Airbnb and More: What You Need To Know About Short Term Rentals in Malaysia

Before you decide to list your property for a short term rental, you'd need to consider how different it is from a long term one; whether to rent out the entire unit, or by room; as well as the profitability, suitability, effort, and risks involved.
airbnb malaysia, short term rental

When on vacation, why stay in a usual hotel for RM300 a night, when you could stay in a cozy Airbnb for half the price? Plus get first-hand tips on the best hidden spots from a local!

If your parents’ old home isn’t being put to good use, why not rent it out for an extra RM1,000 or so per month?

Combined, those two sentiments above see short-term rentals booming in Malaysia, pioneered by a certain accommodation-sharing site which has become a household name – Airbnb.

But don’t go gobbling up the very next “buy-to-let as Airbnb property" you see. Read on as we clarify and compare more on short-term rentals and Airbnb in Malaysia.


What are short-term rentals?

Though there exists no clear-cut lines between what constitutes a short-term rental and a long-term one, it’s generally understood that they’re differentiated by their rental duration and purpose of renting.

airbnb malaysia, short term rental

Short-term rentals (STR) are typically rented out for a few nights or weeks at most. Domestic and foreign tourists, as well as business travellers make up the lion’s share of guests.

Short-term rentals
Rental duration: Typically few nights or weeks.
Purpose of renting: Vacation, business, events.

These days, they’re an alternative to hotels, hence why they’re sometimes referred to as vacation rentals.

Do note though, that hotels are NOT considered short-term rentals. Hotels are commercial properties, whereas STR are residential properties like serviced apartments and bungalows. 

Long-term rentals on the other hand, typically have a rental length of at least 12 months and longer.

Long-term rentals
Rental duration: Minimum of 12 months
Purpose of renting: Own stay

In Malaysia, STR is a flourishing industry, with the best example being Airbnb. This year, Malaysia is once more the fastest growing country for Airbnb in the whole of Southeast Asia, with over 53,000 listings up for rent!

airbnb malaysia, short term rental

While this paints a pretty picture, it’s still important to unveil all aspects of short-term rentals before diving in headfirst.


Should I rent out the entire unit, or by room? 

You’ve done up your property all nicely for rental, and now you’re faced with a pressing question:

“Should I rent out per room... or just rent out the entire unit?”

In order to answer this question, you’ll have to first ask yourself even more questions – how much time and money are you willing to fork out, and is your property even suited for short-term rental in the first place?

Fret not, we’ll make it easy for you (as we always do) by comparing the two in terms of profitability, suitability, effort, and risk.

airbnb malaysia, short term rental


1) Profitability 

Renting out by the room

  • Minimizes the effect of downtime when the property is vacant. Unless you manage to rent out your unit for all 365 days a year, there will be periods when the unit is vacant. When renting out by the room, it’s more likely that at any given time, at least one room will be occupied.

Renting out by the unit 

  • May be more worthwhile, despite possibility for lower rental income. Though price per rooms are usually charged higher, the effort involved can far outweigh the revenue.


2) Suitability

Renting out by the room

  • Not recommended for strata properties. Dealing with complaints is difficult enough when it comes to STR. If your unit has 3 rooms that are all occupied at any given time, that’s three times the amount of noise, trouble and complaints too!

Renting out by the unit

  • Ideal for unique vacation-centric units such as traditional kampung houses. Where tourism breeds, so does STR. Studies by Airbnb have found that guests are increasingly looking towards STR not just for a temporary accommodation, but for a more immersive experience in local culture during their stay. 

Take island paradise Semporna for example, whose Airbnb Malaysia bookings have tripled since last year!

airbnb malaysia, short term rental


3) Effort

Renting out by the room

  • Highly time-consuming. More rooms means more work. On top of ensuring no rooms go vacant for too long, you’ll also be kept full with:
    • General maintenance and repairs 
    • Cleaning up after each tenant
    • Handling all the payments individually 
    • Responding to never-ending enquiries
    • Making sure your listings are always up-to-date and attractive 

Renting out by the unit 

  • Lower turnover means you won’t have to consistently seek out new tenants, as tenants who seek out entire units tend to stay longer. Plus, you’ll only be dealing with one group at a time.


4) Risk

Renting out by the room

  • You might have to mediate between tenant conflicts. Having to handle tenant dynamics is something you may find yourself involved in, especially when there’s several of them under one roof, and they’re sharing bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Liability issues are more complicated. It’s a mess when damages are involved. Especially when everyone is pointing fingers at each other and you can’t verify who is at fault.

Renting out by the unit

  • Cancelled bookings give stronger blows. When renting out the entire unit, it’s all or nothing. Last-minute cancellations will leave you scouting for prospective tenants to fill in the gap whereas with rent per rooms, you’d at least have the income from the other rooms.


Short-term rentals don’t just stop at Airbnb 

airbnb malaysia, short term rental

Homeseekers looking to get a gist of the area they’re considering to call home... couples looking for a few week’s stay while awaiting renovation to complete…

While standard listing sites typically attract such a demographic, Airbnb is generally seen through more touristy lens.

More and more people are looking towards short-term rentals in place of hotels. This means your listed property is essentially going up against budget hotels and resorts. 

Hence, there is a base expectation for the essentials like toiletries and whatnot, which is why going the extra mile by offering things such as airport pickup and a DIY area guide can take your guests’ experience one step further (and your reviews too!)

So far, we’ve mentioned Airbnb whenever short-term rentals come into the picture. But we didn’t forget about all the other platforms in the short-term rental market! 

Here’s a brief breakdown of how the top few fare against each other.

General demographic

Travelers looking for affordable, localised accommodation

Wide variety for both short-term and long-term rentals

International short-term and long-term rentals

Short-term rentals for students and young adults 


Hosts pay 3%, guests pay 6-12%

Hosts pay 10% processing fee and 6% SST 

Hosts pay an average of 15%

A percentage of the first month’s deposit is taken, exact percentage based on length of tenure


Still no clear and consistent regulations for STR

airbnb malaysia, short term rental

Just last year, Airbnb in Malaysia contributed an estimated RM3 billion in direct economic impact. But it certainly comes as no surprise that STR is such a huge boon to the economy.

It provides locals with a means of putting extra money in the bank, making use of property overhang, and expanding the local tourism industry.

One would think that considering the state of Airbnb in Malaysia, there are bound to be regulations in place, right?

Unfortunately, not so much! There are still no clear guidelines nor enforced regulations despite call for change alongside concerns of:

If you’re wondering what Malaysians have to say about this, recent findings by our PropertyGuru Consumer Sentiment Survey H2 2018 show that we have some interesting opinions regarding STR. 

Despite 57% of respondents personally interested in exploring STR themselves, 54% want for regulations to be set in place. 

Efforts so far include DBKL calling for STR hosts in KL to register with the council, and even straight up deeming it illegal as per what DBKK (Kota Kinabalu) and MBPP (Penang Island City Council) previously announced.

Obviously, a simple search for Airbnbs in Kota Kinabalu is telling of just how much of an impact this announcement has had since its conception in 2017 (which is next to nothing).

So if you’ve got a place prepped up and ready to go, don’t dive straight into renting it out without first identifying what suits your needs, and what the property is best suited for. 

But if you have yet to decide on whether to rent out your place on a long-term or short-term basis, our handy guide here already breaks down the pros and cons for you!

And if you’ve decided the short-term route is the way to go, this guide will teach you how to effectively manage your short-term rental property!

Read Next

Get expert advice for every question you can think of!

Explore AskGuru and gain exclusive access to thousands of answers from our expert and agent community. 💬⭐👍