The Vacation Home: Progression from Ownership to Rental Agreements

The Vacation home has greatly evolved over time to exemplify one of the aspects of fulfilling the idea of the American Dream. With technology rapidly advancing, the vacation home has progressed from a place to escape from disease, climate conditions, and a medical need for rest in the mid 1700’s to more of a privilege in today’s era. Although the vacation home has proved to be a very beneficial aspect to one’s overall health and well-being, arguments surrounding overpopulation, ownership, tax regulations, and rental agreements have developed. In today’s world, people who own vacation homes are less likely to travel to them due to the influx and popularity of websites such as Airbnb, HomeAway, and many others. Although there are some negative aspects to these vacation home rental websites, they ultimately create a diverse way to experience a vacation and have benefitted towns that they offer rentals in. With technology advancing at a rapid pace, these websites are the future of planning vacations and specifically aid in finding a home that fits ones needs. Today, traveling has become a trend that many Americans are participating in. People want to be able to visit many different places for their desired amount of time, and not have to feel obligated to vacation at a certain place because they own a second home there. Although owning a vacation home used to be an idealized vision, people today would rather not own a vacation home and instead rent them during their vacations through websites such as Airbnb, HomeAway, and others. Over time, the vacation home has progressed from an ownership standpoint to an outlook more focused on renting, greatly benefitting both homeowners and those who consumers who rent the homes.

Anthony D. King, author of “A Time for Space and a Space for Time,” included in The People, Place, and Space Reader, argues that vacation homes have more recently developed in mass quantities due to four main reasons. King believes that the first explanation is a rise of industrialism in the second half of the nineteenth century and the establishment of a strong economic surplus. He also emphasizes the distinction between the space and building form of a vacation home. Throughout the chapter King explores how changes have evolved regarding the social organization of time that have relied upon industrialization and advancements in transport technology. Lastly, he blames mass production of the vacation home on the extensive social diffusion of the beliefs of an elite social class.[1]King also discusses the evolution of the weekend and how it emerged as a popular term in 1900.[2]The idea of the weekend, leisure time on Saturday and Sunday, has greatly influenced the idea of owning a second home. After people were no longer required to work seven days a week, they wanted to be able to escape to a different space. Although the vacation home has become a popularized luxury for many different reasons, people are beginning to realize that instead of owning a vacation home that comes with many implications and responsibilities, they wish to visit many different vacation homes as renters.

Homeownership has always been associated with fulfilling the American Dream; however, that is rapidly changing. In 1995, President Bill Clinton created the National Homeownership Strategy which sought to increase homeownership in the United States to an all-time high before the end of the 20thcentury. In 2003, President George W. Bush signed the American Dream Downpayment Initiative which also sought to increase homeownership by assisting first time buyers with their homes. However, this positive attitude towards owning a home quickly changed in 2007 during the financial crises and Great Recession. Approximately eight million homes were foreclosed and $7 trillion in home equity was removed during this period.[3]Although many of these homes were full-time residences, others were not. People could not afford to live in their homes, let alone have the responsibility of having a second home. Interestingly enough, Airbnb was created in 2008, which perhaps was perfect timing to start the company as people were looking for alternatives to purchasing second homes. If people were not able to afford their vacation homes, they would have to resort to online platforms such as Airbnb, HomeAway, and others to help plan their vacations.

“The House as Symbol of the Self,” written by Clare Cooper, analyzes aspects of the home, especially relating to architecture, that enhance the meaning of the home in its relation to its owner. Homes are unique to each and every individual and can be perhaps one of the most significant reflections of one’s personality.[4]Although this symbol of the self in a house can be intimidating to those who are renting homes via online platforms, it can also be an appealing factor when planning a vacation. Many people enjoy have their own spaces, especially when it comes to vacation homes; however, people are realizing that the economic repercussions that are associated with owning a second home are not worth it and so, they are beginning to use online platforms to rent vacation homes. Airbnb, HomeAway, and other online platforms that facilitate home sharing enable people to stay at stranger’s homes, learn about their different cultures, and experience an alternate form of space that might positively put one out of his or her comfort zone.

Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the most world-renowned architects, who had designed hundreds of homes during his time, is a great example of progression from owning vacation homes to finding ones to rent on the internet. Although many of Wright’s homes were or still are owned by families such as: Fallingwater, Taliesin West, Cooke House, and Smith House, among many others, many of his homes are now available for rent, some are even featured on Airbnb and HomeAway. Wright’s only house in Hawaii, a large Usonian style home in Minnesota, The Palmer House in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Schwartz House in Michigan (which was featured in LIFEmagazine’s 1938 article “Eight Houses for Modern Living”) and a modern cottage in Indiana are among some of Wright’s most famous homes available for rent on the internet. Prices range from starting at $271 per night to starting at $800 per night to target a wide variety of customers.[5]These homes not only incorporate Wright’s architectural ideals, but also are idyllic destinations for those looking for a variety of places to visit during their vacations. Those who are interested in experiencing Wright’s designs now have the ability to do so. Those who are unable to afford purchasing some of his homes, are now able to visit them for their desired amount of days.

In 2017, Airbnb announced that it had four million listing worldwide in more than 191 countries, and it had over two hundred million users since its launch in 2008. This fact alone proves that people are less inclined to purchase vacation homes because they are more intrigued by idea of renting different homes and being able to frequently travel to diverse places. The United States, the leading country on Airbnb, reportedly had 660,000 listings as of 2017.[6]Although there are some negative outcomes surrounding Airbnb, it has overall benefitted many different economic sectors and vacation towns. These statistics explicitly show the increase in internet users who are interested in finding vacation homes through online platforms and this number is likely to grow in future years.

Although Airbnb’s platform has raised issues surrounding safety, privacy, racial bias, and other topical concerns, it has greatly benefitted the sharing economy. Often referred to as the “collaborative,” “platform,” or “gig” economy, this idea indicates the procedures that assist reliable transactions between strangers on a digital platform. These exchanges are only possible with the spread of technology that has made smartphones and internet accessible to a wide range of people. Websites such as Airbnb, Uber, and other online sharing platforms have enabled the ability to share one’s own private spaces, at their own risk, if they choose to do so. Airbnb also provides a source of income to those who are obligated to pay taxes on a second home.[7]It also benefits homeowners who infrequently stay at their second homes. Why have a second home sit empty eight months out of the year instead of regularly renting it out and making commission? It makes perfect sense. Concerns have also been brought up regarding Airbnb negatively impacting the hotel business; however, the website has expanded to include hotels as one of its listing categories, along with homes, apartments, cottages, and other sources of housing.

Airbnb also impacts the sharing economy in that it financially benefits both the homeowner and consumer. These websites have also partnered with well-known brands as well as local businesses to contribute to the economy in other sectors. These digital platforms have the potential to develop from competition and attentiveness to wealth to focusing on cooperation and a broader range of value which would greatly benefit people’s attitudes towards home ownership.[8]The so-called sharing economy has the potential to be a successful model; however, it must reduce the number of glitches and give less power to its users to avoid discrimination and other methods of taking advantage of the system.

A study conducted in 2015 by more than 800 tourists who had used Airbnb during the previous twelve months explicitly suggests their choice to use the online platform as a result of five factors: interaction, home benefits, novelty, sharing economy ethos, and local authenticity. The participants were divided into five different categories based on their intentions: money savers, home seekers, collaborative consumers, pragmatic novelty seekers, and interactive novelty seekers. Other studies over the years have similarly found motivations to use Airbnb to be price factors, household amenities, space, and authenticity.[9]These elements that explain the popularity of Airbnb and online home sharing platforms, cannot be applied to owning a vacation home because they are viewed as benefits to renting. This progression of the vacation home has evolved into an affordable luxury based off of technology that will most likely advance even more in the coming years

