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How to earn your stars and be a good Airbnb customer

As someone who eschews social media and is loathe to leave online reviews, I make an exception for Airbnb. A public Airbnb profile, with detailed reviews available to all, is a price I’m willing to pay for the opportunity to live like a local when I travel. Consider the giant umbrellas and shearling throw blankets in Muswell Hill, London, high-quality olive oil and Day of the Dead décor in Austin, Texas, and the hand-delivered, daily breakfast crate in Sintra, Portugal. It’s tough to remember hotel extras, pre-Airbnb, that did anything to make trips as memorable. And so, I stay, I review, and most importantly, I strive to be an excellent guest, hoping the host on the other side of a booking request will pick me.

When scrolling through Airbnb rentals available for the right dates at our price point, it’s easy to forget that Airbnb is a two-way street. Sure, some hosts will automatically confirm your reservation, but many want to learn what they can about you, especially if you’re going to stay in their home. Given this, it makes sense to put your best face forward. After all, if it comes down to a choice between two renters, you want to be the one who scores that sweet bungalow in Santa Monica for Labor Day weekend.

When scrolling through Airbnb rentals available for the right dates at our price point, it's easy to forget that Airbnb is a two-way street.

First impressions matter

Whether you're new to Airbnb or a veteran user of the site, maintaining a strong profile is critical. Examine your profile and make sure you come across as responsible and reliable. Does your profile picture inspire confidence that you’ll be a good renter? Consider nixing any photos that are blurry or that block your face—for instance, no sunglasses—or that show how fun and creative you were in the photo booth at your cousin’s Las Vegas wedding. Do you note what line of work you’re in, and whether you travel with a partner or kids. Make sure you share something about yourself that’s memorable (in a good way). These details build connections, especially when a prospective host shares your interests.

When requesting to book, Airbnb suggests noting what you love about the space and who’ll be traveling with you. This is a great place to start, but you can do more. Chances are good that you and your host will be in touch several more times before this rental relationship is over. Your initial communication speaks volumes about how subsequent interactions will play out. As you make your booking request, respond quickly and communicate like a seasoned traveler. You want a host to know that you won’t require hand-holding at check-in or checkout, and that you’re not going to pester them with unreasonable requests during your stay.

Mind the house rules and be a standout guest

When you stay, your goal should be to leave the place exactly as you found it. Literally. If you move magazines from one room to another or patio furniture to a sunnier spot on the lawn, move them back before you leave. If house notes don’t clearly indicate what to do with trash and dirty towels and sheets, ask your host before you depart. Respect checkout times and text the owners when you’ve left so they can send in the cleaning crew. Also: do not pry,

Another way you can stand out as a guest? By giving hosts something they may not always ask for, but should gratefully receive: feedback. Offered with diplomacy, thoughts on what would have made your stay even better can cement your standing as an A+ guest with Airbnb hosts.

Aaron Ely, a property manager with clients who list with Airbnb, notes that guest feedback is hugely valuable, particularly when a concern is voiced while there’s still time for the host to do something about it. Says Ely, “We really love it when guests let us know about things that need attention or where there's room for improvement, especially if they let us know right away and give us a chance to swoop in and make it right. Sometimes it's something that we can resolve quickly, other times it may require ordering a part or trying to get a plumber out on a weekend evening. In those cases, we appreciate guests being understanding and allowing us to do right by them by way of a partial refund or paying for a meal out at a local restaurant while we are at the house dealing with the issue. In a perfect world there would never be an issue during a guest's stay that has a negative impact on their vacation, but in reality, issues will come up occasionally. Communication and tolerance during such times are what make a great guest, as well as a great host.”

"We really love it when guests let us know about things that need attention or where there's room for improvement, especially if they let us know right away and give us a chance to swoop in and make it right." - Aaron Ely

A home away from work

When traveling solo or with family and friends, the question of what kind of guest you are really only matters to the host. After all, your partner already knows you’re cranky without coffee and your friends know you will commandeer the biggest bed. These days, however, your role as “guest” in a shared Airbnb affects a new category of travel companions:

For many of us, crossing over and using Airbnb for work is a no-brainer. Why stay in a sterile hotel environment just because an upcoming trip is for work, not pleasure? While traveling on the company’s dime has always yielded its share of perks (think 4-course steakhouse dinners), many employers today will let employees book unique private rentals. Since Airbnb options are often more affordable than hotels, it can be compelling to stay in a lively neighborhood and skip the more costly, and more boring, airport hotel. And yet, with this enticing new reality comes a host of potential pitfalls.

Since Airbnb options are often more affordable than hotels, it can be compelling to stay in a lively neighborhood and skip the more costly, and more boring, airport hotel.

If your company is the kind that wants to promote team bonding during business trips, a funky SoHo loft may appeal. Staying overnight with coworkers, however, requires some forethought—as too much togetherness can make for an awkward experience. Consider how sharing a space with colleagues will play out in the mornings with respect to shared bathrooms, and at night when coworkers return at different hours. Will your team dine in or cook together? How or when can they grab some alone time by exploring the city solo? The agenda, and house rules or expectations, may need to be clearly laid out beforehand. And what about coworkers who wish to bring along a roommate or romantic partner? At a hotel, this privilege is easily accommodated. In a shared house with connected rooms, creaky floors and only one bathroom? Not so much.

The bottom line

Just because a cozy Airbnb apartment makes you feel like you’re at home, you’re not. Whether you’re traveling with colleagues or staying somewhere alongside your host, simple courtesies such as keeping your bathrobe tightly cinched and your late-night Netflix shows on low volume will make life better for those you’re sharing the space with.

It’s also worth remembering: the Airbnb host community is taking note and posting reviews. Strive to be concise in your communication, ultra-tidy in your habits, and treat house rules and roommates with respect. And the payoff for being the best of guests? You may never sleep in a Days Inn again.