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REVEALED: Airbnb’s 3-Step Plan To Enter The Vacation Rental Market

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If you're like most successful vacation rental hosts, you're probably very responsive to guest feedback.

Guests complain about a loud air-conditioning unit in the master bathroom?

You either fix it or get a new one.

Hear enough guests say the towels are kinda cheap?

You go buy nicer towels.

We do this because as owners and managers we take great pride in creating spectacular guest experiences and we see constructive criticism as an opportunity to grow. We do it for survival too: receive a few too many of these complaints and our business begins to suffer.

This being said, it's always a bit confusing to me why the major listing sites in our industry -- the supposed vehicles of our values -- don't adopt that same style of responsiveness and adaptability when it comes to criticism and critique. It should be no surprise that an emerging industry will be pockmarked with growing pains and learning curves...

But the sheer anger that one picks up from most user feedback about these sites is strangely palpable. If you were to put it in vacation terms, it's as if the host isn't listening to their guests complaints, yet the guests kinda have nowhere else to stay.

It's been this way for years.

Airbnb Has Never Really Focused On Vacation Rentals

Last week, I received a call from Shaun Stewart, Airbnb's Global Head of Vacation Rentals.

Noticing the great potential of our emerging industry, Airbnb hired Shaun about 1 year ago to head a department catering exclusively to us: the vacation rental owners and managers.

Photo of Shaun Stewart, Head of Global Vacation Rentals at Airbnb

Shaun explained how (1) vacation rentals are inherently different from traditional Airbnb properties (less urban and more vacation destination-based, for instance). And how (2) our differences simultaneously present a great compliment to Airbnb's existing brand portfolio.

This may be pretty obvious to a lot of people.

But what I found remarkable and shareworthy was the style with which Shaun and his team went about entering the vacation rental market. I say style because it's more than just a process or a sequence of actions. It's this conscious way of thought that sets one apart from others. And upon revealing that he would be willing to let me share this previously-unpublished information, I began taking copious notes!

The 3 Steps Airbnb Is Using To Enter The Vacation Rental Industry

I could envision a large company like Airbnb seeing an opportunity with vacation rentals, stabbing at the industry blindly, and succeeding perfectly well in the short-run. But as you may have guessed, Shaun's team at Airbnb was a bit more thoughtful than that.

Upon hearing the way they were going about this process, I humbly asked if I could share the steps with the world and Shaun and his team agreed to lend me the exclusive, which is to say, the following is "hot off the press":

Step 1: Listen

Airbnb was savvy enough to realize that vacation rental owners/managers are unique. And while Airbnb is the world's hottest hospitality brand, the company wasn't versed in the nuances of vacation rentals (compared to their traditional Airbnb hosts). So the first step was to interview a large group of vacation rental owners and managers and ask them very simply:

"What are some reasons you don't use Airbnb?"

Matt's VRMB Takeaway

Cog to signify take action

This is a tremendous way for owners or managers to enter any new vacation rental market. Begin polling potential guests, invite existing players out to coffee and pick their brain, understand the pain points. Know how you can offer a better USP and you're standing on solid ground.

Step 2: Digest

Us vacation rental hosts are a complicated bunch, so I'm sure Shaun's team spent plenty of restless hours going through all the responses. And to deal with so much data, in the end they went with a statistical approach and created a priority list of the 16 most critical "reasons you don't use Airbnb," ten of which Shaun walked me through during the call and I have featured below (the remaining six I will publish in the coming weeks):

  1. Your cancellation policies are too lenient
  2. You don't send the booking funds until after arrival
  3. Your cleaning fee cap is too low
  4. You don't connect to my PM software/channel manager
  5. You don't allow CTA (close to arrival) / CTD (close to departure) restrictions
  6. You don't have an account management team to help
  7. You don't support MLOS (minimum length of stay)
  8. You don't support Dynamic Pricing
  9. Your iCAL integration doesn't update quickly enough
  10. You don't offer any listing building support

Step 3: Get To Work

It would have been very easy for the Airbnb team to deem some of these items too complicated, too costly or simply impossible. But with some autonomy (remember, Shaun is now running "the vacation rental department") they made a clear decision to begin fulfilling every single one of these requests, checking items off the list, and eliminating friction points.

To date, Shaun has resolved 14 of 16 of the most requested items.

Here are the corresponding fixes (to the 10) we walked through:

  1. ​Your cancellation policies are too lenient — they added 30 and 60 day super-strict cancellation policies
  2. You don't send the booking funds until after arrival — they added payment to host 30 or 60 days before arrival, depending on the cancellation policy selected by the host.
  3. Your cleaning fee cap is too low — they increased cap from $300 to $600 plus 15% of rate.
  4. You don't connect to my PM software/channel manager — they built four beta connections to highly used software (PMS) vendors (Live Rez, BookingPal, Kigo and LeisureLink) with more to come in 2016.
  5. You don't allow CTA (close to arrival) / CTD (close to departure) restrictions — they added CTA and CTD functionality to listing page tools for all VR hosts
  6. You don't have an account management team to help — they hired seven account managers for key US VR regions, created vr@airbnb.com mailbox for general questions and a landing page for information sign-ups.
  7. You don't support MLOS — they added MLOS-bydate functionality to listing page tools for all VR hosts.
  8. You don't support Dynamic Pricing — they now support LOS and BW discount rules through the four connected software (PMS) vendors.
  9. Your iCAL integration doesn't work — they increased iCal update frequency from 24 hrs to instant.
  10. You don't offer any listing building support — they completed 3rd party agreement with Upwork, who will help build high volumes of listings for hosts at no cost to them!

Why Am I Sharing This?

I will feature the remaining 6 fixes in the coming weeks.

And apart from a lot of the other useful information about their entrance to the world of vacation rentals, which I have shared in this Inner Circle thread introducing new member (and Airbnb team member) Brent Boone, I felt it was worth sharing Airbnb's methodical process with you not because it's rocket science...

But rather, because it's a simple yet oft-forgotten reverse engineering process that successful hosts can use to make our vacation rentals even more spectacular:

Be academic in surveying what your guests want > Deliver it in the most ideal way possible

We do so because we are after long-term success.

And we know it's not easy work, but we're willing to put forth the effort to "do it right."

It is what makes us different from our competitors down the street.

@Airbnb Reveals 3-Step Plan To Enter The VR Market | Things Get Iiiiinteresting For @HomeAway @bookmorenights

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I have often asked myself, "If I was the CEO of a major listing site, how would I handle all this chaos?" Except I never really have a good answer.

But now I see in Airbnb's entrance process: unrivaled commitment to giving clients what they want, strong adherence to statistics, and consistency. This is gonna be my new motto. And whether you use Airbnb or not, hopefully your own business can benefit from learning their entrance to the vacation rental industry as well.

P.S. This is the first article I've done about the VR industry (in an "updates" sort of way) and I really enjoyed it. It's definitely different than the kinds of posts I usually write and definitely taught me a lot. If you enjoy/dislike, feel free to let me know in the comments section.

About the Author Matt Landau

Matt Landau is the Founder of the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog and the Inner Circle, two online resources dedicated to helping vacation rental owners and managers generate more bookings. Google+ | More Posts (230)

  • Jane

    Thanks for this, Matt! The airbnb does not seem to be a good fit for my rentals and I have never been a fan of Airbnb precisely for the reasons that they found! Most people don’t seem to understand that they couldn’t just rent one bedroom of my 3 bedroom condos or one of my 5 bedroom villas (which is more of what the typical or perhaps the “original” airbnb model was). I’ll be interested to see where this goes. It seems like the airbnb client is more of a budget oriented travel… has this changed at all? Or am I missing something?

