All posts Musings Wanderlust Friday

Confessions of AirBnB Hosts

June 19, 2015

wanderlustfriday_AirBnBJefferson memorial during Cherry Blossom Season — possibly the most popular timeframe to visit Washington D.C.

Since we’ve decided to be based in Washington DC for the foreseeable near future, we are exploring all sorts of ways to replenish our travel fund. Aside from actually getting paying jobs, our most lucrative endeavor has been AirBnB. We’ve put our spare bedrooms on the site in May, and overall have had a fantastic experience so far. The extra income is not insubstantial, the guests we’ve hosted have been an interesting and diverse bunch, we are constantly talking about travel, and I am actually doing something that I am really good at and enjoy: hosting people. Many wins all around. Of course, as with anything else in life, there are some downsides to AirBnB – one of them is having to decline  guests’ requests.

Have you ever been declined on AirBnB for no apparent reason? Or received an excuse like – oh whoops, we are actually out of town / have family staying in town, so no, the room isn’t available? Ever wonder if it’s actually true? I never really gave much thought to this, as it happened rarely and there are so many options that it doesn’t really matter – someone, somewhere will host you! That is until we started hosting people ourselves. And then, the faux pas that travelers commit on AirBnB became almost instantly clear. On a good day, which is most, I will look past these errors in judgment and send a friendly reply to the person requesting a room.

But, I have bad days too – and on those days, I will just decline your request. Why? The simple reason is you’ve annoyed me. Now please keep in mind that we’ve used AirBnB exclusively as travelers for several years now, and until we started hosting just over a month ago, we were regularly committing these errors in judgment and good manners. So with that in mind, here’s some reasons why we would decline your request:

No Picture, No Name, and No Verifications

Not to mention anything about reviews or references. This is my number one peeve on AirBnB. You are wasting my time – and yours. On a good day I will ask you to fill out your profile, give me your full name, put up a picture, yadda, yadda, yadda. I just got annoyed writing this. And I am a bit shocked at how many requests we get like this.  C’mon people, just 5 minutes more of your effort to fill out the profile and you instantly become a much more appealing guest. Do you really think I would be ok with someone named “Sam”, whom I know nothing about – even the gender – come stay in my home…particularly if I am not there?!

Lengthy / annoying questions for an inquiry

You know that button that says “contact host”? If you click on it, and then proceed to send us a list of questions that you could really answer yourself…and I quote here from the ones we got “Is it a separate bedroom & bath? Do you have picture(s) of the bedroom? “ (A: read the description please) “Is this location close to Mandarin Oriental Hotel?” “Could you please let me know how far (walking distance) the Law Center is from you” (A: Have you heard of google maps? Because no I haven’t walked everywhere in the city, no I don’t know where those places are, and no I am not a concierge, and I sure as hell am not going to google this myself)….then I will probably decline you, even on a good day. Not only I am annoyed that you are asking me to spend 20 minutes of my time figuring out questions that you can easily answer yourself, but I also think that you will be a high-maintenance guest. On top of that you aren’t even committing to a booking. No thanks!

Bad Reviews

Ok, so this one is a bit unfair…but I declined someone because they wrote a bad review for another host. And that was the only review they have ever written. Now, the problem wasn’t a bad review itself – it was what this person found to be missing: “guests could be made to feel even more welcome with a few simple additions – bath soap, washcloth, better quality pillows, hide cleaning supplies (visible in the living room and bathroom), tea kettle for guests’ use. Although the host invited me to call if I needed anything, I chose not to inasmuch as I managed without any of these things.” I mean, really? I enjoy hosting and try to make sure that guests have all the necessities…but, I would rather not find out whether the quality of our pillows would be suitable to this person requesting a booking. Particularly since AirBnB provides the opportunity to send a private message to the host letting them know if something was lacking.

Your offspring is capable of using the internet him/herself, no?

This is another bad one, which gets an automatic decline. If you send an inquiry requesting a booking for your son/daughter because they have an internship in Washington DC for a few weeks, I will try very hard not to write anything mean in return. Such as – do you want me to spoon feed them breakfast in the morning as well, and wait up for them every night and report back to you on their wellbeing? Or, hello – your 18+ child is now an adult, capable of doing simple tasks such as requesting a booking on AirBnB. And if they aren’t, well, we certainly do not want to host them.

it’s actually great

I have probably scared anyone potentially looking to stay with us from ever sending us another inquiry or making a booking request, I promise we are actually very attentive and good natured hosts, and if possible, even better guests! Overall our experience has been really positive on AirBnB in either capacity, and majority of the requests that we get are perfectly awesome.

