the Old Town, with two identifying enormous growth, and more competition, suggesting it has impacted on prices and occupancy levels in quieter times:

"It's pretty prolific… the closes that we go into that we manage, every property you pass has a keysafe. Looking at the number of properties now, it kind of feels like it has reached saturation." (Edinburgh, business)

In the East Neuk of Fife, all participants were aware of holiday lets in the various coastal towns, this having been a popular holiday destination for a considerable time, mainly from Scottish families and golfing tourists. These participants generally did not make a distinction between existing holiday homes and new types of STLs, including Airbnb. Here, the message coming from participants was around the increasing utilisation of existing second holiday homes, combined with the spread of tourist accommodation to some of the coastal towns and villages that have historically not been as popular for holiday homes. For most hosts, it was clear that online platforms were simply a new route to market for existing holiday let properties, and to provide increased occupancy by offering shorter term lets (often in the quieter times) in addition to the traditional minimum one week rental offered in the busy summer months.

Like Edinburgh, a key concern for many of the East Neuk of Fife community participants was the prevalence and concentration of accommodation used by non-residents, whether second homes or holiday rentals, and the impact this had on community sustainability.

In Fort William, all participants remarked that the area had long been popular for tourists; some community participants suggested that local residents had opened their homes to travellers and lodgers on an ad hoc basis for many years. There was consensus from all participants that the volume had increased significantly over the last few years, with a proliferation of pods[25], sheds and tents on people's property which were used as STLs. Some community and business participants mentioned long-term lets now being moved over to STLs, and many of these participants found this concerning. Most hosts also agreed that there were significant, and growing number of STLs. In some instances this had been driven by specific tourism opportunities of visitors travelling across the Highlands and Islands:

"There are enough one week properties in the area but not enough one night properties. We are picking up people going to and from Skye and the islands and doing the North Coast 500 route". (Fort William, host)

Similar volume increases were described in Skye from all participants, with reports of every possible residential space being used for tourism accommodation in some form or another. One Skye business suggested STLs had transformed the Skye tourism market, describing the rapid growth as a 'tsunami' with suggestions that almost all of the island's tourism accommodation reported to be available on the Airbnb platform: STLs, long established self-catering accommodation, rooms in private houses, hostels, hotels, B&Bs, as well as shepherds huts, caravans, bothies, pods, static caravans and tents in people's gardens. Again, many residents and community participants also highlighted the use of potential residential accommodation for STLs:

"There has been a real tourist boom in the last four years or so. People are renting out rooms but I have also noticed a lot of first time buyer type properties being bought". (Skye, resident).

There was a different sense from Glasgow city centre. There was a general perception that STLs had increased from all participants, especially in the seasonal peaks and around particular music events at the Scottish Exhibition Centre (SEC) and Hydro area. However, there was not the same feeling regarding the volume and concentration of STLs as in other case study areas, particularly compared to Edinburgh's city centre. Some resident and community participants were beginning to notice a difference over the last couple of years, with greater awareness in areas of residential tenemental flats (in Finnieston, closer to the Hydro area), but less so about the STLs in modern blocks in the city centre area, associated with a more transient population. Some hosts suggested there has been some growth, but there remained capacity in the market:

"If you go on supply and demand, I have been full so we could do with more". (Glasgow, host)

Reasons why short-term lets are offered

All participants were asked what they considered to be the main reasons for hosts offering their homes or properties for STLs. Hosts were asked about this through a set of pre-coded questions in the survey, and this topic was also explored with all participants through the in-depth interviews.

Financial drivers

Financial drivers was found to be the key driver from the host survey, and was unanimously seen as the main motivation from residents, hosts, community and businesses in the qualitative research.

The host survey showed that the most common reason for becoming a STLs host was because they saw it as a good business opportunity (49% - Figure 4). In addition, 11% of all hosts also indicated that they had previously let their property on a longer-term residential basis and felt that STLs would be a better commercial prospect. In 24% of cases, host respondents indicated that having a spare room or rooms available was a reason for becoming a host, and 21% said that they had an existing property that was not being fully utilised. In addition, 16% said that wanting to meet new people was a reason for becoming a host, and 3% said that they were asked to do it by someone else.

