More than a year after the epidemic, these changes have taken place in our lives: the rental platform has been greatly adjusted, and more scientific and technological elements have been introduced into real estate


The outbreak at the beginning of last year affected all walks of life. On the one hand, in order to maintain a certain social distance, many people choose to rent in remote areas during the epidemic period, which has greatly changed airbnb’s short-term rental business. On the other hand, people who work at home pay more attention to the living environment. Many technological elements such as automatic combination furniture and contactless access control begin to change the traditional real estate industry.
First, users love renting more than hotels. Airbnb takes advantage of the opportunity to develop renting in remote areas
Last year’s epidemic and subsequent quarantine measures have affected all walks of life. Although the housing rental market has suffered a heavy blow, it can still survive, because renting has become a necessary move for many people to maintain social distance.
According to a report by STR, a hotel analysis company, and airdna, a short-term leasing analysis company, since the outbreak of the epidemic last year, house leasing business has outperformed hotels in 27 markets around the world. During the recovery of leisure tourism last summer, people preferred to rent big houses, which made the average daily rent of the U.S. housing rental market higher in July 2020 than in July 2019, from about $300 to $323.
Nevertheless, the global travel restrictions still have a negative impact on various industries, and the holiday rental business is hard to be independent. According to STR and airdna data, the occupancy rate of all housing sharing platforms fell by nearly half from mid March to the end of June last year, to 33% to 36%. By contrast, the average occupancy rate of hotels fell to 17.5%.
The largest player in the short-term rental market is airbnb, which has more than 7 million units in more than 220 countries. Last spring, airbnb first laid off a quarter of its staff, then abandoned its new business in areas such as transportation and entertainment, focusing on core businesses such as accommodation. Meanwhile, airbnb’s valuation fell from a high of $31 billion to $18 billion.
“People want to travel, they just don’t want to fly,” says Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of airbnb, as the company prepares to go public last year. “They don’t want to do business. They don’t want to stay in big cities like they used to. They don’t want to live in a crowded hotel area. They really want to get out of the house. So we think the future demand will be very strong. In fact, I’m very optimistic about the industry. ”
Changes in lifestyle
During the epidemic period, airbnb vigorously promoted the privacy of the house and the ability of the guests to control the living environment independently: for example, the house on the airbnb platform has a supporting kitchen, and users do not need to patronize restaurants. The company has developed a new cleaning guide and said at the end of August last year that more than 1 million housing information on the platform have been certified as “enhanced cleaning”, including landlord training for the new guide, detailing how to clean and what to clean. According to the latest procedures, each room needs to be cleaned for 45 minutes. Some houses are guaranteed 72 hours of vacant time before they move in.
Airbnb says its services are consistent with the way people want to travel to sparsely populated destinations with friends and family. In the first weekend of September last year, 30% of airbnb’s business bookings came from houses in remote areas, double the number of previous years. Of course, classic resorts such as Hilton Head Island in South Carolina and Palm Springs in California are still the most popular. But bookings in urban areas are still falling.
“We found a bit of a blur between travel and life,” Chesky said. “Before the outbreak, you spend 50 to 51 weeks a year in a fixed place, and once or twice a year on vacation. Now, the epidemic is changing the way people work, travel and live. ” Undoubtedly, distance education and telecommuting make the whole family no longer stick to their own houses. “People’s lifestyles are different and people want to live anywhere,” Chesky added.
Whether travel will really become a nomadic life remains to be seen. But since May 1 last year, the average length of stay in a place has increased by 58%, more than four days, and autumn bookings are stronger than usual, according to airdna.
Excessive tourism, rising rent and housing shortage
From Barcelona to Vancouver, cities around the world are curbing airbnb and other short-term leasing companies. Many people blame these companies for hollowing out the community, because many real estate practitioners choose to rent houses for a long time and earn the difference through short-term leasing.
“Renting apartments and houses on airbnb is more profitable than renting them to local people,” said David wachsmuth, an associate professor at the school of urban planning at McGill University in Montreal. “What happens on their platform is that real housing sharing is only a small part of it, dominated by commercial interests.”
A study found that with the increase in the number of rental housing in the city, the rent will also rise. Some analysis found that the cost of setting up rental business on airbnb in local communities will lead to the rise of rental prices and the decrease of housing supply, which may exceed the income.