So…do you think we are being totally unfair and obnoxious? Do you use AirBnB for travel or hosting? If you haven’t signed up yet, here’s a $25 AirBnB credit to get you started.

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  • Christine

    Interesting perspective! We’ve only done Air BnB a couple times, but my brother hosts in San Francisco. He’s meet so many interesting people along the way!

    • http://housetolaos.com/ House To Laos

      Hosting is like a whole other world of AirBnB 🙂 It’s funny how quickly your mentality shifts when you are a host from being a guest! But on a separate note, its great for meeting people from all over the world! We are constantly learning about different places from our guests.

  • ryan2499

    Love it. We’re using Home Away next month in California and now I feel lucky they accepted our request as I didn’t even use a profile. Rest assured, I updated it in the middle of reading this post though!

    • http://housetolaos.com/ House To Laos

      Nice! 🙂 Next step — put up your home on AirBnB and watch your California vacation pay for itself 🙂 We are total converts!

      • ryan2499

        Haha, right: “Cozy guest bedroom available for rent. Connects to master bedroom & adjoining kids room where you’ll enjoy the sounds of a 3 & 5 year old waking in the middle of the night and sharing the one full bath with a family of four.” We’ll be booked in no time!! 🙂

        • http://housetolaos.com/ House To Laos

          try it for the time when the whole family is away in California. Up to 15 days of renting your home qualifies for “no need to file tax” clause.

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    I can understand not wanting to host high-maintenance guests, but as a frequent AirBnB user, I’m not sure that I’d veto someone for sending me a lot of questions. To me, that suggests that they’re really engaged with the process and keen to make sure the place they’re interested in is actually a good fit for them. I mean, yes it’s annoying if they’re asking questions that are already covered in your profile/listing or something they could figure out on their own, but when I send messages to prospective hosts (and I always send a message first before sending a booking request since I want to make sure a place meets our needs before saying for certain that I want to book) I do ask questions about the neighborhood (i.e., what kind of food options are close by, is it dog-friendly, etc.,). I find that by opening a dialogue with prospective hosts before booking, we get a better sense of what our experience staying with them will be like. I guess it’s also worth remembering that different people use AirBnB for different reasons—some people don’t want much interaction with their hosts/guests and just want somewhere affordable to stay, whereas other people see getting to have a local contact as a bonus. Chatting with hosts beforehand (and asking them questions!) is a good way to ascertain whether you both have the same expectations.

    • http://housetolaos.com/ House To Laos

      Totally agree Steph! Actually I prefer to have a conversation with perspective guests before they make the booking. And I love questions about our neighborhood and about us, the cat, the house or whatever else not covered by the description…and you are totally right about setting expectations — establishing a contact with your host lets them know what you expect and what they should expect from you. All totally valid points. And actually we were totally those people that asked “how far is the such and such venue from your house and can we walk there?” But having started to host, and seeing the work that goes into being a responsive AirBnB host – I say (implore?) to the guests, spend a few extra minutes looking at the description and approximate location of the listing and see if you can deduce the answer yourself. And then reach out with a friendly note to establish contact. But seriously, three cheers to the AirBnB for being an awesome platform – we love it not just for the value in more expensive destinations, but primarily for the local / travel contact.

  • Andrew Wyatt

    This is so interesting as we’ve often stayed in AirB&B places (and we are using the site almost exclusively during our U.S autumn road trip) but we’ve never hosted. We put time and effort into filling out our profile and read descriptions carefully – we only ask questions if there’s something not covered that we need to know about the property. The person complaining about the pillows etc is not someone I’d want staying with me either!

    • http://housetolaos.com/ House To Laos

      Truth about the pillows (!) Also, it’s great to hear that you are using AirBnB for your US trip 🙂 I find that I consult AirBnB first and foremost for any trip in the US and Europe — it’s just a much better value (that, or the hotels are just very expensive).

  • Pillow lover

    Pillows are important.