What is Samara? Samara Business Model Explained

Samara is a manufacturer of prefab accessory dwelling units (ADUs) that can be installed and operational in a matter of hours. It started as an R&D unit of Airbnb in 2016. And it eventually was spun off and run by Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia, who now runs it full-time.

Samara was founded by Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia together with Mike McNamara who also worked at the vacation rental company.

However, Samara itself has existed in some form since 2016 as an R&D unit of Airbnb.

Currently available to Californian residents only but with plans to expand, Samara sells two different variants of an ADU that it calls the Backyard:

  • Studio (from $289,000) – a 430 square feet unit with kitchen, bathroom, walk-in shower, built-in storage, and combination washer and dryer.
  • One bedroom (from $329,000) – a larger, 550 square feet unit with the same features plus a separate, enclosed bedroom.

Both are steel-framed, solar-powered options available in a range of colors. Customers also have the option to upgrade to double doors that open to a deck made from Western red cedar. 

How does Samara work?

Samara customers will not have to wait years for their units to arrive on site. Instead, the company boasts that, in most cases, it can offer a seven-month lead time with units built in its factory and then delivered on a flatbed truck.

Here is how this process plays out.

1 – Customization and reservation 

The customer starts by customizing the Backyard according to their tastes. 

This means choosing the layout, colors, doors, decks, windows, interior, roof, and solar system.

A deposit of $250 is also required to reserve the unit and initiate the company’s remote property analysis.


2 – Site visit

Two weeks later, Samara representatives visit the customer’s property to prepare an installation quote. The company will note any obstacles and ensure there is adequate space for the desired unit.

3 – Sign off

One week after that, the customer will receive a site plan, quote, and solar proposal to review.

4 – Permit

Provided the customer is willing to move forward, Samara will submit a formal permit application to the relevant planning authorities on their behalf.

5 – Site preparation

Around five months after submission, the company will return to the site to lay the foundation and prepare utility connections.

6 – Transportation and delivery

Once the site has been prepared, a flatbed truck transports the unit to the site two weeks later. The company then uses a crane to lift the ADU into position.

7 – Wrap up

The very next day, Samara connects the home’s utilities and performs a final interior and exterior inspection before handover. 

How long does it take to get Backyard?

According to Samara, it might take around seven months, depending, of course, on the location, with the permitting process as the most significant variable for the timing of the project.

Of course, Samara’s projects are standardized units, with usually built-in permits requirements which should speed up the process.

Is getting a Backyard faster than traditional site-built construction?

According to Samara, you can save between 4-6 months compared to traditional site-built construction.

What is the maximum size of an ADU?

That depends on the geography. For instance, in California, the largest ADU units can be 1,200 square feet.

Key takeaways

  • Samara is a manufacturer of prefab accessory dwelling units (ADUs) that can be installed and operational in a matter of hours. It was founded by former Airbnb employees Joe Gebbia and Mike McNamara.
  • At present, Samara is only available in California. But as other states enact ADU-friendly ordinances, the company foresees that it will expand across the country. There are two ADU options to choose from: a smaller studio unit and a larger, one-bedroom apartment.
  • Samara offers a seven-month lead time, with units manufactured in its factory and transported to the site on a flatbed truck.

Read Next: ADU Market.

Read Next: Airbnb Business Model

Related to Airbnb

Airbnb Arbitrage

Airbnb arbitrage is a business model where the renter of a house or apartment sub-lets the property to Airbnb users. This is a model where the Airbnb arbitrageur can transform a long-term rental, with the main property owner, into a short-term rental, with higher rates and margins.

Airbnb Business Model

Airbnb is a platform business model making money by charging guests a service fee between 5% and 15% of the reservation, while the commission from hosts is generally 3%. For instance, on a $100 booking per night set by a host, Airbnb might make as much as $15, split between host and guest fees. 

Is Airbnb Profitable?

In Q3 2022, Airbnb recorded its most profitable quarter ever. With revenues of $2.89 billion in Q3 2022, Airbnb posted a record of $1.21 in net income. The first nine months of 2022 posted revenues of $6.5 billion and a net income of $1.64 billion. Thus Airbnb will be profitable in 2022.

How Much Does Airbnb Take?

Airbnb’s take rates, also called fees, that the platform charges to hosts range between 15-20%. In Q3 2022, Airbnb’s take rate was around 18.5%, compared to 18.8% in 2021 on almost a hundred million nights booked over the platform. Airbnb’s gross booking value per night was $156.44 in Q3 2022, and the total gross booking value was $15.6 billion.

Airbnb Business Model Economics

In 2021, Airbnb generated enabled $46.9 Billion in Gross Booking Value, and it generated $6 Billion in service fee revenues. On 2021, there were $300.6 Million Nights and Experiences Booked, ad an average service fee of 12.78%, at an Average Value per Booking, $155.94.

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