How to Build a Website Like Airbnb & How Much Does it Cost

Rating — 4.6·14 min·March 24, 2024
How to Build a Website Like Airbnb & How Much Does it Cost
How to Build a Website Like Airbnb & How Much Does it Cost
Airbnb started with empty credit cards and turned to a $38 billion worth platform. Get inspired by its story, find out about essential features and hidden tricks. Here you also learn how to build a viable marketplace like Airbnb and how much does it cost
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Key takeaways
  • The inception of Airbnb highlights the importance of solving real-life problems. Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky turned their apartment into a lodging space to solve the problem associated with expensive rent, and millions of people struggle with the same problem.
  • Airbnb’s founders started with a cheap website and have grown to become industry leaders. Their story shows that starting with an MVP is a proven path to success.
  • By actively listening to its users, implementing changes based on feedback, and prioritizing customer satisfaction, Airbnb has gained a huge loyal user base. This highlights the importance of staying responsive to user needs and constantly iterating to enhance the user experience.


It was a typical autumn day in San Francisco. People rushed to their workplaces, traffic jams tried hard to interfere, and California lived its life to the fullest. But two roommates, Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky, didn't enjoy that day much. They ran out of money and couldn't afford their rent. Somewhere between desperation and deciding to go back to live in their parents' basements, they came up with an idea. Those days, the city hosted a design conference, and hotels were full of attendees. Booking a one-night stay in San Francisco was complex and unreasonably expensive. So Gebbia and Chesky built a simple website offering people to stay at their place and spend a night on an air mattress in their living room.

And people did stay at their apartment.

As of April 2023, Airbnb’s worth is estimated at more than 73 billion; it operates in more than 220 countries. But their story started with a simple, poorly designed MVP: a minimum viable product that helped Chesky and Gebbia to pay the rent, engage users, and… attract investments.

In this article, we will tell you how to build an Airbnb-like website, start collecting users' feedback, and attract angel investors. We will share the list of essential features and the best tips for building a website like Airbnb the right way. Get ready for a startup takeoff.

How people use a website like Airbnb

Airbnb is a P2P marketplace, meaning the host may become a traveler and vice versa. However, these two sides of cooperation need different Airbnb features.

How hosts use the website

Everything started from hosts: Gebbia and Chesky were the very first ones. Of course, 13 years ago, the functionality (as well as design) could have been better and quite different from the one we can see now. There are several steps to take to add the listing on the Airbnb website:

1. Create a profile

Provide necessary personal data, tell a few words about yourself, and add the credit card details so you can get paid after each stay.

2. List a space

It may be an entire apartment, private or shared room, unique accommodation like a boat or a cabin, etc.

3. Add descriptions

The host can add photos of the property, its features, and location – all the information that potential guests may need.

4. Define your conditions

Here, price, requirements, house rules, etc. should be added.

5. Communicate with potential guests

A website has a built-in messaging system, and founders highly recommend communicating only via Airbnb for security purposes.

6. Welcome a guest

Once everything's ready, potential guests can reach out and stay at the place.

How guests use the website

On the opposite side of the platform, guests are interested in booking accommodation for their vacation or business trips. Here's how everything works:

1. Create a profile

Enter the website after the simple login.

2. Add the details

Fill your profile with personal information, set notifications, and tell the website about your preferred language, currency, time zone, etc.

3. Look for a place to stay

To browse the available listings, enter the city or area and define dates.

4. Use unique filters

The platform offers well-designed filters that help you find everything you need in minutes.

5. Leave a request

You can leave a booking request by clicking the Reserve button.

6. Plan a trip

Depending on the host's settings, the request can be approved automatically or manually. The payment for the approved booking is charged to your credit card.

Airbnb business model

How do websites like Airbnb make a profit? The service fee is the main answer. A platform uses a two-sided marketplace business model and charges both parties a percentage from each transaction.

  • Hosts pay a service fee of 3% of the booking subtotal;
  • For guests, the service fee ranges from 14% to 16% of the booking subtotal.


