How Much is the application build cost for an Airbnb-like app?

cost of a mobile app like Airbnb
Sam Palmer
Writer | Software Developer

Want to know how much is the application build cost for an Airbnb-like app?

This is a complex question that we will answer here.

You could be a start-up co-founder or even an enterprise company project manager who wants to launch an app like Airbnb. However, before you get started you are wondering how much is the application build cost for such an app?

Below, we‘ll look at some of those misconceptions and how you can come up with an accurate price estimate for your app idea.

How Much is Application Build Cost for an Airbnb Mobile App?

The quick answer? Anywhere from a few tens of thousands of dollars to a few hundreds of thousands.

Why the huge range? Well, that‘s because building an app is an extremely complex task with many variables.

Imagine asking: “How much does it cost to build a bar?” Of course, the answer depends on things like

  • Where are you going to build it?
  • How big will it be?
  • What are you building it out of?
  • What kind of quality will customers expect?
  • Are you planning on expanding it in the future?
  • Will you do the food?
  • How many kinds of drinks will you serve?

korova-min

And that doesn‘t even include the marketing or ongoing expenses of running the application. In a crude analogy, you can‘t make a successful bar by just pouring drinks and expecting people to walk in the door.

You can think of developing software in a similar way. But, the software is unique in that the building phase is really the design phase. Once you‘ve built a good piece of software, you can make new copies for free (unlike a bar). Therefore, we need a unique way of approaching this problem.

I‘m going to go through some of the factors that will determine where in the range you can expect to find yourself. Let‘s start narrowing it down.

Motivation

Now that we’ve established what the cost of a mobile app like Airbnb is, we should answer another question: Why would you want to make an app like Airbnb? Well, it’s because Airbnb makes a LOT of money, that’s most probably why.

However, just copying exactly what Airbnb does won‘t work. Therefore, there are two main categories you might fall into:

  1. You want to be a direct competitor to Airbnb – but with your own secret sauce
  2. You want to make something like Airbnb for a specific niche (eg. Airbnb for car spaces)

An example of the first would be Flipkey – an accommodation rental service by travel industry giant Tripadvisor. Their secret sauce is the association with Tripadvisor, and they also advertise a more comprehensive host screening and guest reviewing process to keep customers happy.

An example of the second could be Tujia, China’s version of Airbnb. They aren‘t competing on a global level, but they destroy Airbnb in the Chinese market because their product is much better suited to the local culture and regulations.

Either way, it will need to function differently from Airbnb to offer your unique spin or fit your chosen niche. This means we can disregard any out-of-the-box solutions or premade scripts, meaning our minimum development cost is well and truly out the window.

An Airbnb clone app will not help you.

Custom Airbnb Application Build Cost Factors

We‘ve decided that we need an app that‘s unique – at least in some ways – and not an Airbnb clone. That means we need to develop our own custom solution.

To simplify things a little, I‘m going to talk about building an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). This is the first functioning version of an app that has all of the main features but is still quite basic. Check out our post on estimating an MVP for more information.

Some of the main factors that contribute to the application build cost for Airbnb-like mobile MVP are:

  • Your Custom Feature Set
  • Location of your development team
  • Platforms (iOS or Android)
  • Native vs cross-platform mobile development
  • The approach to mobile back-end development
  • Technology stack
  • 3rd party APIs vs your own APIs
  • Payment systems
  • User Experience
  • Application security
  • Scalability
  • Testing

Let‘s go through each in detail.

Location of Software Team

Simply put, the application build cost to create an Airbnb-like app when it comes to developers will be:

application build cost airbnb

One of the two factors is the hourly rate of your developers, so this will have a huge impact on the final figure.

Still, if you want a good app, you need good developers. Luckily for us, building an app is a great project to outsource to a development team in a country where wages are much lower. Here are some examples of hourly rates you might pay for developers.

  • India $15-$30 per hour
  • Eastern Europe $25-$100
  • Western Europe $50-150
  •  $100-$250

Here are some companies that have outsourced their software development.

Logos of the companies that have outsourced their software development.

Once you‘ve got the developers and know their hourly rate, we need to work out how many man-hours our project will take and give an estimate for the final application build cost for an Airbnb-like app.

How do you plan to implement mobile app features?

When developing any type of software, the best way to save time is to reuse code that‘s already been written. I‘m not talking about stealing anything but using frameworks and APIs.

For example, you might want your property listings to display on a map. Instead of building the mapping software yourself, you can just use the Google Maps API. This way, it will take just hours to integrate this feature rather than years doing it from scratch.

Sure, you might pay a small fee per request if your app takes off, but it‘s always going to be less than making it yourself.