    • Matt Landau

      My pleasure Jane. I don’t really know the answer to those questions. But look forward to learning more myself.

    • Hi Jane,
      My 2 VRs are located in a small rural town in southern Arizona which attracts hikers and birders. Both of my properties are at the very high end of the price point for comparable VRs in the area — I would even go so far as to surmise they are _the_ most expensive per square foot. Yet, 60% of my bookings come through Airbnb, and they almost never ask for a discount.

      Now, this may be because my region attracts a different type of traveler, or some other variable(s), but I wanted to share my thoughts here since my experience with the Airbnb guest demographic doesn’t line up with how most people perceive Airbnb travelers. I think part of what’s going on is that the type of person looking for a place to stay through Airbnb is morphing, too. I’m getting a lot of 60-ish white collar semi-retired folks who are extraordinarily gracious and conscientious. I also get couples in their 20s and 30s from Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff looking for a low-key getaway where they can do day-hikes and winery-hopping. They’re super-lovely, too.

  • Ashley Katz De Jong

    I know this wasn’t the point of your blog, and as always, it had lots of good ones. But I am completely baffled with what is missing from the list of reasons why vacation rental owners do not like or list with AirBnB — that they despise the way they limit communication with potential guests. You can’t send links, phone numbers, email. (I use AirBnB and it’s become the primary resource beating out HomeAway by far– I’m in Austin, younger demographic, mostly do large group weekend getaways).

    • Elizabeth Sexworth

      Hi Ashley, that is a problem with airbnb from my viewpoint too, although after guests book I ask them for a non-airbnb email address. I send the arrival details to them at that address and not “their” airbnb address because I send it straight from our reservation software. I also then use their personal email address to send our GTHY app link too as well. I had tried to send email from outside the airbnb system to the email address that airbnb assigns them and the messages never made it. So it is a bit of a work around but working so far.

      • Matt Landau

        This “workaround” is actually what I believe the goal should look like for IC members in a period where the return on a VRBO investment is some 40x and Airbnb bookings can be acquired at zero overhead:

        The goal: to attract your client from the place they are hanging out (social media, listing sites…etc) back to your court (website, newsletter) in the form of a permission-based indicator of interest (securing their contact info and the ability to connect freely).

        Interesting read, The End Of Blogging: http://www.twistimage.com/blog/archives/the-end-of-blogging/

    • Shaun Stewart

      Thanks Ashley – the feedback we received around this item surprised me as well. What we found was a lot of confusion about how and when communication is restricted between host and guest. For example once a booking is completed the host and guest can communicate freely without any restriction; they can exchange emails, phone numbers etc etc. Most people weren’t aware of this. Once we clarified this, which Airbnb needs to do a better job of, the feedback was a lot more positive. Prior to booking, we protect the guest as the most important item for any fraudulent behavior is to convince the guest to go outside the marketplace, exchange credit card, phone etc. To protect guests from this rare but extremely negative situation pre booking communication has applied controls. In a perfect world this wouldn’t be needed. Feel free to email me at shaun.stewart@airbnb.com if you would like to discuss further. We are here to help.

      • Ashley Katz De Jong

        thanks for your response Shaun. It’s just odd to have this conversation — here. I invested in marketing tools like this: http://issuu.com/vacationinsiders/docs/austin_insider_guide/3?e=0/11590895 to use in order to “seal the deal” with potential guests. I don’t really need help communicating with guests after they book. I’m not confused here.

        I have had several challenges with the automated email system, likely my email with check in instructions goes to spam (?) which impedes the smoothness of my check in process. I communicate with my guests via text, sending them the new key code and also ensuring they have all they need and can reach me at all times. I can think of at least 10 instances this year where my emails to the guest via the anonymized email hasn’t worked and I’ve had to duplicate my efforts to confirm phone numbers and communicate with a booked guest.

        I appreciate your direct email, you’ll hear from me! 🙂 Just wanted to follow through on this thread.

        Matt, I do get the point of your article here – be responsive to feedback – but I can’t give praise to AirBnB for doing this with regard to owners. My business has grown because of their presence, and I’m not really the typical VR owner, but I use them because they give me an attractive platform to a tremendous number of guests who want my properties.

    • Matt Landau

      Also a great question, Ash. And I think I have a unique position between your and Shaun’s (below) perspectives. On one side, I am just like you in that I as the VR owner guy want full control.

      On the bigger “systems” side of thinking however, I fully realize that a mature organization/industry (like we all predict VRs are heading) needs streamlining and the ability to move masses without experiencing major catastrophes..in other words, its best interest is to protect us. AND I’m not blind to the fact that this model works $$$ in the company’s favor.

      I still adhere to the philosophy that a sustainable VR owner/host needs to own both the racehorse AND the racecourse. If you can begin building that sustainable engine and fishish clients “into your own court” with the use of any of these streams, more power to ya.

  • Rich

    Good info; there’s a new elephant in the room! We’ve used AB&B all over the globe and have usually been happy with the arrangements as a renter. Now that we are on the other end of the transaction we will be watching to see how they do. We too want to stay at the “luxury” level and wonder if they can offer something local Maui agencies don’t.

    • Shaun Stewart

      Hi Rich – we have added a range of luxury homes in various Vacation Rental markets and have seen amazing results. I would be happy to chat more about them if that is of interest.

      • Jane

        Shaun, I would be interested in this type of chat/conversation as well, as I handle luxury homes and would love another avenue to reach potential guests. My testing with one condo has been disappointing on airbnb to date and I would love to know how to improve the results.

        • Shaun Stewart

          Great! Shoot me an email and let’s set up a time to chat!

    • Matt Landau

      Cool question, Rich.

    • From my experience, people looking for luxury houses are not on Airbnb. I would love them developing this market but right now their core business comes from people renting rooms and asking for discounts because they wait to the last minute. My point of view is that owners should develop that kind of platform, a real vacation rental by owners (and not property managers which are just one more obstacle between guest and owner) . We used for the first time one in London and after two months of poor services we fired them.

      • Matt Landau

        Maurice, have you signed up for http://avroa.org/ ?

        • No I haven’t. Thank you to inform me. I will read carefully what they offer. You post is very interesting and indeed it is a completely changing world. The sharing economy is shaking all structures. In some towns like Brussels and Paris Uber pop is forbidden in others like London they seem to be welcome. In Rio they appoint Airbnb for the olympics, in Paris they send inspectors to chase owners renting more than 90 days. But generally speaking the low cost model is gaining shares of market damaging the middle segment. Luxury of course resists but then we speak of real luxury with concierge, maids, gardeners, cooks etc. Quite far from Airbnb model as far as I know. I wonder if this new branch they are opening is not a strategic move to weaken HA? My opinion is that owners will always be the disadvantaged part of the equation. When you read HA financial communication, they grow by adding as much properties as possible getting owners to pay their listings. They accepts agencies coming with large inventories. Competition increases the need for the owners to get a higher and more expensive listing. Now they suppressed the featured option which will make visibility more difficult. At Airbnb, since the guests pay the largest part, they will always favor this side, screening the guest is not the most important part and that is the cause of falling reputation of VR in cities which brings them to bring legislations limiting our activity. Let see how they will manage in SanFrancisco. It is becoming everyday more difficult but we maintain ourselves because we provide an excellent service and have excellent reviews. But it is stressing because we really have to check carefully who will come. Sorry to have been so long. Have a good day.

          • Matt Landau

            “Owners will always be the disadvantaged part of the equation.” Maurice, you have to lose the victimization mentality. It will forever hold you down.

