Airbnb's verification pledge a pivotal point for homesharing

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Guesty CEO Amiad Soto, left, said that the need to verify their rental will prompt many owners to turn to property managers. At right is session moderator Michael Coletta of Phocuswright.
Guesty CEO Amiad Soto, left, said that the need to verify their rental will prompt many owners to turn to property managers. At right is session moderator Michael Coletta of Phocuswright. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin

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. "Working with professionals get you verification quite easily, because you know that these are standards that they need in order to stay alive in the business. I feel like a lot of the inventory will be moving toward professionalism, because getting verified, getting the certain level of quality, will be another work they need to do."

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, urged that companies like Airbnb make sure that properties comply with local ordinances and zoning laws "and not leave it to the host, who is going to want to say, 'oh we do comply,' simply because they want to have the income." 

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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