Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky wrote a letter to all hosts informing them that the company is committed to a $250 million bailout to cover some of the cost of COVID-19 cancellations. The canceled check-ins are for March 14 through May 31, Airbnb will pay hosts 25% of what they would’ve received via their cancellation policies, and the “payments will begin to be issued in April.”
Chesky said a separate $10 million Superhost Relief Fund would be designed for “Superhosts who rent out their own home and need help paying their rent or mortgage, plus long-tenured Experience hosts trying to make ends meet. Our employees started this fund with $1 million in donations out of their own pockets, and Joe, Nate and I are personally contributing the remaining $9 million. Starting in April, hosts can apply for grants for up to $5,000 that don’t need to be paid back.”
And here’s where the story gets interesting…
Of the four million Airbnb hosts across the world, 10% are considered “Superhosts,” and many have taken out mortgages to accumulate properties to build rental portfolios.
With the travel industry crashed, many of these Superhosts have seen their rental incomes plunge in March and risk missing mortgage payments in the months ahead. Chesky was forced to bailout Superhosts because some of these folks have overextended their leveraged in building an Airbnb portfolio and risk imminent deleveraging.
Highly leveraged Superhosts could be the first domino to fall that triggers a housing bust this year. Superhosts can have one property and or have an extensive portfolio, usually built with leverage. So when rental income goes to zero, that is when some have to make the difficult decision of missing a mortgage payment or having it deferred or liquidate the property to raise cash. These decessions are all happening all at once for tens of thousands of people not just across the world but all over the US and could trigger forced selling of properties into illiquid housing markets in the months ahead.
Some of the horror stories are already playing out on Twitter:
And just like in 2008, when the rent payments stopped, landlords also felt the crunch and went belly up. What’s happening with highly leveraged Airbnb Superhosts is no different than what happened a decade ago. Again, no one has learned their lesson. And we might have discovered the next big seller that could ruin the real estate market: Airbnb Superhosts that need to get liquid.