“The problem of overtouring has a long history,” said makarand Mody, an assistant professor of marketing at Boston University’s School of hotel management. “The emergence of airbnb makes things worse. Although airbnb is only a supplier, there is no doubt that demand has increased a lot. ”
According to the data of the world travel & Tourism Council, by 2019, the contribution of the rise of the global middle class to the expansion of tourism has exceeded the global economic growth rate for nine consecutive years. Many travelers find affordable housing through airbnb, so they can live in the community instead of the business center.

Chesky believes that since the epidemic finally overturned the excessive tourism, it also redistributed and shuffled the tourism industry in a lasting way. “It kind of saved our vision,” he said. “I’ve always wanted something to help extend travel to as many communities as possible, rather than over concentrating tourists in any one place.”
“My guess is that the world will not soon return to what it used to be,” Chesky added. “I don’t think travel will be like it was in January. The world has changed as like as two peas, and a most serious industry can not be the same as before.
Last summer, Oahu issued a law limiting unauthorized leasing of homes on the island of Hawaii and imposing fines on violators. In Europe, cities such as Lisbon and Dublin are buying back leases or forcing landlords to engage in long-term leasing to ensure that cities are not overburdened again when tourism recovers.
Regulation remains tricky. Airbnb is accused of turning a blind eye to illegal housing. According to reports, Los Angeles once restricted landlords from renting their own houses for a short time, but there are still many illegal houses on the platform.
In response, airbnb has just launched a new city portal, saying it will make it easier for regulators to identify unregistered homes that do not meet local regulations.
Prior to the release of the new feature, the company shared the new tool with the office of short term rentals in San Francisco. “They are very positive about this and hope it will improve their ability to screen for illegal housing,” said a spokesman for the mayor of Los Angeles.
Perhaps it is because of these phenomena that airbnb has not lost a large number of houses. According to allr the rooms analytics, only Rome and Lisbon, the most popular cities in Europe, have been cleared of about 2000 units each. In Lisbon, more than 14500 homes remained after last year’s clean-up, the same as in January 2019, but lower than the peak in July 2019.
More regulatory implications may emerge in the future, posing a threat to sound portfolios. “For platforms like airbnb, they’re not only worried about the demand side, they’re worried about the supply side,” says modi of Boston University. Travel restrictions around the world could prompt landlords to move apartments to the long-term rental market, reducing the size of the platform and worrying potential investors, he said. “When you live on venture capital, profitability is less important than growth,” modi added. “Shareholders’ patience will be greatly reduced.”
The party was called off
Host compliance mainly tracks the legal compliance of short-term rental housing in 350 cities and counties in the United States. The group said that during the outbreak, noise complaints about parties in short rental housing tripled.
“A lot of people have been at home for a long time. They need to vent, but they can’t fly away, so they rent a house not far from home and have a party. ” Ulrik binzer, founder and general manager of host compliance, said.
These short-term rental houses are usually located in residential areas, which not only caused noise complaints, but also caused people to worry about holding large parties during the epidemic.
In Miami Beach, short-term rental housing was closed last summer; however, in August, rental housing in apartment buildings was allowed to reopen, subject to population restrictions. That month, the city of Los Angeles cut off the power supply to the house rented by for holding a party.
Last August, airbnb announced a ban on parties in rental homes around the world. The company said 73% of the homes on the platform have banned large parties, but landlords usually allow small parties, up to 16 people.
“We want to do what we can to preserve the identity of these communities and not let it get out of control,” Chesky said
Observers say it’s too early to know if the ban works.
“The essence of airbnb’s problem is execution,” Ulrik binzer said. “It’s a bit like having a fox guard the henhouse.”
Experience in the digital age
Now airbnb is more than just rental housing. Through the company’s airbnb experiences, airbnb has teamed up with a chef in Mexico City to set up a course on local cuisine, embarked on a musical and cultural tour of Havana accompanied by a music DJ, and took a walk among penguins in South Africa with an environmentalist.
During the outbreak, many of airbnb’s experience services were virtual. Through the zoom teleconference service, visitors in wheelchairs can visit animal rescue farms in Connecticut, follow doctors around Prague, and listen to songs in Nashville.
After the layoffs of airbnb, many people want to know whether the experience business, which has been reported to be losing money for a long time, will also be shelved. Last January, airbnb experiences launched 50000 experience activities in 1000 cities. During the outbreak, the Department was forced to shut down and later transformed to provide a small part of online services. Today, airbnb experiences has 700 virtual experiences, generating orders totalling about $2 million in the first half of last year. Currently, airbnb experiences has resumed offline experience business in more than 70 countries, but there are limitations on the team size. The company declined to say how many offline experiences it has and how much money it can earn from those experiences.
