The Secret on How to Find Quality Hosts on AirBnB (or your Essential Guide on How to Avoid Awful Hosts on AirBnb)
I really thought I was safe from Airbnb bad experiences and that I knew how to find good Airbnb hosts. But lucky for you, I was wrong, so very wrong. I mean, my last two hosts were top Airbnb hosts and just absolutely amazing. Not only were they kind, considerate, and super helpful, but it almost felt like a homestay in which I got to know a local in a more meaningful way that that is impossible at a hotel or hostel. However, that was all before my Airbnb debacle of epic proportions in Naples, Italy; Naples is a lovely city but my host was just less than stellar and needed to read an article about tips for Airbnb hosts, in case you couldn’t pick that up already.
My one problem with Naples though was that the streets all looked the same, and street signs seemed to be optional at best. Therefore, it was difficult to find my Airbnb rental with a half-masticated tourist map that had a vague assortment of scribbles on it ( I needed a book entitled, “How to find an address on Airbnb for Dummies”).
But for real, I really did try to find the apartment on my own, mostly because I had spent way too much money on food and was trying, in vain to recoup some of my loses and be more “financially responsible”. But it was no use, on all fronts. So rather than aimlessly wander through the streets of a city I have never been to, both at night and all alone, I decided to suck it up and grab a taxi.
Little did I know that not only did all the streets look the same, but they were so narrow that they made every gym obsessed cast member of the Real Housewives of Orange County look like a beached whale, and in case you’re unaware, they’re all health conscious bleach blondes that practically disappear when they turn sideways. I really thought my driver was gonna take out a rogue moped or a line of laundry while speeding through the quaint cobblestone lanes of this iconic, Italian city.
But we finally completed the harrowing journey through this labyrinth of tiny streets, even if I almost peed myself in fright and came out of it $25 poorer. I honestly didn’t care though because I had been touring Pompeii all day and was exhausted. I was also dying for a slice of pizza and just wanted to meet what I thought would be one of the best Airbnb hosts and collapse into bed, after eating obviously (in my world food always comes first).
Once the taxi of doom stopped, I grabbed my bag and meandered along the romantic Italian lanes, craning my neck and squinting my eyes to make out the numbers of the apartments.
After about fifteen arduous minutes of searching, I realized that I was actually on the wrong street entirely and had a few choice words for my idiot cab driver. But what really upset was the fact that I had no idea where the right street was (thank God I didn’t tip my driver). Panic overwhelmed me as I began to realize that I had no idea where I was or where I was going. Also, as an added bonus, I had no wifi and no way to communicate because I don’t speak Italian.
So what did I do? I cried because there ain’t no shame in my game. Okay, back up, I wasn’t sobbing or anything. I basically put on the puppy dog face of heartbreak and went up to the rather robust and elderly looking woman that I saw on the street. I shed a tear to garner sympathy and frantically pointed to the address of my Airbnb while looking lost and confused.
To my abject surprise, the street I wanted was literally one street over. I practically kissed this woman and bounced away like Dorothy after she found the Emerald City. Once I got there I scanned the numbers, looking for a modern building that still retained the iconic Italian charm of shuttered windows and romantic terraces that had cascades of pink flowers delicately winding around the wrought iron banisters (I think I’ve seen Under the Tuscan Sun one too many times).
Instead, all I found was a rusted out, green door with peeling paint that was engulfed by an assortment of rickety at best scaffolding. Casually, I said last rites and looked through the call buttons, hoping to find my host, whose name was on my phone that of course had no wifi. Right, Kelly for the win.
“Okay,” I thought. “Her name is Stacey (I changed the names in this story to protect the innocent or not so innocent as the case may be) so I’ll just look up her name and be fine”.
But after a few minutes that dragged on like hours, I still couldn’t find her name and wondered what the hell I should do. So I looked up her phone number, that I had thankfully saved in my phone, and texted her that I was there, at our prearranged meeting time, and could she please let me in.
In response to this text, I got nothing. All I got were sounds of silence and maybe a few crickets chirping to the toon of my demise. I also saw a tumbleweed roll by, and quietly wondered if I would have to find a hotel to spend the night in.
At that very moment, my Pakistani prince opened the door. Okay, he wasn’t really a prince but he saved me. In broken English, he asked me who I was looking for, to which I replied, “Stacy”. His eyes lit up and a smile spread across his face as some fantastical memory of my host scrolled through his mind. This sight made my heart leap because obviously, she was an awesome person and probably just didn’t have her phone near her. I knew at that moment that this would be another one of my great Airbnb stays.
But within seconds, my hopes of Airbnb utopia were smashed as he pulled out his phone and flashed a picture of a half-naked woman twirling around a stripper pole. She was topless and I had no idea why he was showing me this until he pointed and said, “Stacy”.
