Airbnb your house: Here's how much Londoners could be making from the sharing economy

 
Will Railton
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According to Airbnb’s calculator, an entire property which sleeps two people can make £640 a week on average in Clapham (Source: Getty)

The sharing economy is growing faster in Britain than anywhere else in Europe. As it has become more expensive to own cars, homes and even electrical equipment, more of us are seeing the advantages of monetising our idle assets. PwC estimates that transactions on platforms in the five biggest sharing economy sectors almost doubled in value last year to £7.4bn, and expects them to reach £140bn a year by 2025.

So what can you expect to earn?

Leverage your home

Holidaymakers can make back some of the money spent on going away by making their own property available for short-term let while they’re gone. Airbnb is by far the most popular platform for short-term lets, with 24,100 Londoners leasing their entire property or at least one bedroom through the site in the year to November 2015.

According to Airbnb’s calculator, an entire property which sleeps two people can make £640 a week on average in Clapham, £707 in Hampstead and £742 in Islington. But the price you can command will rise and fall depending on the season, quality of the accommodation, and events in the local area. During this year’s tennis tournament, the average per night listing in Wimbledon was £138.

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But the market isn’t restricted to the boroughs closest to the capital’s tourist attractions. The number of nights booked in London’s outer boroughs has risen faster than those in inner London, with Havering, Hillingdon and Barnet leading the charge.

When it comes to maximising your yield, consider dynamic pricing tools like Beyond Pricing. For a 1 per cent monthly commission, Beyond Pricing accesses the Airbnb platform to recommend different rates for your listing on any given night, and will vary your price automatically depending on demand to maximise occupancy and give you the best price.

According to Airbnb’s calculator, an entire property which sleeps two people can make £640 a week on average in Clapham, £707 in Hampstead and £742 in Islington

For a commission which starts at 12 per cent, Airsorted will go even further, managing the letting process for you, and providing professional cleaning, professional photography and search optimisation to ensure your listing stands out as much as possible.

It helps to make your washing machine, kitchen and other facilities available for guest use; 83 per cent of London’s Airbnb guests said they used the site because it offers access to amenities which are less commonly found in hotels.

Even if you’re not going on holiday, platforms like Vrumi allow you to lease your home during the day to provide space for small business meetings, photo shoots and other functions, with the average user paying £60 a day for exclusive access.

Parking spaces and garages

If your property comes with on or off-road parking, you could make more than £20 a day for leasing your space.

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Apps like JustPark aim to provide short-term parking for half the cost or less of paid parking spaces, and data show that spaces listed in Richmond, Kensington and Chelsea and the City fetch an average of £14.30, £17.87 and £21.10 a day respectively. Better still, the platform’s 25 per cent commission is added to the amount you’ve requested, so you’re not left out of pocket.

If you don’t own a car at all, and want to lease your space for longer periods, ParkLet can generate more than £200 a month. Garages can fetch a premium. However, the platform does charge 20 per cent commission, VAT, administration fees and a one-off charge of £25, so consider whether you could earn more by leasing on a daily basis through another platform.

Borough

Average cost of a parking space on JustPark (incl. commission)

Camden £10.60
Hackney £9.10
Hammersmith & Fulham £12.20
Hounslow £11.50
Islington £11.90
Kensington & Chelsea £17.87
Merton £12.00
Richmond upon Thames £14.30
The City £21.10
Tower Hamlets £7.50
Wandsworth £10.30
Westminster £14.20

Tax breaks

In a bid to incentivise sharing, George Osborne announced two new tax-free allowances of £1,000 for trading and property income in March’s Budget. This means that Airbnb users renting out their entire property can earn £1,000 before paying tax, and a further £1,000 for sharing assets like power tools.

But the most generous allowance is reserved for live-in landlords. “If you’re only letting one room in your property, you are also able to earn £7,500 in rental income before you start paying tax,” says Debbie Wosskow, founder of Love Home Swap and chairman of Sharing Economy UK. Someone leasing a room in their house through a short-term let could therefore earn £8,500 before paying tax on that income.

Work out whether you’d be better off recording your income as a landlord and deducting mortgage interest as a cost on your tax return, or using these tax breaks.

Airbnb users renting out their entire property can earn £1,000 before paying tax

However, your chances of exceeding these allowances may be diminishing anyway. To stop short-term lets in London from being conducted on a commercial or permanent basis, ministers have proposed that they should be limited to 90 days a year. And further regulation may follow, which could cap returns in similar ways.

After all, the sharing economy is still in its infancy, and even within the UK, regions are reacting in different ways to its wave of disruption. “However, UK regulators are much more open to the collaborative economy than elsewhere in Europe, and there is a desire to see it flourish,” says EY’s Margarete McGrath.

Insurance and mortgages

While stricter regulation is a distant threat, the risk of invalidating your home insurance or mortgage should be a real concern.

“Because the sharing economy has sprung up so quickly, insurance policies weren’t designed to include things like driveway rental,” says JustPark’s Sam Mellor. “Our customers haven’t had any issues with insurance before, but check with your provider beforehand.”

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Airbnb boasts of its “Host Guarantee”, which offers $1m of cover to hosts whose property has been damaged by guests. But this doesn’t include valuables, cash or damage caused to the common parts of a shared building, so be sure to notify your home insurer. Some may charge you a fee to extend existing policies or change your premium to reflect the additional risk.

Because the sharing economy has sprung up so quickly, insurance policies weren’t designed to include things like driveway rental

Like regulation, it may just be a matter of time before insurers catch up and begin to offer cover for short-term lets more specifically. Love Home Swap has developed a swap protection insurance policy which users can take out on the side, and Admiral now offers Airbnb cover as an optional extra. A number of disruptors are springing up to fill gaps in these markets. “Insurance Tailors adapts their insurance offering to a particular asset, like a bedroom or a power tool, for example,” says EY’s Des O’Connor.

It is certainly worth contacting your mortgage provider, or paying a mortgage broker to find you a more bespoke product. Many providers will offer cover for short-term lets on a case-by-case basis, but failing to notify them could lead to an increase in your mortgage interest rate, or you could incur charges.

Ultimately, it will be in the interest of insurance and mortgage companies, and even the platforms themselves, to keep pace with the demands of their customers. “There is pressure on companies like Airbnb to help consumers connect to the sharing economy, or that role will be filled by another disruptor,” says McGrath.

This article appears in the July edition of City A.M.'s Money magazine, which will be distributed with the paper on Thursday 14 July.

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