Airbnb Co-Founder’s New Business Is Building Small Homes in Backyards | Kanebridge News
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Airbnb Co-Founder’s New Business Is Building Small Homes in Backyards

The startup is launching in California, one of the states trying to boost its housing supply

Tue, Nov 15, 2022 9:25amGrey Clock 2 min

Joe Gebbia co-founded Airbnb Inc. as a company that helped people rent out their homes to guests. His new venture is about adding small homes to people’s backyards.

The new startup, known as Samara, plans to sell factory-produced studio and one-bedroom units to homeowners. The company is looking to capitalise on laxer laws and rising demand for affordable housing spurred by surging home prices and ballooning rents.

Samara is initially launching in California, which is one of the states trying to boost its housing supply by easing restrictions on accessory dwelling units. The modest residences are located on the same lot as a single-family home and in California can be as small as 150 square feet. The state now allows homeowners to build ADUs in their backyard even if the homeowners association prohibits it.

The company, which takes its name from the samara fruit, hopes eventually to expand beyond California. It is betting that worsening housing shortages and the rising popularity of remote work will increase the need for ADUs.

Unable to afford houses of their own, more Americans are moving into converted garages or guesthouses and multigenerational households are on the rise. Meanwhile, people working from home are more likely to need additional space away from noisy children and other distractions.

“Work from home at least once per week has fundamentally changed people’s relationship to their home,” Mr. Gebbia said.

Starting prices for Samara’s ADU line, dubbed Backyard, will range from $299,000 for 430-square-foot studios to $339,000 for 550-square-foot one-bedroom units in the San Francisco Bay Area, with slightly lower prices for homes in Southern California, the company said.

Mr. Gebbia, who co-founded the company with Mike McNamara, the former chief executive of electronics manufacturer Flex Ltd., said the units will be built in factories by a modular construction company. Samara will design and market them. It will also handle applications for building permits and the installation. The customisable homes come with solar panels on the roof designed to meet all the unit’s electricity needs.

Samara isn’t the first company to roll out these small homes, and faces competition especially in California. The state issued nearly 20,000 building permits for ADUs in 2021, up from 12,520 in 2019 and just 1,160 in 2016, according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

Samara also faces a challenging economic environment. Construction costs are high by historical standards while inflation, rising interest rates and a weakening housing market are eating into homeowners’ spending power.

Mr. Gebbia, 41 years old, graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design before becoming roommates with fellow Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky in San Francisco in 2007. The roommates quit their jobs that year and launched the short-term rental company in 2008.

Mr. Gebbia became interested in ADUs when he wanted to build one on his land but found the options underwhelming. “That was a tiny seed that was planted, you can say, by personal frustration,” he said.

Samara started off in 2016 as a research and design unit of Airbnb. Mr. Gebbia said he began working on the ADU concept with Mr. McNamara while still at the short-term rental company. “It got to the point where we both realized this needs to be an independent company. So earlier this year, we moved out of Airbnb,” he said.

In July, Mr. Gebbia announced that he would leave his full-time role at Airbnb. Samara is now an independent startup, although Airbnb owns a minority stake, according to Mr. Gebbia.



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By CAITLIN MCCABE 30/01/2023
The Australian capital setting a new record for property value falls

Property values have fallen hard and fast in this popular city, but it’s done little to dent pandemic rises

Mon, Jan 30, 2023 2 min

Highest property values, biggest dip the next. That’s the outcome for Australia’s northernmost capital on the east coast, with Brisbane property values recording their largest and fastest decline, data from Corelogic reveals.

The fall comes just seven months after values hit their peak after a population surge driven by the pandemic saw an increase of 43 percent. Home values hit a record high on June 19, 2022 but have since declined 10.9 percent, in parallel with eight consecutive interest rate rises since April last year.

Historically, peak-to-trough declines in Brisbane have lasted 14 months and have ranged from value drops of -2.9 percent to -10.8 percent. While the new record is just -0.1 percent compared with previous figures, that fall came over 21 months between April 2010 and January 2012. The latest decline was a much swifter seven month drop.

CoreLogic head of research Eliza Owen said it is worth putting the Brisbane figures into context with the rest of Australia’s capital cities, as well as considering the significant rise in property values in the Queensland capital over the pandemic.

“Brisbane now stands out as one of two capital city markets with record declines, the other being Hobart,” Ms Owen said. “Sydney continues to have the largest peak-to-trough falls of the capital city markets (currently at -13.8 percent), while peak-to-tough falls remain mild in some cities (such as Perth, where values are down just -1.0 percent from a recent peak in August 2022).” 

“The record fall in Brisbane home values has not made much of a dent in the gains made during the upswing. The fall in the Brisbane daily HVI follows an upswing of 43.5 percent between August 2020 and 19 June 2022, which was the fastest trajectory of rising values on record. This leaves home values across Brisbane 27.9 percent higher than at the previous trough in August 2020.” 

The median dwelling value in Brisbane jumped from $506,553 at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 to $707,658 by the end of last year, Ms Owen said.

“Despite the large decline from peak, Brisbane maintains the third highest gain in value of the capital cities since the start of the pandemic,” she said. 

“Only Adelaide and Darwin, which are 42.8 percent and 29.6 percent higher respectively than at the onset of the pandemic, have performed stronger. 

“For this reason, there is marginal risk of negative equity for Brisbane homeowners, with the exception of very recent buyers, who purchased around the peak in June 2022 with less than a 20 percent deposit.” 

However, there are signs of resilience in the market. Brisbane remains a more affordable option compared with the other east coast capitals, Ms Owen said.

Although housing values remain higher than pre-COVID levels, Brisbane retains a lower price point than Sydney, with a $435,170 difference in median house values and $280,749 difference in median unit values,” she said. 

“The gap between Brisbane and Melbourne housing values is also significant, with a $119,697 gap between median house values and $97,692 difference in median unit values.

“This could encourage ongoing housing demand from those willing to migrate to the state, or own an interstate investment.” 


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