It's one of the most frequently mentioned examples of the "sharing economy" the internet is powering; instead of companies and professionals leasing out houses and hotel rooms, individuals can make a bit of extra cash by sharing their home.
But the site's listings may not be what they first seem. Data from the site analysed by the Guardian suggests that professionals and buy-to-let investors with empty properties have carved out a huge presence on the site. The rise of these semi-professional landlords is causing concern among hoteliers and is potentially an extra headache for those struggling to get on the capital's crowded housing ladder.
The analysis of more than 13,000 Airbnb listings in London – by far the site's biggest UK market – shows more than 6,600 are leasing out an entire home or flat, rather than a spare room. More than 1,500 people listing properties on the site have multiple listings, with 180 listing five or more properties or rooms across London.
Some of the site's super users have dozens of properties across the city at once: one, who went by the name Petra, had 127 active listings on Thursday. The account did not return requests for comment.
The study also suggests many listings on the site – which vary from a £20-a-night spare room staying with a family in Newbury Park to a £900-a-night warehouse in Shoreditch – are rented out frequently, rather than just once or twice a year when the resident is away.
Using the number of reviews as a minimum for how often a property has been leased (visitors don't have to leave any feedback, meaning the actual number of stays may be higher) shows that more than 3,100 of the London listings have had more than 10 visits, while 1,600 have had more than 20 stays in the short life of the UK arm of the site."