Airbnb Will Pay $100K For 'One-Off' Property Creations

Travel accommodation website Airbnb plans to pay people to build "the world's craziest" properties with the help of a $10 million cash pot called the OMG! Fund.

The site said anyone from DIY enthusiasts to experienced architects can apply to receive a $100,000 share of the fund to help build a quirky space that will then be listed as one of the site's "OMG!" rentals, which is how Airbnb classifies its most unique and/or unusual listings.

Airbnb UFO house
An Airbnb UFO house in the U.K. The site recently announced it has established the OMG! Fund to help with the design of more unique and usual rental properties for the site. Airbnb

Judges will select the best 100 designs and then distribute the cash.

Guests looking for somewhere original to stay can already search for homes listed in Airbnb's OMG! category, Airbnb is hoping to increase its offerings.

Unusual homes currently available on the site include a UFO house, which is shaped like a flying saucer on stilts, a 6-ton potato, a giant boot, and a yellow submarine incongruously located in the woods. Some of the more sedate offerings include converted windmills and trains.

Airbnb "super host" Kristie Wolfe, the owner of the potato house, will be one of the judges for the OMG! Fund.

"When the Idaho Potato Commission retired a six-ton prop potato, I took it off their hands and spent $32,000 transforming it into an Airbnb," Wolfe said. "I went from making $13/hr to seeing $208,000 in earnings in less than three years, and leveraged that income to bootstrap my way through additional listings that allow me to express my creativity and connect with hundreds of people in the process."

Airbnb potato house
Kristie Wolfe, the owner of the potato house in Idaho. Wolfe will be one of the judges in Airbnb's OMG! Fund giveaway. Airbnb

The "typical" Airbnb host in the US earned $13,800 in 2021, according to the website.

Announcing the creation of the fund, a spokesperson for the company said: "The first-of-its-size $10,000,000 OMG! Fund is seeking ideas from existing and aspiring designers, architects, DIYers and makers from around the globe...

"One hundred people with the craziest ideas will receive $100,000 each to make their creations possible and, ultimately, bookable. Ideas will be judged by an expert panel for their originality, feasibility, the experience the space will provide guests, and sustainability."

Discussing the reasoning behind the OMG! category and Airbnb's drive to build more of those types of properties, the spokesperson added: "The fund is shaped in part by the growing trend of flexible living that has emerged in the past two years [during the pandemic]. As part of this shift, Airbnb guests are craving more unexpected spaces that become the destinations themselves."

More than 30,000 unique listings across the world were added to Airbnb in 2021 and the OMG! Category – which since [it was] introduced has been clicked on 2.5M times – showcases the craziest amongst them, making it easy for guests to discover these listings in places they wouldn't have otherwise looked," the spokesperson said.

Airbnb boot house
A boot house that is available to rent on Airbnb in New Zealand. The company has started a fund to create more properties like this one. Airbnb

The fund was established on June 22, with would-be hosts given a 30-day period to submit their ideas. Applications must be sent via airbnb.com/omgfund by 11:59 p.m. ET on July 22, with a series of selection phases to be conducted by judges before they announce the 100 winners (and some backup reserves) by October 10.

Besides Wolfe, the three other judges on the OMG! Fund panel are 100-year-old interior designer Iris Apfel, who is known for her unique fashion sense and helped nine presidents furnish the White House, architect Koichi Takada and Airbnb's VP of Experiential Creative Product Bruce Vaughn.

Newsweek has reached out to Airbnb for further information.

The company was founded in 2007 when two hosts opened up their San Francisco home to guests in California, and the website now boasts 4 million hosts who have welcomed more than 1 billion guests around the world.

Occasionally, the site hits the news when vacations go wrong. One traveler was disappointed at finding her accommodation in Italy was messy and dirty, so she angrily cleaned it up — only to realize she was in someone else's home next door.

Another guest said they received "threatening" messages from their host who vowed to hunt them down by hiring a private investigator in Vancouver, Canada. The host was apparently enraged after the guest left a four-star review out of a possible five stars. Airbnb later banned the host from renting their property through the website.