          • I really hope you are right. 😉

  • Elizabeth Sexworth

    Although we list all of our homes on airbnb, the cancellation policies have always been an issue for me. For that reason I typically don’t allow 2 or 3 week rentals during high season to be booked via airbnb. Even with the strict cancellation policy I can’t afford to have someone cancel a week prior to arrival and receive half of their money back. I just went to look at cancellation policies and so see the Super Strict 30 and Super Strict 60 listed, but, they are “invitation only”. So, a solution that isn’t really a solution.

    • Shaun Stewart

      Hi Elizabeth – you can request them via vr@airbnb.com at anytime. As long as the homes are in Vacation Rental markets they can be activated immediately.

      • Ashley Katz De Jong

        what is a “vacation rental market”?

        • Shaun Stewart

          Hi Ashley – apologies that’s just an internal definition that tells us what team will complete your request. If you email the alias provided regardless of location we will be able to get it completed by the appropriate team. My team specifically covers the destinations defined as VR markets.

  • Barbara S.

    So AirBnB joins the inner circle and all of a sudden they move from a good guy to a bad guy? They are finally adopting some of the functionality of the VR sites so they are celebrated in the same breath where the VR sites are bashed? AirBnB has been equally unresponsive to us in many ways, with no function for charging TOT even though they know this is the biggest request (obvious at their 2014 Summit) and cutting off communication lines between owners and guests. It seems that approval can be bought by joining the inner circle — someone should let VRBO/HomeAway know this is all they need to do! HomeAway has a lot of these features already, and in conversations with them at their annual events it is obvious they are striving to always provide more and more innovations for owners and guests alike. Seems to me these should be equally covered in the light of good industry journalism. Smart VR owners will take advantage of ALL the marketing options on the table. And they all are striving to adopt new innovation, and they are all conveniently ignoring our requests that don’t fit their agendas. Par for the course both ways.

    • Matt Landau

      I’m not an industry journalist Barbara. And sorry but that was a really strange way to respond to a pretty honest effort to share some useful information.

  • Laurie Sherman Graff

    So what do you think about the fact that Airbnb does not allow guests and property owners to communicate privately prior to booking?
    Personally, I never book any guest in my home until I have a phone conversation with them first, and I have been renting my home successfully for five years, using this system.
    This may be “old school”, but as the owner of a luxury property, it just feels “safer”.

    • Matt Landau

      I have always been very critical of this, Laurie. In fact, I wrote a whole piece on it here: https://www.vrmb.com/airbnb/

    • Shaun Stewart

      Thanks Laurie – I think that’s a huge industry question now regardless of channel/distribution site. There are strong signs that the industry is moving towards an ‘instant book model that guests seem to prefer (Villas.com by Booking/Priceline for example has added close to 400k VR homes but only if they can be instant booked). The question on how home owners/property managers can compete with these frictionless booking experience while maintaining the level of control they require (a phone call prior to any booking for example) is a big one, coupled with whether distribution sites can deliver a level of trust and safety for home owners/property managers to remove the need for that call. Lot’s of interesting questions for the industry overall.

      • Let me add something. It is not only difficult to get an idea of who is going to come but we cale across a verified ID that happened to be false. The name of the inquiry was wrong, the facebook page was false. We manage to find the guy who was booking and communicated with him. It happened that he was finally a good guy who took care of the property. But this example shows that NOTHING is really checked at AIRBNB level and that you could easily end up with prostitutes etc.

        • Funny. My mother tried to book a house on Airbnb not long ago but couldn’t get verified. She has only family on Facebook (for pictures of her grandkids!) and no real presence online. She was asked to scan her driver’s license among other things. After a week, she gave up and got a hotel room. A perfect guest was lost.

        • Shaun Stewart

          Thanks Whitehousevacationrentals – that’s not good to hear and I’d be happy to look into it if you want to send me the details. We include $1M property coverage and $10M liability coverage for all hosts in the rare event an issue occurs and/or our screening process fails. With 45M travelers using the site today with demographic largely incremental to the typical VR business the question becomes whether accessing that audience at the economics (3-5% fee, no listing cost) and model offered is worth it or if you feel the majority of that audience are as you say “prostitutes” or those looking to do harm to your property. In the end that decision is yours as a strong business manager – our goal is only ensure you know how the program works to make an informed decision of what is best for your operations.

          • Thank you Shaun for taking the time of answering. Very frankly, i would be willing to pay more than 3-5% if you could make sure that among the 45 M travelers there is no prostitute at all that comes to my place because it is enough of one to wreck the all operation, spoil the relation with our neighbors. Without to be in the complete luxury segment (this for me includes a complete concierge service, housekeeping etc) but on the high end one (which is unfortunately targeted by prostitutes, I would appreciate not to be mixed with owners offering on 50 sq m, 6 beds for minimum stay of 1 night at 90 dol. I don’t say that there is no market for them (most probably there is a big one) but if a segmentation of the market with clear branding could be made it would help a lot keeping this business profitable. As mentioned on the post by Nikki Woodson Blair, id verified based on facebook pages or scan of driving licence is not enough. I perfectly understand that you cannot have people spending the amount of time I spend to check who is coming, that is maybe the reason why we should be in position to do the job. By chance, today with internet, it is almost impossible for somebody to be under the radar and when this happens I get suspicious but it takes time. After all that’s part of my job. All my wishes of success in your job.

          • Shaun Stewart

            Sounds totally fair. We will keep you in the loop as we make progress to a system that is 100% effective at all times. Thank you for your feedback, it is very helpful.

          • Shaun, since I have the opportunity to communicate with you I would like also to attract your attention to another detail. We are renting in different countries and different currencies. Unfortunately the system does not allow to receive the rent in the currency that is used. For exemple, in Buenos Aires, we use US dol, in London sterling and in Brussels and France, euros. We get all payment in Euros prohibiting the management of currencies as we want. My bank in Belgium can receive all currencies and I have sub accounts. Recently I has an inquiry from Asia for a flat in London for which our rates are in sterling. On the dashboard we see how much we will receive in Euros and the guest is asking a discount in a currency I don’t know. It would be a lot easier to stay consistent with the currency of the country where the property is located and get paid in this currency. What do you think?

      • I agree. More and more guests are wanting that simple booking experience. I think this is increasing as younger, tech-savvy guests are growing up and vacationing. They are used to doing everything online and just want it DONE. I hear from a lot of owners that they want that connection before booking, or at least the option to connect. I know families in particular often want to have a conversation about what kind of gear is available. (This is one reason we are creating detailed listings, at least reducing the amount of questions for the owner.) We are open to sharing contact info, but we also know our clients (owners and property managers) and are able to build trust through our partnerships. We are working together to market their properties, not just listing them. This, I think, is a huge challenge for Airbnb since it has grown so quickly. How do you keep the human element? How can you keep up with your owners needs? I’ve talked to owners that have had great experiences with Airbnb. They have been happy with the services and the willingness to change. I’ve used Airbnb as a guest and love the website. What I don’t like thought is the guest service fee… somehow paying taxes on top of the rental amount stings less than a booking fee.

  • Not quite sure how the takeover of the Vacation Rental market by Airbnb relates to Listing Site Independence. More importantly, are you about to announce that Airbnb is removing the data curtain? That would be big news! https://www.vrmb.com/airbnb/

    • Matt Landau

      I don’t think this news really changes our LSI model at all. But I do think it will influence a bunch of LSDs by giving them new options 🙂

      • Cool. But isn’t the Data Curtain the real impedance, in addition of the ability to set our own policies?