19% of hosts in the survey (44 respondents) cited other reasons for becoming a STLs host and 42 of these provided details of these reasons. Given the relatively high number of these other reasons they have been coded to common categories as follows[26] :

  • In 23 of these cases the other reason was a specific financial driver (for example, paying for University fees, planning for retirement or fund raising for a particular purpose).
  • In 9 cases the other reason related to being able to retain ownership of the property for future use and let it out in the meantime.
  • In 7 cases the other reason related to flexible working, work-life balance or other lifestyle reasons.
  • In 2 cases the other reason related to letting on a short-term basis due to being unable to sell the property.
  • Also in 2 cases the other reason was described as STLs being their existing business.

The in-depth interviews showed that most resident, community and business participants made a clear distinction between the type of financial benefits that could be gained from STLs. They saw a difference between the potential increase in individual household income that could be achieved through sharing a room or an entire home when it was occasionally empty, and 'business' income that could be gained if letting entire STLs on a full-time basis. Hosts presented a more nuanced picture between individual home sharing, self-employed (often part-time) small scale professional STLs letting (not home sharing), and larger commercial STLs businesses of which there were only a few interviewed (though with many properties).

Figure 4: Host survey Why did you become a short-term let host?

Figure 4: Host survey – Why did you become a short-term let host?

Host survey base: 227 (multiple choice)

Supplementing household income

The supplementary income aspect of hosting was identified in the host survey with 33% of host respondents indicating that their STLs were their main source of income, whereas 63% indicated that their STLs supplemented their main source of income[27].

The in-depth interviews confirmed that many hosts saw the use of STLs as a means of either supplementing their income generally, or generating income for a particular reason such as a return to university, to be able to fund a move, holiday or property improvements and in one specific instance, to support a charitable activity. Many hosts mentioned the flexibility of being able to act as a host whilst undertaking other work, being semi-retired or having other personal activities or family commitments:

"It's given me something to do and given me some extra income. We spend that money going to other places and stay in Airbnbs there!" (Edinburgh, host)

Supplementing household income - differences by area

In Edinburgh, Fort William and Skye, many of the resident, community and business participants noted that there had traditionally been 'amateur' hosting opportunities for residents to let out their property and gain income for short periods in the peak season, whether residents' whole properties or rooms. In Edinburgh, most of the participants said there was now very little of this type of amateur letting. In Fort William and Skye this type of home sharing had increased, to almost all year round, with many hosts describing spare accommodation (whether whole or part properties) that they let out as a means of enhancing their property and/or to bring parts of the property back into use.

Many Glasgow resident and community participants also observed this relatively recent phenomenon in the city centre, mainly centred around event tourism near the Hydro area with examples from hosts of using the supplementary income to fund their mortgages. In all these areas the resident and community participants could positively identify with the benefits of financial gain for individual households through home sharing, but much less so with the income gained from whole property rentals.

Short-term lets as businesses

In all the areas, there was a strong sense from most resident and community participants, and some business participants, that the supply of STLs was not about amateur home sharing, but was predominantly a commercially and investment driven endeavour. In some places this was seen as external business interests buying into certain high-demand areas purchasing whole properties for STLs. This was especially the case in Edinburgh and to a lesser extent in the East Neuk of Fife and Skye. This was illustrated by community participants in Edinburgh:

"No one knows of a single flat in the Old Town sold to a resident in the last year. They're going to investors. As the elderly have died off, flats have been inherited and then sold off. This Court was a community haven, but not now." (Edinburgh, community)

One Fort William resident described how there was a perceived shift from the amateur to professional market:

"People here have always rented out rooms. Nine years ago I rented out a room in my house to nursing students to get me over a rough patch. Now there are just far too many people doing it as a business; there is nothing residential about it." (Fort William, resident)

Many host participants were running STLs businesses, whether on a self-employed small scale basis with a few rental properties, or as a larger commercial business venture with significant portfolios. Some of the hosts with larger portfolios also talked about being able to fit their STLs business around other commitments, for example, having a family. Some hosts also suggested that more people had been moving into the 'whole property STLs business' over the last three to four years.

