Thinking about giving Airbnb a try on your next getaway? Here are some things to consider before using this property rental booking website.
Airbnb's business model is community-centered with no corporate sponsorships. This means that, for hosts looking to rent out their property, their business is only as good as how well people rate and review them. So if hosts want to keep business coming, they'll go the extra mile to make sure your stay is great! (Of course, this means that you have to be on your best behaviour, too, if you want hosts to keep accepting your bookings!)
Airbnb often requires verifiable personal information -- including telephone numbers, email addresses, pictures of photo ID, and social network pages -- before hosts are allowed to rent out their property or guests are allowed to book. This, coupled with Airbnb's review system, means that there's less of a chance that you'll be matched with someone misleading you or trying to take advantage of you. If you're looking for a website like Airbnb, that verifies all property owners, check out FlipKey.com.
Hosts and guests both have to complete a booking and a stay before rating or reviewing each other. This means it's easier to trust reviews on Airbnb because reviewers have to have actually used the service, making it difficult to leave dishonest or fake reviews.
You can use Airbnb's communication tools to talk to trusted users about their experiences with certain hosts, or you can talk to a host directly to get an idea of what you can expect during your stay. This makes it easy to know if the rental you're getting is on the level.
Some people see its identity verification process as unfair to those who don't have active social media accounts, or more generally as overly intruding into people's privacy. Approach using Airbnb like using a social media website: before using it, carefully consider what personal information you are or are not willing to give out to a corporation, or make public for other users on the website to see.
Hosts always have the final say on whether or not you are allowed to book their property or stay at it. Be sure to read their house rules and cancellation policy to avoid having your stay cut short or potentially losing your money.
While Airbnb's community-based reputation system means there's a lower chance of being scammed or otherwise misled, there are still cases where not all is what it seems. Be sure to take into account not only the rental property's specifications and photos, but also its ratings and reviews, as well as the host's profile, before making a decision.
Sometimes, hosts will rent out their property despite it being illegal in their region due to licensing and hospitality standards issues. Though this is almost never your fault, at the very least, you should have a backup accommodation plan or an emergency plan in place (like a customer service number and a camera or other recorder to collect evidence of your plight) in case you run into this situation, because you'll probably have to leave the property in a limited amount of time.
Airbnb has a unique business model that relies on credible word-of-mouth as opposed to brand name recognition and corporate partnerships. This means there is more incentive for both hosts and guests to make sure each has a positive experience, in order to continue using the website effectively. Hosts with bad reputations won't attract customers, and guests with bad reputations won't have their bookings accepted by hosts. This adds a little more accountability to the process.
Remember, though, Airbnb is still just a middleman between you and people who are looking to rent out their property. That means that while you may be getting a bargain, there's a greater risk of something going not quite right than if you book directly with a hotel or traditional bed & breakfast. While Airbnb provides plenty of tools to help keep its users honest and help you avoid getting a sketchy deal, people can still be dishonest (intentionally or not), and it's up to you to do your homework to make sure you can manage any unpleasant surprises that come up, or steer clear of them altogether.
If Airbnb doesn't sound right for you, there are many other services out there like it. Check out this article that lists the best vacation property rental alternatives to Airbnb.
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