        I’ve got my fingers crossed that Santa is going to bring an end to the Berlin Wall of listing sites (data curtain), and lots more wonderful changes that will give owners real options to control, as much as possible, their own Vacation Rentals!

        • Matt Landau

          It’s an impedance if that IS your racecourse. Unfortunately, I don’t think those listing sites will change a thing (in fact, I think it will get worse). Which leaves those owners with three options: beat ’em, join ’em, or quit the game all together.

  • Sharon Vaughan

    I had a listing for over a year but never successfully booked anything. The listing has expired now – my concerns were the same as mentioned with cxl window and communication. With a higher end home in Tahoe I was told by my college kids arbnb attracts lots of younger party scene renters which is worrisome for my house. Perhaps with the changes I should try again – Im paying vrbo over $1200 per year on one listing-how does arbnb make their money?

    • Sharon. my 2 VRs are listed on Airbnb VRBO and have been for over a year. Airbnb brings me about 65% of all my bookings. 100% of my Airbnb guests have been THE most delightful guests — appreciative, communicative, respectful, warm & friendly, easy to work with — and they leave the place almost as clean as they found it. And 100% of my Airbnb guests have left me public 5-star reviews on the Airbnb site.

      Perhaps my price-point weeds out the party-scene renters, or maybe my region does not attract as many of them, but I will take an Airbnb guest ANY day over a VRBO guest.

      In my experience, VRBO folks tend to treat my properties like hotel rooms, ask for discounts right out the gate, and often act entitled and demanding. And even though the VRBO folks always leave complimentary comments in my on-site Guest Books, they never bother to go back onto VRBO to leave a public review. Not one of ’em. Go figure.

      • Claire, Airbnb charges the guest a booking fee, 6-12% of the rental amount.

      • Shaun Stewart

        Great to hear Claire! Thanks for being part of the community!

  • Duane

    It looks like CTA, CTD, MLOS are all only available for instant book? Am I wrong but instant book unlike VRBO BIN does not let you vet the guest, if they instant book they are booked. Iʻm never going to use that for a VR.

    • Shaun Stewart

      Hi Duane – no those features are available for both. Let us know if we can help utilize them.

      • Duane

        Thanks Shaun, I donʻt see how to enable those other than inside instant book. Is there some ʻVRʻ switch that needs turning on?

      • Hi Shaun, any chance that you will be going to work at Flipkey / Tripadvisor? then maybe someone, anyone would answer our questions to their support desk? (wonder where that desk actually is located??? Outback desert in Australia maybe. Nice to see some answers coming from at least one of the mega players…..

    • cindiSue

      Yes, you are wrong about VRBO BIN. You have 24 hours to vet the guest and either accept or reject the reservation.

      • Duane

        Hi Cindy, note I said “unlike VRBO BIN”, I am talking about AirBnB instant book, their version of VRBO BIN.

        • cindiSue

          Ah right, thanks for clarifying.

  • Cecelle

    My one gripe with Airbnb ( and they are my favourite by far ) is that when I am fully booked 🙂 my portfolio is basically ‘blocked’ from persons ‘shopping’ for accommodation. I will not appear on the Airbnb pages. I would like the person ‘shopping’ to be able to see my calendar or listing showing available, unbooked dates. This only opens to a person typing in the EXACT dates available on my calendar. When I holiday shop, I would like to see what is on offer and at what price and then decide on when to take my holiday. ie. presently I only have 4 midweek days open in Dec. Unless someone gets those 4 days exactly right – my portfolio remains hidden from them. I lose other potential booking dates. Presently 95% of my bookings are from Airbnb. Most other of your listed 6 I am OK with. Just saying !

    • Shaun Stewart

      Hi Cecelle – that’s correct. If someone searches with specific dates and your calendar is blocked for those dates you will not appear. However if someone is just shopping without specific dates (which makes up a large % of searches) then you will appear. And by the way. – 95% of bookings from Airbnb! That’s amazing. Thank you for being part of community!

  • Alanna: TheDistinguishedGuest

    I for one am very happy to hear that Airbnb recognizes that the second home VR platform is unique. I am a fan of Airbnb from a distance, impressed by the interface, its ease, and have often thought that I should list my property (however, being 90% leased…it has not been a priority). I did use Airbnb for a short time many, many years ago and at the time I had a difficult time understanding the terms and conditions of the bookings, security deposits, etc. As a previous commercial real estate professional I learned to live and die by the lease, it is my contract, it provides remedies. This is my second home and I need to make sure that my lease protects me, is in compliance with my insurance, adheres to state law and gives me control over my security deposit. I would love to give Airbnb another go with my Hawaii property but until I have some clarity (I admit I have not accessed Airbnb’s terms and conditions in some time) It will take some convincing. Control is the name of the game for me and without it my brand is subject to failure.

  • I have used it personally to book, and yes..the we did do an end run around the “Berlin Wall” data blockade.

    Alas, my PM specifically refuses to have anything to do with Airbnb because it draws the “wrong” crowd to our neighborhood. In fact, not only does my PM have a bone or two to pick with Airbnb, so does the whole state of California and many of its communities (among others).

    And given my proprietary contract with the PM all bookings must be closed through the PM. So that would preclude my using Airbnb at all.

    My questions:

    How soon will Airbnb have a PM package– al la that OTHER company– that will invite PMs onboard…and offer assurances that the guest will not be one more Airbnb Horror story.

    Given there is little love lost among many communities and state legislatures, in what way will legal compliance be assured (TOT collection, limits/restrictions imposed by the communities).

  • dennisliming

    Nor do they give you an option for charging the appropriate local taxes which end up coming out of my pocket!

    • Charging local taxes would mean up to 15% on top of Airbnb’s guest booking fee which is 6-12%. That’s a lot to add on to the rental amount!

      • cindiSue

        My taxes are 13.42% and nobody has objecting to me adding them. Before I accept their booking I make sure I email them the new total with taxes, and everyone was expecting them because it’s in the listing.

    • cindiSue

      Just put a note in your listing that the taxes are added to the total after the booking is accepted. Then once you get a booking, do a request to change the price, change the amount to collect the taxes, customer approves and you’re done.

  • How fun to be on the cutting edge of this Matt! I knew there was work afoot regarding vacation rentals and am happy to hear it from you! I expect there will be a number of releases regarding this at the Airbnb Open in a couple of weeks. Can’t wait to get the details and see how they will apply to our own businesses!

  • Nice to see open discussion on the AirBnB approach and we all appreciate alternative channels and a competitive environment, where the current incumbents are changing strategy and strangling their customers.

    The list of issues is quite comprehensive, but I assume not applied yet as our account changed overnight from Strict 60 days to 5 days and so have many of our partners. We simply cannot take bookings in any volume now as owners expect all the money and any late cancellation within 6 weeks (unless rebooked) leaves us out of pocket. We all lose.

    For us to adopt AirBnB in scale means a channel manager and we are in the process of hooking up. I am told by our partner this opens up the super strict again? Please understand that tunnels and roads have tolls and an open API type approach would be better, but harder to manage of course.

    I checked out the levels of complete apts and houses in some cities and spotted Paris is over 80% so the VR market is being tapped already. Most had 2-4 properties only, so we can expect the channel managers to push super volume (see below).

    Some questions:
    1: Will AirBnB raise owner/manager commission for faster payments?
    2.Would AirBnB not consider manager payment API’s to accept direct payments?
    3. On HomeAway and the push to an instantly bookable model with high manager/owner commissions, is it wise to adopt the super-manager (10,000+) properties as these dilute out the hard working, local smaller companies who focus on the guest, not the numbers. This has happened on HA already and is purely gaming channel technology with less control on the guest experience.