“All right,” I thought, “so I’m staying with a stripper. No big deal. I don’t judge. As long as I have a safe place to stay I’m good.”
Once I finally persuaded him to put the picture away, he feverishly began to call and text Stacy on my behalf, hoping that he could somehow reach her. Finally, after about an hour, we got a reply that said, “Friend is almost in a diabetic coma. Trying to get him to the hospital and prevent him from falling asleep so he won’t die, let yourself in.”
This is the moment at which I threw my hands up and began to laugh like a mad woman. I wondered why the hell this type of crazy ass stuff always happens to me. I mean, did the universe have it out for me or was I being Punked? And if I was being Punked, Ashton Kutcher better get his ass over here and make me feel better because I was about to lose it. But to my eternal dismay, this was a very real episode of Airbnb nightmares.
After a brief exchange, we were given the green light to head up to the apartment, which was on the eighth floor of a building that had no elevator. So I stood there, gasping for air after about the fourth flight of stairs, and almost tripped and fell to my doom. Thankfully though, I caught myself (duh or I wouldn’t be wiring this post), and looked down, to find part of the stairs missing.
I sighed with the relief that I still wasn’t dead yet, and kept ascending the Everest like set of stairs, hoping that I would make it out alive from this experience. I finally got there, knocked on the door, and was greeted by a herd of men.
Weirded out by all these men in my Airbnb, I ran to my room and prayed that the horde of overly energetic, drunk twenty-somethings would go away. But they didn’t because I later found out that not only did my host not live there, but she rented the entire place out to people like me. Therefore, what I thought was a homestay was actually a very Italian version of the movie Animal House.
Moral of the Story? Don’t be like me and follow the rules below when choosing an Airbnb host. Oh and in the epilogue of this story, my Pakistani prince randomly showed up and entered my Airbnb on New Year’s Eve. He claimed he was looking for Stacy, who was not only out of town but also didn’t live there, and then proceeded to invite me out for New Year’s Eve.
As politely as possible, I replied that I didn’t want to get maimed by a random firework that just happened to explode in my face. I mean, the face is the real money maker after all. Yeah, he had no idea what I was talking about but got the point when I started an impromptu game of charades and acted out sleep. Yup, some forms of communication don’t require actual speech.
How to Find the Perfect Airbnb Host
1. Read the Reviews!
Okay this one is kind of like, “Well, duh!” But hear me out. Don’t just check to see if people liked their stay or make such common Airbnb mistakes as reading through overly vague statements as “the host was really nice”. Some of these statements might be from guests who are looking for good reviews themselves.
Instead, avoid these Airbnb rookie mistakes and look for more meaningful comments to see if people are returning guests; because if the place is a total dung heap, ain’t nobody going back. Also, read the reviews and try and pick up on things that people aren’t mentioning. I mean the host may be lovely. But if their house is a pig sty (a la Oscar the Grouch) you don’t want to stay there. So if people repeatedly fail to mention an apartment characteristic, then that can be a red flag (Like if people say its quaint or cozy then you know you’re staying in a shoebox).
2. Make sure the Airbnb host lives on site and the more photos the better.
If you want to rent a whole apartment then this doesn’t apply but see if the host lives on site or nearby because if something goes wrong, you kind of want the owner to be there to help you out. I mean, what if the toilet breaks and no one is around? No one wants to follow the rule, “if it’s yellow let it mellow” for a disgustingly long period of time. But if the host lives on site, not only will they, hopefully, be more responsive to problems, but it generally means that the place probably won’t be totally nasty(unless they are featured on an episode of Hoarding: Buried Alive. I’ll take a hard pass on those “pet” rats scurrying by).
Also, check to see if your host posts a bunch of pictures of the Airbnb rental. More pictures will give you a better feel for what the space is really like. That and the more pictures, the harder it is to hide something major like a porta-potty in the backyard. I’m all for being outdoors but not when I’m going to the toilet. I like bears but that doesn’t mean I want to poop with one (not all of them are cute and cuddly like the Charmin Ultra Bear).
3. Ask if the Airbnb House rental is a home for other guests.
I went to college once and lived in a dorm and that was enough for me. I don’t want to spend my vacation dodging rowdy frat boys while trying to keep my towel up so that no one gets a sneak preview of my goodies (by goodies I mean the box of donuts I’m sneaking into my room). I also don’t want to be up all night because the frat boys next door have decided to start a game of beer pong at 3:00 am. Plus, let’s be real, foot fungus and bad BO weren’t cool in college and they certainly aren’t issues that I wanna deal with now (Guys, its not my fault I sweat more than the average person! Kidding btw).
