Airbnb Review

Thinking about giving Airbnb a try on your next getaway? Here are some things to consider before using this property rental booking website.

Pros

Host and Rentee Recommendations System

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!)

Verified Hosts

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

Reliable Reviews and Ratings

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.

Communication Tools to Check References

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.

Cons

A little too much information for some

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 have the power

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.

Make sure you do your due diligence

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.

Some hosts may rent out in an unqualified area

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.

The Bottom Line: 8/10

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.


Is Airbnb Safe, Reliable, and Legal?

We understand that, to some people, staying in the house of a person you barely know while out of town won’t sound like the smartest idea in terms of personal safety and security. Rest assured, though, serious incidents with bookings made through Airbnb are very rare, and you can take steps to further decrease your risk of having something unpleasant happen during your stay.

In this article, we’ll teach you about the following:

Is Airbnb legal?

Airbnb.com is legal but regulated in many areas of the world.  If you want to become a host, make sure that you learn and follow regional housing laws.  If staying as a guest at an Airbnb property, make sure to have a backup lodgings plan in case you run into legal trouble.

Legal regulations on Airbnb can differ from area to area, and are most often designed to keep Airbnb (and other peer-to-peer property rental services) from having an unfair advantage over hotels and other traditional temporary occupancy services.  For example, in many areas, hosts have to abide by many of the same rules as hotel owners: they must acquire a hosting license from the local government, purchase liability insurance, and pay transient occupancy tax (also known as “hotel tax”).

In other areas of the world, Airbnb hosts are only allowed to rent out limited areas of their property (e.g. singular bedrooms as opposed to full apartment units), or must have their property’s function officially changed by the local government before they start renting it out.  And in some areas, the company’s services are more-or-less illegal due to local laws prohibiting residential properties from being rented out for less than a specified amount of time (usually a month), with certain exceptions.

Is Airbnb safe?

Airbnb has several tools in place that make it about as safe to use as booking a hotel.  For example, it has identity verification, review systems for hosts and guests, and private internal messaging.  Also, your host doesn’t get paid until you approve of the property and check in.

Here’s a bit more information on some of the systems that it has that you can use to keep yourself safe while booking rental properties with it:

  • Multiple verification methods — Both hosts and guests have many different personal details that they can confirm, such as email address, phone number, professional photos of their property, social media account, and even government-issued photo ID. The more information someone has, the more likely it is that they’re trustworthy. Airbnb’s staff, however, doesn’t verify the hosts themselves.
  • Community-centered reputation system — Both hosts and guests can rate or review each other, and only after a booking and stay is complete. People can also comment on reviews that they have received or viewed publicly. Finally, people can request letters of reference from others whom they know. All of this means that other guests know who is safe to stay with, and other hosts know who is safe to book.
  • Internal email system — You can use Airbnb’s internal email system to privately ask a fellow guest who has stayed at a place before to give you their feedback on whether or not you should book it. You can also use it to contact a host directly and ask them questions about themselves and their property.

If you’re looking for an Airbnb alternative that offers payment protection and insurance plans for properties you book, try VRBO.com.

 

Top 5 Airbnb safety tips

1. Read listings closely.

We know that reading fine print isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time, but doing so can prepare you for things such as what amenities you’re getting, what rules you have to follow during your stay, and whether or not you’ll receive a refund if you cancel a reservation.  The more you know ahead of time, the less chance you’ll run into a nasty surprise.

2. Hold your host accountable.

Ask your host about things such as available amenities, the reputation of the local neighbourhood, the house rules, and whether anyone else will be sharing your stay space.  Also be sure to check the host’s profile and reviews, and ask them questions about these, too.  Finally, look for hosts who have lots of verified credentials, or ask your host to update their credentials before you book with them.  See this help article on Airbnb for instruction on how to get in contact with a host.