    Overall AirBnB has been a breath of fresh air in some of its approach, but does need to address the economies of the regional vr businesses and share in the growth opportunities.

  • Julie Nielsen

    We signed up two of our five VR properties with Airbnb as a test run this summer and had an awful experience. As long as we are not permitted to speak with our guests prior to booking, nor direct them to our website (help, not sell, for local area attractions, home policies, etc) for further information, we will not even consider this site again. We are not trying to do an end run around paying commissions, we simply wish to ensure the guest has a remarkable experience and is a good fit for our homes.

    • Mari Balch

      My experience with AirBNB as an owner has been a total nightmare. I have two instances where I have had guests destroy my home. I am currently in a battle just to get a security deposit from a guy who threw a huge party in my house. My house left in shambles. You know AirBNB does not let you claim off your security deposit if people smoked in your non smoking home? They do not cover excessive cleaning. I had this guy move every piece of furniture around in my house and set up my parlor room for a beer pong competition. The walls, floors, curtains furniture everything covered in beer, mud and ash from marijuana and cigarettes. I found towels in the street, spit on the walls, vomit everywhere, all filthy and disgusting. I have pictures and documented everything and they will not cover the smoke damage or 2 extra days of cleaning. I had plates and glasses broke, I can not buy them separately to replace. When I provided the replacement cost of the full set, they divided the cost of the damaged plates and glasses and only are willing to give me $7 to find a glass and plate sold single. So i am left with mis matched items because of their careless party. AirBNB only cares about money they do not care about owners…. The other time I had a guest flood my upstairs bathroom, they destroyed my 1st floor ceilings and walls wit water damage. Air BNB did not give me a dime because they did not like my receipts from a locally owned business. I guess I should have gone with a corporation or something to have a more official receipt. That would have cost thousands more to fix but hey… at least maybe they would accept my claim… no… probably not. AIrBNB is a horrible company to do business with. Take your business elsewhere trust me you will have less issues.

      • Pure horror. Absolutely necessary that you check who comes. All the best to you.

        • Mari Balch

          Thank you. Sadly I did check him out. He works for the Federal Reserve Bank, He immigrated here from China and joined our great US Airforce. So I can say you just never know what gremlins are out there 🙁

    • Raphael

      Airbnb is just a referal site.
      if it was a torrent it will be address as a “pirate tracker” pretending to appear as leg biz.

  • Tom McC – Sandy Ridge Villas

    We signed up with Airbnb recently and we view them as an agent. We even have an Account Manager and an admin to call. They have made huge progress in their focus on VR owners and small PMs.

    We use agents for Sandy Ridge Villas and don’t have an issue with no contact up front.
    Anyone who can help us to expand our distribution channels and is paid in a manner similar to us is a potential partner.

    That being said, we are certainly focused on connecting with our guests while they are at our villas and afterwards.

  • As an avid reader of this blog and regular participant in the Inner Circle, I really appreciate this post Matt.

    Do I want to be listing site independent? Yes, but I also recognize that listing site independent can mean different things and the journey there is quite complex.

    Does/should our desire to be LSI mean we ignore what listing sites are doing? Absolutely not! We have an obligation to carefully follow and monitor what they are doing and continually re-evaluate our positions based on current market conditions.

    It is entirely possible that a period of dependence on a lower-cost, more effective listing site could actually be the catalyst that enables us to move towards LSI faster.

    • Is it lower cost? I’d love to hear from someone using it. It sounds lower… 3% sounds great. But the owners that I know that use Airbnb have to pay taxes out of the rental amount since they aren’t added on in checkout. (I think this depends on your area now? If tax regulations require it?) So they are paying the 3% plus up to 15% for taxes (instead of passing the taxes onto the guest).

      • Hi Nikki,

        I think to make this work, you would have to build taxes into the rates. This is the primary reason with 50+ homes that we are not advertising there.

        They are now working to support taxes in several municipalities. On Tuesday, I had a conversation with one of the Airbnb managers and he said they plan to continue rolling out that functionality.

        Until that launches in your area, a net rate increase will accomplish the same. To figure out the net rate increase, apply the following formula:

        (Line Item)(1 + Tax Rate) for example ($100 Rent)(1.10) = $110 Rent to cover taxes

        This does create some extra work, but ensures the host or PM does not get stuck with all the extra taxes.

        • I can speak to this, but only for the Portland , Oregon area. With airbnb, I am able to list my studio at my ‘real’ rental rate. Additional fees (for us) are cleaning and hot tub services. There is a function to list and collect for these. Airbnb levies, collects and pays city and state taxes. I assume that our guests see this in their invoices. I don’t see those details, nor do I see their booking fee. On my end, I have an invoice showing rent, service fees, airbnb service fee (3%) and the taxes paid to the authorities, as well as my ‘paid out’ amount. My assumption is that as each municipality comes on board, that airbnb will follow the same process.

          • I’ve seen owners deal with in two ways where Airbnb doesn’t pay taxes for the owner. (I don’t think they do this unless forced to by the local laws.) Some owners use the net increase, but that makes their Airbnb listing expensive compared to other sites. (I wonder how many guests search on other sites to compare, then go for the cheaper option.) Others use their base rental rate and just pay out taxes from it. Debi, I think all Portland rentals have the taxes added at checkout. Here in Austin, owners have to pay it out of the rent. As a guest, I think I would abandon my cart if I would see taxes AND a guest booking fee added! On an inexpensive property, it doesn’t look so bad, but on a high-end home, that really adds up.

        • Raphael

          Tax and SECURITY deposit , cleaning fees, etc, should be collected at check-in , never included in the rental price . Booker should make it’s users aware of this charges upon arrival.

      • Raphael

        + If the tax is included in the total rental , airbnb is collecting commisons on the tax portion.

  • Saying that Airbnb have a 3 step plan to enter the vaction rental market is a little strange when they already list over a million homes. What market have they been in up until now?

    It’s a major misnomer that Airbnb properties are shared properties –

    In 25 of the major cities of the world, 64% of the listed properties on Airbnb are entire homes and apartments.

    There are over 150,000 entire homes and apartments in these 25 cities alone (surely these owners are operating vacation rentals).

    The question isn’t how they are going to help owners although, of cousre, I welcome that.
    The question is how are your properties going to be found?

    To put this into prespective, here’s a map showing the entire homes and apartments listed in Pairs (29,783 red dots) (green dots show shared accommodation).

    • Shaun Stewart

      Thank Alan – keep an eye on Matt’s blog and we will continue to work with him to answer some of these hot topic questions!

      • Raphael

        Hi Shaun, sorry to hear you are collaborating with a “pirate tracker” which is what Airbnb is to the established hospitality biz….

    • You are absolutely right, this is one of the most important question, not only on Airbnb but also on other sites. Owners are mixed with management companies and agencies, although the kind of service an owner is delivering is usually a lot better than management companies which often use trainees and cleaning companies.

    • Debi

      The ‘entire home category’ on Airbnb can be misleading. In many areas legal permits are issued for hosts sharing their homes, but many of these ‘shares’ are ADUs (auxillary dwelling units) which can be guest houses, attached apartments, etc. The entire unit is rented, although it is on the property of the owner’s primary residence.

      I have been listing with Airbnb since 2009, with 3 beach properties (2 vacation destination whole homes and one guest house) and 1 ADU at my private residence. All are listing as ‘entire home’ rentals.

