Airbnb vs. Long-Term Renting: Which Strategy Is Best?

As a property owner in South Florida, the decision between leveraging platforms like Airbnb for short-term rentals and pursuing traditional long-term leasing can be complex. In this article, we’ll dive into the nuances of both strategies, examining profitability, management responsibilities, market fluctuations, and regulatory considerations. Whether you're seeking a steady income stream or looking to capitalize on peak tourist seasons, understanding these factors is crucial in making an informed decision.

What Is Airbnb?

Airbnb is a digital platform that revolutionized the short-term rental market by connecting property owners with travelers seeking unique and affordable accommodations. Launched in 2008, Airbnb's innovative model has made it a household name in the travel industry.

The platform operates on a peer-to-peer model, where homeowners or “hosts” can list their properties — an entire home, a single room, or even unique spaces like treehouses or yachts — for short-term rental. These listings are then made available to millions of potential renters or “guests” around the world who are looking for more personalized, homely, or cost-effective alternatives to traditional hotels.

Airbnb's model is especially appealing to property owners who want to monetize their underutilized spaces. It enables them to generate income by renting out their property, or even a portion of their property, to guests for short periods, often ranging from a few days to a few weeks. This is particularly beneficial for homeowners in tourist hotspots or cities with major events where there is a high demand for short-term accommodations.

For guests, Airbnb offers the opportunity to experience a destination like a local in a diverse range of accommodations, from city apartments to countryside villas, often at a fraction of the cost of a hotel room. The platform also provides a user-friendly interface where guests can search for accommodations based on their preferences for location, price, amenities, and more.

However, while Airbnb provides a significant income opportunity, property owners should remember that managing a short-term rental requires time and effort. From communicating with guests and managing bookings to ensuring the property is clean and well-maintained, the responsibilities can be extensive.

What Is Long-Term Renting?

Long-term renting, also known as traditional renting, is a form of property leasing where tenants commit to living in a property for an extended period, generally six months to a year or more. This form of rental agreement is common in residential real estate, where individuals and families seek stable housing solutions.

In a long-term rental arrangement, the tenant and property owner enter into a formal lease agreement. This agreement outlines the terms of the rental, including the duration of the lease, monthly rent amount, payment schedule, and other responsibilities and conditions. Most long-term leases last for one year, but they can also be set for six months or even several years, depending on the agreement between the tenant and the property owner.

In some cases, a long-term rental will operate on a month-to-month basis once the initial lease term ends. This arrangement gives both the tenant and property owner flexibility. The tenant can continue living in the property without committing to another long-term lease, while the property owner can adjust the rent or change the rental terms with proper notice.

For property owners, long-term rentals provide a steady, predictable stream of income. As the property is typically rented out for an extended period, property owners can rely on the monthly rent for consistent cash flow. Additionally, long-term rentals often require less active management compared to short-term rentals, as there's less tenant turnover.

For tenants, long-term rentals offer stability and the chance to establish a home. Unlike short-term rentals, which are often furnished and designed for temporary stays, long-term rentals are usually unfurnished, allowing tenants to personalize the space and make it feel like home.

However, long-term renting does come with its challenges. Property owners must be prepared to handle maintenance issues, manage tenant relationships, and possibly navigate the eviction process if a tenant fails to comply with the lease agreement.

What's the Current State of the South Florida Rental Market?

The rental market in the United States has been in a state of instability in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Several years of price hikes and skyrocketing real estate costs have led to a massive increase in the price of rental units across the country. Few areas experienced these effects more than South Florida.

For example, the median price of rent in Miami catapulted by 25.3% in 2021. The following year saw the prices increase by another 7.2%, leaving renters squeezed financially. In 2023, it appeared that these rising rent prices may have leveled off as the prices “only” increased by 0.8%.

The good news is that prices are expected to cool off and possibly decrease soon. A recent influx of new apartment buildings popping up across South Florida has the potential to lower rent prices and give local residents much-needed financial relief after a tough few years.

How Do Profits Compare Between Airbnb and Long-Term Renting in South Florida?

The profitability between Airbnb and long-term renting in South Florida can vary significantly, each with its own potential earnings, costs, and profit margins.

Which Rental Strategy Offers More Consistent Revenue?

Airbnb rentals can yield higher income due to the ability to charge higher nightly rates, especially during South Florida's peak tourist season. However, these rentals also come with higher operating costs. Frequent guest turnover means more time and money spent on cleaning, maintenance, and restocking supplies. Additionally, Airbnb charges a host service fee, which is a percentage of each booking.

