Top Australian hosts are earning far more than loose change for listing their spare room, apartment or house on popular accommodation site Airbnb, with one Sydney operator raking in A$5.3 million (NZ$5.8m) in the past year.
The top 10 Airbnb hosts or property managers nationwide made between A$2 and A$5.3 million in the year to October 2017 across multiple listings.
The new figures show the top earner in Australia was an unnamed host or property management company in Sydney. Their staggering A$5.3 million total revenue came from 247 properties.
Seven of the top-earning hosts in the past year were in New South Wales.
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Operators in Wingecarribee and Wyong pulled in A$4 million across a portfolio of 97 and 168 properties respectively. A host near Byron Bay took in A$3.7 million across 40 properties.
The average Airbnb host in Sydney makes A$11,150 per listing annually.
In Melbourne, an operator made A$3.7 million across 158 listings, while in Colac Otway someone made A$3.5 million across 80 properties.
The figures come from AirDNA, which is a company that crunches the numbers based on data from Airbnb.
AirDNA chief executive Scott Shatford says Airbnb is increasingly becoming the domain of property management companies, despite starting out as a platform for individuals to share a spare room, apartment or house.
But Airbnb Australia and New Zealand manager Sam McDonagh insists two-thirds of the listings are still people sharing the home they live in.
"We do know there are of course the professional property managers and traditional hospitality, like bed and breakfasts, that have always operated and are now listing on Airbnb," he said this week, acknowledging Airbnb needed to do a better job of categorising them.
McDonagh said so-called "next-generation property managers" were generally managing people's homes.
They took some of the work out of being a host by, for example, providing linen and cleaning services.
"We see that as certainly growing in popularity," he said.
McDonagh said ultimately "market dynamics" would determine the success or failure of big operators.
"We're ambivalent in terms of whether someone has one property or five properties – if they're a great host and they're serving the community then we're supportive of that."
Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia argues it's a "misconception" that the sharing platform involves property groups renting out entire apartments full-time.
"When we go city by city, country by country, our hosts are everyday average people," he said in Sydney.
In cities around the world, the popularity of Airbnb has led some policymakers to argue the website is adding to housing affordability crises by transforming residential properties into tourist accommodation.
State and territory governments in Australia are scrambling to regulate the booming short-term holiday letting industry.
NSW has more than 40,000 Airbnb listings – with 25,000 in Sydney alone – but is yet to pass specific laws governing rentals. Instead, they're left to local councils to regulate.
NSW Better Regulation Minister Matt Kean says a parliamentary inquiry should help "get the balance right".
"We don't want a holiday accommodation market that's so over-regulated it puts people off coming here, but people are also entitled to the quiet enjoyment of their homes," he said.
A recent Deloitte Access Economics report found Airbnb guests were contributing A$1.6 billion to the Australian economy and supporting over 14,000 jobs.
It found hosts across the country earned a median income of A$4920 in 2015/16.