    • Raphael

      Airbnb alogaritms are pretty bad, Guests will find properties by chance or by elimination on account of availabiliy, not even by price unless they have added the feature. I don’t bother to visit their site anymore.

  • We are agency on Airbnb. And started not so long ago. We have 26 listings and nearly 100 reviews.

    If you don’t do Airbnb then you are potentially leaving money on the table.

    The fact that they kept onto the money until arrival is not great. It’s bad.

    But the money we general for our homeowners is nothing in comparison to what we loss because we don’t get money till arrival.

    And communication is great using their app. And email. There’s no excuse. It works.

    Cancelation policy is a pain. But of all the bookings we have only had one cancelled and we got 50%.

    But let me say it in other words:

    Given all the objections I will not publish less on Airbnb. I will add and add. They make us great money. And our very many guests are happy. We are building a reputation and the guests are building their reputation.

    We have also found that 99% of Airbnb guests leave the home in an immaculate state compare to other guests.

    Lastly: http://BookingPal.com gives me an interface with added flexibility in publishing homes on airbnb. Bookingpal is used by agents to share accommodation when you have run out of availability you can earn commission by offer other agents properties.

    • Shaun Stewart

      Thanks Johan – you can request 30 or 60 day cancellation policies via customer service or vr@airbnb.com which also has funds delivered 30-60 days prior to arrival This option does increase the host fee from 3%/no listing fee to 5%/no listing fee. Thanks

      • cindiSue

        Thanks, that must be something new. I tried several months ago and they said no. I will request the change.

        • cindiSue

          Huh, easier said than done. 10 minutes trying to get an emal or phone number to contact AirBnb, and still can’t find one. Anyone have it?

          • cindiSue

            Found the email address here, emailed my request and withint 15 minutes they replied and said I had been updated to 60 day super strict. Thanks!

          • Maria Rekrut

            Here is the number I call for Airbnb and they answer right away it’s
            1-855-424-7262.

          • John Biggs

            @cindiSue:disqus are you still getting these terms and accessing payments in 60 days as well?

            I just asked for it and they said I had to have 10 properties and a full set of reviews to qualify, which kind of misses the point!

  • I am still confused on the cancellation terms. They have changed to 50% 1 week without notice and we are now telling owners that we will have to refuse bookings unless they agree to the terms (guess what…none have).

    Account picture posted below:-

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/49e7c0684bd659d626b4d1e0ade30105524fb1fc77c66c1dbd565bd0ef600241.jpg .

    • You get 50% if they cancel. And 100% if they cancel within the last week.

      But Airbnb is in the process of changing this to 60 days. And will also pay you 60 days before arrival. At the moment this just by invitation. But if you work through sites like mybookingpal you get this option already.

      • Originally we had 60 days and they removed it without notice. Happened to lots of people. Its a retrograde step for us so far. We will channel manage it but the costs go up and I believe early payment is increased to 5% now.

        • Shaun Stewart

          Thanks Richard/Johan

          Just to clarify/summarize – we have 5 cancellation options. In the Dashboard you can select the Flexible, Moderate and Strict. Via vr@airbnb.com or our customer service team you can request Super Strict 30 and Super Strict 60. These two cost 5% instead of 3% to the owner/manager but also deliver the booking funds 30/60 days prior to arrival.

          If I haven’t resolved your question feel free to email me at shaun.stewart#@airbnb.com. Thanks

          • Thanks Shaun, but why did accounts change without notice? Please correct me if I’m wrong but previously the fee was 3% on strict and superstrict?

            You do need to be very careful not to fall into the HA trap of changing things at will. We have all experienced a massive number of changes in mid “contract” and spend vast amounts of time on making sure things are correct and fixing, when we should be booking and looking after guests. If I had to bill HA and TA for the work their 3 years of changes have made for us then I could retire and buy my own villas. Hence new well thought out opportunities are welcomed.

            One other thing you may like to consider that will seriously restrict AirBnB growth in VR is cash flow. We make 20% of bookings in January and 80% of these are for August. If the payments were made 60 days out, then we would not survive and at 30 days we are dead in the water.
            AirBnB may be holding over £1m for 5-6 months and £2m in March.

            Many VR’s pay their owners 4-8 weeks before arrival as well, which makes for an impossible situation. Hence my comment on payment API earlier as we do with others.

          • Shaun Stewart

            Hi Richard – The 30/60 Super Strict programs have been 5% since we created them. Strict has been 3% since it was created. There hasn’t been change there.

            We don’t offer payment delivery at the time of booking only 60 days out. We understand this may be a deal breaker for your business operations and will update you if that changes.

  • While I am a big fan of LSI (Listing Site Independence) I also realize that a lot of our leads and bookings come from VRBO…and as Matt accurately described in this post, I loathe HA/VRBO as a company. Every interaction with them leaves me feel screwed out of more money or just unhappy. Very poor customer service. As king of VR listing sites I guess they thought they could throw their weight around. So I am happy to see Airbnb might be able to humble them. I’ve always been vocal about predicting the fall of HA in the next 5-7 years, unless they make some dramatic changes in the culture of the company. Now that I type this out, this is really all about pride probably, so I should probably get over it.

    But I do think you make a great point Matt, that at least the culture of the company of airbnb versus HA is very different, and I appreciate that. I would much rather work with Airbnb than HA, but there are definitely still some issues to be worked out (which have been covered in other comments).

  • A great analysis of a complex world, but probably still not analytical enough as the unknowns relate to local economies for cleaning, work schedule, rotas, taxes. More importantly what price are they booked at elsewhere and where is the commission lowest. The personal attitudes can also affect a rate as many owners can’t be bothered at a certain profit threshold.

  • Maybe I am missing something, but I frankly do not understand why applying a different cancellation policy (last minute vs strict vs super strict) should increase the revenue of AirBNB. I am all in favour of remunerating adde-value functionalities, but all of the policies imply the same to AirBNB. Or is it that we are covering the financial earnings that they make?

  • France

    Hi Matt

    Your post is quite interesting.

    Just
    to inform you, I have a luxurious villa in Provence which worked very
    well at high prices on Vrbo. Is has been also on airbnb for years and
    was almost never seen, I never got a single inquiry.

    Airbnb
    customers are low cost/last minute profiles so you never get the same
    earnings. Airbnb always advises me to lower my price. I have several urban properties in the world on airbnb. They are
    only rented when I lower the price (in last minute). So I use airbnb mostly for last minute deals. That means that if
    you go airbnb you will loose at least 20% on your income compared to VRBO. You have to know that.

    Airbnb is first of all a low cost company and I do respect that. But you have to know in what game you are playing. It is in their roots. They started to rent rooms to people who lost their homes during the US subprime crisis, which in return helped renters to pay their mortgage or their rent. This low cost politics drives all the market down regarding the prices. If you become their adviser you should try
    to have an influence on that point ;-))
    .
    Thank you for the great job you are doing on the vacation rental market.

    • Duane

      @France I agree totally with the low cost last minute profile. With a few exceptions of great guests most AirBnB inquiries we get are looking for a low-ball last minute booking. The demographic of AirBnB user vs VRBO user is millennial vs. seasoned traveler, limited income vs. large disposable income, last minute vs. careful planner.

    • Raphael

      Agreed, low cost , last minute bookers, focusing in cheap accommodations, I also never got a request except when users could not find anything else.

