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The Airbnb Market in the Florida Keys Explained

Kelsey Caputo December 8, 2023

The most frequent question I get asked from clients looking to buy homes in the Florida Keys is “What is the Airbnb business like here?” When you say Airbnb, you typically are referring to renting nightly or for 3 nights at a time (a weekend). The hard truth about the vacation rental market in all the Florida Keys is nightly rentals are very hard to find and almost nonexistent. There are instances where properties are grandfathered in to allow nightly rentals and in those cases that is a gem of a find, however, this does not define the standard single-family home sale we often see.
For the purpose of explaining the vacation rental markets throughout the Keys I am going to break it down by the municipalities in which the building departments operate; Monroe County, Islamorada Village of Islands, The City of Marathon, and The City of Key West. Each Building Department regulates the rental rules, regulations and fines for their municipality. Monroe County Building Department consists of Key Largo, Tavernier, Big Pine Key, Cudjoe, Stock Island, and other areas of unincorporated Monroe County. Vacation Rentals may be allowed in the following Land Use Districts and require a Special Vacation Rental Permit: SR (Suburban Residential), MU (Mixed Use), UR (Urban Residential), IS-V (Improved Subdivision Vacation Rental), OS (Offshore Islands).
For the standard single-family home there is still a huge rental market in the keys. Monroe County has a minimum 28-day rental policy. Most of you are probably wondering if this turns away customers or kills the rental potential together, as a real estate expert in the area and someone born and raised here, I can honestly say it absolutely does not. The Florida Keys rental market is huge, in fact most people rent homes from anywhere from one month to 3 months. The clientele renting homes in the Florida Keys are often groups of people coming down with friends or family, or multiple families, bringing their boats and toys and creating their own getaway. These clients are not looking for a weekend trip in which they could just go stay at a hotel. They are looking for their own space to hang out with “their” group, cook their own meals, hang out by the pool in private, and enjoy serene quality time. This is something you cannot get at a hotel. Not to mention the growth in remote jobs has only boosted clients staying on vacation even longer!
The village of Islamorada typically has a 28-day minimum rental policy, although there are various homes that have applied for a vacation rental license and are allowed to do 7-day rentals (Weekly). In order to attain a rental license, you would be required to submit an application to the Building Department and pay the applicable fee. Again, Islamorada has a very similar market to Key Largo where they are often booked for one to three months, however, the 7-day allowance opens your property up to accommodate a larger array of renters looking for wedding or other event venues.
Marathon is well known for its short-term rentals with a minimum of 7 days. Marathon is in the middle of the Keys and offers many benefits for buyers wanting to purchase an income-producing property including the public airport and central proximity to the chain of islands. Fifty short miles south is Key West. At mile marker zero and boasting the only international airport in the Florida Keys, Key West also offers a strong rental market. Key West has a minimum 28-day rental policy. There are still many instances of properties that have been grandfathered in to do short-term rentals, although most commonly you will find monthly rentals.
Although nightly rentals are not commonly found throughout the Florida Keys the vacation rental market is very strong and has continued to grow year over year. For any specific rental questions, how to find a rental application or rental map, please feel free to reach out to me at any time or check the local Building Department websites. Purchasing a vacation rental in the Florida Keys is a great investment and an even better getaway!

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