The host survey showed that a small proportion (10%) of host respondents pointed to the better returns that could be made from shifting from long-term to short-term letting. Across all areas many resident, community and business participants remarked upon the scale of the returns that can be made from STLs compared to long-term residential lets, with many examples provided of three or four times the amount that can be achieved by STLs rents compared to residential lets. Many hosts, mostly in Edinburgh, also mentioned that STLs were not only a better financial option, but had other advantages over private renting with some suggesting that STLs renters treated the properties with more respect.

Ease of entry and lack of regulation

In addition to the financial benefits, some resident, and many community and business participants noted the ease of entry and lack of regulation as an attraction to this sector. This was associated with low costs, low risk, low tax, and higher profits. This aspect was also discussed by a few of the host participants. There were no discernible difference by area on this issue.

Many businesses compared the STLs sector to the long-term rented sector where there is a requirement for landlord registration and compliance with health and safety standards, and where regulation has recently increased including a new tenancy regime. Several private landlords stated that they had made the choice to move from long-term lets to STLs due to the increased regulation and their requirement for flexibility. Other business participants drew comparisons with the traditional guesthouses claiming that Airbnb type STLs are not subject to comparable regulation or licensing fees. A few community organisations also spoke about the lack of responsibility and anonymity that comes with STLs as there is no need to register and so it makes it difficult to trace landlords, with no formal route for making complaints or sanctions:

"The system offers freedom for them with no need to interact with anyone." (Edinburgh, community)

The tax treatment of STLs was also seen as attractive[28]. There were perceptions from many residents that hosts were not, but should be paying tax, as in their opinion hosts were running a business. Many community and business participants also spoke about tax incentives - the eligibility of STLs to claim the Small Business Bonus Scheme (SBBS) combined with no liability for Council Tax if letting for a minimum number of days. Some professional hosts with portfolios of properties identified tax disincentives in long-term letting (associated with the removal of mortgage interest tax relief) which had, in their opinion, provided an incentive to move to STLs.

In addition to the community and business participants' views around lack of regulation in STLs compared to long-term residential lets, one professional host also spoke about the choice he had made between long-term and STLs noting that the location had to be right for STLs:

"Ever since legislation has changed and removal of the mortgage interest tax relief. This has meant there is greater incentive for landlords to move to STLs. That combined with PRT [private residential tenancy] due to the increase in tenants' rights. We used to be able to let out a property on long-term basis for 9 months, then 3 months for holiday let, but can't do that anymore so that has turned things over the STLs." (Edinburgh, host)

One host described the ease of letting their property through the platforms, including the wider support that some platforms provide, such as marketing tools, dynamic pricing and control over lead-in times.

Types of visitors and the attraction of short-term lets

Types of visitors

Participants were asked what type of visitors they considered were attracted most to STLs. All participants suggested that a wide range of different types of visitors were using STLs and that the type of visitors had not changed, rather it was the volume that had increased. Many participants across all groups highlighted the increasing amount of tourism over the last three years which some businesses put down to Brexit, the linked devaluation of the pound and successful VisitScotland campaigns, such as the North Coast 500. It was noted in Edinburgh and Skye that the tourism season was now all year long and in Fort William and the East Neuk of Fife the season was also stretching. Some community and business participants also referred to business visitors in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and to a lesser extent university related visitors in Glasgow.

In terms of the demographics of people using STLs, these were suggested to be wide ranging including single people, couples, and families across all areas.

Types of visitors – differences by area

In Edinburgh, Fort William and Skye all participants said that the predominant type of visitors using STLs were tourists. This included people from Scotland and elsewhere in the UK, but with an increasing proportion of international visitors beyond the traditional Europeans and Americans. Some business participants in Edinburgh also identified demand from corporate visitors.

All participants in the East Neuk of Fife suggested similar themes around increasing numbers of visitors, but still mainly from the UK with a core of holiday home owners and regular Scottish visitors that some participants saw as part of the community. As well as general tourist visitors, it was said to be quite common for people to be visiting for weddings, golf or to walk the Fife Coastal Path.

