9 Steps to choosing a perfect Airbnb

Richard Mellor

More and more of us are renting and listing holiday homes online using Airbnb, with thousands of possible properties common in major cities like Paris or London. Filters only sift out so many. So how on earth do you pick one?

A picture is worth a thousand words

hammock air bnb

The more, the better: it’s so much harder to fake an image than a description. So scrutinise those snaps, and crosscheck them against the property’s summary.

Doesn’t that kitchen look messy? Why are there no bathroom images? Would we really call that “spacious and comfortable”? And, hang on, isn’t that bed where the kitchen table was in the last photo?


Reviewing the situation

Most properties have good review scores, so you can afford to set the bar high here. Dismiss anything averaging less than four stars. Aspire for a minimum of 10 reviews, too.

If they’ve only got two—and, now you mention it, ‘Rob’ and ‘Bob’ do look quite alike—move along sharpish.

It’s also vital that the last few comments be positive. Some hosts start out great guns, only to get lazy and let standards slip. These are not the hosts for you.


Is your host a human?

is your host a human

A human from the city you're visiting? Robots may be the future, but they sure don’t make good Airbnb hosts. Nor do landlords thousands of miles away or busy property managers.

Look for past reviews that describe meeting the host, and testify to his/her human-ness. To root out agents or managers, check the host’s profile and see how many rentals they have available.


Language barriers

Does that host speak your language, or are you fluent in theirs?

Things can go wrong—finding the keys, alarm codes, a sudden need to delay departure—and, when they do, easy communications can make all the difference.


Neighbourhood watch


Decide your chosen quarter beforehand, considering transport options, proximity to metro stations is always a bonus, and liveliness.

Then use the zoom tool on Airbnb’s maps to whittle out absolutely everything not slap-bang in the midst of said district.


Cancellation policy

You should only book with sincerity but, still, cancellations do happen.

Maybe you’ll be sick, or perhaps Spurs will make the cup final. In case of such eventualities, be sure to always once-over a host’s cancellation policy.

If it’s classified ‘strict’, that means you’ll receive only a “50% refund up until 1 week prior to arrival”, and, after that, zilch. Next…


Laying down the law


Equally important is to check a host’s rules. What you want is a good balance, a semblance of order. No rules equals disregard, equals untidiness, equals mice.

But if the host requires guests to wash, dry and re-hang every towel in spectrum colour-order before leaving, that’s a tad too military. You can do better.


Ask questions

If any vital facts are unclear, always message the host and ask. Better that than booking and kicking yourself later.

Even if not, ask a couple of simple things. That way you can verify your host’s responsiveness and amenability. They should want you as their guest. Do they?


The early bird…

The early holiday bird

As with like hotels, Airbnb’s most desirable properties and popular times always fill quicker. So start looking as much in advance as possible.

If it’s last-minute, filter out everything that’s not ‘Instant Book’. At such an eleventh hour, you can’t waste precious time waiting for a host to (hopefully) confirm availability.