If you've been a regular reader, you might think I'm the last person in the world to give advice on avoiding an Airbnb nightmare but hey, at least I've made all the mistakes. I know what to avoid now, I hope.
When you've been travelling as long as I have (over 9 months now), there are sure to be some disasters but I'd prefer to not have to deal with them if I can. I've done a bit of research in to this and, hopefully, those disasters can be minimised.
So, how do you make sure that booking you've made is not going to fall into the "we'll laugh about this later" category:
Don't read the reviews:
In my experience, the reviews on Airbnb are worth jack-shit. Sure, read them. Sometimes people leave good tips about what to do in the neighbourhood or how to get there but don't expect anything approaching an honest review of the actual place.
I've asked around about this and found out there are a few reasons people leave rose-tinted reviews of places on Airbnb:
- They want to look like a nice guy. After all, you've meet the host and they seem like a swell guy, and it's probably not their fault that the sewerage is backing up and the place is a lot tattier than you expected and the WiFi doesn't work. You might be a nice to your host if you leave a glowing review but you're not being nice to the next guest who ends up wasting time and money based on your review.
- They have low standards. Some people are happy with a roof over their head. If you plan to stay somewhere for a week or a month, remember your requirements are going to be totally different to someone staying for a night or two.
- They have zero fucks to give. They got an email asking them to review so they did but they just wrote some crap to fill up the space.
- This one shocked me when I found out - some people think that if they leave a bad review for a host on Airbnb, the next time they try to book a place, potential hosts will read their bad review and refuse their booking. There is a huge flaw in this thinking, to my mind, which is why would you ever want to book with someone so scared of getting a bad review anyway?
- As well as a public review, you can leave private feedback. Some people will be all nice in their reviews but write any negatives in the private feedback. That doesn't help me at all. Note: I have a theory, unproven that listings with bad private feedback get pushed lower in the listings.
It can be worth reading the reviews to see what isn't mentioned. A lot of reviewers will only mention the good things not the bad but, if something is never mentioned, it might be an issue.
Read the ratings:
The key ratings are the accuracy score and the cleanliness score. If a place has less than 5 stars for accuracy, don't touch it. I'd expect at least 5 stars for cleanliness too, unless that's addressed in the listing. Sometimes the host will use a cleaner who doesn't do a great job. If that's been mentioned and addressed, then fine.
Accuracy is, of course, of prime importance. The place has to measure up to the listing.
Location rating - this is totally useless. What's a 5 star location? If a place has half a dozen nightclubs on the same block, I'm going to give it a low rating for location. The next person who comes along might think that's the greatest thing ever. Location is such a subjective thing that I'm not sure why they even have a rating for it.
Sure, one ultra picky guest could bring down the ratings but why risk it?
Look for Superhosts
Not only have they been superhosts in the past but they most likely want to keep this status so don't want a bad review.
Go for the top 10%
Based on my theory that negative private feedback and other things like complaints push a listing down to the bottom of the listings on the site, I try to stick to the top 10% (ie the first couple of pages) of listing that come up when I search. If you can't find anything you want in the first few pages, then look for new listings
If all that hasn't put you off, you can sign up for Airbnb using my referral link and get a nice bit of credit.
Sometime soon, I'll post about how to deal if you are unlucky enough to wind up in a nightmare situation.