Long-term rentals, on the other hand, provide a steady monthly income, which can be more predictable and less labor-intensive to manage. While the monthly rent might be lower than what you could earn from nightly Airbnb rates, the consistent income and lower turnover costs could result in higher overall profit margins.

In terms of consistent revenue, long-term rentals generally offer more stability. While Airbnb rentals can generate substantial income during peak seasons, they can also experience periods of low occupancy. Long-term rentals, with their fixed monthly rents, provide a regular, predictable income stream.

Are There Hidden Costs Associated With Each Rental Strategy?

Both Airbnb and traditional long-term rentals come with potential hidden costs. For those considering Airbnb as a rental strategy, it's essential to factor in costs beyond basic operational expenses.

One significant outlay can be insurance premiums. As an Airbnb host, you may find that your homeowner's insurance doesn't cover short-term rentals, necessitating additional coverage. Airbnb provides a Host Guarantee program, but it doesn't replace homeowners or renters insurance and has numerous exclusions. Therefore, hosts often opt for comprehensive short-term rental insurance to protect against property damage or liability incidents, which can be considerably more expensive than traditional homeowners insurance.

Unexpected repairs from guest damages are another potential cost. While Airbnb offers Host Protection Insurance, it doesn't cover all types of damages. Hosts are sometimes left to cover the cost of repairs or replacements that the security deposit doesn't fully cover.

Local regulations are another variable that can add to the cost of running an Airbnb. Some cities in South Florida have imposed restrictions on short-term rentals, requiring hosts to secure specific licenses or permits, which come with their own fees. Additionally, there may be local taxes associated with short-term rentals that hosts are responsible for collecting and remitting.

Long-term rentals also have potential hidden costs. One of the most common is unexpected maintenance issues. While routine maintenance is a known cost, unexpected repairs, such as a broken HVAC system or plumbing issues, can quickly add up.

Periods of vacancy between tenants are another cost factor. Unlike Airbnb, where you might be able to fill vacancies quickly, finding a new long-term tenant requires background checks, credit checks, and can take weeks or even months, during which time you're not generating any rental income.

Finally, potential legal costs can also be a concern for long-term rentals. If a tenant fails to comply with the lease agreement, eviction may be necessary. This process can be lengthy and expensive, with costs including filing fees, attorney fees, and potential loss of rent during the eviction process.

What Are the Day-to-Day Management Differences?

Indeed, the day-to-day management requirements of Airbnb and long-term rentals differ significantly, each presenting its own unique set of challenges and responsibilities.

Managing an Airbnb property can be likened to running a small hospitality business. As a host, you're responsible for managing bookings, which includes setting rates, updating availability, and responding to inquiries in a timely manner. This can become particularly demanding during peak tourist seasons in South Florida when inquiries and bookings increase.

Communication with guests is another crucial aspect of Airbnb management. This involves not only coordinating check-ins and check-outs but also responding to questions or concerns during their stay. Providing excellent customer service is key to earning positive reviews, which can significantly influence your property's visibility and attractiveness to potential guests.

Moreover, the upkeep of an Airbnb property can be more labor-intensive than a long-term rental. Properties must be cleaned and restocked with essential items like toiletries and kitchen supplies between each guest's stay. Depending on the frequency of bookings, this could mean arranging for cleaning services several times a month or even weekly.

On the contrary, long-term rentals generally require less day-to-day involvement. Once a reliable tenant has been secured and the lease agreement has been signed, the property owner's role often shifts to being more reactive. Instead of managing frequent guest turnovers, the focus is primarily on maintaining the property and addressing any concerns or issues that arise during the tenant's occupancy.

Maintenance tasks for long-term rentals typically involve routine property inspections, arranging for necessary repairs, and ensuring the property complies with any applicable safety and housing standards. Additionally, property owners need to manage rent collection and possibly deal with lease renewals or tenant turnovers, albeit these occur less frequently than in short-term rentals.

How Do Market Fluctuations Impact Airbnb vs. Long-Term Renting?

Market fluctuations can significantly impact both Airbnb and long-term rentals, albeit in different ways. 

For Airbnb rentals, changes in tourism, local events, or even broader economic conditions can influence occupancy rates and rental income. For example, an increase in tourism or a major event in South Florida can lead to a surge in demand for Airbnb rentals, potentially allowing property owners to charge higher rates. Conversely, a decline in tourism or an economic downturn could lead to lower occupancy rates and reduced income.

Long-term rentals, on the other hand, are generally less affected by short-term market fluctuations but can be influenced by broader economic trends. For instance, a strong job market might increase demand for long-term rentals, while an economic downturn could make it more challenging to find tenants or maintain rental rates.

How Do Tenants' Needs and Preferences Shape the Market?

