Airbnb tests outsourcing management to Superhosts to grow inventory and loyalty

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As Airbnb, the $30 billion private accommodation renting portal, continues to mature and very slowly inch its way to an IPO, it is adding more ways to bring in more properties and hosts to its platform.

TechCrunch has learned that Airbnb is working on a new service under the name “Experienced Hosts,” where it connects would-be hosts (those who have homes or space in their homes to post on Airbnb) with “Superhosts” to help manage those properties. (“Superhost” is Airbnb’s equivalent of a “verified” badge that is based on your response time, guest approval and other factors.)

“We’re always looking for ways to give our hosts and guests around the world an even better experience,” Airbnb spokesperson Christopher Nulty said in response to questions about the service. “We know that many of our hosts already use friends, family and people they trust to help them host. We are doing a small scale trial in a few markets to look into ways to make this even easier.”

“Experienced Hosts” essentially outsources the whole process of listing and renting out homes on Airbnb to a third party.

There are already live pages dedicated to the service on Airbnb’s site (first spotted by the blog All About Airbnb). For now, it looks like the only market where it’s trialling the experienced host service is in Tokyo, where there are currently 92 hosts willing to help you list and let your property.

Airbnb lists services that experienced hosts can do for owners like listing and marketing a property; helping manage the calendar and pricing; handling guest communications and welcoming/checking guests out at the end; and keeping homes clean and stocked.

People can use Airbnb’s site to search for superhosts to help manage their properties based on proximity to your address. Pricing is arranged directly between you and your superhost, with the guide price between 10-20% of earnings, on top of the 3% that Airbnb takes for each transaction. As with Airbnb’s commission, it also hands the host payments.

The idea behind adding a new management service is to remove one of the sticking points that affect Airbnb’s growth as a more mainstream service. There are a lot more homes out there that could potentially be listed on the service, but their owners may not want to take on the work of doing that.

It comes as Airbnb is also trying to find other ways of growing its inventory and making it easier (and legal) to list property.

It now offers the Airbnb Friendly Buildings Program, giving landlords and building owners a chance to make a cut on their apartments rented out on the service. First spotted earlier this year, this is now making a bigger formal debut. Earlier today, Airbnb also released some research that boasted the growth of senior hosts in Europe, pointing to another demographic it hopes to tap for more homes.

You might assume that a service like Airbnb might live and die by how many consumers use it to find a place to stay, but the fact is that the company is a two-sided marketplace, not unlike other on-demand businesses like Uber, Lyft and Postmates. Having a loyal and large following of hosts is essential to its inventory and the turning of its wheels.

The Experienced Hosts program is not only a way of attracting new people who might not have considered posting their homes before; it’s also a way of making sure superhosts have ways of potentially making more income from the service. This lets Airbnb build a stronger connection with them and ensure that when there is a property to be posted, they think of Airbnb first before HomeAway and the rest.

Other services that Airbnb has tested and launched to give hosts a chance of making more margin from guests includes “experiences” and local Guidebooks created by local specialists to occupy visitors once they have arrived.

To date, Airbnb has raised nearly $2.4 billion in funding, with a long list of at least 37 investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Fidelity, General Catalyst, Sequoia and many more.