There are over three million websites dedicated to showing Airbnb hosts how to “make a killing” on their property. Many are genuine, encouraging prospective hosts to leave local tips for their guests or leave a bottle of wine (yes, please). Many more are dedicated to giving tips on how to make a dark, basement shoebox look like an airy loft. You might live in a shoebox at home but when you are on your holidays, or even a work trip, you don’t want to pay to stay in one. So, here are some tried and tested ways to avoid the pitfalls of booking a dingy basement and instead score a neighbourhood pad with an enviable address.
Read the ad
It sounds obvious to say “read the ad”. But, read the ad. All of it. Especially the “House Rules” and what’s included. Pay even more attention to what’s not included. Just because you expect Wifi, parking and a washer doesn’t mean they are included in a house rental.
Yes, the Manhattan skyline does look beautiful at sunset but there is no guarantee that THAT view is from your new bedroom window. In fact there is no guarantee there is a window (or that second bedroom for that matter) at all unless you see it.
Mamma always told me …
An unmade bed in the photo gallery is a red flag. If your host is too lazy to make the bed for the sole purpose of advertising their space, they don’t deserve your hard-earned cash. Also, if there are no photos of the bed, there’s a chance it is actually that pull-out sofa that you spotted in the corner of the living room aka “studio”.
Use the basics of translating real estate lingo and apply it to all Airbnb rentals. If you read the word “cosy” more than once, you’ll probably find yourself bumping into the ceiling, bed or every wall as you negotiate the “cosy” space. Lofty spaces = draughty; lived in = cluttered; and secluded = don’t travel here alone unless you happy in the wilds of the moors.
Be wary of new rentals that have no reviews yet. Hosts often offer “exclusive” reduced rates for the first month of their new rental but check the host’s bio in case they have other properties to make sure they know what they are doing. If the host joined yesterday, you’ll either find yourself barraged with overbearing emails or left completely clueless.
Time to chat
Even if you have no interest in building a relationship with your new host, do it. This is the only way to check if your host responds in a timely manner and to build trust that helps minimize the chance of them cancelling on you. Click the “contact host” button with a question and if it takes them a day or two to respond, and the response is curt and unfriendly, back away.
Privacy – either you have it or you don’t when you are renting someone’s house. There are no shades of privacy and if you host thinks there is, that’s going to be a problem. So, avoid any ads that mention “semi-private”. When it comes to solo travel, for peace of mind I always rent the entire space if I can afford it. That means my sleep is not disturbed by anyone opening the front door.
Most importantly, read the reviews and not just the first two. Even in a five-star review, a past guest might mention that the room is below street-level and could benefit from an extra light. Cue: ignore the bright airy photograph of the bedroom. Others often mention the name of the apartment complex. Cue: street-view Google search. If there is more than one less than satisfactory review, remove the property from your wish list. It’s just not worth it.