Airbnb what can I say…?

Airbnb business model

I’ve had my ups and downs with Airbnb, being a host and being a guest. Recently my flat made the decision to block/ban people renting out their who flat for Airbnb. Mainly for reasons in this post, profiteers make a killing on Airbnb – and erode communities. The destruction when some guests have gone off is pretty bad. Then the committee (who I’m a member) found there is a clause in which many are not aware of

Borrowers who are granted permission could be charged higher interest or additional fees.

Those who go behind lenders’ backs and list their property on Airbnb regardless would be in breach of their contract and the lender could ask them to repay the mortgage immediately.

The important thing to remember is there is are different types of hosts. For example I only put my spare room on Airbnb not my whole flat. I trust people but there is no way I would give them the keys to my home without me being there at the same time! I remember going to a airbnb meetup in Manchester and being shocked at the difference between those like me who do it for a bit of extra cash and those who treat it like a business.

On the business side theres many stories including this one Airbnb: ‘It’s a cash machine. It’s magical. You are paid to go on holiday.’ These stories do worry me and do make me cross my arms. But on the guest side its been really great to fly around europe and stop at Airbnb’s for sometimes 3x less than the hotels near by. I’ve benefited greatly being able to do this but am very aware of the racial discrimination of the sharing economy. I’m fortunate to being a host and being able to verified about 9 different things including my government ID and full address. Being on the service early on means my rep is pretty good even being awarded superhost a few years ago.

I’ve met some great people doing Airbnb too, even met my favourite Airbnb guest in Portugal in March for a short while, 2.5 years after I hosted her. I bet those host their spare house have no idea who is there or really care?

Starting now would be difficult as I’ve found out from friends who try it, but its clear cities and countries are coming down on Airbnb for ruining communities as mentioned before, Airbnb wrecks travellers’ holiday plans as battle with cities intensifies. You thought it was just Uber right? Nope the whole silicon valley business model is tearing up communities and existing businesses. Neo-liberalism at its best or worst depending how you look at things.

But at the heart of it do Airbnb give a rats? As I found when I went to Japan (listing no longer exists) and Iceland, no they really dont. The problem is its a neat system, just run by a silicon valley company which is aiming to put everybody else out of business then yank the price cord up once they got us. Imagine if Airbnb was run by a public service company, non-profit or coop?

I do think we need to separate the hosting situations. I’m a host but I’m nothing like those who host their 4th bought house, screaming blue murder that they are not superhost entitled and out to make a killing. If I was as greedy, I certainly would drop the price (I charge £45 per night) and rise the price massive on concerts days (A woman came to the taylor swift concern for £45/night, hotels and other airbnb’s were charging £150+ a night). There is clearly a difference and its important to remember this.

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.