Something went wrong with Airbnb
The morning after a wedding in Vermont this summer, my friends were recovering in a hot tub while I struggled to get rid of the trash. And cleaned the kitchen table. The bed was stripped. And take out the recycling. Everyone was happy in a hotel before braving the six-hour flight back to New York, except for me and my friend, who made the mistake of staying in an Airbnb. Despite the $95 cleaning fee, we were stuck completing a bewildering list of chores before heading out.
Something feels a little weird with Airbnb these days. Those looking for an attractive and convenient place to stay often have to contend with high prices, inconsistent fees, onerous checkout requirements, and untrustworthy photos and descriptions. You run the risk of ending up, as I did in Vermont, in one of several cookie-cutter units listed by the same host, units that lean less toward “cosy ski lodge” and more toward “an IKEA display room that has never known the human touch.” “Launching.” Not only customers are angry, and they express their anger through them Social mediaBut cities have also taken tough action. Earlier this month, New York City passed a tough new law that effectively bans most short-term rentals, causing 15,000 Airbnb listings to disappear.
A company’s problems are related to how big it is. Airbnb launched in 2008, a year after it started with three air mattresses on the floor of its founders’ living room, but it was no longer a scrappy, community-minded platform powered by the gig economy. It’s an industry unto itself, filled with endless hosts and large real estate companies managing dozens or hundreds of listings at a time. The continuous increase in quantity has reduced quality. Like any technology company, Airbnb has continued to grow. And along the way, you may have gotten more than you bargained for.
The promise of Airbnb seems so simple and obvious now, but it was initially a revelation: What if you could make money from a guest room that no one is using, or from the empty apartment above your garage? In return, travelers can get cheap accommodation with an on-call host who can provide a unique, personal travel experience. This isn’t to say that a one-night stay on a stranger’s couch has taken over Airbnb; An Airbnb spokesperson told me that entire homes rather than shared units have made up the majority of listings since its founding year. But Airbnb’s more casual feel than a hotel has always been part of the draw. By 2011, the number of nights booked for one app, which was first based in the founders’ apartment, had reached 1 million.
Airbnb quickly became so big that everyone wanted to join. Initially, people with vacation homes in desirable areas like Lake Tahoe and the Hudson Valley took notice of Airbnb’s success and saw an opportunity, says Jamie Lin, chief economist at AirDNA, a data expert. Analytics company specializing in Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms. However, hosts renting out vacation homes or properties they don’t live in means that, unlike Airbnb’s original concept, hosts aren’t just a room away to make recommendations, or just around the corner if something goes wrong at check-in. Instead, keys are put in a safe deposit box, and recommendations are written down and placed in a file on the kitchen table. It’s now very common for Airbnb hosts to not see or interact with their guests at all.
The moment people started buying new properties for the express purpose of turning them into Airbnbs, it was clear: Airbnb had turned into a business. Since 2015, the number of Airbnb listings in the U.S. has jumped from about 150,000 to nearly 1.5 million, Lin told me. There are now Airbnbs that are designed strictly for specific types of travelers. “You have properties that are entirely dedicated to bachelor parties,” says Neil Carpenter, who runs a real estate rental consulting and management service in Nashville called The Air Butler. “It’s like, ‘Here are the 12 chairs and the full-length mirror where all your friends can get ready together.’ This is the neon cowboy hat and green wall in the living room for your Instagram posts. Lord of the rings– The Hobbit House Airbnbs, the Spaceship Airbnb, and the Airbnb housed inside a free-standing harbor crane.
In other words, the difference between Airbnb and hotels is becoming smaller and smaller. The standard Airbnb host still has an average of just 1.5 listings, but “superhosts” — large corporations or wealthy individuals with 21 or more properties who throw significant resources behind them — now make up 30 percent of active properties, Lin said. Lists. Some hotels even took an “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” stance in 2018, when Airbnb began allowing small hotels and B&Bs to list their rooms on the platform. The mere existence of a company like AirDNA is another indicator of Airbnb’s dominance — as are the Airbnb consultants who make their living helping hosts maintain their properties, and the number of online ads from these consultants about how to make my first $100k on Airbnb that have followed me since That’s when I first started reporting this article.
