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Hurricanes not likely to create a big spike in demand for short-term rentals, brokers say

Many displaced residents may want to sign leases for a year or longer
By Francisco Alvarado | September 25, 2017 09:45AM

Ramrod Key (Photo Credit: Joe Raedle)

The aftermath of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria will likely lead to a slight increase in demand for short-term rentals by people from the Caribbean displaced from the monster storms, while the market for snowbirds will remain steady, according to industry experts.

“The net difference is that yes, we will have more,” said Ron Shuffield, president and CEO of EWM Realty International. “But will it be a dramatic increase? Probably not.”

Some homeowners and tenants whose residences were destroyed in places such as the Florida Keys, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico will likely search for temporary housing in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Shuffield said. However, he expects many more will want to sign leases for one year or longer, if they don’t already have a permanent home in South Florida.

“There could be some 13,000 students from Monroe County who are coming to public school in Miami-Dade,” he said. “For their families, they would need accommodations that are more than temporary.”

Courtney Smitheman, a principal with Jupiter-based Crane Reed Properties, said she had a resident from the U.S. Virgin Islands inquiring about short-term rentals her company is handling. Her listings range from one-bedroom apartments starting at about $3,000 a month to estate homes that go for $10,000 to $15,000 a month.

“I know several people who are coming back to the mainland because of the unsafe conditions and the lack of work in the U.S. Virgin Islands right now,” she said. “There is also a pretty good chance we will see more Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria. They will be the next transition of people coming to the mainland.”

Meanwhile, she hasn’t noticed a drop-off in seasonal rentals for the upcoming fall and winter months. “Those are mostly snowbirds from the Northeast,” Smitheman said. “They typically stay for three to six months. The only negative impact prior to the storm were requests for shorter terms, especially from Canada.”

Veronica Cervera, CEO and principal of Cervera Real Estate, said she doesn’t expect to see “big activity” in the short-term rental market because the number of Miami-Dade residents who have been displaced because of Irma is relatively low. “There’s no pent-up demand for short-term rentals,” Cervera said. Her company currently lists short-term rentals from Hallandale Beach to the Brickell financial district. Tenants can sign month-to-month leases for condos starting at $3,800 and going as high as $8,500.

She said Cervera’s short-term rental clientele includes condo buyers waiting for a new development to be completed, people who want to experience living in a condo before actually buying one, and tourists who don’t feel comfortable staying in hotels for extended periods of time. “We didn’t have any cancellations,” she said. “But we do expect a backlog of about two to three weeks.”

Data on how Irma impacted daily and weekly rentals conducted through Airbnb is harder to come by. Benjamin Breit, a spokesman for the company, said he could not provide accurate information on the number of Airbnb bookings that were canceled in September due to Hurricane Irma or figures for canceled bookings through November 1, the day hurricane season ends.

The company does offer a disaster response program in Florida in which Airbnb hosts can offer residences to displaced individuals at no charge. To date, more than 230 hosts have opted into the program to list their homes for free to those in need, Briet said.