Every few weeks another AirBnB story surfaces raising questions about the appeal of the product to various market segments and how it fits in with local regulations. This time around a combination of personal and third party stories has me thinking about the company and the product – AGAIN – and wondering if it really is a good thing and what the long tail looks like as markets shift. I remain very, very skeptical.
I had eight stays in AirBnB properties in 2017 spanning 30ish nights. That’s about 20% of my time away from home this year. With one exception – a cold night in Hamburg where the heat wasn’t working – they were all great stays.
I trusted my AirBnB host to have heat in the Hamburg winter this week. I lost that gambit. 🙁 https://t.co/XLOoBWGsMo
— Seth Miller (@WandrMe) January 12, 2017
Even the one where I had to help the hosts fix the toilet that wasn’t flushing properly.
— Seth Miller (@WandrMe) June 26, 2017
My guess is that only two of my stays were what the building owner would consider illegal. And those really are not all that hard to discern. There are usually code words in the listing, like “just say you are friends of the owner,” to make it clear. Some are even more obvious.
So, does booking into an AirBnB with this disclaimer make me a hypocrite? pic.twitter.com/WPBl6iW9ah
— Seth Miller (@WandrMe) September 22, 2017
And that’s where things get tough for me. The stays I’ve had at what are obviously “hotels” are the better ones. They are often run by professionals who manage multiple properties (or third party services that do the same, for a cut of the revenue). And, generally speaking, they’re really good at their job. It is almost as if renting out accommodations as a business requires specialized skills and knowledge, the sort of thing that a hotelier would excel at.
I spent 5 weeks in an Airbnb in Madrid last summer. It was wonderful, mainly because the host was a pro. He ran 4 dozen other listings in the country. A business, not "extra dinero" https://t.co/lAuOOAqvJx
— Jason Clampet (@jasonclampet) December 14, 2017
And, all the while, the AirBnB PR machine keeps churning out the tale that most members manage only one property and most are just using it to make a little extra money with a spare room. That is not my experience at all, at least not among active bookings that are making money. They are the properties that are in demand in densely populated cities and neighborhoods and that are being run as hotels rather than as homes. They are trashing (or contributing to such) the residential real estate market in urban areas.
I have zero interest in making local housing markets impossible to afford for those that live there. Hotels are zoned that way, and placed in particular areas. AirBnB are anywhere.
— Reid Fishler (@joelfreak) December 11, 2017
In New York it is as much about tax revenue as it is about zoning and other challenges. Hotel room taxes are significant and are a significant contribution to the local economy. That sucks for visitors, I suppose. Paying 10% extra just to help fund my trash collection or police or whatever is an expensive proposition. But it is part of the deal for getting a hotel room. And, quite frankly, if someone is running an apartment as a hotel they should pay that tax. As a consumer who uses the service I’d much prefer to pay the appropriate tax than to see regulatory or legal challenges to the operations (like NYC experienced).
Read More: Is AirBnB worth potential jail time?
San Francisco managed to arrange to collect the taxes correctly on behalf of its hosts. Various cities in Europe have done the same. Sometimes a host takes a copy of my passport ID page because as a lodging provider that’s required by local authorities. They may not be formally running a hotel but they are definitely operating a lodging establishment.
Poderoso: Madrid looking to democratize travel and democratize capitalism by helping people to be able to use what is their greatest expense – their homes 🏡 🏠 – to earn extra dinero. @AirbnbCitizen https://t.co/CamlFgN3Jg
— Chris Lehane (@chrislehane) December 14, 2017
I also have to face my hypocrisy with these bookings. I know the stay is against the rules. I do it anyways. I’m a good neighbor, quiet and mostly out of the way. But that’s not the same as not being there at all. I’m part of the problem. In Singapore the penalty (for the property owner) can be SGD$200,000 or jail time. That is a ridiculous risk for a host to take, but they do it anyways.
In the meantime, I’ve got another one booked in Thailand in February. Just like when I was there 18 months ago, it is a perfect location and half the price of the mediocre hotels nearby. And still not legal per Thai law, best I can figure. Oops.
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