You can think of some features of your app as “core features”. These represent the very core of your business. The following are a few examples:

  • A list of different properties like vacation rentals, homestays, etc.;
  • Search functions including filters like property type, the maximum number of guests, etc.;
  • User profile management;
  • Booking;
  • Cancellation;
  • Check-in and check-out.

You might want to build your own RESTful APIs to implement these features.

Your app will have several other features. You might not consider them as “core features”. A few examples are as follows:

  • In-app messaging between property owners and customers;
  • Push notifications;
  • Payment gateway integration;
  • Social media integration;
  • Maps.

You might want to use leading 3rd party APIs for this. E.g., you could use the Twilio APIs for bulk SMS.

If you want to develop everything from scratch, then your software development man-hours will increase. What if you use 3rd party APIs for some features? You will need to pay for consuming those APIs. However, your software development man-hours will reduce.

Remember that you will add external dependencies for every 3rd party API you consume. Therefore, balance your budget and long-term software maintenance objectives before you make your choice.

So the question becomes – how ’custom‘ does your app need to be?

Any features that haven‘t really been done before will add to the cost significantly. This is because there won‘t be a suitable framework or API your developers can use, and they will have to spend a lot of time inventing a solution and building it from scratch.

A pro tip: Review the business model and UI/UX of Airbnb and its competitors

Which custom features should you offer? Review what Airbnb offers. Analyze the offerings of other vacation rental booking apps.

Take a close look at Airbnb’s business model and that of its competitors. Ask the following questions:

  • What types of users do they cater to?
  • How do they manage the travel experiences of users?
  • What kind of booking fees do they charge?
  • What kind of real-time analytics do they use?
  • How do they manage the property rental workflow?
  • Do they help users create wishlists?
  • Which variants of properties do they deal with?

Review the following competitors of Airbnb:

  • Vrbo, which was formally known as HomeAway;
  • Booking.com;
  • Tripadvisor;
  • Expedia;
  • HomeToGo;
  • TUI Villas.

iOS, Android, Or Both?

When thinking about the application build cost of an app like Airbnb you should take into consideration that iPhone and Android operating systems are completely different, so building for both platforms will cost about twice as much.

In general, it‘s best to choose one and develop for that first. Once you‘ve got your MVP out and tested it on some users, you‘ll inevitably find things you want to change. Perfecting one platform first will mean these changes take half the time.

We actually have a whole post dedicated to deciding which platform to build for first, read it for more information.

Will you use the “native development” or “cross-platform development” approach to build an Airbnb-like app?

You can develop a native mobile application for Android and another for iOS. Native Android app development makes the best use of the operating system-specific capabilities. That holds good for native iOS development too.

You will use programming languages like Java or Android for native Android development. For native iOS development, you will use languages like Swift or Objective-C. These languages work best with the respective operating systems.

Native apps offer the best user experience, performance, and security. Do you plan to offer advanced features in your app? Developing native apps will help you the most.

You incur a higher app development cost when creating native apps, however, after all, you build two different mobile apps in this approach.

You can opt for cross-platform mobile development. By creating one codebase, you can run the app on Android and iOS.

In this approach, you will use a cross-platform mobile framework. React Native is an example. This JavaScript-based open-source framework delivers a near-native user experience. Flutter, an open-source framework created by Google is another option.

You can reuse code in this approach. Since you have one codebase, your development costs are reduced. Your average cost of maintenance reduces too.

Your choice of the technology stack

Your choice of the technology stack influences your software development costs. For some programming languages, you have a bigger pool of programmers to choose from. A mobile app development company can easily provide project managers with the requisite experience.

You will be able to hire mobile app developers at a reasonable rate for such technologies and your project can start quicker since the hiring lead time is less.

For niche skills, the labor rate can be higher. Hiring takes longer. You might experience a delay in starting your project trying to find the right people, which adds to your costs.

Take the example of native Android development. You will find more Java developers than Kotlin programmers. Similarly, you will find more Swift developers for native iOS development. Finding Objective-C programmers can be harder.

Your approach to back-end development and maintenance

How you plan the back-end development for the proposed app influences your costs. You need to spend significant time and effort building the mobile back-end from scratch. Maintaining it can take time and effort too.

We recommend you use a Mobile-Backend-as-a-Service (MBaaS) platform. An MBaaS platform manages the cloud infrastructure, persistent storage, etc. This reduces the back-end development work. Furthermore, this reduces the maintenance efforts. AWS Amplify is an example of an MBaaS platform.

Using such a solution, your project manager can now focus on the work of your front-end developers. That’s an added advantage.

Scalability

Why is it that companies like Airbnb and Uber have a huge number of developers on the payroll? Haven‘t they already built their apps?

As the number of users starts growing, scalability becomes a huge issue. If you’re planning on having thousands of users on your Airbnb app, the software will need to be able to handle it.

