What should travellers be aware of before booking a vacation rental with Airbnb?

Everything you need to know before booking accommodation on Airbnb.

Not all Airbnb experiences were created equal. Some you’ll remember for their hospitality, while others you might remember for the wrong reasons (like the wifi being down on your entire work-related trip). While the platform was created with trust and transparency in mind, sometimes things don’t always go to plan. That’s why we believe knowing how to navigate the platform — and doing your due diligence — is key before you book your next trip.

To make things easier as we head into the festive season, we’ve listed 6 key things to be extra aware of the next time you book a vacation rental with Airbnb. 

Read those reviews

It’s not a stretch to say that the success of Airbnb is based on its transparent review system. Reviews are essential to the entire Airbnb community, both helping guests choose their travel plans wisely while enabling hosts to open their homes with confidence and attract the most suited guests.

Thanks to Airbnb’s rating system, guests can make their decisions based on real experiences and comments from guests and the response of the host. After all, how a host handles a negative review says a lot about their hospitality skills. In addition to comments and reviews, Airbnb offers a 5-star stay rating system for hosts to help break down the quality of guests’ experience into different categories. These include cleanliness, accuracy, value, communication, check-in, and location. Keep an eye out for both of these systems the next time you book.

Pick an experienced host

If you are a first time Airbnb booker, we recommend using the filter to search for Superhosts. A Superhost is someone who Airbnb has identified as offering exceptional and reliable services for guests. To be a Superhost you have to have hosted at least 10 people, have an average of 4.8 or higher for reviews, a 90% response rate and a less than 1% cancellation rate. This being said, there are many excellent Airbnb hosts out there without the Superhost status. You will be able to determine their level of experience by the number and quality of their reviews. You can also look out for credible property management companies, which partners with Local Hosts who treat every guest with exceptional care. 

If you own an Airbnb or use the platform frequently to book holidays or work accommodation, reviews go a long way. Airbnb Hosts are encouraged to review their guests truthfully after every stay to encourage guests to keep using the platform. Guests reviewing Hosts will increase the discoverability of the listing and support a small business owner’s home.

Do your own neighbourhood research

Airbnb will only show you the general neighbourhood area, as an address is only given upon booking for security reasons. This being said, if you’d like to learn about your surroundings, there are a number of ways to suss it out. The first is to do a basic Google search. This can give you more information about crime stats, distance to certain amenities, or transport lines. The second is to have a look through the most recent reviews to get a general sense of what guests have experienced in the surrounding area. If a guest said they didn’t feel safe, we still suggest digging further to see how others compare. One guest’s experience does not paint a full picture. This ties in with the importance of reviews we mentioned earlier. If the same home is listed on other platforms like Vrbo and/or booking.com, a read-through of those reviews will benefit you and guide your decisions. 

Do not leave the Airbnb site

All your transactions need to take place on the Airbnb platform. Never. Leave. The. Airbnb. Site. If a host asks you to complete a transaction in cash or to send over personal payment information, this is a red flag and you need to report the host to Airbnb – and walk away from the booking. If an Airbnb host on the Airbnb site asks you to pay off-site or through another company, you must report it to Airbnb. According to Airbnb, there are common terms being used that are fraudulent, so look out for them: Western Union, MoneyGram, cashier’s check, money order, Liberty Reserve. The platform exists to protect you, so be sure to stay on it for all your transactions. 

Over the years, Airbnb increased its safety standards to protect both Hosts and guests. They can only refund or pay amounts if a transaction is completed through the platform. This provides proof that the platform was used for the transaction and prevents fraudulent claims.

Ask all your questions

Whether you are a seasoned Airbnb guest or a first-timer, no doubt you will have questions for your host. Thanks to Airbnb’s pre-booking message feature, you can now communicate with a host before booking your stay. This is a platform created to let guests and hosts get to know one another before they make a transaction. Ask a host all your questions, and don’t be afraid to seek the nitty-gritty details of your stay. What are the neighbours like? Are there noise restrictions? Do you need to bring extra linen or cleaning supplies? Can you use the washing machine? What is the neighbourhood like? This is one feature you’ll want to take advantage of.

Hosts are usually more than happy to answer as many questions as possible as it gives them insight into the guests checking into their home. They’ll be able to plan and prepare for the guests better and even provide them with insights into their neighbourhood. You never know where your next best meal is being served or when you find that perfect Instagram photo.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and gain insight — you might be pleasantly surprised by what you find while exploring a new part of the world.

Britta Dahms
Britta Dahmshttp://www.hometime.io
Britta Dahms has more than 10 years of marketing experience in the property and hotel industry specialising in the Australian, South African, and United Kingdom markets. She is currently part of the Hometime team.
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