Airbnb undeniably has some issues to sort out and in doing so, the company will gain even more success. Specifically, safety and digital discrimination are two of the more significant topical concerns. Gregory Seldon, a twenty-five-year old African American man, tried to enquire about a room on Airbnb; however, he was told the room was not available by the host. Not thinking too much about the situation, he kept browsing the Airbnb website, only to find that the same room was showing up as available during his desired dates. He proceeded to make fake accounts on the website, which is another issue to discuss, with pictures of white men in the profile. He tried to book the same room that was unavailable to his true identity, yet this time, it was available. Selden then took to Twitter to share his concerning experience on the website. Little did he know; many other people have had similar encounters while using the Airbnb website. An African American woman reportedly was rejected by a few white hosts, before finally being approved to rent a home by an African American. Another woman stated that she had been approved more on Airbnb after changing her name and switching her profile photo to that of a landscape instead of a picture of her face.[10]If these websites are able to somehow fix these discriminatory issues, their popularity will increase even more, and they will completely take over the rental sector of the vacation home, if they have not already.

Another big issue that is associated with using Airbnb and other digital platforms is trust. Airbnb has created a genius marketing model in that it advertises homes in a way that makes the experience more than just staying in a stranger’s home. One host wrote on Airbnb that their experience involved, “meaningful exchanges that further build community, foster cultural exchange, and strengthen understanding.”[11]This type of advertising, that emphasizes community, friendship, and cultural understanding has increased Airbnb’s popularity and proved to be a useful tool in promoting their services.

Although there are some negative aspects to using online platforms such as Airbnb and HomeAway that need to be explained and solved, there are more complications with owning a second home, which is increasing the popularity of these online programs. With technology rapidly advancing, people find it more convenient and efficient to pop up the Airbnb website on their smartphone browsers instead of going through the process of trying to buy a vacation home, not to mention the cost discrepancy associated between buying and renting homes. Even those who already own vacation homes are struggling with financial issues due to tax laws and not having the ability to occupy their second homes as much as they desire. This issue of whether online home rental platforms benefit or hurt the economy is a topical debate and is essential to understanding the positive and negative aspects associated with technology. These platforms are taking over the idea of planning a vacation and are the future of our world, whether we like it or not.


[1]Anthony D. King, “A Time for Space and a Space for Time: The Social Production of the Vacation House (1980).” In The People, Place, and Space Reader. (New York: Routledge, 2014), 298.

[2]Ibid, 300.

[3]Laurie S. Goodman, and Christopher Mayer. “Homeownership and the American Dream.” The Journal of Economic Perspectives32, no. 1 (2018): 31-58.

[4]Clare Cooper, “The House as Symbol of the Self (1974) ” In The People, Place, and Space Reader. (New York: Routledge, 2014), 168-171.

[5]Sara Tardiff. “Celebrate Frank Lloyd Wright’s Birthday By Staying In One Of His Houses.” ELLE Decor. July 15, 2017. Accessed April 09, 2018.

[6]”Airbnb Fast Facts.” Airbnb. Accessed March 4 , 2018.

[7]Ryan Calo and Alex Rosenblat. “THE TAKING ECONOMY: UBER, INFORMATION, AND POWER.” Columbia Law Review117, no. 6 (2017): 1623-690.

[8]Juliet B. Schor. “Getting Sharing Right.” Contexts 14, no. 1 (2015): 14-15.

[9]Daniel Guttentag, Stephen Smith, Luke Potwarka, and Mark Havitz. “Why Tourists Choose Airbnb: A Motivation-Based Segmentation Study.” Journal of Travel Research57, no. 3 (April 27, 2017): 342-59. Accessed May 6, 2018. doi:10.1177/0047287517696980.

[10]Rutkin, Aviva. “Digital Discrimination.” New Scientist 231, no. 3084 (July 30, 2016): 18-19. Academic Search Premier, EBSCO host (accessed May 7, 2018).

[11]Caroline W. Lee. “The Sharers’ Gently-used Clothes.” Contexts14, no. 1 (2015): 17-18.


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