“I would be surprised if they gave up completely,” says modi of Boston University. “They don’t want to be just a rental company. Travel is all about experiencing life in a destination, and they want to play a role in it. ”

The company said it has been supporting airbnb experiences business, and even gave up the bonus. “Keeping social distance is a big blow to people’s experience,” Chesky said. He insisted that the online transformation was a success. “In a world where there is not much to do, we think airbnb experiences has a window.”
Second: looking forward to a healthier living environment and introducing more scientific and technological elements into the real estate industry
Under the epidemic situation, telecommuting has become the norm. Now that the kitchen has become an office, the location of the house is less important. Since everyone is at home, the effective use of space in the house is even more important. The proof of value for money is no longer the supporting facilities around the house, but the comfortable life from the living room to the bedroom. Under the influence of the epidemic, more scientific and technological elements began to be integrated into the interior of the house.
From rental apartments to luxury housing, a large number of new or valuable technologies have emerged in the housing market in the post epidemic era, including automated modular furniture that reshapes the interior space, and non-contact applications designed to bring neighbors together.
Although some critics have expressed concerns about data collection and privacy issues, these new technologies will undoubtedly have a long-term impact on the whole real estate industry, and may accompany people for a long time after the epidemic.
Automatic combination furniture
Transforming furniture is nothing new. Folding bed was patented more than a century ago. However, people crowded in single room apartments may welcome this kind of automatic furniture, which can not only save floor space, but also make the house more tidy.
Ori, an automated furniture company founded in 2015, stands for origami. The company recently launched “pocket office”: a nearly 7-foot-high sliding table that can be rolled out of a 30 inch deep cabinet into a full-size desk with bookshelves at the click of an app. With the help of the track system, it can be separated from the middle to form a separate office area with a retractable desk on one side and a bookshelf and standing desk on the other.
“People are looking forward to more of their own space,” hasier Larrea, the company’s founder and chief executive, said in a videophone interview from his one bedroom apartment in Williamsburg. “But area is definitely the most expensive.”
Larea says it’s always been the case in big cities. But the home office policy and the uncertainty of daily commuting in the epidemic are good news for his company.
“It’s not just in New York, San Francisco, Boston – from Boise to Minneapolis to Houston, we’ve all seen this,” larea said, adding that their bookings “quadrupled” last year, without specifying sales.
San Francisco based Bumblebee spaces has also seen increasing interest in automated furniture, said sankarshan Murthy, chief executive and co-founder of the company. The company’s modular beds and furniture can be suspended from the ceiling to maximize floor space. The software in these products can also track the location of stored items.
“What’s changed is that people spend more time at home,” says merti, who “realize that the traditional architectural model has been broken.”
In most cases, these companies do not sell their products directly to consumers, but sell them to property management companies that want to maximize single room apartments or one bedroom apartments. In the deal, ori costs between $5000 and $10000 per set of modular furniture. Bumblebee spaces, which includes a lifting bed and several storage units, sells for $10000 to $40000, depending on the installation method and product mix.
The situation is likely to change as these companies increase their efforts to sell products directly to households.
Ori’s oversized “cloud bed” is a mechanical bedstead that can be lifted into the air to expose the built-in sofa or desk. It covers an area of 7 square meters, weighs about 1240 kg and needs a height of about 1.8 meters. The retail price of this product has not yet been determined, but it may be between $10000 and $20000, which is higher than the price of some medium-sized cars.
But in a market like Manhattan, the average price of an apartment last quarter was $16473 per square meter, and the median price of a single apartment was $495000. The company thinks that its products have a market.
Pay more attention to health
Perhaps the most important change in the apartment building is the least valued aspect before, which is the system used to disinfect, prevent the spread of the virus and ease the fear of residents.
Douglas mass, President of cosentini associates, a building systems engineering company, said the industry is improving air purification systems in public areas, elevators and lobbies to make them more fluid and reduce the spread of the virus. Cosentini’s idea is to raise the standard of ventilation system to merv-13, which is considered to have a certain effect on disinfection. In contrast, the filtration grade of ordinary window air conditioning is merv-8 or lower, and the so-called HEPA filter grade used in hospitals is higher than merv-16.
But most big city homes are too old to support higher filtration standards, because more powerful filters require more air flow, and only buildings built in the past 20 years or so can be easily upgraded, MAS said. On the contrary, many buildings in other places are gradually transforming the narrow elevator space.