A good way to manage this cost is to start small and invest in scaling up as your user base grows (by that time you‘ll be earning money anyway!).

User Experience (UX)

These days, having a functional app just isn‘t enough. It needs to have an exceptional interface and user experience.

With so many apps available for free, users’ attention spans are naturally getting shorter. Users expect apps to work intuitively, with no learning curve, and for it to demonstrate their value immediately.

This means that even the most talented UX designers in the world need time and resources to figure this problem out, and it changes from app to app too.

In general, your UX/UI will be more expensive than building the functionality.

Application security: A key aspect of how Airbnb works

Plan to hire experienced developers, and factor that into your budget. You need experienced developers to ensure robust application security.

You will likely cater to a target audience in various countries and continents. Many of them have stringent data security and privacy regulations. The USA and Australia are good examples, and so is Europe.

Your app will process sensitive personal information, e.g.:

  • Phone numbers;
  • Email IDs;
  • Address;
  • Credit card information.

Apps like Airbnb implement robust application security solutions to secure this information. You need to do that too.

You need developers that know how to proactively mitigate application security vulnerabilities. They should know how to use modern technologies and tools like MFA (multi-factor authentication), advanced encryption, etc.

Such developers can have a high hourly rate. This is why building an app like Airbnb for multi-region costs a lot more.

Testing

restaurant-app

Once your app is developed and on your phone, you might feel like the job is done. But, unfortunately, it‘s not (sorry!). Just because you and your development team have spent so much time on it, doesn‘t mean people will like it.

You need to get your customers to use it and send LOTS of feedback.

If you‘ve ever used a beta game or app then you have been one such customer. All of the crash reports, error logs and comments go back to the developers to help them fix up problems before the real launch.

This vital part of the development process is often not included in cheap quotes from less reputable software houses or freelancers. Don‘t be fooled, though, without this step you are very unlikely to make a great product, so budget for it!

Adding It All Up

So… how much does it cost to develop an app like Airbnb? Now we understand the main factors that contribute to the price, here are some possible scenarios.

Cheapest:

  • Very basic app
  • Built using the cheapest developers
  • Limited user testing and UX development
  • Not scalable
  • High risk of failure

Middle Ground:

  • The familiar app, but with custom features and ideas
  • A development company that outsources to Eastern Europe
  • User testing and UX development iterations
  • Moderately scalable – can be extended
  • Low risk of failure

World Class: 

  • Pioneering application – a completely new idea
  • Top developers from California
  • Extensive user testing and UX development
  • Highly scalable
  • Low risk of failure

Is It Worth the Cost?

Well… yes. Put the prices I just mentioned side by side with a medium-sized company‘s marketing budget and they seem like a bargain. And the potential payoff is huge.

Even if you don‘t want to become the next Airbnb, you can benefit from making proven technology like this a part of your business. You‘ll retain more clients, fill up your vacancies, and seem more attractive than your competitors.

Building Step-By-Step

Tens of thousands of dollars or even hundreds of thousands is a lot of money to come up with up-front. Especially when you aren‘t guaranteed a return on your investment.

This is why software development is often done in stages. Once each stage is complete, an assessment is done and more money is invested accordingly. Here‘s an example:

  1. Develop your idea – pitch it to some customers and refine it
  2. Develop your MVP
  3. Test it on some real users and adjust it accordingly
  4. Scale-up while continuing to adjust with user feedback

Startups usually follow a model similar to this, with new investment rounds in between each stage. You can develop your own product in the same way.

Final Thoughts

Companies like Airbnb have done the hard work for you. People love apps that connect their needs with the solutions and are ready to use them if they satisfy them. The cost of building a mobile app like Airbnb is an important factor that must be met.

If you‘ve got a great idea, you can bet your competitors do too. Who will be the first to make it happen? Our top tip: make sure you have an adequate budget to ensure your project is the best, then it will succeed.

Need help with mobile app development? Contact DevTeam.Space. A dedicated account manager will explain how we can help.

Frequently Asked Questions on Application Build cost for Airbnb-Like App

application build cost airbnb

1. Can I build an app like Airbnb?

Provided you have the right developers and experience in software development, it is possible. Naturally, such an app needs to be sophisticated in order to compete with apps such as Airbnb, which offer numerous features.

2. Where can I hire the best developers?

Your best bet is to hire vetted developers from a dedicated software development company such as DevTeam.Space.

What does it cost to build a travel app?

The final cost of creating a travel app really depends on how sophisticated it is and the number of features, etc. A more sophisticated app will require more developers, something which naturally raises the price. The most basic travel apps start at about a few tens of thousands of dollars and can go into the hundreds of thousands for an app like Airbnb.


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