The process looks straightforward. The same way of billing users may or may not work for you. Check out our article about the marketplace business model to learn about all possible ways to profit from the hospitality business.

And now, it is time to define which features to add to your Airbnb-like marketplace.

Key features for a website like Airbnb

Here, we will describe the particular features each side of cooperation needs. We will also examine another significant role: a platform administrator.

Common features for hosts and guests on your website

Several features are essential for both groups of the platform's users:

Feature Description
Login Make the login process as simple as possible. Allow visitors to use their Facebook or Google accounts to enter the platform swiftly.
Verification Email, phone, and government ID are required to verify the user's identity and minimize possible risks.
Personal profile Both hosts and guests should have access to a personal profile. Allow users to add a photo (or get it from a user's Facebook profile). Ask about users' preferences (language, currency, time zone, etc.) to make them comfortable using your website.
Calendar Use a calendar to inform a host about dates the real estate is ready to welcome guests.
Messaging As we've mentioned above, the easiest and the safest way for your platform users to communicate is your built-in messenger. There are many ready-made solutions like Twilio for businesses that your development team can easily integrate with your marketplace.
Payment A payment system is an essential component of websites like Airbnb. Choose Stripe or a similar product to make payment fast, simple, and convenient.
Notification Use push notifications to inform a host about a new booking request or an incoming message. Push notifications would be of great help to notify a guest that a booking is approved, or payment is successful.

Specific features for hosts

Besides, allow hosts to enjoy the following features:

Feature Description
Listing Management Adding a new property, description, and pictures should be easy. Prioritize intuitiveness to guide hosts through the entire process and save their time.
Booking Management Let a host cancel a booking if needed or in an emergency.
Reviews This allows a host to leave feedback about each guest after their stay. It will help make your users' community safer and more trustworthy.

Specific features for guests

People who look for accommodation on your platform will appreciate several more features:

Feature Description
Search and filters Help users find the perfect properties as fast as possible. Focus on filtering by:
  • location (country, city, region, or neighborhood),
  • price,
  • property type (entire apartment, hotel room, shared room, etc.),
  • available amenities (kitchen, heating, WiFi, terrace, or even a hot tub),
  • host language, etc.
Geolocation features Detect the user's location to offer the best real estate for rent nearby. If you want to build an app like Airbnb, the usage of location intelligence and location-based services in your app can enhance the search experience by providing relevant results based on the user's geographical preferences.
Booking management history Access to planned and past trips will be your app's valuable feature.
Wishlists Users may want to compare several options or discuss the available listings with a group when planning a trip. Let them do it with customizable wishlists. More items in a Wishlist means more chances for users to prefer your marketplace, like Airbnb, over others.
Rating and reviews Collect as many impressions about each listing as possible. Ask about basic amenities and communication with a host. Let guests leave reviews and rate properties.

Admin panel

To regulate relations between hosts and guests, you may need a third role to participate in a process. The marketplace administrator should have access to the following features:

Feature Description
User management In an MVP stage, you won't be able to implement machine learning to verify a user's identity automatically. However, you can hire someone to check user data and manually prevent potential fraud.
Cancellation management Booking cancellation is a complex process requiring a refund (total or partial). At the very beginning, let your platform administrator handle cancellations.
Customer support Specialists answering users' questions will build a product's reputation. So, let users contact the support team directly via your website.

How to build a website like Airbnb?

Thirteen years after Airbnb became a unicorn, the game's rules changed. Due to intense market competition, if you want to succeed, you need to have a detailed, clear to-do list.

Even Brian Chesky recommends it:

If you have a list of 20 things to do, you end up realizing, 'I don't need to do 20 things'. If I do these three big things, the other 20 things will kind of happen as outcomes, or outputs, of it.



- he mentions during one of his interviews.

Here, you'll find not 20 but only seven essential things to do to build a website like Airbnb:

Start with an idea and research

When the number of software products and services increases daily, you need to develop a great idea and investigate the market.

