How to Choose a Good Airbnb
My Venice Airbnb
I scrolled Venice listings for 2 hours before deciding on “The Conservatory,” a two bedroom, two bath flat located “a few steps from the Jewish Ghetto and 10 minutes from the Rialto Bridge.”
The photos were beautiful and Cristina, the Airbnb “host,” answered my endless stream of google-translated questions and helped me plan my arrival from the airport. I was cautiously optimistic that my first Airbnb rental was going to go well.
Houseboat in Paris, anyone?
Part of the Airbnb philosophy involves creating a more social, authentic travel experience by pairing travelers with property–owning hosts in 34,000 cities around the world. Travelers can search for a room in a host’s property or rent an entire house or flat (or clocktower or vintage airstream trailer).
A key part of finding a good Airbnb property is knowing your traveling needs. I love living like a local, but I want to live like a local by myself or just with family. I’ve seen too many CSI episodes to share space with a stranger, I want coffee in my jammies and the ability to come and go when I please, things that would probably make me an unwelcome Airbnb roommate.
Thankfully, Airbnb allows me to search their database by “entire place, own room or shared room.” Needless to say, I only search “entire place” listings and listings that mention cleanliness as a highlight. This doesn’t mean I don’t leave my shoes in the hall or empty wine glasses in the sink. It just means I don’t want to pay for the same experience in someone else’s home. Privacy and cleanliness are priorities on my traveler wish list.
One of my Venice Airbnb bedrooms
Luckily, my Venice Airbnb looked exactly as it did in the photos and was, to my delight, scrupulously clean.
It’s easy to understand why hotels are so nervous about Airbnb. For less than the price of one hotel room in Venice, I had two rooms with two baths, full kitchen and free internet in a prime location.
Things weren’t perfect…the shower peed water out onto the floor and church bells chimed my husband awake every morning, but neither issue was a deal breaker. No one made my bed or delivered the paper in the morning, but my host brought pastries and coffee and sat down to share all her local favorite spots with me. I think that is a happy compromise.
Was I lucky to find this clean, bright, beautiful, perfectly located property in a Venice? Maybe. My daughter had a business trip to California and decided against the corporate hotel experience. She arranged a rental and agreed to take care of the owner’s cats in exchange for a small discount. Her host met her at the door with two cats riding on her shoulder, an ominous sign.
The property itself was lovely, but the cats were “rabid raccoons in disguise,” the owner’s personal items were left on the bathroom counter and cleanliness level was questionable. Luckily, Airbnb allows both hosts and renters to leave detailed reviews after a stay and she reviewed the property honestly. Everyone’s standards are different and choosing an Airbnb property requires some effort to ensure a happy outcome for guest and host.
A checklist for choosing the right Airbnb…
Here are some tips to make your first (or second or third) Airbnb experience a good one:
1. Ask yourself the question…is Airbnb for me? Airbnb properties are not hotels, inns or bed & breakfasts. Taste, decor, personality and price vary wildly. If you crave the consistency and amenities (maid/room service) of a standard hotel experience, this isn’t for you.
Understand that the authentic, local Airbnb experience comes in many forms. Closets might be full of the owner’s belongings, you might find leftovers in the fridge, the decor might not be to your taste (I’m looking at your, NYC flat with the giant mural of a man’s ass hanging over my bed) and some hosts might ask you to water the plants.
My fabulous Miami condo..
Or the property could be damn near perfect. My current stay includes free parking, pool, gym access and once a week maid service, all for 1/2 the price of one room in my favorite Miami hotel. The closets are empty and the owners left a bottle of champagne for our family celebration. I might just stay.
2. Do your research. Good research is the key to a good experience. Start searching by location first. Get specific. Do you need to be within walking distance of a certain venue? Do you have your heart set on a favorite beach spot? I managed to find a flat 6 floors above my family by using Airbnb’s property search map feature.
3. Make a list of absolute requirements. Are you willing to share with a host? Is the property well located for what you want to do? Does it have free internet? Parking? Washer/dryer? Do you want to make your own meals? What are your requirements for a happy stay.
4. Look for high-quality photographs, detailed descriptions and many reviews. I randomly decided ten reviews was my minimum when I started searching. Trust me, after looking at the photographs, you’ll be able to eliminate a few.
5. Read all the property rules. They vary. Some are reasonable and some are odd. My current rental asks me to wash the towels before I leave and I’m perfectly fine with that request.
6. Read all the reviews. All of them. Are there “trends” or consistent issues mentioned throughout the reviews? Does everyone complain about arranging key pick-up? Did the property run out of hot water mid-shampoo every day? Or was the owner an amazing host?
7. Ask a million questions. Email the owners.
8. Listen to your juju. If you have a bad feeling about a property or host, choose another.
Things to Know
Some properties hold additional security deposits. Ask before you book.
Booking and cancellation policies vary. Read each property’s policy carefully.
Airbnb charges both the host and guest a booking fee. Factor in the fee when budgeting.
Airbnb withholds payment from the owner for 24 hours after a guest’s arrival to make sure everything is in order. If there are problems with the property, notify the owner and the company immediately.
While there isn’t a way to guarantee a fabulous Airbnb stay, I can guarantee I’ll book other properties in the future.
Do you have any experiences to share or tips for prospective Airbnb renters? Leave a comment below!