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Vancouver's 5 fanciest Airbnbs—as study says full-time hosts made $70M

Amidst rental shortage, Van City beat Toronto and Montreal at short-term listings per-capita—and a record 9% of hosts renting 1,789 multiple, whole units full-time

A three-story, 12,000-square-foot mansion on a Surrey acreage is currently on Airbnb for $1,500 a night. A one-month stay at this rate would cost nearly an average British Columbian's annual salary.

Supplied/Airbnb

A three-story, 12,000-square-foot mansion on a Surrey acreage is currently on Airbnb for $1,500 a night. A one-month stay at this rate would cost nearly an average British Columbian's annual salary.

Of Canada's largest cities, rental-strapped Vancouver rules the roost when it comes to the number of Airbnb short-term rentals compared to its population, according to a new study from McGill University.

Vancouver also raised the roof when it came to how many of its listings were part of what the researchers termed "the unholy trinity" of hosts whom the researchers argued had the most "severe impact on housing markets" — renting out multiple entire homes full-time throughout the year.

"The most successful of these hosts earn millions of dollars per year running commercial short-term rental services across dozens or even hundreds of homes," wrote the report's three authors, members of McGill's urban planning school. "Most of which are no longer able to support a long-term resident … These listings are growing more rapidly than any other category of listing."

Nearly nine per cent — 1,789 — of Vancouver's 19,994 listings active in the 12 months ending this May were part of this group of so-called "unholy trinity" hosts.

In total, the researchers estimated, Vancouver hosts as whole raked in $137.3 million over the past year, with each host earning the highest average annual income of the three cities, $6,864 — 30 per cent higher than the three-city average.

But that number is somewhat "misleading," the authors noted, because it's skewed by new hosts and summer subletters, for instance. Among the elite of year-round, full-time hosts, the average income spiked to $14,462 in Vancouver, 25 per cent above the national average.

The report, released Tuesday, claimed to be the first-ever attempt to compare Canada's three most populous cities: Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver (the so-called "MTV").

The study compared Airbnb active listings totalling roughly 80 million "daily transactions" across the three cities over a year.

Vancouver also led the way on multi-listings, which have raised fears of "Airbnb hotels" replacing entire buildings of tenants with short-term visitors because it's more lucrative.

The concerns sparked the city's April 6, 2016 vote to explore ways to crack down on the practice — proposing a ban on multiple Airbnb listings, stricter rules about who can host, and charging a tax on the transactions like hotels pay.

Nonetheless, with the Airbnb rules still not in place pending public hearings and not expected to come into force until next spring, since last June the percentage of entire-home listings in Vancouver grew three per cent; nearly four-in-10 Vancouver listings are whole units, ahead of both Toronto and Montreal.

The report's authors proposed that cities place more aggressive restrictions on the service to get back to Airbnb's "original notion of 'home sharing'" instead of removing potential rental units from the market. The report made three recommendations for such rules.

"Cities should require home sharing hosts to actually be sharing their homes," they wrote, for instance if the resident is out-of-town for a short time or needs a roommate. "… Hosts should not be permitted to rent their homes for a large amount of the year … And international evidence demonstrates that short-term-regulations will fail to achieve their intended effect unless Airbnb and the other platforms are required to proactively enforce them."

5 most tony Airbnb listings in Metro Vancouver:

The report also estimated the revenues of the "top five revenue generating" Airbnb listings in Vancouver, with titles such as “Luxury Oceanfront Mansion," “Spectacular Water View," “House for Large Groups," “Modern New Home,” and "Yacht."

Metro scanned Airbnb for a sampling of some of the top-nightly listings. While these likely would never have been candidates for plebeian market renters like many of us, they do illustrate just how lucrative Airbnb has become for some hosts.

1. 'Sumptuous luxury' — afloat ($10,000/night)

Supplied/Airbnb

The latter, while obviously not displacing a normal market rental unit, likely refers to the listing for the "Oriana yacht" — a $10,540-a-night North Vancouver vessel including Airbnb fees that sleeps eight and promises "sumptuous luxury, impeccable craftsmanship, seamless service and a world class experience."

According to the report, the yacht is operated by "a former mayor from a nearby municipality." That, according to the listing, is ex-mayor of West Vancouver mayor and Metro Vancouver vice-chair Mark Sager.

Here are just a sampling of some of the other most expensive listings on Airbnb in Vancouver right now:

2. Beachfront Kits Beach House ($2,000/night)

Supplied/Airbnb

Why endure the hordes at Vancouver's crowded beaches when you can fork over two grand for a "Malibu style beach house" in trendy Kitsilano? Billed as the "ONLY oceanfront/beachfront home on Airbnb in Vancouver," this spot comes with a pair of mountain bikes included and "expansive" ocean and city views from the "large oceanfront patio with a cushy seating area."

3. Howe Sound … with hot tub ($1,600/night)

Supplied/Airbnb

Head up the Sea-to-Sky Highway just 20 minutes and you can crash in this tony four-bedroom Furry Creek home. Its saltwater pool and hot tub overlook Howe Sound and feature a small waterfall — but they'll cost you an additional $300 "pool heating fee" in fall and spring, plus a $300 cleaning fee.

4. 'Get-away' mansion (up to $1,500/night)

Supplied/Airbnb

If you have a bus-load of friends you can count on to fork over $1,500 up-front for the required deposit, this three-story, 12,000-square-foot mansion on a Surrey acreage may be for you. It includes, of course, pool, hot tub and ping pong.

5. 'Upscale westside' ($1,400/night)

Supplied/Airbnb

Vancouver's west side neighbourhoods have seen a dramatic upsurge in house prices in recent years, so it's perhaps not surprising that some of Airbnb's most expensive listings are here too. This five-bedroom, 4,700-square-foot home in Dunbar was just built three years ago, the listing states, and fetches up to $1,400 a night on the short-term rental service. It boasts "multiple decks" but comes with a nearly $2,000 security deposit in case things go … awry.

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