At this point, Airbnb doesn’t look like the gig economy at all. Carpenter is currently in charge of 18 different properties, including his own, and handles tasks such as photography, building listings on Airbnb, storing homes, and communicating with guests during their stay. Then there’s stocking the refrigerator, working with cleaning companies, managing finances to make sure payments are distributed correctly, etc.: The work it can take to run a competitive roster is no longer a side hustle, but a full-time job.
Those big hosts with deep pockets and hosts trying to bring in extra money from their vacation home are left to battle it out on the same platform, a platform still ripe for a gig economy that no longer truly embodies it. Take the cleaning fee you hate so much. Each host is responsible for setting their own cleaning fees, but the numbers seem to vary widely from listing to listing, and can amount to an additional $100 or more to what previously seemed like a reasonable daily rate — a price that has itself increased by 36 percent in recent years. However, for hosts, these cleaning fees may seem necessary for reasons unrelated to unit maintenance. When potential guests search for Airbnb, many of them toggle their search criteria to return a specific daily rate — which doesn’t include cleaning fees. To appear higher in search results, some hosts have resorted to lowering the daily rate of the listing and increasing the cleaning fee to cover the difference. “One homeowner described it to me as a race to the bottom,” Sally French, travel expert at NerdWallet, told me. “It’s not really a great experience, but it’s the only way they said they felt like they could get a reservation.”
That’s how situations end up like what happened to software engineer Tracy Chu, who said she and her friends paid a $160 cleaning fee to an Airbnb recently in Vaucluse, France, only to be angrily confronted by the host via WhatsApp for not doing so. They showed “minimal respect” when they left trash bags and empty wine bottles in the kitchen — things about which, says Cho, the host never gave clear instructions. She felt betrayed by the menu reviews, which made her expect a five star experience. Sharing your true thoughts in a negative review can be difficult, she said, if the hosts seem like they’re just people, not an extension of a management company.
Airbnb’s boom has led not only to disputes between hosts and guests, but also to broader regulatory challenges. Airbnbs are now more functionally similar to hotels, but they are not subject to the same licensing and legal requirements that dictate everything from cleanliness to coffee makers. Aside from New York City’s crackdown, Washington, D.C., implemented its own restrictions last year, requiring a short-term rental license and banning second-home licenses. Los Angeles and San Francisco also require registration, and other cities have imposed other types of restrictions, such as prohibiting hosts from listing multiple properties or limiting the number of days a property can be rented in a year. “We feel good about our position with cities and jurisdictions around the world,” the Airbnb spokesperson said, adding that New York City’s rules “are anomalous and at odds with the approach (taken by) other cities across the country.”
Airbnb is not broken. You can still find a place that is cheaper and better than a hotel room, especially for families and large groups. The average price for Airbnb is $60 per person, French said, compared to $89 per person for a hotel. But the company seems to realize that something has changed. In May, Airbnb introduced a toggle option that allows users to set their search to show the total price of the listing, including fees before taxes, so they can get a clearer picture. It also launched Airbnb Rooms, an update to the original “rent a room” model that emphasizes affordability and relationships with hosts. “We are focused on building new tools that ensure our platform provides competitively priced stays,” the spokesperson said.
What happened between where Airbnb started and where it might land is a familiar story. It’s the same thing that prompted Etsy sellers to strike last year and Uber drivers to do so in January. “Whenever there is a potentially profitable sector, any entity with more resources can say, ‘Aha, I can benefit from this,’” Erin Hutton, a sociologist at the University of Buffalo who has studied the gig economy, told me. Gig jobs may be collapsing, not because of a single CEO decision but because companies that find success by framing themselves as a DIY alternative to an established industry can only grow in the same direction as the very thing they wanted to replace. It seems like the original sin. It’s when they try to be both.
(tags for translation)Airbnb Listings.Company Problems