Will Downtown Athens Soon Become Just One Enormous Airbnb?

The real estate map in Athens has turned upside down in the past few years, due to the growth of Airbnb and other short-stay lease platforms in the city. The ever-increasing power of Airbnb may indeed have given some owners a good income, but at the same time it has created serious social problems.

The main problem is that Airbnb has driven rent prices in Athens for Greek families, individuals and students so high that they are almost prohibitive for many. Owners prefer to short-lease their apartments to foreign or domestic travelers because the total revenue per month is inevitably higher.

Another reason that most owners seem to prefer to rent to tourists is that their properties would suffer much less wear and tear than if they rented it to a family with children, or even a student. At the same time, their revenue would likely be higher as well.

However, the problem is not just an ordinary property owner who decides to rent his apartment through Airbnb here and there.

The problem is large companies which are renting whole apartment blocks or dozens of apartments in an area, and then turn them into short-lease properties, thus raising rental prices in the area.

The problem created is manifold. Greeks often simply cannot find an apartment to rent nowadays because rents have become exorbitant in some areas. If a family wants to stay close to downtown because it is convenient for their work or the school their children attend, it is next to impossible to find a place to stay at a reasonable price.

Another, more serious, issue is that large real estate companies buy so very many downtown apartments, thereby driving out the local renters. Whole apartment blocks are now being bought for the sole purpose of being rented for a short period of time, with current residents literally being kicked out of them.

Finally, there is the problem of the destruction of the concept of neighborhood. With travelers coming and going and the breaking up of a network of local people, neighborhoods become impersonal and community ties are irretrievably broken.

As happens in almost all the big cities around the world, the most popular rentals are close to the main tourist attractions and sites. So naturally, the most popular areas understandably have the highest demands for Airbnb rentals.

In Athens, almost all the city landmarks are located in the downtown. The Acropolis, the new Acropolis Museum, the Roman Agora, the Panathenaic Stadium, the historical Plaka district, and the National Archaeological Museum are just a few. All of these Athenian jewels are located within a radius of two kilometers (1.2 miles).

Currently, one of the most sought-after Athens neighborhoods for tourists is Koukaki. A cozy neighborhood which begins where the Acropolis Hill ends, it is also close to the new Acropolis Museum, justifiably rated as one of the best museums in the world.

The continuous inflow of travelers in Koukaki — formerly a quiet neighborhood — has made it a vibrant part of Athens, full of new restaurants, bars and coffee shops. However, the area has completely lost its neighborhood vibe, as tourists come and go but there are no locals to retain the feeling of community of older days.

Koukaki is a place where there are literally no vacancies at present. Other such neighborhoods are Thission, Petralona, Mets, Kolonaki, Lycabettus, Ilisia and Pagrati — all middle class neighborhoods close, or with easy access, to the capital’s hot spots.

Rents for the very few vacant properties left are at least double what they were just three short years ago.

In the past few years, foreign investors have been buying real estate in Greece in ever-increasing numbers. According to Bank of Greece data, the net inflow of foreign capital in the Greek real estate market for the first three months of 2017 increased by 61.7 percent.

And this was after the 45.3 percent increase in 2016 and a 36.1 percent increase in 2015.

In Athens, statistics show that 88 percent of short-term rentals on Airbnb are rented as entire homes, 11 percent are rented as private rooms and only 1 percent are rented as shared rooms.

The top ten sought-after neighborhoods in Athens and the revenue per available room  – a metric calculated by a hotel’s average daily room rate by its occupancy rate – are as follows.

Zappeion its first, at €58; Acropolis, at €54.27; Commercial Triangle (the triangle created by Mitropoleos, Stadiou and Athens streets), at €52.58; Kolonaki, at €46.04; Thission, at €45.83; Gazi, at €45.46; Lycabettus, at €44.70; Koukaki-Makrygianni, at €41.29; Kerameikos, at €41.12; and Stadiou Street, at €40.31.

Three other additional areas where Airbnb rentals are flourishing are Ampelokipi, Kypseli and Kato Patissia. Only a few kilometers away from the major tourist landmarks, all three areas have good transportation for easy, quick access to downtown, with alluring prices that  — at least for now — are almost half of the top-tier Athens neighborhoods.

source: greece.greekreporter.com