I want to introduce you to my friend Trina, who I met four years ago in Boulder. She had just left her corporate job at Chevron on a quest to explore intentional communities across the US. She began her journey in Boulder visiting a community started by a mutual friend who introduced us. We discovered we shared common interests like: living on less, the quest for financial freedom, real estate investing, and decorating on a shoestring. When I met Trina, she had downsized from a high rise apartment near downtown Houston into a colorfully, refurbished, 96 sq ft RV to accommodate her needs during her year long quest.
She visited a number of intentional communities across the US and we touched base occasionally when her travels brought her back to Boulder. In the fall of 2015, she went on to purchase a multi-unit property on Lake Vallecito in the San Juan Mountains near Durango, CO that became her own intentional community. Together with a business partner, she refurbished the cabins and they are available on Airbnb as lakefront/mountain view cabins for outdoor enthusiasts.
During that time, we connected again and shared an Airbnb apartment in LA during the last Airbnb Open in 2017. She shared an idea with me then that intrigued me but with our respective Airbnb responsibilities, we both decided to put it on the back burner.
She was back in Boulder recently and we got together for tea to catch up and I asked her what she was up to. Once again, we discussed that idea from the Open and I asked her if she’d be willing to share it with my blog readers. We agreed it’d be a good way to test it out with like minded people like yourselves. Please welcome Trina!
My idea merged my interest in the short term rental and real estate markets. A while back, I found an Airbnb press release where Chip Conley, the former head of hospitality at Airbnb explained that Airbnb was partnering with Realtor.com. In that partnership, potential home buyers were encouraged to use Airbnb to get a feel for an area before deciding where to settle.
The partnership between Airbnb and Realtor.com was a loose one designed to help customers of both platforms to widen their customer bases. I wondered if the relationship could be taken one step further. What if motivated sellers were to not only list their homes with licensed Realtors on Realtor.com and similar platforms but also list them on Airbnb to give potential buyers an opportunity to try it out?
So I have a personal example to share. I live in a townhouse community in Southwest Houston on a small, man-made lake across from a large corporate facility owned by the engineering company--Flour. While there is a Hyatt and Marriott next door to the Flour campus, there are also two beautiful, lakefront townhomes that have been on the market For Sale for well over a year right across the lake. My fiance’ and I looked at those two townhomes before we decided to rent something else. The floor plan didn’t work with one and the other was way overpriced. Our year long lease is about up and those two townhomes are still for sale. Both have cycled through multiple realtors and have become stale properties.
I walk by them regularly on my morning jaunts and wonder why they couldn’t also be rented out on Airbnb to attract a wider audience of potential buyers. They’re both vacant and beautifully staged.
My fiance’ just started a great job at Google and we’re planning to move to the Silicon Valley in the next month or two. We’ve been on a couple of house hunting trips and have stayed in Airbnb accommodations during those trips. Our Realtor has shown us a number of beautifully staged homes for sale and for rent. It’s occurred to me how helpful it would be to stay a night or two in one of those properties. Granted, it’s not for everyone. Some sellers don’t need the added boost in a good market with a hot property. But for those homes that have been on the market for awhile and the seller invested a good sum to stage it---why not?
So the “Try Before you Buy” add on service connecting homes for sale on the real estate market with short term nightly stays could not only help motivated sellers and frustrated Realtors, but also potential buyers.
I thought, it’d be fun to come up with the Top 9 reasons to use the “Try Before You Buy” add-on service. Here they are:
#1. Interim Revenue while Showing + Flexibility: Since Airbnb settings are flexible, we can help sellers align short term rentals with their need to schedule showings and open houses. And, it provides a revenue stream for sellers until they are able to sell.
#2. Buyers Can Stay in the Home!: Potential buyers will literally be able to stay in the home for a few nights to see how they like it during different times of day, learn it’s quirks, noise levels, etc. This would help buyers make better educated decisions for the largest investment most people make in their lifetimes.
#3. Furnished Homes Sell Quicker & for More $$$: Studies show that furnished homes sell faster and for more money. We believe that has to do with helping people envision themselves in the home and because it has a comforting lived-in feeling. Seller can recoup some of the costs associated with furnishing/staging by offering their properties to guests on Airbnb.
#4. Lived-in = Safe: Occupied homes with people coming and going and lights on in the evenings are less of a target for thieves. Rented homes are constantly taking on the energy of their guests. It can provide more of a warm, welcoming energy than a stagnant space.
#5. Maintenance Issues Are Identified Immediately: The appliances and fixtures are being used regularly so issues are addressed right away. A home sitting on the market for months with regular showings could have a pipe burst or a roof leak, causing unidentified damage that adds to a seller’s woes.
#6. “Try Before You Buy” Creates Housing! Airbnb often gets a bad reputation for taking away housing from the marketplace, as it turns properties that could be used for long term renters into mini hotels. Instead, this strategy showcases a neighborhood / town and all it’s cool amenities bringing in business, while offering a new temporary housing opportunity.
#7. Get A Competitive Edge!: This “Try Before You Buy” add-on service differentiates properties from others that don’t offer the service.
#8. Gives Buyers A Risk Free Trial: For most, buying a home is the most expensive purchase of their lifetime. Customers get to test drive a car overnight and try out a mattress risk free for 30 days. Why not provide a similar opportunity for home buyers?
#9. You Already Have The Listing & Photos: Much of the work done for selling a home, taking quality photographs, staging it, writing alluring descriptions and discussing cool things in the area can be repurposed making quick work of also setting up the listing on Airbnb.
Ok, these are great reasons, how would it actually work?
Get the general word out about the “Try Before You Buy” add on service.
Target our own social networks
Target Realtors, Sellers, and Furniture Stagers especially those in slower markets with properties that sit 1-4 months +using Redfin.com and similar online services.
Find motivated Realtors or Sellers with a property to List on Airbnb
Set up the listing on Airbnb if it’s already staged, or
Stage or furnish the home with enough furnishings to give a potential buyer a positive experience as an overnight guest.
Market the listing as a “Try Before You Buy” property in the Realtor.com description and on the real estate yard sign.
Collaborate with Sellers, Realtors and Buyers for a win/win/win
Test the concept and improve on it
So, if you or someone you know is an entrepreneurial Realtor or Stager, or a seller who is looking for a competitive advantage, email Trina Wacasey (firstname.lastname@example.org) or I to discuss the “Try Before You Buy” add on service with one of your properties for sale.