How to find a great Airbnb listing by reading reviews
Understanding how Reviews really work
Finding a good Airbnb that’s right for you can sometimes feel daunting. Airbnb listings can range from luxury homes with great perks to crazy ass nightmares. I know, I’ve rented both. But when it comes to figuring out how to actually read ‘between the lines’ of an online review, it can be difficult. It turns out that homeowners can literally loose their shit if you leave even a slightly bad review. Therefore, guest are getting more and more nervous about saying anything that may remotely sound like a bad experience on a review. So how do you figure out if a place is right for you when all the reviews are good and passive? I’m going to do my best to help guide you through on how to read a review on Airbnb before you book your next rental with them.
When searching for the perfect airbnb, I find a few listings that I really like and then I head to the reviews to see what people are saying about the property, the home itself, and the owners/hosts.
I don’t know about you, but when I see a listing that has 4.7 or more out of 5 stars it sets off an alarm. That kind of score is almost unheard of for most hotels. The average rating on hotels is 3.9 out of 5 stars – and that’s often with more than 100 reviews! Really? Then what the hell is going on with Airbnb reviews?
Many people suspect there’s a psychological thing going on with guests and hosts. Some people might feel bad leaving a negative review (I’ve had friends tell me this) because they think that many hosts are using Airbnb to supplement their income so they don’t want to leave any negative feedback. Even when it could help the hosts in the future with more bookings!
I know some people are hesitant to write a negative review because they are afraid of repercussions. Recently, at a place we were staying in Mexico, the last guest before us wrote a review (we did not see this until we were already staying at the location) that I felt was kind and extremely light on any sort of real negativity. However, the guest did mention some ‘small’ issue with a toilet not working and the noise of construction nearby. Yet, the guest still said she enjoyed her stay and would ‘recommend’ the listing.
Unfortunately, the homeowner lost her shit and responded with a long list of defensiveness that was not only insulting to the guest, but also included all the issues and problems the area has – as if it was not her fault! In other words, she completely shot herself and her listing in the foot since not only would this guest not come back, but she will not be recommending this place to anyone else either. Adding a cherry right on top of this response, the owner is now giving future guests the impression that the area sucks and she’s a crazed person who can’t stand having lodgers.
Just to be clear, we’re not talking about ’scathing’ reviews here folks. I’m talking about people clearly being helpful to the homeowner for improvements and to help the next poor schmuck that rents the place. A simple heads-up is always a good thing for the next guest.
In any case, since ratings on the website are so high, it’s even more important to have a critical eye when reading these reviews.
HOW TO READ AND UNDERSTAND AIRBNB REVIEWS
Here are a few recommendations on not only how to interpret a review, but how to find out more about the location and the host.
MAKE SURE YOU READ THE ENTIRE LISTING
Check out the description the best you can. Hosts will often tell the truth (but not always) about their particular property to avoid bad reviews later. I noticed our last host emailed me back to say she wanted to make sure I knew there was not an actual ocean view – though her listing never said it did- but I have to assume she had trouble in the past with other guests about this misunderstanding. It seems that if she’s had issues before that it is only fair that she actually state in her listing that there is not an ocean view.
Also look for descriptions like, “located in a busy neighborhood,” as this could indicate that it might be a bit noisy.
TAKE GREAT REVIEWS WITH A GRAIN OF SALT
When I read how a place is “the best ever” or is a “perfect apartment” I have to stand back and think about this. Is that possible? Could this really be the “perfect” apartment? This is when I’ll go deeper and read every review as best as I can. In many cases, you will start hearing small truths come out in very polite ways. “Best stay ever… even with their cute dog who jumps on you all the time”. Or, “I loved this rustic place! It’s close to the city center and we met many other nice guests”. This can also mean that it’s not very modern or maybe clean and of course can refer to being noisy with traffic, barking dogs, and possibly other loud guests.
AVOID ASSHOLE HOSTS
This is a big flag for me. Because a host can reply to a guest review publicly, sometimes these ‘responses’ can really indicate what kind of person the host might be and how they may behave during your stay. Like I mentioned earlier, a recent host went ballistic on this other guest because of the benign review she left. If I had read the homeowners response before booking, I’m pretty sure I would not have booked our stay there. I too wanted to write some important feedback about our stay (in another apartment nearby) but now we are terrified to do so in fear of being attacked by the host. When a homeowner writes a thank you for feedback and is happy and respectful with a guests suggestions, that’s the host I want to stay with.
IF YOU HAVE SPECIAL NEEDS – LET YOUR HOST KNOW
Airbnb offers lodging for all types of travelers and not every place if for every body. My husband and I are digital nomads and our needs maybe very different from someone on vacation. We require fast internet speed to get our work done. We’re also home most of the day, so noise can be an issue for us. However, many people using airbnb are on holiday and are out each day exploring and being active. Therefore daytime noise (like construction) may not be a problem. Maybe the host hasn’t mentioned what floor the room is on and you can’t walk up 5 flights of stairs each day. If you can’t figure out from the listing if a place fits your needs, contact the host first and see if they will be honest with you. This can avoid a lot of confusion and issues later.
KNOW HOW TO UNDERSTAND ‘REAL’ PROBLEMS IN AN AIRBNB REVIEW
Some people just want to complain about anything. Stuff that clearly doesn’t matter when it comes to renting a property short term. If someone doesn’t like the paintings on the wall, or the kind of cups that were provided, then you know this is just someone being a little too needy. However, if the toilet stops working or the internet goes down and no one will fix it, then obviously, these issues can be a real concern.
There are also things that happen that are outside the homeowners control. Like when a place might lose power, or the washing machine breaks. I find it’s how the owner handles and takes care of these things that really matters to me. A couple years ago we were in Bali and the airbnb rental we were staying in suddenly lost power. This can be a common occurrence in Bali. It was extremely hot at the time and we had rented this particular place because it had air conditioning. The owner quickly brought us a floor fan and ran an extension cord from another location (with power) to accommodate us as best as they could. Yes, it was a bummer we didn’t have power and A/C for a day, but the owner did the best they could for us at the time. So, when reading a review, try to decipher if the host is responsive when issues do come up. In the example in Bali, reading a review about the power issue would indicate a good host.
MAKE SURE THE REVIEWS YOU ARE READING IS A RECENT REVIEW
Things change. So the construction nearby written in a review from last year hopefully is finished by now. The barking dog that keep guests awake all night in a review from 2 years ago – may have gone off to live at a farm somewhere far away. Just make sure you are reading the most current reviews and if you’re not sure, again contact the host to find out if that issue has been resolved.
IF YOU DO SEE A BAD REVIEW, DO SOME MORE INVESTIGATING
Like I mentioned before, some people are just natural complainers and you can never please them. You can click on a person’s profile to see more of these reviews and if they regularly leave bad reviews for their hosts. Also you can see what other hosts have said about them. If they are just a pain in the ass to everyone they stay with, I wouldn’t take much weight into what they have to say about the place I may want to book.
In the same way, I will regularly go to the hosts profile to see their other listings and check their reviews there as well.
In the end, as always, use your gut and your instincts when it comes to all these things. If a place looks too good to be true, it might be. Hopefully, Airbnb will start allowing guests to post their own photos of the home and figure out ways to help people leave constructive feedback for others.
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