Airbnb wants to convince more people to rent out their homes

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Convinced that the holiday travel boom is permanent, Airbnb wants to expand its offerings by convincing more people to convert their homes into short-term rentals.

The company said Wednesday it will increase the amount of host liability coverage to $3 million, in a game for owners of nicer homes in expensive places like California. It will also pair newcomers with a “superhost” to guide them through the process of becoming a short-term host, from signing up to welcoming their first guest.

More listings doesn’t seem to be Airbnb’s biggest challenge.

CEO Brian Chesky says the San Francisco company is taking steps to make pricing more transparent when consumers browse Airbnb listings, and he predicts this will reduce the skyrocketing cleaning costs that many hosts continue to pay well into the booking process — a major complaint of consumers.

The company also continues to try to crack down on large rental parties, some of which have turned violent. And it faces efforts to improve short-term rental regulation.

Through it all, Airbnb has outperformed most travel companies during the pandemic. This month it reported a record third quarter profit of $1.21 billion. However, the stock fell as earnings and bookings came in lower than Wall Street had expected and gave the company a prudent fourth-quarter outlook.

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Investors worry that consumers paying more for food, gas and housing — and facing recession predictions — will cut back on discretionary spending like travel, hurting Airbnb.

Some current hosts are concerned that this may already be happening. Last month, a post on a Facebook page for Airbnb “superhosts” asked, “Has anyone seen a massive drop in bookings over the past 3 to 4 months? We’ve gone from a minimum of 50% occupancy to literally over the past two months.” 0% gone.”

Other social media hosts have suggested theories ranging from a fragile economy to pent-up travel demand finally running out, and some think the problem could be that Airbnb already has too many ads.

AirDNA, which tracks short-term rental numbers, said Airbnb listed nearly 1.4 million rental properties in the US in September, up 23% from a year earlier and 9% from 2019. Nearly two-thirds are added since 2020. The trends are similar for global listings.

Chesky said in an interview that Airbnb now has enough hosts — he didn’t say there are too many — but more is needed as vacation travel will continue to grow. And, he said, a recession could push more people to turn their homes into Airbnbs. After all, he likes to point out that Airbnb was launched during the great recession in 2008.

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“People are cutting back on spending in many areas, but not traveling,” he said. “And with a looming recession, we felt like more people than ever wanted to make extra money.”

Potential hosts sometimes hesitate, Chesky said, because they don’t feel comfortable with strangers in the house. The company’s response is to triple the amount of coverage for hosts — from $1 million to $3 million — against damage, including to vehicles, boats and a wider range of on-site art.

Chesky bets this will convince more owners of beautiful homes to list them on Airbnb.

“Right, and home values ​​have gone up since we wrote the $1 million plan,” he said. “We just noticed that more than 20% of homes on Airbnb, and maybe even more than that, exceeded a value of more than $1 million.”

The company said it is also launching a system to verify guest identities and flag potential parties, immediately in the US and Canada and globally next spring. Chesky said the system is “not a panacea” and he didn’t give many details, but said it will include a check on criminal and sex offenders in the US.

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In the meantime, the company is working on a plan to display the all-inclusive price of a stay in advance on the app and website – an amount that includes a cleaning fee, which can be very high and only show up later in the booking process.

Chesky said he didn’t want to ban or limit cleaning fees — that’s a decision for landlords, he said. But including fees in the upfront price — and in the order in which search results appear — “will correct the market,” he said.

Photo: Airbnb is looking for more people to turn their homes into short-term rentals. The company is rolling out a simpler registration process, with online help from a ‘super host’. (TUSEN Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

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