Pros and Cons of Airbnb: Host’s Viewpoint

 

Airbnb can be a good website to use for either saving money while you travel or earning some extra cash. For six months we listed our spare bedroom in Dublin on Airbnb to make extra euros for travel. During that time we had guests from England, Scotland, Estonia, Poland, Ireland and Germany share our living space. We’ve had both positive and negative experiences using Airbnb as hosts and guests.  Here are some pros and cons of Airbnb, with tips on getting a better experience on using this service for staying or hosting.

Pros of Airbnb

Saving Money – If you’re willing to share a strangers apartment you’re going to save some cash over staying in a hotel. The savings per night might not be massive but it definitely adds up. To get the most out of Airbnb, compare apartments listed to equivalent hotel listings in the area of your choice. We often find that booking.com offers the best deals. On a side note, we’ve seen a lot of innovative booking sites being touted lately, but the gimmicks are generally exactly that. In any event, compare how much you’ll save and weigh whether sacrificing some privacy is worth it to you.



Booking.com

Kitchen Access – If you use Airbnb, you’ll usually have access to a kitchen, which can also save you money. Though you should read the hosts guidelines on use of their kitchen, like whether or not you’re allowed to cook your own meals. When we host, in addition to complimentary tea, coffee and continental breakfast, we provide guests with full access to our kitchen. This means they have some fridge space and can cook meals (though the rules are that they have to clean up after themselves). On short stays, we’ve found that guests typically don’t cook. But on stays of 5-7 nights, guests will cook up a couple meals to save money.

Bordeaux sausage varieties, 5 must things to Eat in Bordeaux

 

A More Local Experience – Staying in an apartment is a great way to experience a city, and for some places, websites like only-apartments or GoWithOh are good options for having a city apartment all to yourself. It doesn’t get much more authentic than shopping in markets and bringing fresh local ingredients back to your place to whip up a nice meal (outside of taking employment!). Additionally, part of your hosts job on Airbnb is to insure you have a comfortable stay and they should have some great recommendations for eating out and using public transport. Some hosts even provide hot breakfasts or give the option to pay extra and they’ll bring a hot breakfast to your room.

People use Airbnb for various reasons. We had one guest who stayed Monday through Friday while on a business trip and we barely saw him. He never touched anything in the kitchen so all he shared was our bathroom. In some hotels you share a bathroom anyway, and our spare bedroom is listed for the same price or cheaper than a private room in a Dublin hostel, and our spare room is nicer than a hostel room!

Want to make money renting out a spare room or save cash when you travel? Sign up for Airbnb here and you’ll receive $40 of Airbnb travel credit towards your first stay! 

Cons of Airbnb

Airbnb holds guests money for longer than they should – When people transfer money through the Airbnb system, the money is always held until after the guest checks in, or if the host denies or cancels the reservation. In the event of a cancellation, Airbnb can take 2-3 days to refund the money to a guests bank account. We absolutely hate this about Airbnb and it’s one reason why we don’t use the site to stay when we travel ourselves. For travellers on a tight budget, having money held for several days can ruin a travel experience. Read this nightmare Airbnb story on Budget Traveler.

A professional host should keep their Airbnb calendar up to date, but at the end of the day they make mistakes and the host has the discretion to accept or deny any request to stay in their house. Always email a potential host to ask whether you can stay, rather than just making a booking based on their calendar being open. We personally don’t accept guests that don’t already have positive reviews, or seem like they are planning to move to Dublin (unfortunately we had a bad experience with this as we found ourselves too caught up in our guests drama for a whole week while they searched for jobs and a permanent apartment while being extremely unorganized).

 

Shared apartment living room, airbnb
Our former living room in Dublin, which we shared on Airbnb

 

Sacrificing Some Privacy – This goes for whether you’re a guest or a host. While you can have a private bedroom you’re often sharing a bathroom and if you want to cook in the kitchen you may have to negotiate times with your host. When we host we usually don’t cook at home much, using Airbnb as an excuse to either eat out or just grab some easy takeaway. This also allows the guest to have access to cook in our kitchen if they wish, but every host is different. Again, if you’re hosting, it’s part of your job to make your guests feel comfortable and welcome. We personally feel this means giving them some space in the kitchen and living room, if they want that, and communicating well about the expectations. 