4. Use the map feature and make sure the listing has a great location.
No one wants to walk up hill, both ways, for seventeen miles just to get to a bus stop that is twenty minutes from the city center. Sure, walking is great (because that means I get to eat more, I mean that i’ll be healthy) but not when I’m dying of caffeine deprivation and just need a damn cup of coffee. That’s why it’s important to use the map feature on Airbnb and see not only where the Airbnb is located, but if it is near the attractions that you are interested in. No one wants to come back from vacay with shin splints. Thanks but no thanks. I’m not Forest Gump and therefore I cannot effortlessly run across the country for breakfast.
5. If you can, try and get a rental for an entire apartment or house.
This one is super obvious. If you have the place to yourself then you won’t have to deal with any freaks of nature (this chick right here) hogging the bathroom or peeing on the seat. You also don’t have to awkwardly make conversation with someone when all you really want to do is go to the bathroom and pee because you just drank a jug of Diet Coke (not me or anything). You also don’t want to feel super uncomfortable when your roommates start chatting about LSD and how you need to try mushrooms right now because it will, “Change your life”. Sorry guys but the only shrooms I do are Portobello, word.
6. Email the owners beforehand and ask a million questions.
Like a bloodhound, you wanna email them and sniff out any hidden negatives like the apartment being on the eighth floor of a walk up with no elevator (made even worse by the fact that you have a rolling bag that you must haul up the decaying stairs like a corpse). Yeah, ask about things like this so you don’t get an unwelcome surprise like staying in Thailand and finding out that the house isn’t air-conditioned. Or you need to do some emergency laundry and the only way to do this is by hauling water from a well and scrubbing your clothes against a rock (the alternative is you could always become a cast member on Naked and Afraid. #newlifegoals). Okay, total exaggeration because you’re probably not staying with Amish people, who don’t use the internet, but you get the idea.
7. Read all the property rules.
Most rules are super simple and make total sense, like no smoking in the house. But some are just downright weird (cause people are flipping’ weird. Just watch Jerry Springer and see what I mean) like, you can only shower the third Thursday of every month, between the hours of 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm. Yeah, this is not the type of “rustic” log cabin experience I was thinking of. I’ll watch Bear Grylls on TV but no way in hell do I want to vacation like him. So remember to read all the rules and make sure your host isn’t a total creep (also helps to check their profile pic and make sure they don’t look totally abnormal).
8. Make sure you get clear directions and know exactly where you’re going.
Sometimes the host will give you amazing directions and other times, they’ll just give you the address and expect you to fend for yourself. Yeah, no. Get clear directions to the address of the Airbnb because even if you have GPS, it has been known to be wrong (the best is when it says turn right here, and it’s a wall). Plus, you don’t want to walk somewhere and then find out that your Airbnb host is a good ten-mile hike away (hello Uber, we have a problem). To avoid any confusion always get directions that you can actually understand. No BS like, “Turn right at the second pigeon to the left and follow the crop circle till the end of the driveway. You can’t miss it”.
9. Make sure there is an elevator or air-conditioning or washer and dryer or dishwasher or wifi (if applicable), etc.
Pretty self-explanatory but make a list of everything you want (we call these non-negotiable if you’re fancy pants like me). Then go through and make sure that your rental has all the amenities you need to actually enjoy your vacation because yup, this is all supposed to be fun.
10. Setup a definite meeting time and verify your check-in time.
This can be tricky since you are traveling and uncertain about your arrival time. But regardless of this, email your host and create an exact time and place to meet. This way, you know that your host will definitely be there to let you in, show you around, and explain how everything works. Typically, I want to know the wifi password immediately because I suck at living without the internet, as this blog post so aptly demonstrates. But no one wants to beg neighbors to take them in because their host isn’t home. Yup, been there, done that, and its not a hoot.
If Everything Still Goes to Hell in a Hand Basket, All is Not Lost!
If you do all this and still have a crappy Airbnb stay, just remember that Airbnb offers its users protection (insert huge sigh of relief). So even if you have to room with someone who reminds you of the killer in Friday the Thirteenth, Airbnb will still be there to try and rectify the situation for you, in one piece (get it? Okay, I’ll stop).
Just don’t go all Carrie on your customer service representative and then be like, “Whoops, forgot to mention any of this to my host”. I know, no one likes conflict but you need to express your concerns to your host because sadly, they aren’t mind readers and may not even know that you’re upset (Seriously, who wouldn’t want strangers coming in and out of their temporary home? I know, I’m totally weird like that. I guess the concept of free love totally missed me). But in all seriousness, most people will try and resolve the situation because while money is good, they also want you to actually enjoy your stay (even if it’s just to attain super-host, baller status).
But if this doesn’t happen and your host is just a total tool, feel free to contact a local Airbnb representative. Not only will they help you find a new stay that is immediately available, but they will also negotiate a refund from the original host, on your behalf (thanks for being awesome Airbnb. You stay classy). Sadly I wish I was livin’ in Mamma Mia rich man’s world but nope. Gotta save those dollar bills where I can. So go forth, be awesome, and per usual, steer clear of all my epic travel mistakes.
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