ThyssenKrupp Elevator, one of the largest elevator manufacturers, has started to install air circulation system to directly suck purified air from the elevator shaft. Another way is to treat bacteria, molds and viruses with ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide. Another system is to introduce ionized particles into the elevator to disinfect the air. Prices range from $3500 to $4000 per elevator.

ThyssenKrupp Elevator also designed a smart phone application, which allows users to control the elevator without pressing the call button. At the same time, it promotes a low-tech alternative, allowing users to control the pedal instead of the elevator button.
Jon Clarine, director of elevator digital services at ThyssenKrupp, said, “in any case, these were not in the scope of attention before.” He said the epidemic accelerated the release of several products. But William P. bahnfleth, a professor of architectural engineering at Pennsylvania State University and chairman of the society of heating, refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers’ Epidemiology Working Group, said the speed of some of these technologies needed to be examined more closely.
“In my opinion, it sounds more like marketing than science,” he said of some statements about air ionization systems and other products. “The question is,” how many risks exist, and to what extent can these measures mitigate them? ”
Still, they have a need. Adam Berenson, vice president of property management firm Dermer management, has just installed a similar UV disinfection system in the elevator of an apartment he manages for $5000. Many of them face the elevator door directly, and residents are worried that the air in the public area will seep into their living space.
“I don’t think the virus will disappear soon,” Berenson said. “I don’t believe it’s going to be the last.”
Developers once used luxury facilities to justify the shrinking size of apartments and record prices in recent years. Due to the isolation measures and residents’ concerns, the supporting spa, rest room and gym are accumulating dust.
“After the epidemic, everything changed,” said Rebecca Park, lifestyle director of extell, a developer of apartments in New York. One Manhattan square, developed by the company, has attracted many buyers with more than 10000 square meters of supporting facilities. Extell has started to use an appointment application to manage the appointment time of fitness venues such as private bowling alleys, basketball courts and squash courts.
Several property managers said they had managed the public space of the apartment through similar applications, but continued measures to maintain social distance may mean a change in the preferences of developers and residents in the post epidemic era.
One possible beneficiary is non-contact technology that uses key cards or smartphones to open doors. Luke schoenfelder, founder and chief executive of latch, a contactless door company, said sales in the third quarter of last year were up 50% year-on-year.
“We’ve exceeded our expectations,” he said, adding that last year the company’s sales exceeded $100 million. Latch has also established a partnership with Google’s nest division to allow residents or landlords to use the same application to remotely adjust the temperature or open doors.
A high-end rental apartment in Manhattan’s east side, the copper building was completed in 2017. Marc Kotler, senior vice president of FirstService residential, who runs the building, said functions such as keyless access to apartments and automatic elevator call could become more common.
The epidemic also reinforces the idea that some services should not be seen as amenities, but as essential utilities. Rachel fee, executive director of the New York housing conference, a non-profit housing policy and advocacy organization, asked the city government to provide Wi Fi services for new affordable housing projects and public housing renovations.
“Think back to last spring, all those who needed unemployment benefits and distance learning,” she said.
Applications and data
Rxo application, developed by RXR realty, a large-scale development and management company, can provide residents with property services and community forums for paying rent, requesting maintenance, booking facilities, and communicating with property managers.
In harbor landing, a luxury rental apartment in Glen Bay, long island, New York, the rxo app has played a huge role. It can monitor the number of people entering the apartment gym and limit the access of those who have not reserved.
There are more practical applications in the industry. Scott rechler, the company’s chief executive, said that based on dozens of criteria – how often do you park, how often do you check email, and how often do you receive guests – it can help predict whether tenants will renew their leases, with an accuracy of 80% so far. The project is still under development, but it is being tested in three rental buildings and is planned to be popularized in a wider range in the future.
The company also plans to launch another project called “computer vision” this month, which will use new technology to determine whether people coming in and out of apartments are wearing masks and to maintain social distance in public areas to help alert property managers to irregularities. At present, the company is testing the technology in its commercial real estate.
Some worry that similar technologies may go beyond privacy. Last year, three women in Congress, including Yvette Clarke, proposed legislation to ban the use of facial and biometric technology in public housing.
“I fully support innovative technologies, but we have to work hard to ensure that there is appropriate research and testing behind them,” Clark said in a statement. “We need to pay a lot of attention to those under researched technologies that can be harmful to vulnerable groups.” (Jiao Han)