For your convenience, the most common questions about Short Term Rentals in Seattle are answered right here.
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Q: What is a Short Term Rental?
A: Short Term Rentals are a form of residential housing where the landlord offers a place for rent, usually fully furnished for a period of less than 30 days. These rentals are often second homes of the landlord and can be single family homes, condos, apartments, or other types of housing.
Q: Are Short Term Rentals common in Seattle?
A: Short Term Rentals are a lot more visible now thanks to websites like Airbnb, VRBO, Homeaway, and even Craigslist. That being said if looking at rentals that are entire properties, which is the more common definition of a short term rental, they represent only about 1000 properties in the city of Seattle. This would be less than 1/2% of all the housing in Seattle.
Q: I’ve heard that Short Term Rentals make up 10-12% of housing that sounds like a lot, isn’t it?
A: Statistics can be deceiving. The actual statistic that has been used is that Seattle STRs represent 10-12% of AVAILABLE Housing Stock. Let’s break that down further:
- 324,400 total housing units in the city of Seattle.
- 166,092 total rental properties. (Approximately 51.2% are rental units)
- 9965 vacant rental units (6% Current Vacancy Rate)
- ~1000 whole property short term rentals (Less than 1/3 of 1% of housing stock)
- 25,000 vacant properties without owners, or tenants of any type.
That would mean the 1000 second home properties in Seattle on the rental market would represent about 10% of the “available” rental housing of 9965 properties, however the short term rental homes come on and off the market all the time. How 1/3 of 1% of the housing stock could influence the affordability of the overall market doesn’t seem to make sense.
In comparison per the 2010 Census in the city of Seattle there were 25,000+ vacant properties in the city of Seattle. These are properties with no renters, and the owners aren’t living in them either and are just being held for investment. This total represents 250% of the available housing stock, which would be a lot more effective tool at fixing the housing shortage. 25,000 properties represent 7.7% of the housing stock.
Q: What about the 27 hosts on Airbnb controlling 10% of the inventory. Doesn’t that show investors buying up the housing stock for profits?
A: No, as it doesn’t tell the whole story. For example companies such as Sea to Sky Rentals, Seattle Oasis Vacation Rentals, and Turnkey Vacation Rentals, all manage property for individual owners. These are individuals with second homes in Seattle that rent them out when they aren’t in use. These companies have employees, hire local companies and contractors for maintenance and more. These companies help support the local economy. Together they manage more than 100 properties in Seattle mostly owned my individual families as second homes and possible retirement homes.
Q: Aren’t the commercial operators running “illegal hotels”?
A: Actually no. Both the King County Superior Court, as well as in two different Washington State Supreme Court Rulings have ruled short term rentals are residential use. Just because people stay less than 30 days, doesn’t change the nature of the use. Guests, eat, sleep, brush their teeth, watch TV. All the same things long term tenants and owners do in their properties. Besides this, these properties are a resource for people needing temporary housing in between rentals, before closing on a new purchased property, and more.
Q: If guests of short term rentals dine in, does that mean they don’t support the local Seattle Economy as much as a hotel guest?
A: Actually, no. One recent study showed that in an average of only 3.5 days guests of one vacation rental management company spent an average of $3000 in leisure activities, dinning, etc. Most of these dollars are actually in the neighborhood restaurants, shops, boutiques, markets that surround the property that the guests are staying in. These tourism dollars are getting spread out, throughout our neighborhoods to the small businesses that mean the most, vs to the large chain restaurants in the commercial finance and hotel districts. This is further supported by Airbnb’s Economic Impact Study. One theory is that because guests save money on accommodations, they are able to spend more of their budget on activities, dinning out, etc.