Every two seconds a guest checks in somewhere using Airbnb. Every. Two. Seconds.
Described as one of the truly disruptive travel companies of this century, Airbnb is a product of the sharing economy. It has redefined lodging, making travel more affordable in more than 34,000 cities around the world.
How does Airbnb work?
- Travellers find a good deal by staying away from pricey hotels and staying in the spare room of a host.
- Hosts make money by renting out their spare room(s) to bargain-minded travellers.
- Airbnb makes money by charging guests and hosts a percentage of each rental transaction.
Use the search box to select the destination you want to stay in, the dates and the number of guests. The options will be served up, with pictures of the accommodation, hosts and relevant information such as amenities, cancellation policy, maps and the opportunity to contact the host.
When you see something you like, click the “request to book” button. This notifies the owner / agent and they have the option to accept or decline the booking within 24 hours. If they don’t respond within 24 hours, your request expires.
The “instant book” button confirms your reservation and closes the host’s calendar to other requests.
The “contact host” button allows you to start a conversation about their space and hosting style via Airbnb’s secure messaging system.
Here are 5 ways to get clued-up on your accommodation and host:
1. Look at the price
Is it a good deal? Compare prices. Have a look at average hotel prices in the area. Then compare the prices on Airbnb. You’ll quickly get a feel for what’s usual and acceptable.
If you then see a price that’s jawdroppingly attractive, ask yourself why. On Airbnb, as on the High Street, if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.
Ask for a discount. Some Airbnbers, once they’ve selected the district they’d like to stay in, send 10 or 20 standard emails asking if the place is available and if they’ll accept a discount.
Watch out for extra fees – there may be late (or early) departure fees, service charges, cancellation fees or cleaning fees.
2. Look at your host
First, understand the difference between host owners and host agents. Host owners usually have just one room to rent, host agents will usually have more than one property listing. Find out by clicking on their profile.
Reviews are the currency of 21st-century travel. Read up on your host. Are they active? You’re looking for up-to-date calendars and response rates of 100 per cent.
Do they respond to messages within a day?
What are the reviews like? If there were problems in the past how did he or she resolve them?
Is there, crucially, a picture of your host? If they’re not willing to put a face to a name, their listing may be contrary to the terms of their lease.
A quick, general, “google” won’t hurt either.
3. Talk to them
It’s easy to go ahead and book a schwack of Airbnb listings, but contacting the host first to discuss and confirm your booking is a better idea.
Ask lots of questions. A committed host will be happy to answer all and you’ll get a feel for what they’ll be like when you’re staying under their roof.
4. Talk to your friends
And friends of friends. Your Facebook friends. Airbnb connects through Facebook so you can easily discover if any of your friends know the renter (or know someone who does).
5. Review, rate and roast (maybe)
You can review the host and your host may review you! Reviews are part of the user’s profile and build up over time. They’re very valuable to hosts and some Airbnbers recommend bartering with hosts whose properties are under-reviewed – a discount for a review.
(Featured image of Upper West Side, New York by Sarah Ackerman)