Understanding Arbitrage in Short-Term Rentals

In the dynamic landscape of short-term rentals, where travelers seek unique accommodations and hosts aim to optimize revenue streams, the concept of arbitrage has emerged as a strategic tool. But what exactly does arbitrage entail in the context of short-term rentals, and how can hosts leverage it effectively? Let’s delve into it.

What is Arbitrage in Short-Term Rentals?

Arbitrage, simply put, refers to exploiting price differentials for the same asset in distinct markets. In the sphere of short-term rentals, it involves leasing a property from a landlord or owner at a fixed rate and subsequently subletting it on platforms like Airbnb or Vrbo at a higher rate, thus capitalizing on the price gap to generate profit.

How Does Arbitrage Work in Short-Term Rentals?

The process of arbitrage in short-term rentals typically involves the following steps:

  1. Conduct Comprehensive Research: Thoroughly analyze rental markets, property listings, and local regulations before engaging in any agreements. Tools such as AirDNA provide valuable insights into market dynamics. Favorable markets are characterized by minimal regulations or streamlined permitting processes.
  2. Identify Suitable Properties: Locate properties in desirable locations with strong rental potential, spanning apartments, houses, or unique accommodations like treehouses or yurts.
  3. Negotiate Rental Terms: Negotiate terms with landlords or property owners to secure a lease agreement conducive to profitable subletting. Ensure that the lease explicitly permits short-term rentals.
  4. List Property on Rental Platforms: Once the lease agreement is finalized, list the property on platforms such as Airbnb, Vrbo, or Booking.com at a rate exceeding the negotiated lease rate on a nightly basis.
  5. Manage Bookings and Guest Experience: Oversee bookings, address guest inquiries, and ensure a positive guest experience throughout their stay. This encompasses tasks such as cleaning, maintenance, and responsive communication. Prioritize guest satisfaction to foster positive reviews and repeat bookings.
  6. Monitor Performance and Adapt: Continuously monitor the property’s performance, including occupancy rates, pricing trends, and guest feedback. Adjust pricing and marketing strategies as necessary to optimize profitability.

Benefits of Arbitrage in Short-Term Rentals

Arbitrage offers several advantages for hosts seeking to capitalize on short-term rental opportunities:

  • Lower Initial Investment: Arbitrage entails a lower initial investment compared to property acquisition, as hosts lease properties instead of purchasing them outright.
  • Flexibility: Arbitrage enables hosts to explore diverse markets and locations without the long-term commitment associated with property ownership, facilitating adaptation to evolving market conditions.
  • Profit Potential: Effectively executed arbitrage strategies can yield substantial profits by leveraging price disparities between rental rates and short-term rental prices in sought-after destinations.

Challenges of Arbitrage in Short-Term Rentals

However, arbitrage is not without its challenges:

  • Negotiating Rental Agreements: Securing favorable rental agreements with landlords or property owners can be arduous, particularly in competitive rental markets.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Hosts must navigate local regulations and zoning laws governing short-term rentals to ensure compliance and mitigate legal risks.
  • Property Management: Managing multiple properties and ensuring a seamless guest experience demand significant time, effort, and resources.
  • Long-Term Considerations: The long-term financial viability of arbitrage may be inferior to ownership structures, which offer benefits such as property appreciation and tax advantages.

In conclusion, arbitrage presents an appealing avenue for hosts to generate income from short-term rentals by leveraging market differentials. By adopting a strategic approach, proactively addressing challenges, and remaining informed, hosts can unlock the full potential of arbitrage and thrive in the competitive landscape of short-term rentals.


Barb is the president of NASTRA and has spent her professional career in hospitality and real estate. After acquiring her first short-term rental in 2018, Barb moved her focus to legal advocacy after she sued the city of Nashville over a permit issue. Over the last three years, she has mentored more than 2,800 new STR hosts and is the Community Leader for Airbnb in Nashville, as well as an Airbnb “Ask a Superhost” Ambassador. Barb has appeared on numerous radio broadcasts, television shows, and podcasts to talk about her love of hosting. She also manages and co-hosts a number of short term rentals across Tennessee and Arkansas. Barb and her husband Pat own a hotel brokerage, development and consulting company. Look for her upcoming podcast series, “Women of Airbnb.”

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