Airbnb's Numbers in New York Aren't What They AdvertisedS

Airbnb should have picked another place as the testing ground for its battle with regulators. Just as the sweetheart of the sharing economy prepares to face off with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a new study from Skift contradicts numbers reported by Airbnb.

The company claims that "87 percent of Airbnb hosts in New York share only the home in which they live." But when Skift used a data extraction firm to look at New York numbers from January, the results didn't always match up.

70% of the available inventory is represented by people who only have one listing, while 30% comes from users who have posted more than one listing. This is made up of a mix of either one listing owned or leased by the person listing it and one other unit, or people who are renting multiple spaces on behalf of themselves or others.

That 30% breaks down like this:

102 hosts have 7 or more listings on the site, representing a total of 1,237 available listings on the site.

While more inventory is great for consumers like me—I spent yesterday afternoon scouring the site for rooms in San Francisco—Skift's data tells a very different story than the one Airbnb is astroturfing around town through the lobbyists at Peers about hosts who can only make a living by renting out a room.

In a cruel twist of corporate fate, it's Airbnb's fault that Skift was even inspired to go digging!

The court proceedings, which begin in late March, will cover (1) whether Airbnb hosts are paying proper taxes and (2) whether Airbnb hosts are violating state law that makes it "almost always illegal to rent a full apartment when the host is not present for less than 30 days."

But when authorities asked whether for relevant details:

Airbnb told the Attorney General that compiling this data was too burdensome, so Skift decided to help out.

That's how we arrive at damning numbers like this:

As opposed to the types of Airbnb hosts promoted by the sharing lobbying group Peers — which works closely with Airbnb on policy issues — the vast majority of the platform's hosts in New York appear to be people who are absent from their apartments or the apartments that they manage when guests appear.

We reported last year that at least half of the listings on Airbnb were by hosts that were breaking the law. From Connotate's research, it appears that number is closer to two thirds.

Putting aside whether state law helps more than it hurts, a company that's raised $326 million can surely afford to crunch some numbers for the Attorney General. But in the "sharing" economy, venture capitalists don't award multi-billion dollar valuations to startups that play nice.

To contact the author of this post, please email nitasha@gawker.com.

[Image via Airbnb]