All the resident, host and local business participants in Glasgow discussed a variety of visitors, most of these being connected to the SEC, and Hydro, but also business visitors and those associated with the universities (including lets to students whilst seeking longer-term accommodation, parents visiting their children, and university staff).

In Edinburgh and Glasgow, many resident and community participants stated that groups of young men and women (including older teenagers, and stag and hen parties) used STLs for various events and parties, particularly in Glasgow. In Fort William the demographic was identified as younger people (for outdoor pursuits), whereas in the East Neuk of Fife demand included an older demographic.

The attraction of short-term lets

Participants were asked what they considered to be the main attraction of staying in STLs, compared to more traditional visitor accommodation. For most participants, the key attraction of STLs was seen as the convenience of whole property holiday accommodation, good location, and the availability of wider and more flexible options, including the ability to have shorter and cheaper stays.

The attraction of STLs was discussed by most participants in the context of whole property lets. These types of STLs were considered to be a lifestyle choice with visitors valuing the space and flexibility that come with having a whole property - space to relax, offers a 'home from home', experiencing a home that is typical for the area, combined with the convenience of having the ability to cook in and eat out less, and do laundry. In most areas it was suggested that STLs cost less for families or small groups compared to using several hotel rooms.

The attraction of short-term lets – differences by area

In Edinburgh, some businesses suggested that STLs are not necessarily always cheaper, but demand was driven by the location and type of property:

"It's not a budget thing now – it's much more about a lifestyle trip – people want their own private space and clients want to be able to work in their flats. People are now more particular. It's about lifestyle, cooking, and private and flexible space." (Edinburgh, business)

In the East Neuk of Fife, many participants considered that demand was again around convenience of location, in this case, proximity to St Andrews without having to pay the higher prices there. In Skye, most participants gave the clear sense of high and unabated demand relative to supply, with STLs being somewhere (anywhere) to stay, whether whole property or a range of other options including rooms, caravans, sheds, huts, pods and tents. In Fort William, the demand and supply picture appeared to be similar, with many participants discussing the proliferation of pods and sheds, but where some of the local hotels were said to have vacancies with the reasons for this muted around the type and quality of that accommodation. In Edinburgh and Glasgow, the key difference compared to the other areas was that some resident and community participants also suggested that STLs were used as (sometimes over-occupied) party flats, often for one night only.

In Edinburgh, the East Neuk of Fife, Fort William and Skye there was also the suggestion from across all participant groups of STLs supply driving a change in the tourism market. This was discussed in terms of demographics (increase of younger people including single people and couples), the length of stay (shorter stays rather than the traditional standard week), and the volume of tourists (increased). Some resident and community participants did not know whether it was supply or demand driving the change:

"It's a bit like the chicken and the egg, are more people coming here because there is more homes available for them to stay in, or are more people getting into hosting and letting out property to meet the demand for people to stay here?" (Fort William, community).

Distinctions were also made by many Edinburgh businesses and hosts between the type of STLs, i.e. those that are very short-term holiday lets (for two to three days, also identified to be the most profitable), and corporate STLs. The corporate STLs were identified as those used by business or contract workers often let on a rolling month-to-month basis, including festival performers and staff supporting the tourism industry in Edinburgh. For corporate and contract worker clients the attraction of STLs were similar; they preferred the space and flexibility of staying in self-catering accommodation compared to a hotel room. The majority of visitors using STLs in the city centre were considered to be tourists, on very short-term visits and pushing the longer term STLs competition out of the city centre.

Nature of short-term lets offered, and platforms used

The host survey asked a number of questions about the nature of the STLs offered. Again it should be noted that the survey provides an indication of lets offered by these hosts, in these areas, rather than being representative of all STLs across Scotland.

As shown in Figure 5, 30% of host respondents indicated that they let out a room or rooms to guests whilst they or other family members lived in the property. A further 11% indicated that they let out their home for long periods, and 6% indicated that they let out their home when away for short periods (for example, on holiday).

