The rapid spread of the coronavirus was already driving interest in remote, survivalist real estate earlier this week. But now, as the situation worsens, enterprising property owners have stepped in to offer a shorter-term option: Airbnb and Craigslist rentals billed as “safe houses” and “coronavirus-free.”
The rentals are scattered all over the world. One listing on the San Francisco area Craigslist page bills itself as a “covid-19 safe house” located in “nowhere OK.” It warns that coronavirus is “coming to where you live” and urges would-be renters to “turn this frightening time into a family get-away in the country.”
The listing also states that a “Harvard-educated surgeon” owns the property so “quality medical care is only a phone call away.”
On Airbnb, a Colorado cabin offers to let people “escape coronavirus” and promises that “we have toilet paper” — a reference to widespread toilet paper shortages at grocery stores across the country.
Another Airbnb listing, for a private villa at a monastery in Armenia, assures visitors that it is “coronavirus free” — a similar promise made in a listing for a “sunny panoramic room” in Prague.
In Weaverville, North Carolina, a listing for a tiny cabin also proudly declares that the property is “coronavirus free.”
And a listing for a ranch near Grass Valley, California, suggests that the property offers a chance to “escape the coronavirus and move to the country!”
Other properties around the world are currently being touted as “germ free,” and many hosts have opted to include the fact that they have toilet paper in the titles of their listings.
While many of these listings are clearly trying to capitalize on current events and stand out in a crowded marketplace, their owners are also likely contending with a brutal short-term rental landscape. As the coronavirus has spread across the globe, authorities have strongly discouraged people from traveling, and earlier this week President Trump issued a ban on travel from Europe to the U.S.
The result has been falling demand for short-term rentals all over the world, according to analytics firm AirDNA. Cancelations of major events have further exacerbated the issue. For example, AirDNA found among other things that short-term property managers in Austin, Texas, will have revenues cut by $6.3 million thanks to the cancelation of South by Southwest.
Broadly speaking, this means that everyone from big companies to mom-and-pops with a spare bedroom to rent will earn significantly less money in the coming weeks or months.
It’s still unclear how all of this will play out over the longer term. But at least for now, real estate consumers at least have safe house options for both the short and longer term.