The Sunshine Coast is riding high off the back of staggering tourism statistics that show the region is punching well above its weight when it comes to attracting visitors, experiencing the largest growth in tourism numbers across the country in the past 12 months.
With that influx of guests comes a desire from property owners to maximise their potential income through holiday letting, and services like Airbnb have been major disrupters for traditional accommodation houses and holiday letting processes in the past 24 months.
But there are positive elements to this industry shake-up, with property owners having the ability to maximise short-term rental returns while opening up new opportunities for visitors to stay and play.
Seeing the need for innovation in this realm, Leading Realty Sunshine Coast began offering Airbnb management when it opened an office on Mooloolaba Esplanade in April 2017. Principal Grant Cheatham says with more than one million tourists walking past their office each year, it is an “ideal opportunity” to offer something different.
The move paid off. The agency started with five properties in April 2017 and now has 43 on the books located across the Coast from one-bedroom units on the Mooloolaba esplanade to large homes in Maleny and prices ranging from $250 to more than $700 a night.
“Using the Airbnb system, we were able to charge the guests for cleaning, linen hire, consumables and critique any other expenses while still being able to give the guests good value and a great holiday,” he says.
“Over the trial period the owners were left with more money in their pocket, meaning that during the quieter periods the nightly fees could be reduced for better occupancy rates without getting all the extra costs.”
Mr Cheatham says demand for the service remains consistent, with two or three new properties signed up each month to take advantage of their end-to-end property management, which includes a photo shoot, collecting compliance certificates, property upkeep and software that allows owners to see real-time information on their property, which is listed on several high-ranking accommodation sites.
“It’s quite easy to self-manage a property but there are some challenges that can stop an owner from being able to do that,” Mr Cheatham says. “Some problems include the owners of the property not being local, sourcing local and quality suppliers or services, making your property compliant and complying with legislative requirements.
“A service like ours is changing the traditional way of management, allowing for more return on your investment, and it’s also giving the investor more options when it comes to holiday letting. Most onsite managers are doing fantastic jobs and for others it may be challenging with more competition in the field and harder to embrace the changes.”
Holiday Mooloolaba also began adopting online short-term accommodation websites last year as another vehicle with which to promote their holiday properties.
Holiday Mooloolaba’s Janine Gee says the company’s properties are advertised on more than 15 top-rated accommodation websites, with more than 70 per cent of its bookings and inquiries coming from its own website, bookings.com and Airbnb. The remainder are repeat bookings.
Ms Gee says businesses like Airbnb have affected the short-term rental market. “We see properties crossing over between permanent lets and holiday lets. Some owners choose to have their properties available only for holiday lets during the December/January period, which allows them to receive a higher return for this period. This doesn’t always work for tenants looking for a long-term permanent rental as they may only be offered a six- to eight-month lease and struggle to find accommodation during the peak seasons,” she says.
“It’s difficult to know what long-term impact they may have on management rights. Management rights were impacted last in 2017/18 due to those advertising on Airbnb able to offer the same apartment at a lesser cost than onsite managers not advertising on Airbnb. But like anything, buyer beware. You need to compare not only the advertised nightly rates, but also include other fees and charges.”
Still Ms Gee says the future is bright for owners. “The Sunshine Coast is a popular holiday destination and people are looking for different accommodation experiences. Having more accommodation choices available to visitors is a win-win for all. Owners can enjoy the benefits of additional income and the more visitors we get to the Sunshine Coast, the better it is for the local community.”