Hosts Can Cancel Last Minute – If a host does this they better have a good excuse. We’ve never cancelled on any guest whom we already accepted their booking. That would both be unprofessional and unfair. Again, Airbnb holds guests money and they don’t have good customer service for finding people an alternative accomodation if a host cancels on them. Airbnb needs to do a better job with this.

Personal Experiences with using Airbnb to Stay

We’ve now had some great experiences staying in Airbnb’s around the world, like the one pictured above in Tarpon Springs, Florida to celebrate my father’s 90th birthday. When we’ve used Airbnb to stay, we’ve always booked private apartments. Budget travelers will save cash by booking just a room.

When we were younger, we both hosted and stayed through couchsurfing and had some fantastic experiences. But as the mainstream media began advertising couchsurfing as a “free place to stay” the website began drawing a freeloader element that doesn’t understand that in lieu of exchanging money, the website is about exchanging cultural experiences. Airbnb can have an element of cultural exchange, which we really liked as hosts, but the exchange of money naturally created different expectations. As a host, you have an obligation to be more flexible with your paying guests.

Biggest Tip for Guests –  Check the hosts reviews very carefully. Make sure they have a lot of consistently good reviews. Also, read the hosts rules and follow them.

Biggest Tip for Hosts – Be professional and accommodating to your guests. They’re paying money to stay! And along with checking their reviews you may also want to ask guests requesting a week’s stay what the purpose of their visit will be. It’s your house so you have the right to ask before accepting a booking. If they plan to move to your city understand that the dynamic is very different to someone who is just visiting as tourist to have a good time. Be prepared for this should you choose to accept the booking.

Disclosure: This article contains some affiliate links. We receive a small commission when you book or sign up through these links and it costs you nothing extra. When it suits you, please use them, as it helps us help you!

12 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of Airbnb: Host’s Viewpoint

  1. I have used AirBnB to stay at a few places. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s a great way to find cheaper accommodation. I don’t have any space to offer as a rental right now, but I can see myself doing this in the future.

    1. Hi Deia! Thanks for commenting on your experiences with the service. Yeah we feel there’s some things Airbnb could do better customer service wise for people using the site to stay. Possibly for hosts too, but knock on wood we haven’t had any serious issues with guests where we’ve needed to contact them. Happy travels! 🙂

    2. It seems to be a good system with more places available than traditional hotels and at a slightly lower price. However the verification for getting a rental is NOT user friendly. Not all people use social media and although I was able to get the photo of my drivers license taken properly I was not able to find the means of submitting/uploading the short video as my second verification. Maybe I got sent to the provider side of the website. NO help available by phone- I guess that’s too 20th century and might require hiring some people or possibly there was a phone number hidden away as some companies tend to do. Anyway, gave up trying to get a rental which, sadly, looked like a nice place in a good neighborhood.

      1. Thanks for sharing your Airbnb experience, w. barnes. Really sorry to read this. It’s unfortunate that the company doesn’t seem to have stepped up its efforts in the customer service realm given they are spending a lot more on marketing these days- they run ads on American TV now.

        Airbnb can be a really mutually beneficial service at its best, but at its worst it’s a headache. We’ve heard others complain about Airbnb’s limited customer service. Thanks again for sharing.

  2. Airbnb definitely has a lot of pros and cons and your personal experience write-up is helpful to those looking to rent or rent-out space during travels. I have a different take to report. My wife and I used Airbnb once to rent an entire apartment (not just a room) in Vienna for a week-long stay. We have used VRBO, HomeAway, and holidaylettings (from TripAdvisor) to rent out apartments in the past and decided to give Airbnb a try to see how it compares.

    Our preference is to rent an apartment to live like a local and never to share it with the owners. So the sharing and privacy aspect is not an issue for us. There is one important factor to mention. In many cases apartments listed on Airbnb are lived in by people who are just out of town. Therefore you are living in someone else’s apartment while they are not home. This may feel a bit uncomfortable if you are used to hotels and dedicated holiday lets in Europe. The other rental sites list most holiday homes which are more like serviced apartments. Therefore you get a well-stocked and located furnished apartment without someone’s personal belongings in every room. Airbnb does not have a search filter for “owner-occupied” versus “holiday rental” so you have to ask.

    Since Airbnb charges the renter a service fee (as opposed to the owner) which can be quite high, it can sometimes seem more expensive than the other options. The advantage is you can exchange payment securely. It pays to search several holiday letting sites since the inventory varies though some owners list in multiple places. Regardless of which site you choose, renting a whole apartment still saves money versus a hotel and offers a unique opportunity to live in a neighborhood like a local.