3. Use Airbnb’s internal services when handling payments and personal information.

Part of why Airbnb is so successful and so safe is that it gives its community of users the tools self-police.  Using its internal tools for payment and messaging means that if someone’s running a scam, word will get around quickly via ratings and reviews, and the support team will have the communication and booking evidence necessary to single out and punish the scammer.

4. Buy travel insurance.

As easy as they make it to book a place to stay with a reputable property owner, it can’t protect you from every little thing that might go wrong on your trip.  Therefore, it might not be a bad idea to get some affordable travel insurance to protect yourself in case your baggage gets delayed, lost, or stolen, or you experience an unfortunate injury or other emergency.

5. Be courteous and considerate.

Talk to your host and let them know a little bit about yourself so they’re able to get a sense of how they can best accommodate you.  Ask them about the neighbourhood, including if there are any local hotspots they’d recommend.  Let them know about any potential problems or issues, such as if you’re going to be late (but try not to be anyway!) or if you want to invite other people over.  Above all, follow the house rules, and show the host’s neighbours the same level of respect.  Remember, the better you behave during your stay, the better the review your host is likely to give you.  And that means the better the chance that someone else on Airbnb would love to have you stay with them!

Is Airbnb reliable?

Airbnb’s self-policing community structure makes it fairly reliable, as both hosts and guests who gain bad reputations get weeded out fairly quickly.  However, there is still the rare chance that you will get stuck with a host who misrepresents their property or treats you poorly, especially if they’re new to the service.

The best way to ensure Airbnb will be reliable for you is to prepare accordingly.  Look for hosts with verified I.D. credentials, and add verified I.D. credentials to your own profile so that hosts are more likely to trust you and accept your booking requests.  Read a listing’s details carefully, and don’t hesitate to contact the host to ask them anything about themselves or their property that you are concerned about.  Finally, it’s also a good idea to have a plan for getting alternate lodgings in case your rental property was misrepresented, your host treats you poorly, or — in very rare cases — you or your host (or both) get into legal trouble over breaking local lodging regulations.

 

That’s our primer on Airbnb’s safety, reliability, and legality.  If you you’re ready to start renting properties to stay at, our next tutorial will show you how to set up an account.


What Airbnb Is and How to Book a Dream Vacation

Let’s say that you’re looking for a place to stay on a trip out of town. The only problem is that a hotel is out of the question because:

  • It doesn’t have the amenities that you’re looking for
  • It’s too far away from the main place you’re going to be doing stuff in
  • It’s out of your price range, either in general or for the amount of time you’ll be staying there
  • It’s already fully booked, and there are no more rooms available

So, what can you do? Try Airbnb.com, that’s what!

What exactly is Airbnb, then?

Airbnb (as in “Air Bed and Breakfast”) is a service that lets property owners rent out their spaces to travelers looking for a place to stay.  People can rent a space for multiple people to share, a shared space with private rooms, or the entire property for themselves!

The Airbnb story

Airbnb was started in 2008 by Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, two industrial designers who had recently moved to San Francisco.  Unable to afford the rent for their loft at the time, the pair decided to make up the money they needed by renting out their apartment to people who couldn’t find hotels to stay at while attending nearby trade shows.  Joined by architect Nathan Blecharczyk, Chesky and Gebbia set up air beds in the apartment’s living room for their guests to sleep on, and cooked their guests homemade breakfast in the morning.

Since then, Airbnb has become one of the trailblazers of peer-to-peer property rental.  It is now available in over 190 countries and over 34,000 cities worldwide, accounting for over 2.5 million property listings.  Over 100 million people have used Airbnb to book a property rental at some point.  Its popularity stems from the fact that not everyone who is travelling can afford to stay in a hotel, much less find a hotel room at all in a busy urban area.  Airbnb provides them with a simple — and often less expensive — alternative.

How does Airbnb work?

Being a guest

Once you create a free account, you can search for a place to stay at by telling it where you want to go, when you want to check in, when you want to check out, and how many guests will be staying.  You can also add extra search criteria, such as neighbourhood location, price, type of property, space availability (i.e. having a private room vs. having the whole place to yourself), and more.  Also, while your billing details are needed in order to hold a booking, you don’t pay until a host accepts your reservation request.