  • Would you like to target a particular city? Or will you focus on a specific audience?
  • Do similar websites like Airbnb exist? How will you emphasize the differences in your app?
  • What methods will you use to solve the chicken-and-egg problem?

Once you have answers to these questions, your goal gets closer.

Define your initial budget

The Airbnb founders had real financial problems starting their business. The initial version of Airbedandbreakfest didn't take them to the top; several more efforts were needed, and these efforts required money.

Bootstrapping was the primary source of the initial budget.

We used the money in our wallets, some credit cards, and a small loan from our parents.



says Gebbia.

The great idea founders came up with was selling cereal boxes Obama O and Captain McCain: those were the days of the Democratic National Convention in Denver. They've designed boxes that caught the attention and presented small ads about their service on them. Eventually, this step brought them $30,000 for product growth.

Following the example of leaders, you have to clearly see how much you are ready to invest in the product at the very beginning and what financial resources you can engage in at the moment. Before anyone knows about your product, there are no ways to attract investments. The point is to start successfully, launch a striking MVP, and attract investments.

Build a prototype

The first, first website was just a few simple pages. We knew basic HTML. If you actually look at the site today, it's pretty ghetto. It was very, very simple.



says Brian Chesky

Years later, it is a complex web solution with numerous integrations and fantastic logic.

before after

To test your idea and take a fresh look at the concept, you need to build a simple, Airbedandbreakfast-inspired app prototype. Create several screens and describe how they're connected. Use specific tools like InVision or find a team to handle this task for you.

Start partnership

Once Gebbia and Chesky confirmed their idea was viable, they engaged a third co-founder, Nathan Bielarczyk. Bielarczyk was the "technical guy" who developed the original version of Airbnb on Ruby on Rails.

Strong cooperation between Gebbia, Chesky, and Bilarczyk was a cornerstone of their product's success.

People ask me now, "Why did you keep going forward?" I think it's two reasons. The first was probably because we had each other.

Brian Chesky


When you create a website like Airbnb, you need to have reliable partners behind you. If you've already tried to design a prototype on your own, you know that it's a time-consuming task. And this time, you could invest in something more vital for your business.

You may want to get acquainted with our article, which explains how to find the right app development partner.

A prototype is just the beginning: software development is hard work that requires patience, expertise, and tons of precious time. Make sure you delegate this part of your business to skilled people.

Typically, a software development team structure consists of:

  • Designers;
  • Business analyst;
  • Front-end/ back-end developers;
  • Mobile app developers;
  • Project manager;
  • Quality assurance engineers

Hiring dedicated developers for your team may be a headache: recruiting, interviewing, and onboarding may take up to several months. Office rent, hardware, and devices are the brutal money eaters. Thus, startups opt for software development outsourcing.

Outsourcing is a method that allows you to cooperate with a third-party software development company. It is a fast, easy, and financially effective method to launch an MVP and grow your business. You may even consider offshoring web development to get access to a wide pool of talents and potential development partners overseas.

Choose a technology stack and build an MVP

As we've mentioned above, Airbnb's server side is built in Ruby on Rails. React is the base for user interface development. Besides, the PostgreSQL database, AWS hosting, and numerous other technologies provide fantastic web and mobile experiences to Airbnb users.

That's not a "one and only" stack: your team can choose any technologies that allow for the implementation of location-based app functionalities and the creation of seamless user experience. For example, the MERN (MongoDB, Express.js, React, and Node.js) stack is a powerful combination of popular development tools. Developers can replace Angular with Vue as well. Keep in mind that users demand a seamless experience on any device. React Native or Ionic may serve well for cross-platform and cross-browser development.

Typically, it takes around three months to launch a high-quality MVP. However, the time to build an app depends on the features you include, the industry you enter, and specific requirements you may have. The development team you cooperate with will provide you with more accurate answers about MVP development duration. Besides, these specialists will give you a hand once you decide to upgrade an MVP to a full-featured app. Considering current marketplace development trends, staying updated with the latest technologies and methodologies is essential to ensure your product's success.

