From flexitime to flexi home?

You can say what you like about Airbnb – we do, and, hold onto your hats, we’re about to again – but ye gads it knows how to market itself. Much like the OTAs, the group has created a brand, nay, a verb, which sits at the very front of guests’ booking brains.

Now, and hotels may want to sit close here. This is because it spends lots of money on advertising and general profile raising. It’s also because it’s a platform and, like the OTAs, that’s all it does. Brian Chesky may be doing the rounds of his favourite treehouses this year, but he’s not the one shining the key before putting it in the lockbox or gathering some pamphlets about the local loom museum to put on the coffee table. Unlike hotel companies, which have to get caught up in the operating of hotels, it’s not so much with the public facing for Chesky.

But one area where Airbnb and hotels meet is pipeline. Both find the search challenging, but for hotels, once you’ve signed your 25-year management contract, you’re pretty much done, as many an owner will moan about. For Airbnb, every day has the potential for a fluctuating portfolio, as owners decide they may or may not list their apartments (the reality is that many are professional owners as Skift points out here and are unlikely to suddenly withdraw product).

But still, you can never take too many apartments out of the traditional housing market. And around the world, jurisdictions including New York are trying to cut back on the amount of home sharing activity going on.

So Airbnb’s latest Fun Thing To Do is to partner with landlords who are open to subletting and encourage them to list their properties. Regular viewers will recall that Airbnb tried this is a while back with Brookfield, in developing rental buildings that would also be listed and the revenue split.

This looks to be more of the same. The group is reported to have partnered with 12 landlords, adding 175 buildings and has promised partnered landlords as much as 20% of the revenue it makes off sublet bookings. Prospective renters will be able to search a platform for Airbnb friendly apartments and will also get a cut. 

“As the cost of living continues to rise, renters can use the extra income earned by hosting part-time on Airbnb to contribute to their rent, save for a home, or pay for other living expenses,” Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharzyck said.

Renters have hosted on average nine nights per month and earned on average $900, Airbnb added.

So far, so innocuous, one thinks. After all, who doesn’t want to make a bit more money? And, if you move into an Airbnb-friendly apartment, clearly you’re one to embrace the trend? It’s not clear how much of a difference this can make, really, to Airbnb. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there was a fair amount of illegal subletting going on anyway and this doesn’t address the changes to local laws to try and limit use of the platform.

What it does do is raise a few tricky issues around landlord pressure on tenants. If the Superbowl comes to your town, will you HAVE to get out of your flat because all of a sudden the potential income for the landlord is higher? Where are you going for those nine days a month? A special Airbnb bunkhouse? Will landlords outside the scheme fancy a piece of it? Airbnb must hope so. Tenants may be less keen. 

Airbnb’s successful marketing is based around living like a local, being a temporary part of a new community. This latest drive for listings may make those community members feel temporary themselves. 

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