Profitability Comparison: Long-term vs Short-term Rentals


The real estate market presents several avenues for income, two of the most common being long-term and short-term rentals. Both strategies carry distinct benefits and challenges that can significantly affect their profitability. Understanding these factors can help landlords and investors make informed decisions that align with their financial goals and management style.

Short-Term Rentals: The Potential for High Returns and Flexibility

Short-term rentals, popularized by platforms like Airbnb, are often furnished properties rented out for short periods, typically less than 30 days. These rentals can yield high returns, especially in tourist hotspots and during peak seasons.


  • Higher Potential Income: On a per-night basis, short-term rentals can often command higher rates than long-term leases, which can lead to impressive gross revenue. In addition to the rental income, the hosts can also up-sell existing furnishing through platforms like Houstr to capture additional revenue from their guests.
  • Flexibility: These rentals offer more flexibility. Owners can block off personal use times, adjust prices dynamically in response to market demand, and experiment with different types of tenants.


  • Increased Expenses: Short-term rentals usually come with higher operational costs. These include more frequent cleaning and maintenance, restocking supplies, utility bills (which landlords typically cover), and higher insurance costs due to the increased risk associated with frequent tenant turnover.
  • Management Overhead: They require intensive management, including handling reservations, addressing frequent guest inquiries, coordinating check-ins/check-outs, and managing online listings. If a property management company is engaged, their fees for short-term rentals are usually higher due to the increased workload.
  • Market and Seasonal Fluctuations: The revenue from short-term rentals can be inconsistent, with potential for high vacancy rates during off-peak seasons or due to unexpected events like a global pandemic.
  • Regulatory Challenges: Some regions have strict regulations on short-term rentals, requiring permits, licenses, and adherence to zoning laws, which can increase complexity and costs.

Long-term Rentals: Stability and Lower Operating Costs

Long-term rentals, on the other hand, are typically leased for six months to a year or more. They offer more predictable, steady cash flow, albeit often at lower daily rates than short-term rentals.


  • Steady Cash Flow: Long-term leases provide reliable, predictable income. Once a tenant is in place, you can anticipate a set amount of income each month for the duration of the lease.
  • Lower Operating Costs: These rentals generally require less frequent cleaning and maintenance, leading to lower operating costs.
  • Reduced Management Time: Once a tenant is secured, the day-to-day management effort is usually lower compared to short-term rentals. This can be beneficial for landlords managing the properties themselves or those wanting to keep property management costs low. The landlords can use PortfolioBay to further automate most of the day-to-day management activities. And if certain onsite task arise, but the landlord is unavailable, PortfolioBay provides a convenient solution to outsource these tasks on-demand for a nominal fee. Because there is no contract commitment and recurring management fee, PortfolioBay effectively allows the landlord to seamlessly switch between self-management and paid-management, which delivers increased flexibility at much lower cost.


  • Potential for Vacancy: While not as sensitive to seasonal trends, long-term rentals can experience extended vacancies between leases, which can significantly impact yearly profits.
  • Less Flexibility: Rates and terms are generally fixed for the duration of the lease, providing less flexibility to adapt to market changes. Plus, using the property for personal use is typically not an option without it being vacant.
  • Tenant Risks: Issues such as late or missed payments, property damage, or difficult eviction processes can pose challenges.

When choosing between short-term and long-term rentals, investors should consider their financial objectives, risk tolerance, availability for property management, and the nature of their local rental market. Performing a detailed cost-benefit analysis can be crucial in identifying the most profitable strategy for a given property. In the end, the most profitable choice will often come down to the individual landlord’s circumstances, market conditions, and personal preferences.


Chad Gipson

Content Director at PortfolioBay