Airbnb Owners Program: Letting The Landlord In

In an attempt to formalize and normalize the apartment subletting craze brought to the mainstream by home-sharing website Airbnb, the website this week launched a program for building owners.  In a move that will serve to differentiate the home-sharing leader from its many competitors, Airbnb is now soliciting landlords directly through its new owners program to create a building status declaring the property “Airbnb friendly”.

The program lets property owners decide the rules of sharing and codify these into a set of rules tenants have to follow, as well as making sure that a portion of revenue generated by Airbnb sharing is kept by the landlord.

After a pilot of the program in April proved a success, the company moved ahead with purpose. From Kia Kokalitcheva’s piece in Fortune “Inside Airbnb’s Plan To Partner With The Real Estate Industry”:

For Airbnb, finding a way to involve building owners and landlord is critical. While the company regularly touts stories from hosts whose extra income from renting out their homes has allowed them to afford their rent or a much deserved vacation, it’s no secret that landlords have not been the biggest fans of the practice. According to Airbnb, this animosity largely stems from their lack of control over the activity as tenants are ones usually listing and renting out the homes. Airbnb’s solution: Involving them in the process and giving them control along with a financial gain.

The company began piloting this program in April, and to date, somewhere between 1,100 and 1,500 units are either participating or scheduled to soon join, according to Airbnb. The company declined to reveal much details about the building owners it’s been working with, though it did say they’re in U.S. cities including San Jose, Calif., Philadelphia, and Nashville, Tenn., among others. They also widely vary in size and type, from small “mom and pop”-owned properties, to large companies that manage 50,000 units.

The Plan Design Includes Design

A major evolution of Airbnb that figures in its Friendly Buildings program has been the company’s Samara division, concerned with design of communal housing  with the specific intent of community revitalization.

As the technology ecosystem and Airbnb continues to force itself on the operational realities of commercial property, the company continually seeks ways to differentiate itself from a basic business model that, like so many others in the so-called “sharing economy” is utterly dependent upon other people’s stuff — in this case, on the inventory of landlords and property managers that appears nowhere on the company’s balance sheets. Samara’s attempt to become involved in property design boils down mainly to advocating space-sharing features such as smart locks and moveable walls. It’s high concept, unlikely to apply to the vast majority of their business, which is conducted in existing apartments. But it’s also absolutely critical to a business worried about prospering in a future where its competitors seem so numerous and easily spawned.

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