Airbnb renters hope to score big cash during Pan Am games

Staying at an Airbnb room or apartment could be more expensive than renting a room in one of Toronto's top hotels during the Pan Am Games, a CBC/Radio-Canada data analysis finds.

Prices for rooms higher than usual for short-term rentals in Greater Toronto Area

Staying at an Airbnb room or apartment could be more expensive than renting a room in one of Toronto's top hotels during the Pan Am Games, a CBC/Radio-Canada data analysis finds.

Over the past month, hundreds of GTA residents have posted their first Airbnb ads, hoping to make a small fortune renting their apartments and rooms to Pan Am Games visitors. 

''If they are able to get away from the city and get away from the congestion, they definitely will, so why not make extra money?'' said Jacelyn Holmes, an Airbnb host who helps new users set up their accounts.

MAP: Where the Pan Am listings are in the GTA

On June 24, as many as 530 ads targeting Pan Am Games visitors were on the Airbnb Toronto website, according to exclusive data obtained and analyzed by CBC/Radio-Canada.

These apartments, which average $200 a night, include a two-storey boat anchored on the shores of Lake Ontario.

Most of the Pan Am rental ads include prices that are higher than the normal rate, which ranged from $130 to $150 a night between June 1 and June 24. 

Among the landlords is Holmes's brother Braeden, who signed up on Airbnb a few weeks ago.

He charges renters between $100 and $140 a night, plus a cleaning fee of $30 for his three-bedroom apartment near St. Clair Avenue and Dufferin Street.

He has hiked his price up "$20 or so a night" during July and already found Pan Am renters for his apartment, which is about 20 minutes away from the nearest competition site.

Jacelyn Holmes says she receives several calls a day from people who want to rent their apartment "just one time, for the Pan American Games."

Airbnb disappointment?

Those hoping to score more gold than the athletes may be in for a huge disappointment, says Marion Joppe, a professor in the school of hospitality and tourism management at the University of Guelph.

''Will all these hosts really rent? That is far from certain, especially when we see hotels rooms being sold at bargain prices in peak touristic season," said Joppe.

According to a CBC/Radio-Canada review of the websites of five Toronto hotels, the average price for a room for the weekend in the middle of the Pan Am Games is approximately $175 per night, compared to $200 a night for Airbnb ads directly targeting Pan Am visitors. 

There is also some uncertainty about how many people will attend the Games. Tickets for the sporting events were not selling out quickly. Nearly two weeks before the opening ceremonies, tickets were only half sold.

Renters may also be in for more trouble than expected, especially if they are not insured appropriately, says the Insurance Bureau of Canada. The bureau also reminds travellers that they are most likely not covered if their stay is disappointing. 

''A home policy is for personal use, not commercial use. If something were to happen and you hadn't notified your insurance company that you are using your home for so-called commercial use, you could be denied coverage," said bureau spokesman Steve Kee.

However, Airbnb says hosts and guests are insured for up to $1 million if their experience doesn't meet expectations.

Airbnb also reimbursed a Calgary couple whose house was trashed by renters earlier this year.


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