Airbnb Data, Part 2: A Tale of Three Cities

14 May

There’s such a thing as overstaying your welcome, but Airbnb landlords – and in effect that’s what they sometimes appear to be – may be prepared to happily abide your long-term self, or selves, in their abode.

And that heartening show of hospitality may be illegal. They take a dim view of Airbnb’s good neighbor policy in London, for but one example, where the powers-that-be aren’t thrilled about the kind of lucrative serial subletting some Airbnbers perpetrate, straitening as it does the market for folks who’d prefer to hang tight in an actual, lease-driven apartment.

The long and the short of it then, is that it a review of Airbnb property availabilities – defined as the number of days in a year in which a given room remains on offer – could prove instructive, and our data for New York, London, and Paris devotes a field to just that question.

The analysis, then, should proceed pretty straightforwardly, once we do something about the startingly sizeable count of rooms – about 55,000 – that presently aren’t to be had. That is, their value in their dataset’s availability_365 field states 0, indicating that, for now at least, that room has been withheld from the market. An email from Inside Airbnb compiler Murray Cox informed me that zero means the property’s next 365 days in its calendar (presumably its start date is a moveable inception point, which Cox finds in the the scrape_date field in a different dataset) aren’t in play, at least temporarily.
And as such, those zeros – which are, after all, values that would contribute to and very much confound any formula result – have to be barred from the data set. Here I rely on my venerable highest-to-lowest sort of the availability_365 field, relegating the zeros to the bottom of the set; and once put in their place, an interpolated blank row immediately above the first zero will detach them from the usable data, for now (of course they can be recalled if needed via a simple deletion of the blank row).

And all that enables us to proceed here:

Rows: City

Values: availability_365 (Average, formatted to two decimals)

I get:


Real city variation is in force; and recall the linked article above, the one reporting the December 2016 London-approved bill “limiting Airbnb hosts to renting their property for only 90 days”. Looks as if a few thousand room owners in that city haven’t read the news lately.

We could next cross-tab the results by room type, by rolling room_type into Columns:


All the cities trend in the same direction, though not identically – itself a differentiation worth pursuing, perhaps. Availability widens as the rental space constricts, with shared rooms – defined by Airbnb as those in which “Guests sleep in a bedroom or a common area that could be shared with others”, presumably humans, who presumably might or might not be actually residents of the property – freed up for a considerably larger fraction of the year.

And the results make sense – even common sense, perhaps. Entire homes and apartments need be empty, by definition, and if so, where would their owners be expected to go for the duration of the rental?

That’s a good question, one that directs itself to one of flashpoints of the Airbnb controversy. Are its hosts the kinds of proprietors who hoard multiple listings that might otherwise be released to the conventional rental/purchase market?

A few sure-footed steps toward an answer would require us to divide all the rentals in a city by its number of hosts, i.e., an average of properties per host; and that simple division exercise needs to fill its denominator with a unique count of hosts, thus returning us to a problem with which we’ve tangled before. To reiterate it: an owner of multiple properties will naturally appear that many times in the data set, that is, once each for each holding, even as we want him/her here to appear once. In light of that complication I think the neatest way out this time is to conduct a Remove Duplicates maneuver (Data ribbon > Data Tools), and ticking the host_id field, the parameter whose entries contains the duplicates we want to shake out (again, you may want to save these results to a new workbook precisely because you’re shrinking the original data set).

But how do the host ids, once in their respective, solitudinous states facilitate a calculation of the number of properties they own, on average? Here’s how: once we’ve identified each host id singly, we can average the calculated_host_listings_count in column P via a city pivot table breakout. That field, which restates the number of each host’s holdings in each of his/her record entries, is one I would have deemed redundant to the data set’s design. After all, the owner-property count could otherwise be derived when needed, for example, via a pivot tabling of the hosts id, delivering the field to both the Rows and Values areas. But because we’ve removed all host id duplicates, that plotline has to be red-penciled – and that’s where the calculated_host_listings_count comes to salvage the script:

Rows: Country

Values: calculated_host_listing_count (Average, to two decimals)

I get:


We see then, that Airbnb hosts are for the most part single-property marketers, at least for the cities we’ve gathered. For those interested in more detail, we could try this:

Row Labels: calculated_host_listing_count

Columns: City

Values: calculated_host_listing_count (Count, % of Column Total, formatted in percentage terms to two decimals)

I get, in excerpt:


You get the idea, though we see London owners are notably more likely to offer multiple properties.

Speaking of which, croll to the bottom of the table above and you’ll find a 711, signifying the voluminous, apparent holdings of a fellow named Tom in London. But When I returned to our original, entire Airnbnb dataset, including the rooms for which availability was set at 0 days, I discovered but 350 properties strewn about London associated with his name.

Now Tom’s the kind of person Murray Cox wants us to know about; he owns so many properties that he’s lost track of half of them.

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