  • Beatrice

    I just contacted Airbnb to change my cancellation policy to the new 30 day super strict policy (which is by invitation only) and they informed me that for that policy I would get charged a 5% booking fee instead of the 3% booking fee they normally charge with the other cancellation policies. For me this increase does not work out at all. I asked to change my cancellation policy to the 30 day super strict but I will eliminate the instant booking, as at this fee I prefer to book the popular weeks through VRBO. I currently pay VRBO $899 per year for each listing. With the volume I have, if VRBO would have charged me the 5% fee that Airbnb wants to charge, I would have had to pay around $3,000 per listing per year. OUTRAGEOUS.

    • Shana Solomon

      I completely agree. Not receiving funds until arrival + the cancellation policy have kept me from listing a very successful vacation rental with AirBnB. I was encouraged that you could request a change to get funds sooner and a stricter cancellation policy, but it’s not worth 5%. AirBnB would get so many more listings if it wasn’t, IMHO, so greedy.

    • France

      About instant booking that both Airbnb and VRBO are trying to force to the owners, it is a myth. According to my experience on both websites, 9 guests on 10 always ask questions before booking. Instant booking is for hotels, not for VR. Both parties want to know who is who.

  • Mari Balch

    My experience with AirBNB as an owner has been a total nightmare. I have two instances where I have had guests destroy my home. I am currently in a battle just to get a security deposit from a guy who threw a huge party in my house. My house left in shambles. You know AirBNB does not let you claim off your security deposit if people smoked in your non smoking home? They do not cover excessive cleaning. I had this guy move every piece of furniture around in my house and set up my parlor room for a beer pong competition. The walls, floors, curtains furniture everything covered in beer, mud and ash from marijuana and cigarettes. I found towels in the street, spit on the walls, vomit everywhere, all filthy and disgusting. I have pictures and documented everything and they will not cover the smoke damage or 2 extra days of cleaning. I had plates and glasses broke, I can not buy them separately to replace. When I provided the replacement cost of the full set, they divided the cost of the damaged plates and glasses and only are willing to give me $7 to find a glass and plate sold single. So i am left with mis matched items because of their careless party. AirBNB only cares about money they do not care about owners…. The other time I had a guest flood my upstairs bathroom, they destroyed my 1st floor ceilings and walls wit water damage. Air BNB did not give me a dime because they did not like my receipts from a locally owned business. I guess I should have gone with a corporation or something to have a more official receipt. That would have cost thousands more to fix but hey… at least maybe they would accept my claim… no… probably not. AIrBNB is a horrible company to do business with. Take your business elsewhere trust me you will have less issues.

  • Amy Grant

    We had the pleasure of meeting Shaun at the Liverez partners conference last week and couldn’t be more impressed! Now reading this blog I am even more impressed with the feedback and quick response to skeptical managers. Our company has had our entire inventory on Airbnb for years. At the beginning, we didn’t see many results. In the last couple of months we have more than doubled our Airbnb reservations month after month. Knowing what has been going on behind the scenes we can tell where the growth came from and that much more is headed our way. I have read some posts saying that the luxury market doesn’t work with Airbnb and we have also thought that in the past. However, when looking at our luxury properties results in 2015 over 20% of the reservations were from Airbnb at full price. Thanks Shaun and Airbnb for ‘getting it right!’. Looking forward to 2016!

  • Airbnb guests are my favorites. They see my reviews and I see their reviews. Where else can I do that? I have rented through Flipkey, HA/VRBO and directly as well.

    Vacation Home owners can use many of the aspects of the Airbnb site to customize their listing to their comfort level.

    For example. Although our home can comfortably accommodate 8 we are much more comfortable with hosting 4. Therefore we charge an extra fee for each guest over our 4 person comfort level. This meshes with our average group size which was just a bit over 4.

    Next, our average guest stay is 4 days.

  • cindiSue

    ​You said “Your cancellation policies are too lenient — they added 30 and 60 day super-strict cancellation policies”
    I used to have super-strict and they eliminated it. Now the strictest option is 50% refund up to 7 days prior. If they added what you said, how does one get it?
    And too bad the list didn’t include “The guests you attract are not respectful of my property”, because other than the cancellation policy, the number one complaint I always hear about AirBnB is that they attract bad renters.

  • Pullen Realty Group

    These are great enhancements that AirBnB is making. However AirBnb neglected to discuss their red headed step child. The biggest problem that property managers and AirBnB faces today is that many RBO’s (rental by owners) are not charging the occupancy tax. This is by far AirBnB’s (and VRBO’s) single biggest issue in the vacation rental space and indeed the entire lodging industry. In our market, (Lake Tahoe) 10% to 13% of the rent and any fixed fees such as a cleaning or damage waiver fee must be charged and remitted to the respective jurisdictions. Most RBO’s that we talk to who have listed their property on AirBnB have absolutely no idea that they need to charge tax on the rent and cleaning fees and remit it. AirBnB only has one fee line item and for us that means we need to add the cleaning and damage waiver fee together and add 10% to 13% on these fees. Needless to say this fee line item for us is significantly higher than what most RBOs charge. None of this is mentioned in the interview and believe me, this is problem #1 for property managers.

    Many potential guests that we talk to think that because they are renting someone’s home and not a hotel that they should not be charged any tax. Some potential guests even think that we are ripping them off by charging tax because they see that they don’t have to pay tax on other listings with other RBOs that they talk to. This creates an unfair marketplace that poses a very real threat to traditional lodging providers and the TOT tax bases of the jurisdictions. This is why AirBnB is running into all sorts of legal problems with Jurisdictions who are fed up with the impossible problem of enforcing their ordinances with RBOs. Let’s be clear, if someone is renting out their couch for short term stays they need to charge and remit tax. Period.

    All of the above enhancements that have been systematically researched are fantastic solutions for property managers thank you! I mean that sincerely, but it doesn’t really help if AirBnB’s guest membership books directly with a RBO who doesn’t charge the tax. Matt, I think you’ve missed the boat on the big problem. Sean, you know that this is a major problem and there is nothing in the above interview that suggests there is any real immediate solution.

    Listening to customer feedback and implementing solutions based on that feedback is nothing new in business but in the above article it’s as if AirBnb has come across some new miraculous management philosophy. Oh my gosh, thank you for enlightening us.

    Here is the customer feedback I get every day from our owners. “WHY ARE YOU NOT GETTING MORE BOOKINGS?” I then have to explain that VRBO/HomeAway and AirBnB are the “go to” marketplaces for anyone looking for a vacation rental and while we have their property listed there, we have to charge tax and it’s a logistical nightmare with AirBnB. We can’t get the numbers to add up. We have to pay the owner late because we have to reconcile each reservation. Also, there is a lot of selection and inventory on these sites which is why they are so popular. Many options from RBOs do not include tax.

    So here is what I’m doing to solve the problem. I stand up in our jurisdictions council meetings and talk to their ordinance enforcement department to demand that AirBnB turn over data to them so that they can enforce the law and naturally these sites won’t do it.

    Sean, do you REALLY want to make a big positive change for PMs and the lodging industry as a whole? Mandate that everyone charges tax. Put in a tax line item that is separate from rent and fees showing the tax on rent and fees. Demand a TOT tax certificate number when an owner registers and publish it as a field in the listing. This could be done within a week. Any engineer at AirBnB could add a tax field to make calculations in your system to solve the problem and give all of your lodging providers the ability to quote correctly with tax with full transparency to the guests. This could be done next week. It’s simple and would be a big step forward to creating a fair marketplace. If you like, I’ll send my website programmer to you next week if you are having technical difficulties with this.

    AirBnB and VRBO are valuable, innovative solutions that have essentially created an entirely new lodging alternative and I think this helps people travel more and I think that’s great for economies like ours. But they are unfair marketplaces and people like us who charge tax are fed up.

