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AirBnB: Please reassure me !

Tim W

100+ Posts
#1
I've been travelling to Italy and other parts of the world for around 18 years (I was a late starter), and have nearly always rented apartments. Thie has been from a mixture of VRBO, Homelidays, Holidayrentals, Homeaway and Tripadvisor. I've nearly always been fortunate, and in that time have only ever had one mediocre experience.

Increasingly, I see people staying at places booked through AirBnB, and looking at listings for our forthcoming trip to Piemonte, there are some great looking places - well within our budget, with numerous, very good reviews. So why am I so nervous about using them?

It seems an irrational thought, but something about the whole website makes me unsure - which is strange because I am not normally an indecisive person.
Please will people chime in to tell me I'm just being silly (or let me know any bad experiences). I at least need some feedback so I can rationally make a decision.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
#2
I’ve been using AirBnB to find places, then booking them on their own websites or booking.com. The latter seems to have better terms like you can reserve without paying a deposit. And you can talk to the owner before booking. But for our Brittany trip I booked two one-week rentals on AirBnB. They were fine and the booking went well.

The thing I like about AirBnB is the way the site works. It is good for searching. I like the reviews but I think people tend to be too positive in their reviews. I know that I was. It is hard to say that the stairs are freaky steep and the upstairs carpet smells when you are know the owner has worked hard to create a place. It is almost like you are reviewing the owner. So read reviews with a grain of salt and read as many of them as you can stand to find any hints of problems.

AirBnB is replacing HomeAway and vrbo and people from those sites are now on AirBnB. Make sure you filter your search to get vacation rentals and not rooms in someone’s house. You can also filter to say it must have a kitchen.
 
#3
I have used Airbnb many times and have always had a positive experience. I read the reviews carefully. I have found that one can email the owner or manager and question them. You just need to dummy book a date. I never use instant book feature.

They also have a way to manage issues that may arise. I did have a disagreement about an issue and was very happy about how Airbnb handled it.
Having said all of this I am a little concerned that they are getting too big
 
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#4
AirBnB is replacing HomeAway and vrbo and people from those sites are now on AirBnB. Make sure you filter your search to get vacation rentals and not rooms in someone’s house.
Why do you say this, Pauline? For our recent AirBnB stays I have specifically sought rooms in someone's house/flat, in order to make sure that a) the money goes into a local person's pocket and b) I'm not helping to distort the local housing market by renting from professional AirBnB hosts. Bonus: we've met some lovely people and got great tips from them on places to go. I'd recommend them in a heartbeat. I will still use apartments for longer stays, but for short stays this is perfect.
 

joe

100+ Posts
#5
Hi Tim - we have used AirBnB on three occasions in cities/towns in Italy, and have never used other rental services. So my experience with sites for vacation rentals is limited. Nonetheless, my experience with the site and the accommodations has been positive enough, to make this the first and only site I check when planning for an urban stay in that country.

The site does have sort of a "Big Brother is watching you" effect : you can't swap any type of contact info with the accommodation (address, e-mail, telephone number), although you can, and are encouraged to, communicate with the host on any other subject.

However, I find that aside from this, everything else is quite user-friendly and functional, as others have mentioned. The info provided is quite comprehensive, and if it isn't, you can e-mail the owner for more details. The search filters are useful - anything from dates and general location to amenities and prices.

As Pauline says, reviews can be questionable, and indeed we do have a tendency to leave over-positive reviews. However, reading reviews is a discipline somewhere between psycho-analysis and the performing arts - the final interpretation is yours. It doesn't matter if you're booking a rental or buying a backpack : you can't afford not to read them, but their value has a limit. In the end, you'll have to trust your common sense and instincts, just remember that both are fallible.

I attach a lot of importance to the photos and the way the owner describes the place. Good and numerous photos (varied ones, not tens of photos of the same vase), plus a detailed and useful description, show that the owner is aware of what people are looking for, and the importance of getting this clearly out in the open.
If the owner mentions any slight negatives - and certainly if he mentions outright issues (noise, mattress on the floor, etc.) - that's a sign that he is honest and that he himself doesn't want the hassle of dealing with complaints.

Remember - it doesn't matter what others like, it's what you want or need. The place can have a great location, price, and free parking, but if you can't ignore a cramped shower, or an uncomfortable sofa-bed instead of a real bed, then the sum of the experience will be less than great.

Others have mentioned here and there that you have to pay much in advance, but I think that's not exact : if I remember correctly, the site "freezes" an amount on your card, but the actual payment is only done after the stay, after both sides have said they're satisfied. Also, each host has different cancellation policies, one of several policies allowed by the site - so check that you're not getting into anything that is problematic for you.