Searching for accommodations on Airbnb as a guest

What hosts do

People can list properties for rent for free, and can also hire professional photographers to make their spaces look their best.  Prices and availability for properties can be set according to a host’s schedule, or what they work out with guests.  A host can even set up their property listing to auto-book anyone who is interested in their property and meets certain specified criteria.  However, the host has the final say on whether or not they want to book someone.  Finally, Airbnb covers its hosts against damages to their property by guests.  Similar sites, like VRBO, also have insurance plans to this effect.

Starting the hosting process on Airbnb

The Airbnb community

Airbnb is a website based on communal respect, and so includes several functions that both hosts and guests can use towards this end.  For example, users can create profiles that showcase their preferences, hospitality policies, and preferred activities.  They can also send each other messages to clarify booking details, or even get recommendations on who to rent from (or to).  Finally, the review system lets guests say what they liked or disliked about their rental experience, while hosts can critique their guests’ treatment of the property and surrounding community.  Reviews can only be written after a stay is booked and completed, so it is difficult to write dishonest or fake reviews.

An Airbnb community discussion forum

Is Airbnb legal and safe?

Airbnb is legal as long as hosts follow certain protocols for their region.  For example, they may need to abide by local housing regulations, get hosting licenses, carry liability insurance, pay occupancy tax, or only rent out limited areas of their properties.  Consider these factors before becoming an Airbnb host.

In terms of safety, it may seem like a riskier option than staying in a hotel, but it doesn’t have to be.  Both hosts and guests have multiple ways to verify their identities, can rate and review each other, and can privately message each other through its internal email system.  This helps to keep users of all stripes accountable.

Specifically as a guest at an Airbnb rental property, you can keep yourself safe by reading the listing that you’re interested in closely, and asking your host as many questions about themselves or their property as you need to in order to feel safe.  It’s also a good idea to only message other users and pay for your rental property booking using its internal tools.  Buying a bit of travel insurance wouldn’t hurt, either.  Above all, though, remember that you are a guest, so treat your rental property and your neighbours with courtesy and consideration.

Check out this tutorial for more information on Airbnb safety.

The pros and cons of using Airbnb

Airbnb has a few neat features that make it easy to use.  For example, when searching for a rental property to book, you can set multiple filtering criteria to narrow down your results until you find that perfect place to stay!  Also, if you find a property that you’d like to stay at sometime in the future — or have stayed at before and want to stay at again — you can add it to a “Wish List” and come back to it later.

Airbnb’s biggest strength, by far, is its effort to run as a self-policing community where hosts and guests are on an equal playing field.  That’s why it includes tools for hosts and guests to verify their identities, rate and review each other, and message each other privately.  Also, there are no corporate sponsorships, so each host or guest can only go as far as their site-wide reputation allows.

The power balance on Airbnb is still somewhat tilted in favour of hosts, however, as they have the final say on whether or not you can book — or remain at — their property.  In addition, while not as common anymore, some hosts may rent out their properties in methods or locations that they’re not supposed to.  This means that you might end up being inconvenienced for someone else’s mistake.

What are some other popular services like Airbnb?

While Airbnb is one of the most famous peer-to-peer property rental services on the Internet, there are many more worth considering. Two of its biggest competitors are HomeAway.com and VRBO.com. If you’re really not into paying booking fees, then try 9Flats.  Or, if you want to be sure that hosts have been verified as trustworthy directly by the booking service’s staff, then have a look at FlipKey (by TripAdvisor) or OneFineStay.

For more information on these and other popular Airbnb alternatives, have a look at our article on best sites like Airbnb here.

 

We’ll teach you everything you need to know about renting a place on Airbnb in the tutorials for the rest of this Airbnb course on Techboomers. And in the future, we’ll also be adding articles giving you the ins and outs of renting your own place to make some side income!