    -Scott, VacationCounts – Take More Vacation Time Off

    1. Thanks for the comment and great tips, Scott. You’re right, sometimes the owners on Airbnb will be away and you will have the place to yourself, but it isn’t a holiday apartment- it’s just someones house. And yes there is no Airbnb filter for people who are away or not, which is annoying. Bell and I are frequently away and have debated on whether we should open our home to people with good reviews while we are away. Ultimately, we’ve decided that this isn’t something we feel comfortable with.

      A couple months ago we were in Malaysia for 3 weeks, so if we wanted to have our apartment available for multiple occupancies we would have had to have someone managing our apartment- handing out keys, cleaning and changing sheets, etc. We should have included this in the post- for people who want to let their home while away, find a good friend who can manage your place and share a negotiated percentage of the money you earn with them. Also, you can change your calendar on Airbnb to have different prices, and you would set a higher price for your apartment if the occupants have the place to themselves.

      As you mentioned, it’s good to check out multiple sites, we’ve used only-apartments in the past to rent an entire apartment to ourselves. We’ve done this in Lisbon, Porto, Budapest and Krakow. All were positive experiences (some homey, some holiday letting style) and we felt a bit more like a local during our stay than in a hotel. Thanks again and cheers!

  3. this is over a year old, but I have been using Air BnB and VRBO for a while now. And to be honest, I’ve started to switch back to hotel rooms and places run by a management group. I have lucked out a couple times and have had some amazing places to stay. However, being a socially introverted person that wants to take a vacation with little to no interaction with “hosts”….I have found that most AirBnB places are awkwardly close to the owners. I paid BIG BUCKS to stay in a “private” cabin with a hot tub on a river. the photos made it look like a resort from a magazine. When we got there, the owners home was literally FEET away from the cabin, and the owners had no shame in walking around the yard as my husband and I tried to have a romantic night in the hot tub. It was most awkward and I was not pleased. When our brother came over, they stood on the porch and stared at us and we tried to enjoy the river from the patio. Since then, and several other similar but not so dramatic situations, I prefer to give my money to resorts and other places where one person is not solely invested.

    1. That’s a really awkward situation! Yeah, it all depends what you’re looking for but it’s a shame your privacy was invaded like that.

      Over a year later, we still don’t use Airbnb to stay. We always support small businesses when possible- especially when it comes to restaurants. But as our travels typically revolve around business and a little pleasure, we normally stay in major hotel chains these days, but sometimes in a small family run hotel for the pleasure part.

      We recently stayed in a family run hotel in Tennessee that had a hot tub that we enjoyed for a romantic evening. And yes, it was nice to not have the owners walking around just outside!

  4. Last min cancellation
    Absolute rubbish. this dude cancelled mine and everyone else’s bookings 2 days before my flight. Because the booking was over super-peak period and for 8 nights, it’s been hell trying to find a decently priced accommodation at such short notice. Here is his sob story: “We are very sorry that we have to cancel your reservation as we now have legal problem with the house rent. We were inspected by police for illegal house rent to tourists. Honestly, we have been caught 2 times before for illegal rent to tourists and this morning we were caught for 3rd time.
    So, the house is being closed by police now and we cannot accommodate you anymore.
    If we rent house, we will be jailed…. hope you may understand our situation…..
    We don’t know how to say sorry about the cancellation and hope you can quickly find another place for your stay in seoul….. so so sorry……
    Regards,
    Kate and Jason”

    I’m half decided to expose his full details online – but I need to cool down first!
    AirBnB had better find some better way for poor users to flag rotten apples and receive feedback…. but this will be my last time on such a rubbish service.

    1. Sorry to hear about your bad experience, Ron. Thanks for sharing. What city was this??

      That sounds bad. As these people were caught twice before for illegally renting their place they should not have put it back up on Airbnb. Of course, they may have been desperate for the money. Either way, it wasn’t fair to your party and Airbnb should have provided some recourse in this situation. We’ve heard their customer service has gotten better. You called their 24 hour number and they couldn’t find another place for you?

    1. Thanks for your comment St John. Is there an alternative to Airbnb that you prefer? Over the years the cost of Airbnb has gone up slightly as the service has gained in popularity, but it can still be better value than hotels when you book with professional hosts that have a lot of good reviews.

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