I Have a Place Available for Trashing on Airbnb

Trashed House

Disclaimer: This is not an Airbnb rental. Photo Courtesy of Brian Ray

There have been several news stories and articles about a vacation home exchange and rental startup called Airbnb. The concept is much like the vacation classified site VRBO but financial transactions are run through AirBnB making it more of a marketplace for vacation rental seekers.

Seems like a pretty cool concept, no? I mean if Ashton Kutcher says it is cool and is backing it, it must be hot right?  Well last week it was confirmed that it was pretty hot. It had secured $112 million in funding and had a valuation of $1.3 billion. That a shit load of dough yo. And to be honest seems a bit steep to me. It kinda makes me feel like we are running around the edge of a big massive bubble. It just keeps rolling beneath our feet like a log below a lumberjack and one of these days our heels are going to slip and we are going to fall, or we are going to step to hard and the bubble is going to pop beneath us.

I feel this way specifically about Airbnb because I tried to use it and it was a failure. At least in finding a place to stay. I went to Bend, Or a few weeks ago a pretty well known vacation town. It is not a large city, but it certainly attracts a lot of web savvy and rich travelers. Both whom should be a target for Airbnb. I was excited to try Airbnb because I thought it would be a much easier process to pay for a place online like a you would a hotel verses getting contact information off of VRBO and having to call homeowners directly and send checks and deposits through snail mail.  Yet when I searched for a rental through only a handful of listings were on Airbnb. Four to be exact. None of them matched my criteria. I thought maybe it was because of short notice so out of curiosity,  I decided to pick random dates far into the future to see what type of listings were on Airbnb for a future trip. The maximum number of results that I could get to come back were 19. Yet for the exact same weekend on VRBO, there were over 200 results to choose from. This is a pretty stark difference and further raises my skepticism about it’s bloated valuation.

If a popular tourist town like Bend, with a lot of vacation homes just waiting to be rented out, does not have a prolific number of homes listed on Airbnb, what does that say for a small town in the Midwest or the south? Is there only target large cities? If that is the case that would have to be a lot of rentals to live up to $1.3 billion dollars.   In addition, the more I thought about it,  Bend is unique in that there are a lot of people that own homes there as their second home which are much more readily vacant and available than a primary residence. There is a lot of money that flows in and out of that town because of it’s proximity to outdoor recreation and people, especially second homeowners, are much more comfortable renting out their second home, to a stranger with money than say their primary residence that contains their most cherished personal effects. Bend should be the perfect town to adopt Airbnb, yet it has not.   Let’s be honest, not many people like the feeling of having a complete stranger stay at their primary residence and not many towns are rife with second homes waiting to be rented. People have a hard enough time paying a first mortgage these days.

To me personally the thought of renting to the wrong person and having them rifle through all my private possessions or having access to information about my children makes me less than uncomfortable.  My fears were confirmed with this recent story about a women who rented out her apartment through Airbnb, only to have it completely trashed and violated by her renter. My heart goes out this this women. I had my car broken into once just outside of my house, my wallet was stolen and within hours my credit cards were wracked up. It took months to get the charges removed from my accounts and I still worry about my identity and ID floating out there in the Universe. It took me moths to feel safe in my own home again and these burglars never even set foot in my house.  I cannot imagine what it would feel like to experience a complete violation of all my possessions and the sense of trust that was suddenly ripped from her life. Not to mention the poor treatment she has experienced from Airbnb once she went public with the story.  Not good press for a company that is trying live up to it’s valuation. Plus people, our country is under unprecedented debt, so pray tell who is going on $1.3 billion dollars of worth of vacations anyway? Not me.

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