A third of Spain’s Airbnb ‘landlords’ own 5 or more homes

Two tourists face a hill crowded with buildings at the port of Andratx, Baleares, 02 July 2004. The mass tourism responsible for the building happily sprouting along the seafront on Spain's once-like Balearic and Canary Islands could spell the end of the country's pot-of-gold tourist industry, say travel and environmental experts. AFP PHOTO JAIME REINA / AFP PHOTO / JAIME REINA
Photos: AFP
Further proof for Airbnb critics that the short-term rental site has grown from a well-meaning ‘little earner’ to an uncontrollable real estate machine powered largely by corporate greed.

A new study by Spanish data analysts is shedding light on the extent to which Airbnb properties in the country are in the hands of agencies and businesses rather just second or first-time homeowners.

According to DataHippo, one third of Airbnb’s homes in Spain are owned by developers and companies with more than five properties in their books.

Top of the list is Villafinca, a property agency that from May to June 2018 had 854 Spain-based properties listed on the global holiday rental site.

In fact, Spain’s ten biggest Airbnb ‘landlords’ control more than 4,000 ads in major cities and tourist areas across the country.

That’s not to say that Villafinca or any of these other top ten companies own all of the properties but in many cases work rather as intermediaries between the homeowners and those who wish to rent them through online platforms such as Airbnb.

Their sole focus is to increase the professionalism and profits of an industry which appears to have lost sight of its initial concept of collaboration and more authentic experiences for the traveller.

“The level of transparency of these platforms is almost zero and many researchers and groups told us that they lacked data to be able to analyse,” Santiago Espinosa, one of its DataHippo’s founders, told Spanish daily El Diario.

According to their results, 75 percent of landlords in Spain have a single ad, a figure that is usually harnessed by Airbnb to defend that their business model is still based around homesharing.

However, these small hosts represent only 40 percent of the total offer published on Airbnb between May and June 2018.

In the Balearic Islands and the Catalan city of Girona -with more than 20,000 and 15,000 published Airbnb ads respectively – hosts with 5 or more short-term rental homes in the same region manage more than half of the available offer.

In Barcelona and Madrid, less than 40 percent of Airbnb homes are managed by landlords with a single ad.

DataHippo’s findings act as further proof for Airbnb critics in Spain who feel the platform’s increasingly corporate handling is having an adverse effect on long-term city and town residents.

Last May, Madrid’s leftwing city hall announced that it planned to make it impossible for short-term rental companies to rent out 95 percent of apartments in the Spanish capital by the end of the 2018.

There have been similar measures proposed across Spain, following numerous cases of greedy landlords throwing out long-term tenants in order to cash in on the tourist flow, as well as complaints about short-term leases pushing up rents for actual residents.