Holley Morgan is a graduate student at SNHU and currently works as a college essay tutor.
New Airbnb Guests, Read On
If you are a millennial or have talked to one within the last few years, chances are that you know what Airbnb is. It can be a cheaper alternative to staying at a hotel and much more personable. Some hosts go above and beyond for their guests, asking ahead of time which brand of coffee they prefer and making themselves available to answer questions or give recommendations for local attractions. Some of them might even cook breakfast for their guests or provide daily cleaning services. Every host does things a little differently, which is part of what makes Airbnb interesting.
After hosting for a year, I have had my fair share of great and not-so-great experiences. One feature that I appreciate about Airbnb is hosts' ability to rate guests; it is similar to Uber where one can not only rate their driver, but be rated as a passenger (so if you think you can ride drunk in an Uber and puke all over the backseat with no repercussions, think again). If someone is not an ideal guest and has been rated poorly by another host, that gives a current potential host a chance to say "no thanks" to a reservation request - that is, if the user is not new to Airbnb and has been rated before. It is always a risk to host someone who is completely new to Airbnb, and many hosts will not accept requests from such users for that reason.
If you are new to Airbnb and want to accumulate some great reviews, or if you have been using it a while and want to improve your reputation as a guest, read on! I will be sharing some of my own hosting experiences as examples.
1. Read the Listing and Rules
Some listings are short, informal, and to the point. Some listings are written in a snappy list format with cute emojis to set off each bullet point. Some listings are longer, which might turn off people who are on their vacation planning buzz and don't feel like stopping to read everything. But you have to read every word, or else you might face some unpleasant surprises later.
I have included in my own listing description that there are stairs—everywhere—yet I still get people who stay and complain about having to go up and down stairs or say their family members had difficulty on the stairs. I have included pictures of the stairs in the listing photos. I have marked the listing as not accessible to those with mobility issues. Still, I get the complaints.
I understand not wanting to read through the listing description, but don't people want to at least look at all the photos or salient points before they book? Evidently not.
It also never fails that I get a question from a guest about something that was clearly visible in the listing description or reiterated in the rules. The favorite question? "Can I invite my friends over to hang out?" Meanwhile, no outside visitors or guests is one of the top rules on the list.
It annoys me, but I don't take stars away from anyone's rating for it. (I have been tempted to for guests that were particularly bad.) Still, it is a good idea to take the time to read everything before you book, especially if you can instantly book without having to message the host first. It will not only give the host fewer headaches, but it will help you to know whether a space is really right for you.
2. Remember, It's Someone's Home
Many Airbnb hosts do home-sharing to supplement their income because they need to, not to finance their vacation to the Bahamas or their many properties. Some do it to pay off student loans or because they happened to buy a home before an unexpected major change in life, and it's too soon to sell. If the hosts are not present during your stay, then they may have lived in the home at one point or come back to stay periodically to do repairs and maintain the place.
It is best to treat their home as you would your own, or a close friend or family member's. So if you wouldn't throw used tissues into your friend's laundry basket that is clearly not a garbage can, don't do it at your Airbnb. You may pay a cleaning fee and think you have a right to put garbage wherever you want, but that fee may be going toward professional cleanings that keep the home safer for guests or cleaning supplies (or just gas to get there to clean if the hosts live somewhere else further away). It doesn't pay for the host's additional time cleaning up after particularly messy guests or repairing items that were damaged by a careless guest.
If you wouldn't argue with your family member for not allowing people they don't know to sporadically stay over or "hang out," don't do that to your host either. Rules are rules, and if they were clearly detailed ahead of time (see my first point), there is no excuse.
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3. Make Suggestions Instead of Complaints
Your communication with your host, most commonly through the Airbnb app's messaging feature, most likely factors into your rating. (We're all human.) If you seem demanding and haughty over text, or rude and unresponsive, the interactions will make your host uncomfortable and affect how they interpret your behavior.
If you notice something about the space that bothers you or could be improved, how you bring it up to your host matters. Again, refer back to point one to make sure you are not bringing up something that the host forewarned you about in the listing details.
Once you have determined the host may not know about a needed improvement - for instance, a lightbulb that went out in the workspace - bring it up as a question or, depending on how complex the issue is, offer to help. Rather than saying, "The light in the office area is out and this is a huge inconvenience," you might say, "Hey, I noticed the lamp in the office seems to need a new bulb. Can you tell me where to find lightbulbs so I can fix this?" If the problem is more complex, give your host the benefit of the doubt and don't assume they already know about it. One of my guests gave me a tip about a leak from the shower faucet based on her own experience, and it was much appreciated that she did because I didn't realize it could become a problem.
Unlike a hotel, Airbnb hosts do not have maintenance staff at their disposal, and they may not have the means to show up immediately and fix an issue if they are remote hosts. It doesn't mean they don't care or won't try to guide you from afar. But if you genuinely want help, you may need to be helpful yourself.
4. Check Behind Yourself When You Leave
The checkout process is another opportunity to earn your host's favor. If your host sends you checkout instructions or includes them in the guest manual, make sure you read and follow them. (I could have made this a short article, because really all you need to do to get five stars is read and follow any instructions your host gives you.)
Some things that guests have missed while checking out from my place are: leaving the air conditioning on a very low setting on a summer day and also leaving windows open, not locking the doors, or my personal favorite, leaving the door wide open for all manner of insects and burglars to come on in and help themselves.
Try to leave yourself enough time to check thoroughly behind yourself as you leave the Airbnb. Things like turning all the lights off or placing the thermostat on a low setting may not seem like they matter, but higher utility bills may result in higher rates for other guests and very agitated hosts. Remote hosts especially will appreciate your attention to detail since they may not always be able to come to the house immediately after a guest checks out.
Taking a moment to check behind yourself will also help you. I have lost count of the number of guests who have left personal items behind at the house within the last several months. I always ship any forgotten items to guests, but because of my schedule, it takes a bit to get things in the mail. So if you don't want to run into this situation with your lucky shirt, take a few minutes to walk through every room and look for items you might have missed to pack.
Rules Exist Everywhere
While every host is different, these four tips plus your own common sense will help you earn a good reputation as a guest on Airbnb. Or they might help you realize you'd rather stay at a hotel, which is perfectly fine too.
Even though hosts have rules and expect guests to abide by them, the rules usually make sense and don't cancel out the good points of staying in a charming and more personal space. If you play your cards right, you might even make a new friend or find that your host is willing to provide a vacation space for your future trips to an area. Your host might also be able to give you tips that you won't find in a travel brochure for an area.
Rules exist everywhere you go, even if they are easier to overlook in some places than in others. So why not travel in a way that leaves you open to discovering something new or having a positive, more personal experience?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Heidi Hendricks