Americans are not very keen on renting their homes out to strangers

Bad news for Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky: Demand is tapering off.
Bad news for Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky: Demand is tapering off.
Image: AP Photo/Eric Risberg
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Airbnb has spooked the hospitality industry with its popular peer-to-peer rentals. Valued at $30 billion as of August, Airbnb is worth more on paper than any single hotel chain. The company boasts 2.5 million rental listings on its site across 191 countries and has declared home-sharing a “movement.” But at least in the US, the actual ”sharing” piece of that turns out to still be quite small.

Just 1% of US adults earned money by renting out their home on Airbnb or a similar platform in the last year, according to data released this week by Pew Research Center. That’s compared to the 11% who say they’ve booked a stay using a home-sharing site, according to previous research from Pew. Those users skew toward the white, wealthy, and well-educated.

Many more Americans are selling things online, with 18% saying they earned money that way in the last year. Used or second-hand goods are the most common merchandise (sold by 14% of US adults), followed by consumer goods (sold by 2%) and handmade items (ditto). The demographics of online sellers are also more evenly distributed by education and earnings than people who share their homes. That makes sense, since you need to be richer to own or lease a home that can be rented out to other people than to advertise and sell goods online.

On Nov. 15, a separate report from the JPMorgan Chase Institute, the research arm of the bank, suggested that American enthusiasm for the “sharing” or “gig” economy is tapering off. According to that research, the share of US adults participating on “capital” platforms—which help people rent out assets like a car, home or spare room—has declined from the previous year. The institute also concluded that monthly earnings on capital platforms, after rising at nearly 200% per annum for much of last year, are now growing at a much more modest rate. Growth on labor platforms, such as Uber, has also slowed sharply.