Making a living out of AirBnB or how the sharing business just became business

You probably all know about AirBnb. Their history and how they transitioned to the current model is interesting by itself and you can read about it on their Wikipedia page. Today, TheNextWeb had an interesting article by Jon Weatley titled “In 2012 I bought an apartment specifically to rent out on Airbnb. Here’s how I’ve done so far.” that caught my attention. It reminded me of something I had noticed during my trip to Japan.

I used AirBnb a lot, when I was in Tokyo, to rent small, one bedroom apartments. And I was quite surprised to notice there was a lot of foreigners in that “business”. And I say “business” because it seems like it has become a real business for some.

You see, in Japan it’s hard to rent an apartment, you need a lot of credentials (and as a foreigner you typically have none) and you also need to put a lot of money on the table just to get access. There’s also something called the “key money” (reikin), it’s a kind of gift to the owner. In Switzerland and France we’d call that a bribe.

But there are still enough apartments available so that, if you have enough credentials and money, you can get your hand on enough real estate to make a profitable business without, unlike Jon, having to actually buy anything. And some AirBnB hosts are really milking the cow. Two of the guys I rented from had at least half a dozen listings. Apartments they rent specifically to sublet on AirBnb.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to that (not completely). I am just surprised by the evolution of AirBnB (my first surprise was to see some of the listings on AirBnB being also present on Agoda or Bookings). But I would also be surprised that all of this is actually 100{5f676304cfd4ae2259631a2f5a3ea815e87ae216a7b910a3d060a7b08502a4b2} legal.

And there seem to be a larger debate around web startups such as AirBnB, Uber, Shareyourmeal, Fon and others, who operate in the “sharing economy” and entice their users to break their local laws. People seem to forget that laws mostly exist to protect consumers, not to give an unfair advantage to the incumbents.

4 thoughts on “Making a living out of AirBnB or how the sharing business just became business

  1. Stephanie Booth

    There was an article recently about somebody in Bern who got in trouble with their gérance (I forget how much trouble) for renting through AirBnB, as it’s technically subletting. And the gérance hadn’t authorized it.

    Reply
    1. Claude Vedovini Post author

      I can easily imagine everyone freaking out about that in Switzerland…

      The Swiss market, especially Geneva, Lausanne and Zurich with their shortage of affordable apartments is ripe for this kind of business. Imagine what you could do if you could get your hands on 2 or 3 flats.

      Next time you better check-out the sub-renting clause in your contract, it might even become a new selling argument: “view over the lake, close to facilities and transportations, AirBnB ready”

      Reply

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