    • Raphael

      YES ! Airbnb is to hospitality bussines what torrents are to film and music industry. a PIRATE site pretending to be an ethical biz.

  • Alice

    I have a bad experience with AirBNB lately. My calendar is always up-to-date. One guest instant booked my place for 1 night but wanted to change to 2 nights. However, the second night was already booked by other guest previously so I could not honor his request. To do this guest a favor, I cancelled his 1 night booking without even charging him my standard 50% cancellation penalty – so that he could go ahead to book somewhere else and at least be happy with me. Unfortunately, by doing so, my SuperHost title was stripped off by AirBNB due to this cancellation. I called couple of times to AirBNB asking for justice. The customer service insisted that it is all based on the metric calculations and there’s nothing they can do and they refused to pass my calls to their manager/higher authority to handle the case. They told me I will have to wait 1 year to re-gain my SuperHost title provided that I meet all the criteria and percentage in all these months! It is totally not fair to me by being a nice host. They should penalize the guest instead of me. I really feel betrayed!

    Also have an account with HA/VRBO. Get leads/ bookings before time to re-new my listing. Soon after I paid my Platinum fee, all I have is scam inquiries.

  • Vladimir De Suarez

    Interesting what will be homeaway’s reaction now that it is under expedia’s umbrella!..

  • Acording to various reports

    Tonight Airbnb closed accounts for New York hosts with more than one listing

    “Tonight Airbnb started calling New York city hosts who had more than one listing and told them that all their bookings would be cancelled and accounts closed.

    The callers were reading some sort of script but the gist of it was that the host has multiple listings and as such is not living in the listing and therefore is not providing the “Authentic Airbnb” experience. As a result their accounts were being terminated.”

    I contacted Shaun but he’s in Paris and hasn’t got back to me yet.

    This doesn’t sit with the fact that they are entering the VR market and will set off alarm bells in Paris, Barcalona, Berlin, San Francisco, Santa Monica and a host of other cities.

    This pretty much contradicts what they were saying here re channel management, entire homes / apartments.
    This knee jerk behaviour will affect hosts and guests alike. What if I’m just arriving in New York and was expecting to stay in an Airbnb? What if I’m arriving in the next 3 months or more?

  • Debi

    What I find exciting about your article and your conversations with Shaun, Matt, is that Airbnb is looking to step more powerfully into this field. There are quite a few bugs to work out, and my experience with Airbnb in the last 6 years, although positive, has also been somewhat fractured in communication. I think they can do a lot better in uniformity and transparency of addressing situations. This lack of cohesiveness in information I’ve assumed, was due to the fact that they are a young company and growing rapidly. It must be pretty hard to make all these changes and then educate the employees so that the information can then be released to us and acted upon.

    In addition to changing the Airbnb cancellation policy, I expect they will add a field into the vacation home listings that will allow us to charge taxes. I have raised my cleaning fees to cover hot tub servicing fees and partial taxes to compensate.

    The process of retaining damage/security deposits also needs to be clear and easy to understand.
    If we need to purchase our own rental insurance and not rely on Airbnb’s policies, that too, should be clear.
    If a host/VR owner/PM has her properties unlisted, the very least they should do is offer an explanation of their actions. The rules should be made VERY CLEAR.

    I’m looking forward to hearing more about these items, and to understanding the property management platforms and how this works. I hear rumors but so far I’ve seen nothing to explain the process and procedures.

    It would be truly amazing and remarkable if we were also allowed to embed a link on our Airbnb listings to our own websites. However, I suspect that is a far-reach and not something that will be considered.

    Looking forward to the future revelations!

  • Raphael

    Airbnb is just a referral site.
    if it was a torrent it will be labeled as a “pirate tracker” pretending to appear a legit biz.

  • Maria Rekrut

    I’ve had great success with the Airbnb guests. I found them to very clean, quiet and respectful of my properties. What I do is call them and touch base, then I email them my own confirmation email that states how I want my property treated, etc.
    In my cottage rental there is a registration form I ask them to sign that states that if the kitchen requires a great amount of cleaning, we will be charging their credit card.
    I have yet to charge anyone’s credit card since I started my vacation rental business in 2000. I believe I have less problems because my cottage can accommodate at the most 6 guests.
    I think the problems happen when you have a larger home that can accommodate a larger amount of guests.

  • My reason for not considering Airbnb is simple. My understanding is that communication with guests prior to accepting a booking is nonexistent. I screen vigilantly, which is why my neighbors tolerate the VR. I will happily skip any channel that does not let me talk with guests so that we can BOTH decide whether Your Mountain Home is the place for them.

  • Ria

    I’ve inquired several times about the super strict cancellation (including this morning) and they keep saying that it no longer exists. I am willing to pay the extra 2%. grrr.

    • Michael Endelman

      Hi Ria, have you emailed VR@airbnb.com, someone should be able to help you. Where are your listing located?

  • KironSmith

    Very Nice Article…… With great vacation rental marketing strategy …Polo Beach Condos Maui

  • John Biggs

    I contacted Airbnb to ask about accessing these additional services as they are exactly what I need to convince me to use them. I got the following response:

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Svetlana Smirnova, Mar 14, 06:38 CDT:

    Hi John,

    Thank you for contacting Airbnb!

    We would like to inform you, that Vacation Rental opportunity with the Super Strict 30 cancellation policy and the Super Strict 60 cancellation policy only applies to hosts with special circumstances and are invitation only.

    This option can be available when you have more than 10 active listings on our web-site with reviews and your listings are located in specific regions.

    When your listings answer all the requirements you can get an invitation to became a Vacation Rental owner.

    Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

    Best Regards,
    Svetlana
    http://www.airbnb.com/help

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    I only have three properties.

    I don’t really want to list them with their standard payment/cancellation terms so looks I wont qualify.

    I notice that Shaun Stewart has moved on a wonder if they are now moving away from the policy of attracting Vacation Rental owners.

    I would be interested to hear from anyone who has qualified for these special terms and how its working out.

    Regards

    JOhn

    • cindiSue

      Things may have changed again. But try contacting the exact people at AirBnB listed earlier in this email.

      • John Biggs

        OK, many thanks.

        May I ask how many properties you have with them?

        • cindiSue

          One.

  • David Keeler

    This AirBNB is an extremely suspicious information-gathering firm of collecting all the delicate in personal details, private data of participants, pretending as middle man of vacation property. Why nothing but a middle men are so much interfering all the transaction or our ID card details on every things of individual privacy? They act like a secret police or correctional officers. Even all the banks don’t do like them.This AirBNB rscals wanna collect most accurate, details of any private information from the beginning of joining this site. I concretely assure you they are connected any national spy agency in your country.
    They think Hosts don’t see the guest id and photo when the guests arrive in the property. And middle man decides everything, too much cautious like a rat? This is spy mentality in that business of underworld.
    Hey! Ordinary citizens of all over the world! Look at the their logo, too????Very close image of all seeing eyes in pyramid of new world order. Yeah, they are free mason company.
    Common! baby simpletons of your tech boy!, you are itself a scam or unwanted victims , either agents of spy network of illuminazi or new world imperialists of global conquest.
    Dear chairman, Shawn! Tell us flat? You can’t tell here, can you? moron? How much Rockefeller clan did give you funds to open this .com business to control and spy on middle class people who is more likely vacationing than poor members of society? Oh, they wanna destroy middle class. Yeah! AirBNB! shame on you! You are also participating this scam, right? Oh! Pathetic bunch of pigs, or Tech fascists of San Francisco! Go back to Jericho. Rest in peace for your saving your soul!