Another thing we've seen is that for us, it's better to use an accommodation that is not the owner's residence during the rest of the week or year. You can usually tell by the photos or the description, what is what. However, this is completely a subjective thing, and others may have positive experiences with this.

The fact that you, as a user, are also reviewed, is in my opinion a reasonable and fair policy, that adds an aspect of responsibility and honesty to the model.

I like AirBnB. They have shaken the industry and provided tourists with a good alternative. It's true that one of the negative outcomes of their success has been a big rise in short-term rentals in residential parts of popular towns and cities, sometimes to the (great) anger of the locals. Increased regulation will help mitigate this to an extent, as is happening already today in some popular cities.

I'd say take the jump, indeed you have nothing really to worry about, at least nothing that couldn't happen booking a hotel or using any other rental site.
 
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jan

100+ Posts
#7
I had never used AirBnB before this last trip (Spring 2018) We atayed a week in one in Reggio Emilia and 5 nights in one in Torino. It is strange that you can't communicate directly until you have paid. I agree about the reviews being pretty PolyAnnaish (is that a word?) but both of those Italian rentals worked out fine for us.
We actually just rented and AirBnB in Miami, a block from our son's tiny house and that was just easy and fine. We never saw the owner. He emailed me the lockbox code the morning of our check in and told us where to leave the keys when we left.
 
#8
I've rented from Mexico to Australia. I love being in neighborhoods. I also try to to rent from locals who only have 1 or 2 properties and avoid those who rent by the night and try to get super host properties. I have used Airbnb for several days up to 1 month. No disappointments to date.
 

Mark

10+ Posts
#9
Others have mentioned here and there that you have to pay much in advance, but I think that's not exact : if I remember correctly, the site "freezes" an amount on your card, but the actual payment is only done after the stay, after both sides have said they're satisfied. Also, each host has different cancellation policies, one of several policies allowed by the site - so check that you're not getting into anything that is problematic for you.
That is not my experience I currently have have 7 house/apartments stays booked though AirBnB over the next three months. Each one I had to pay either in full or a partial payment and the transaction is immediate.

I have 6 previous stays over the past few years and never had a problem. I moved over from VRBO and Homeaway due to the increase in their fees while AirBnB fees seem more reasonable
 

joe

100+ Posts
#11
That is not my experience I currently have have 7 house/apartments stays booked though AirBnB over the next three months. Each one I had to pay either in full or a partial payment and the transaction is immediate.
You're right about that Mark, I didn't remember correctly. What happens is that you, the guest, are charged immediately with the reservation, but the payment is withheld from the host until 24 hours after the hosting ended.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
#13
I’ve seen some listings where you cannot contact the owner with questions until you book. But most let you ask a few questions.

I don’t avoid someone who has several listings. Agencies now put their properties on AirBnB, and some local agencies are good to deal with. You can usually figure out who they are and then go to their website. Or they may own a few places because they have built up a business doing this. For example the place we rented in Antibes is one of six houses owned by a couple who buy properties and turn them into fabulous rentals.

I mentioned filtering on entire house only above because I assumed the original poster was looking for vacation rentals, not a B&B type stay.
 
#14
I booked on AirBnB twice and was not disappointed. I think what is important to mention, that you should only make payments through the website as AirBnB recommends in order to avoid scammers.
 

Amy

100+ Posts
#16
I've had only positive experiences using AirBnB. I very carefully look at the photos, descriptions and reviews, and always communicate with the owners with specific questions before booking. Note that you can search the reviews for specific concerns re: noise, wifi, stairs, etc. After my stay I leave detailed, descriptive reviews regarding cleanliness, surroundings, any issues. I also immediately inform the owners if we encounter any problems or shortcomings so he can address them.
 
#17
I have had positive experience with Airbnb apartments in several countries.I have booked in several cities in Croatia,Italy,Argentina.Most of the time they match the description & Photos
listed on the site.Also check the reviews from previous renter.You can fairly get the idea if the place is right for you or not.
 
#19
All this talk of Air B&B is making want to book through them for my next trip. I had avoided it for quite some time but maybe my fears are unfounded. I had always booked through Booking.com or the hotel directly.

Can you usually find apartments that are available for two weeks on Air B&B? I am toying with the idea of staying in one place on my next trip to Italy.
 

joe

100+ Posts
#20
Can you usually find apartments that are available for two weeks on Air B&B? I am toying with the idea of staying in one place on my next trip to Italy.
I'm sure there are apt. owners that would be happy to rent out for two weeks to the same person, especially if the apt. is not their residence - even though some owners are willing to vacate their place and make other arrangements for themselves, if it means an opportunity to earn some money.
Very simple to check your question - put your dates in the search filter, in the location that interests you, and see what the results are. Most likely you'll get many hits, if the dates are far enough away, or not in the high season.
 

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