Tenants' needs and preferences play a pivotal role in shaping the rental market. In a vibrant and diverse region like South Florida, these preferences vary widely, making it essential for landlords to understand and cater to them effectively.

For instance, proximity to the beach and access to amenities such as restaurants, shopping centers, and recreational facilities are often high on the list of priorities for both short-term and long-term renters in South Florida. Properties that offer these conveniences are likely to be more attractive to potential tenants.

For Airbnb guests, the unique features of a property or its location can be a major draw. This could include a stunning ocean view, a private pool, or a location in a historic district. As a host, highlighting these features in your listing can help your property stand out among the myriad of options.

Additionally, many Airbnb guests are looking for a localized experience. Therefore, providing information about nearby attractions, local eateries, and unique experiences around your property can enhance its appeal. Some hosts even go the extra mile by creating guidebooks or offering personalized recommendations to their guests.

On the other hand, long-term renters often prioritize stability and community. They may be looking for properties in safe neighborhoods with a strong sense of community, access to good schools, and convenient commuting options. As a landlord, emphasizing these aspects can make your property more appealing to potential tenants.

For example, if your property is located in a family-friendly neighborhood with a great school district and plenty of parks, this would be a key selling point for families. Similarly, if it's situated near major employment centers or has excellent public transportation links, it would be attractive to working professionals.

How Do These Rental Strategies Impact the Current Rental Shortage?

The current rental shortage in South Florida has led to pushback against the concept of short-term rentals and platforms like Airbnb. Many believe the rise of short-term rentals has taken many homes off the long-term rental market. 

As a result, critics claim that it’s driven up the costs of the remaining long-term rentals and makes it more difficult for local residents to find affordable housing. The potential correlation between the rise in short-term rentals and skyrocketing rent prices has led many to argue that the practice be severely limited or outright banned

The battle over short-term rentals is nothing new. In 2011, then-governor Rick Scott signed legislation that prevented local governments from enacting any new laws that may restrict the use of vacation rentals. Since this time, there have been many attempts to circumvent this law and give local governments more influence over laws that affect their residents. 

The rising rental prices have only added more fuel to this legislative fire. It’s unlikely that short-term rentals will be banned, but enough restrictions and regulations could be put into place that could limit the economic viability of short-term rentals.

How Do Local Regulations Impact Each Rental Strategy?

Local regulations can significantly impact both short-term and long-term rentals. In South Florida, various local ordinances, zoning laws, and restrictions apply to rentals. For instance, some areas may have strict regulations on short-term rentals, limiting the number of days a property can be rented out or requiring specific licenses or permits. 

Long-term rentals, while usually less affected by these regulations, still need to comply with landlord-tenant laws and housing standards. It's crucial for property owners to understand and comply with these regulations to avoid potential fines or legal issues.

Which Rental Strategy Is Best for South Florida's Unique Market?

The rental market for South Florida is unlike any other in the country. There’s a reason why this area saw some of the largest increases in rent prices in the years following the pandemic. In South Florida, 70% of properties are renter-occupied, while only around 30% are owner-occupied. 

If you’re the owner of a property in South Florida, you’ll need to carefully consider your options for maximizing the value of your investment. 

You can rent out your property in the traditional way and give tenants leases that last for more than six months at a time. By doing so, you’ll have a consistent stream of income for the duration of the lease with a more hands-off approach as far as day-to-day operations. However, the fixed rate means that you might not be able to capitalize on potential price fluctuations and have less flexibility regarding the property.

On the other hand, you could opt for the Airbnb route and offer your property as a short-term rental. There’s a reason short-term rentals are skyrocketing in popularity in the region, as the price tag for short-term rentals in South Florida has never been higher. However, a few downsides come with operating what essentially functions as a hotel. You’ll have much less consistent revenue, you’ll have to pay the utilities, there’s more risk involved with tenants, and it will require much more effort on your part. 

Carefully weigh your options and pursue what’s best for you. But you won’t have to make these decisions by yourself. Partnering with Vaster means you can stay informed about the latest trends, have help complying with regulations, and learn various ways to optimize your rental strategy for your local market. 

Reach out today so we can get started and help you maximize the value of your investment.


Looking To Rent an Apartment in South Florida? Prices Dropped in These Cities | NCB Miami

Long-Term Concerns with Short-Term Rentals | Florida Policy Institute

Short-Term Rentals In Florida - What You Should Know | South Florida Sun Times

Eviction: Definition and How It Works Under the Law | Investopedia

How Does Airbnb Work? | NerdWallet

Lease Definition and Complete Guide to Renting | Investopedia

Short-Term Rental Insurance | Forbes Advisor

Be the first to know.

Get exclusive access to our latest insights and upcoming events