Some short-term rental investors saw the power shift from hosts to guests while others feared Airbnb’s major update took away their competitive advantage.

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Airbnb has walked back some of the updates from its summer release, which the short-term rental powerhouse had called the biggest updates in a decade, after hearing from thousands of peeved hosts.

The company has been moving to encourage travelers to spend more time in short-term rentals and in more places. As part of that ongoing effort, the company added protections for renters. It also created a group of categories to describe the main attraction of certain listings, adding a new way for guests to find places to stay.

The company also standardized the listing title displayed in the places renters are looking while considering homes to rent. Some hosts claim the change took away their ability to make their listings stand out.

“This is a terrible upgrade for both hosts and guests,” Richard Fertig, a short-term rental investor who started a STR private equity fund called Stomp Capital, said in May. “As a guest, this means more time wasted clicking on photoshopped photos to learn the location, size, description don’t meet need.”

After it said it heard from thousands of hosts, Airbnb rolled back a few of the updates just ahead of the Fourth of July weekend. 

The company had said it standardized the titles because listings would often stretch to multiple lines, with emojis and other information Airbnb said wasn’t helpful for guests to search and find places to stay.

To compromise, the company brought back custom listing titles on June 30, pushing hosts to write titles that don’t stretch past 32 characters and are easy to read.

“By regularly checking in with our community to ensure our platform is performing as designed, we are able to innovate and make improvements,” the company said in a statement to Inman. “The response to Categories has been very positive, and we are collaborating with Hosts to make it even better, as we shared with them earlier this month — from introducing an updated approach to listing titles to developing a process to create new Categories.”

“We suggest limiting your title to 32 characters, writing your titles in sentence case, and avoiding emojis or symbols,” the company said in a message to hosts. “Most importantly, describe what makes your place one of a kind.”

Listing titles will be shorter. Photos were also made larger.

Fertig suggested hosts should focus on their first photo in the listing as now the most important part of attracting guests.

“Make certain you’ve got the most eye catching, attention grabbing image,” he wrote on Twitter. “You must stand apart from 100s of other competitors solely from one photo.”

Airbnb has kept the other big updates from its summer release, including a type of insurance policy for renters who encounter any issues checking in, find that home isn’t what was advertised, experience a host cancelation within 30 days of check-in or if a guest feels unsafe during their stay.

With any host cancellations, or other issues, Airbnb will find the guests a different home or refund them. Every booking will be covered for free.

Troy Palmquist, a Realtor in California who owns two short-term rentals, suggested the guest-focused updates provided a better balance between renters and investors.

“The bigger takeaways as a host for what they did is reconfigure it so that the guests can get refunds a lot easier,” Palmquist said shortly after the update. “Hosts have to stay on top of their game for what the property is. 

“Realistically they should be upping their game to make sure the person has a good experience,” he said.

Email Taylor Anderson

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