Airbnb wants to add more professional vacation rentals to its offerings. These rentals are often located in coveted, higher-priced resort areas. So far, Airbnb has struggled to attract full-service property management companies. One reason? Airbnb’s platform and policies are primarily developed for individual homeowners. Professional property managers have different needs and requirements.
Skift reported on a number of issues property managers have with Airbnb, which we have outlined below. Airbnb has been tackling many of these issues with regard to property managers as the company continues to expand its scope of business to include professional rentals, corporate, luxury, traditional hotels, and experiences.
Cancellation policy. “Property managers particularly dislike Airbnb’s so-called extenuating circumstances policy, which lets guests cancel bookings up to 24 hours in advance of arrival. That’s a big-time problem on two counts. First, property managers often make revenue guarantees to the owners of houses that they’re then on the hook for when a customer fails to show up. Second, property management companies also try to make money by selling guests trip insurance, which then gets undermined by Airbnb’s policy.” Another gripe is “the inability to change cancellation policies depending on the season.”
How taxes are collected. “The online company built its online workflow to collect taxes in a manner that is the simplest for individual hosts. But multi-property businesses have different needs.”
Airbnb has started to address this. “Management companies will eventually be able to specify tax items in their jurisdiction. Airbnb will charge the guests those taxes and then pay out those amounts to the businesses to let them pay the authorities along with their other taxable earnings. Separately, Airbnb is testing in a few U.S. states a process that enables property managers to be the merchant of record for tax purposes. That approach differs from the model today, where Airbnb takes the payment and sets aside money for taxes.”
Commissions. “In the past year, Airbnb has been pushing property owners to adopt a 14 percent host-only fee. Its prior default was to hit hosts with a 3 to 5 percent fee, with guests paying a fee that varied by the length of stay and the rate of the booking. Airbnb intended for the host-only fee to make it easier for property managers to control the final price consumers saw across listing services on the internet. Some managers had complained to Airbnb that the variable, split fee structure meant that the price of the same listing differed on Airbnb compared with other online booking brands.” As of now, Airbnb is letting management companies choose which payment model – host-only or split fees – to use.
The host-only fee is itself a big worry for some property managers. They fear that profits will take a hit if there is an industry-wide end to traveler fees. Booking.com has dropped travelers’ fees and the concern is others like Airbnb and Vrbo may follow.
Customer data access. “Airbnb collected reviews from guests but didn’t make it easy for property managers to detect patterns or take action. So Airbnb has released a data feed called an API (application programming interface) that third-party software developers can tap. Property managers will be able to download records to analyze customer feedback for insight. For example, managers will be more easily able to pinpoint which staff members handling check-ins or housekeeping may be falling short.”
More collaborative tools. “In the past few months, it added a “teams” feature that aims to make it easier for property managers to sell their units via Airbnb. Some of the seemingly small but operationally significant changes included adding the ability for managers to permit specific employees to change particular parts of listings and other capabilities across accounts.”