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Short Term Lets: “Theory of Limited Edition”

Matt Elder talks about the explosion in short term lets and how to cost effectively ‘future proof’ your properties

A common statistic that pops up in discussions about short term lets is “Airbnb’s up 50% this year”.  “Airbnb” being the default eponym for short term lets, like “Googling” is the default for web search. It isn’t until this statistic is unpacked, that the real magnitude comes into focus, a bit like compound interest.

Take Bristol for example. In 2014 there were around 240 Airbnbs. Fast forward only four years to 2018, and that number has grown to almost 5,000 Airbnbs – a 20-fold increase (similar numbers can be seen across the UK).

Thus in 2014 if you had a short term let there wasn’t much competition so poor quality accommodation could survive. Now there are so many, you have to make your property stand out. “Theory of Limited Edition” attempts to address how to stand out from the crowd.

Commodity to Limited Edition Scale
You can place your property on a scale starting with a ‘commodity’ style product like wheat, rice, coffee beans etc. You don’t care where the wheat in your Weetabix came from, it is all interchangeable. A short term let property at the commodity end would be a tired flat with magnolia walls, beige carpets, and with owner used mismatching furniture in an average location where the cheapest price wins.

The Limited Edition end of the scale would be an item like the Mona Lisa – there is only one of them, it can’t be reproduced and you have to go to a specific place to see it. A short term let at this end would be something like a room in Buckingham Palace – there is only one, nights available are rare, a ballot just to be able to make a reservation, and price really isn’t a consideration.

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