Slightly less than 4 out of 10 host respondents (36%) indicated that they let out their entire home or homes to guests but did not live in the property, 23% said that they let out an entire home or homes bought specifically to let out on an ongoing basis, and 3% that they did so on the basis of rooms being booked out separately by different guests. Bringing these different response categories together shows that a larger proportion of hosts were letting out entire homes where the host is not living in the property (62%) compared to those that are home sharing properties (47%). Multiple responses were allowed for this question and so there is some crossover, but 60% of host respondents classified themselves within at least one of these three categories (letting an entire home but not living in the property, letting an entire property bought specifically to let out and letting a whole property on a room-by-room basis).

Figure 5: Host survey How were the room(s) or property/properties that you offer for short-term lets previously used? [29]

Figure 5: Host survey –How were the room(s) or property/properties that you offer for short-term lets previously used?

Host survey base: 227

Host respondents were asked to indicate the previous use for properties for STLs that they offered. Where they had more than one listing, then they were asked to provide this information for up to three listings that they let most frequently. These responses have been analysed on the basis of listings (as opposed to individual respondents), there being 303 such listings for which information was provided. As shown in Figure 6, the survey indicated that a substantial minority of the listings from respondents had previously been occupied by an owner-occupier (21%) or on a long-term lease in the private rented sector (15%). An additional 13% of listings were new build properties, which had always been used as STLs.

Figure 6: Host surveys - Which of the following best describes the short-term let(s) that you offer?

Figure 6: Host surveys - Which of the following best describes the short-term let(s) that you offer?

Host survey base: 303 individual listings

Host respondents were asked how many days in a typical year they let out their STLs property (where they had multiple STLs properties they were asked to comment on the property they let out most often). A substantial majority of hosts (81%) indicated that in a typical year they let out their short-term let property for 90 days or more, 15% that they did so for fewer than 90 days, 3% gave a "don't know" response and 1% indicated that they preferred not to say (Table 8).

Table 8: Host survey: For approximately how many days in total in a typical year do you let out your short-term let property?

Period for which short-term lets offered in a typical year %
Let out for 90 days or more in total 81%
Let out for fewer than 90 days in total 15%
Don't know 3%
Prefer not to say 1%
Base 227

Host survey respondents were asked which platforms they used to let their property. The vast majority of host respondents (95%) indicated that they let properties on Airbnb, reflecting the method of gathering responses which relied heavily on invitations from Airbnb to their hosts. One quarter of these host respondents (25%) indicated that they also marketed properties on their own website. Other platforms commonly used included Booking.com (15%), HomeAway.co.uk (13%), TripAdvisor.co.uk (13%) and Holidaylettings.co.uk (11%).

Hosts were also asked whether they used their STLs property as a personal holiday home for short periods. The majority of hosts (54%) did not use their STL as a personal holiday home, whilst 30% did do so. For a further 15% this was not applicable as they only let out a room or rooms (base: 227 host respondents).

Key findings – Chapter 4

Drawing on the quantitative and qualitative research, the overall key findings in relation to the use of STLs are summarised below.

  • In all areas, the amount of STLs had increased, with research participants most likely to say (with the exception of hosts) that STLs had increased significantly over the last three years in Edinburgh, Fort William and Skye. Hosts were less likely to consider that STLs had increased significantly, or that there were too many.
  • Financial drivers were the key reasons for offering STLs. Nearly half of all host survey respondents (49%) saw STLs as a good business opportunity, with 11% also indicating that short-term letting was a better commercial prospect than long-term lets. It was unanimously seen as the key motivation by all the types of participants in the qualitative research. Ease of entry, and lack of regulation when compared to long-term residential rented housing and traditional visitor accommodation, was also seen as a key incentive to enter this market.
  • Most visitors that use STLs were tourists, with increasing numbers of international visitors from beyond the traditional European and American visitors. In Glasgow, tourists tended to be event tourism focused around the SEC and Hydro.
  • The attraction of STLs were seen as the convenience of whole property accommodation, good location, and the availability of wider and more flexible options, including the ability to have shorter and more affordable stays.
  • A larger proportion of host survey respondents stated that they were not resident when letting out their property compared to those that stated they were home sharing. Host respondents also stated that over a third of STL properties listed (36%) were previously either long-term lets, or owner-occupied homes.

Contact

Email: STLresearch@gov.scot