Airbnb v rental - the numbers that show the challenge facing locals

The picturesque harbour at Wells-next-the-Sea, with boats basking in beautiful sunshine. Picture: DE

In Wells, the discussion around property shortage has been long going on, with the ability to rent a home becoming a real difficulty - Credit: Denise Bradley

The challenge facing local people wanting to rent a home in one of Norfolk's most popular tourist hotspots has been laid bare - with a snapshot showing 30 times more Airbnb than private rentals available.

The pandemic brought about a rise in staycations which saw many people convert homes which could be used to rent into holiday lets.

In Wells, the discussion around property shortage has long been going on, with the ability to rent a home becoming a real difficulty for many local people.

But as we return to normality, is the tide changing, and are more long-term rentals coming back to the market?

At the time of writing, a search for homes to rent on Rightmove shows no properties in Wells, with just five in a five-mile radius - but over on Airbnb, there are 151 possible stays in houses and flats.

Oliver Harwood, North Norfolk area lettings valuer from Sowerbys said that at the start of the pandemic there was a large amount of Wells properties being converted from long-term rentals into holiday lets, especially to cope with the demand for staycations.

Mr Harwood explained the current situation of rentals in Wells.

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At the time of writing, a search for homes to rent on Rightmove shows no properties in Wells

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“A premium rental is hard to come by and they are so sought after,” he said.

“People will pay over the odds for them as it is so hard to secure a home.

“They also go so quickly, right now, from marketing a property, having viewings, and commencing a sale, it takes around two to three weeks.”

However, he added that he is seeing an increase in property owners looking to convert their homes back to a long-term rental, as European borders are open for holidays.

The discussion around second homes has garnered national attention.

As reported in The Guardian, residents in north Cornwall are asking for compulsory purchases of unoccupied second homes amid a deepening crisis in affordable housing.

One of the group’s members described a scene similar to Wells, with 111 Airbnbs in the area, but the closest place for long-term rentals being seven miles away.

In June, residents in Whitby, North Yorkshire, held a referendum that saw 93pc of residents vote to limit the sale of new builds and additional homes to full-time residents.

However, the vote is not legally binding.

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker.

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker. - Credit: Richard Townshend Photography

Duncan Baker, North Norfolk MP, said that he would not say whether or not a similar ballot should be held in north Norfolk - but that any measures for dealing with the impact of second homes would have to be tested for their impact on the community.

In our region, it was revealed earlier this month, that more than half of homes in Morston are now either holiday lets or second homes.

Some 52.2pc of homes in the coastal village are not primary residences - an increase from the 47.7pc recorded last year, when 31 of Morston’s 65 homes were mainly used by people who don’t live there full-time. 

It means the village has overtaken nearby Salthouse, which last year had 50.3pc second homes and holiday lets, to become north Norfolk's parish with the highest proportion.  

The figure was revealed by North Norfolk District Council, ahead of the planned publication of an investigative report looking into the impact of second homes - which is up for discussion at a meeting of the authority’s overview and scrutiny committee on Wednesday, July 20. 

Rosemary Dear, vice-chair of the Fakenham Choral Society.

Rosemary Dear, vice-chair of the Fakenham Choral Society. - Credit: Aaron McMillan

Rosemary Dear, from Fakenham, owns a holiday let in Heacham along the sea wall.

Mrs Dear, who is the vice-chair of the Fakenham Choral Society, and her family would visit the let and loved it so much, they told the owners that if it went up for sale, they would snap it up.

The home cannot have permanent residence, and can only be used for seven months of the year, because of its position.

She said if given the chance she would think about converting it into a rental property for a longer time - as she believes it would be less work than managing a holiday home.

However, she believes the pandemic has allowed people to buy into the market in our region, and people will be less likely to walk away.

She said: “The worry is, since the pandemic, more people have sold their homes and brought two properties here, lived in one and let the other, taking away the property from the local people."

“On the coast, there is such a demand for holiday lets during the season, so people who have them are going to stick with them and it makes sense."

Homes for Wells is continuing its work to tackle the concerning housing problem in the coastal town.

Karen Clarke, fundraiser and financial administrator for Homes for Wells.

Karen Clarke, fundraiser and financial administrator for Homes for Wells. - Credit: Karen Clarke

Karen Clarke, fundraiser and financial administrator for the charity, said the large amount of Airbnbs is a real issue for the group.

“The situation for us seems to be worsening - there are less and less private property rentals and when they are available they are up for an extortionate price,” she said.

“Recently we have rehomed two families who were asked to leave because their landlords wanted to convert the rental homes into holiday lets - it seems to be happening more and more.”