Attract the investments

In 2009, Airbedandbreakfast joined YCombinator and received $20,000 of funds. It wasn't easy: Brian Chesky even shared emails where angel investors rejected to support Airbnb (spoiler alert: 7 times!). However, step by step, email by email, Airbnb reached success. Later, the funding was raised to $4.4 million thanks to the venturing capital.

With an up-and-running MVP, you can start to attract investments. Crowdsourcing, investors, local community support – it all can work. Promote your business, show your product is useful, demonstrate its potential, and use all the possible ways to raise funds for further product improvement. Check our whitepaper covering the essential metrics for the marketplace. It contains comprehensive information about the numbers you should track to raise funds.

Keep growing

One of the first guests who slept on an air mattress in Gebbia and Chesky's living room left an impressive several-page review on his experience. Later, the company's founders kept talking to the hosts personally to find out about their impressions and ways to improve their product. Well, the number of Airbnb users proves that they were right.

People told us what they wanted, so we set off to create it for them. Ultimately while solving our own problem, we were solving someone else's problem too.

Joe Gebbia


Growth is a complex of iterations.

Once your MVP is live, you can collect users' feedback and build your growth plan based on it. By following the latest web development technologies and satisfying all upcoming needs of the users, you will be able to stay on par with your competitors and even surpass them.

For example, once you raise some funds, you may take your place in the market as one of the AI real estate solutions. Airbnb uses AI to improve search functionality and to optimize pricing strategy.

Talking to your development partners can help you discover more ways to improve the user experience. To impress potential investors, you can reveal new ways to upgrade the platform.

Collect feedback => Upgrade your platform => Ask for more feedback => Go back to upgrades

Three tips before you start

Now, you know everything about how to build a website like Airbnb. Now, you are ready to start your path and create something prominent. Unless you'd like some more actionable tips. Let's see what we have here:

Solve chicken and egg problem

This is a huge problem every P2P startup deals with. Airbnb faced it, too.

The founders built a script that used Craiglist landlords' data and sent them an email offering to publish their listings on Airbnb. This led to 60,000 landlords visiting the website.

There are many ways to solve the chicken and egg problem. Try different ones or mix them to solve it as soon as possible.

Make it intuitive

Take care of the customer journey. How many elements are on one page? How simple is the design? Is the customer journey clear? Focus on intuitiveness from the initial version of your platform to its prominent feature-rich future.

Millennials prefer minimalism in everything, from daily life to web design. Opt for a minimalistic design to target this group of users.

Remember that quality matters

Everything, from software quality to the quality of photos posted on your website, should be impeccable if you want your MVP to be successful.

According to Gebbia, at the very beginning,

..the (properties') photos were really bad. People were using camera phones and taking Craigslist-quality pictures. Surprise! No one was booking because you couldn't see what you were paying for.



How did Airbnb founders fix that?

They just rented an expensive camera and went to NY (where most Airbnb users were) to take beautiful photos of the listings. This led to a 200%- 300% booking increase by the end of the month.

steps to build

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Website Like Airbnb?

As we have already mentioned, it costs $30,000 for Airbnb founders to launch the first version of the application. However, to enter today's competitive real estate market, you will need at least $100,000 to create a solid product MVP.

If you want to know how to estimate the time and cost required to build a website like Airbnb properly, we recommend getting acquired with our marketplace MVP estimate example. Consider optimistic and pessimistic scenarios to develop the most realistic estimations for your future startup.

Final thoughts

Airbnb's story emphasizes the importance of starting small, listening to users, iterating based on feedback, and staying committed to delivering value. With careful planning, dedication, and a willingness to adapt, the possibilities for creating the next game-changing platform are endless.

With full awareness of how the development process looks, powered by actionable tips, and inspired by the Airbnb story, all you need to do is start. By selecting the right outsourcing vendor or gathering your reliable team, you have all the chances to get your opportunity for success in the hospitality industry.

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