Tansler: Priceline Meets Airbnb

It’s a reverse auction site for vacation rentals.

Jeremy Bernard and his wife plan a trip every summer, venturing from the Jersey Shore to Cape Cod, out to the Hamptons and up to Vermont. Over time the entrepreneur, who sold his first company to Universal, got tired of trading emails with the owners of various beachhouses and lakeside cottages. “I would spend a ridiculous amount of time back and forth, trading messages one-on-one with multiple owners,” he says. “And we also know from research that owners as well feel the process is very inefficient.”

advertisement (an anagram of “rentals”) is his attempt to scratch his own itch. The site offers vacation home listings in a “reverse auction” format. The renter browses properties, selects several she’d be happy with (at least two, but as many as she wants), and submits a binding offer for the whole stay. The first owner who accepts the offer gets the booking. After 24 hours, if nobody bites, the auction disappears.

For renters, the site offers a more seamless booking experience that works more like travel sites like Priceline than most VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) sites, and potentially better deals since property owners compete for your dollars. For owners, Tansler offers the chance to book guests more efficiently. “What’s been received very well to date (by owners) is the fact that we’re delivering binding offers to their inboxes and cell phones, at no cost to them, and they can accept it or do nothing, so it’s fairly painless,” says Bernard. “And the other attraction is that given the binding offer from the renter, we’re able to pay them within 48 hours of booking as opposed to 1,2,3 months down the road.”

Both sides will presumably benefit from more transparency and competition around prices–hosts can see which other comparable properties in an area are lined up with theirs in an auction, which makes it easier to determine how their pricing and amenities stack up. The auction format also encourages a bit of bargaining room.

What the auction format gains in efficiency, though, it loses in the personal touch. Sometimes bantering back and forth about high chairs or Wi-Fi access helps build trust between hosts and guests, particularly important when people are renting out their family homes or when vacationers are trusting their time off to a quirky and remote property. Bernard says community managers and Facebook sign-ins will carry some of the load of verification on both sides of the transaction.

Tansler is launching with inventory mainly from property management companies that represent anywhere from 20-200 properties. They are currently focused on Orlando and Europe, with plans to go global–but one area they’re not looking at right now is Bernard’s native NYC. “We made a decision recently to not post properties in NYC as a result of the issues going on now,” with Airbnb, Bernard says. Airbnb is facing a subpoena by the state’s attorney general relating to violations of New York’s hotel laws.

“We think that the AG is overreaching. The sharing economy is here to stay and only going to get bigger, and I think it’s a matter of coming up with some compromise in various markets around the country state or city. And our hope is that will happen sooner than later, but until it does we are going to be sitting on the sidelines.”


About the author

Anya Kamenetz is the author of Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010). Her 2011 ebook The Edupunks’ Guide was funded by the Gates Foundation