Airbnb verification a pivotal point for homesharing

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — Airbnb’s promise to certify all listings will likely accelerate
the shift toward professionally managed and maintained short-term rentals. 

“I feel a lot more of the inventory will be moving toward
professionalism,” said Guesty CEO Amiad Soto during a session at the
Phocuswright Conference on Wednesday. Guesty provides a property-management
platform for short-term rentals. 

Soto posited that the need to be verified will prompt many
owners to make agreements with property managers. Owners will want to “get to a
certain level of quality,” he said.

Homesharing was already trending in this direction. Session
moderator Michael Coletta said a Phocuswright survey of
homeowners conducted earlier this year revealed that 50% use a property manager, up from 10% in 2015. “This is
a huge shift, indicating that the rental-by-owner segment is under a lot of pressure to professionalize in order to compete,” he said. 

The homesharing industry was battered in quick succession
this month by the deaths of five people at an unauthorized party at an
Airbnb-rented property in California and by a report about Airbnb’s inadequate
response to fraudulent rental practices. 

It also was stung by a voter referendum in Jersey City,
N.J., that imposes tighter regulations on homesharing. Jersey City, across the Hudson
River from New York City, has become a popular alternative to lodging in New
York, which has also cracked down on short-term rentals. 

“The events the last couple of weeks have really hit us
hard,” said Clara Liang, Airbnb’s vice president and general manager of
professional host and luxury businesses. The verification step, she said, is “another
major step forward to making sure that we are the most trusted travel community
on the planet.”

Given the size of Airbnb, she said, verification of
all its listings is “no small task.” Airbnb is still working on the details of
the verification plan, she said.  

She added that part of the plan is to be more responsive to
local communities. For example, Airbnb intends to staff its hotline for
neighbor concerns at all hours and make the number easier to find. 

Brad Handler, chairman of luxury rental vacation club
Inspirato, suggested that verification include checks that properties comply
with local ordinances and zoning laws “and not leave it to the hosts.” 

Eric Breton of rental management company Vacasa said that professional
property managers make sense when many consumers are buying second homes and
vacation homes with a rental plan in mind.

“It makes a lot of sense. These are people who own a second home that they do not need; they wanted it. The idea that they then need a part time job taking care of it on the weekend, finding a plumber at 10 p.m. on a Friday night; it just doesn’t make sense. A professional makes a ton of sense.  

When Vacasa launched 10 years ago, he added, “Nobody bought a second home
thinking they were going to rent it out … Now from the start they are planning specifically
planning to rent it out. I think that will continue the drive to professionalization, as well as better asset quality.”

This report was updated.

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