Airbnb co-founder’s new business is building small homes in backyards

Airbnb Co-founder Joe Gebbia has launched a new business focusing on building small homes in backyards.

According to Fast Company, Samara began as an innovation studio inside Airbnb that looked for new products and eventually began to focus on backyard houses.

The company’s first product, a net-zero tiny house called Backyard, is now getting ready to launch and Samara has spun out into a standalone business. 

Mr Gebbia said the tiny homes are a “flexible dwelling that can adapt to new ways of living”.

The prefabricated houses come in two sizes, a 40sq m studio and a 50sq m one-bedroom that are intended to serve multiple uses. 

The homes are targeted towards extra space to house multiple generations of families that are still living under the same roof, as well as for potential rentals or Airbnb.

Source: Samara

Samara Chief Executive Officer Mike McNamara said the tiny houses can also generate more electricity than they use.

“Our first step toward sustainable energy production is not to use very much,” Mr McNamara said. 

“So, first, we made it really tight, really well-engineered, and really efficient.”

According to Samara, the houses use less than half the energy of a standard house of an equivalent size and with all of the appliances being electric, the house can run off a row of solar panels on the roof. 

An optional second row of solar panels produces extra energy that can be sent back to the main house, helping the homeowners save money.

Mr McNamara said the company handles the whole construction process, including surveying and getting permits. 

“We were really, really focused on trying to eliminate that friction through the design of the entire customer experience,” he said. 

“And we think that in itself can create a lot more demand.”

Samara’s studio starts at US$289,000 and the one-bedroom unit starts at US$329,000, including installation costs.

Mr McNamara said the company will initially look to start in California before expanding to other states.

“California’s just a glaring opportunity,” he said. 

“There’s not enough housing units, and the cost of housing is extremely high. 

“We have to find ways to get more units to the people and we have to find ways to get more units that are more approachable in price. 

“So, that one is already here.”

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Rowan Crosby

Rowan Crosby is a senior journalist at Elite Agent specialising in finance and real estate.

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