Having stayed at scores of Airbnb apartments by now, it’s getting easier to determine whether the stay will be a good Airbnb experience or not. This is no guarantee, as the reviews are skewed toward the positive and even the best hosts or properties have bad days every once in a while. But these are the things that have worked well…
1 – 5 star reviews all the way.
I don’t consider places that have 4.5 stars in my first round of searching. 4.5 on most review sites would be extraordinary. However, not necessarily on Airbnb. So it’s just not worth considering initially.
Now obviously if I can’t find a 5 star place that meets my criteria, I might start looking at 4.5 star units. However, the one area I won’t compromise on is less than 5 star cleanliness. If prior guests are citing issues with this, then I can’t reliably know they have washed sheets, towels, and taken care of other messes. This one is non-negotiable.
Some people might dock their review for being outside the city center or the unit being smaller than expected. That is fine, as I can see that from the map and pictures ahead of time. However, anything less than perfect cleanliness is unacceptable.
By sticking to 5 star reviews, I am confident I’m getting a good place.
2 – Being very picky on the reviews.
As a business traveler, I won’t book a place unless someone has affirmed the quality of the wifi. I also won’t book a place unless several reviewers have specifically stated that the host is responsive and quick to address questions or issues. Finally, I look for people that seemed enthusiastic with their review. You can usually tell by their tone, how much they wrote, and any concluding remarks whether the experience was great and interactions with the host were pleasant. Even properties with a 5 star rating need to have this level of specificity in their reviews or I won’t book them.
3 – At least 5 reviews.
Sorry to all the new units. Some look lovely in the pictures and are tempting due to price cuts while they get established. However, this is where I’m choosing to live. I’m not going to risk a bad experience while you learn to become a host or decide if you want to offer a quality experience. 5 top reviews gives me enough confidence to move forward.
4 – Avoid any warning signs.
There are some things that will cause me to never stay at a place even if every other review raves about it. Any mention of bed bugs, rodents, or cockroaches is a no-go, as there is only a small chance that such things were permanently resolved. If the host is cancelling people on a regular basis, it shows a lack of reliability. If there are people complaining about the wifi, it shows that the host isn’t bringing in experts to fix an important part of staying there.
5 – Depth of the host’s description.
Some hosts will write 3 sentences describing their unit. That’s not anywhere close to enough. Either there’s nothing noteworthy to sell to prospective guests or they can’t take 10 minutes to describe it properly. Either way, that’s a warning sign to me. Here are the things I expect the host to comment on:
- How far away from the city center (or other main attractions) the unit is
- What is within short walking distance (grocery stores, restaurants, convenience stores, bars, etc)
- Features of the apartment (technology, accessories, etc)
- Description of the neighborhood, building, etc
- Proactively answering common questions a guest might have (like heating/air conditioning, wifi strength, beds, etc)
- How we get hold of the host if a guest has questions
- Any downsides to the apartment. Being honest that their unit isn’t perfection is quite refreshing because no apartment is perfect or it would cost 10x the price
Some hosts even go above and beyond. They might provide a guide of some sort. They might help with how to locate the apartment or even offer airport transportation. The more details, the better. But if a host can’t provide this detail, I assume it’s because the unit isn’t worthy of describing.
6 – Rules.
While it’s perfectly understandable to have a few basic rules, I’ve seen some hosts with a list of more than 10. This is far too much. I don’t need anyone watching over my shoulder. My profile reviews should speak for themselves… that I am respectful, leave the unit clean, and am low maintenance for the host. If there are a few specific things then I understand (not throwing huge parties, being respectful of neighbors, etc). However, I won’t rent from someone that:
- Refuses entry of a non-registered guest.
- Comments about wearing shoes in the house.
- Tries to pass along extra costs (electricity, etc).
- Tells me to go in the back door and avoid any contact with neighbors (because they are clearly renting illegally).
I just don’t need big brother watching me or to have to tip-toe around the place I’m living. My accommodation is meant to be comfortable and relaxing.
7 – Our own personal list.
Everyone is looking for something specific. We have price ranges, location preferences, and requirements for other attributes (air conditioning, number of beds, etc). So it’s always important to study the pictures and listing description to ensure it has these things. When there’s a question, I always ask the host and get their guarantee. A few things I look at specifically:
- I need a table and good wifi so I can work
- If it’s hot or cold, air conditioning or heating is a must
- Since I often stay long-term, I vastly prefer a washing machine and iron
- Since I don’t have a car and would prefer not to use public transportation every day, it being walkable is nice
- It’s quite nice to have a balcony or outdoor area
What’s your personal list? You should decide in advance and make sure the unit has it. If you get there and it doesn’t, that’s your own fault.
8 – The Extras.
When deciding between otherwise equal places, it’s usually the extras that convince me to book. Does the host want to get to know their guests and maybe even show them around their city? That’s really nice. Does the unit have something really cool or unique? That makes the experience special. Does the host leave water, coffee, or other extras in the refrigerator? That’s helpful when I arrive. These extras are so simple for a host to do and make me feel like they actually care about their guest’s experience. That will usually make that extra bit of difference.
There are probably many other things to look for. However, these are the most important in whether I have a bad vs. good Airbnb experience. How about you?