A thorough review of the airbnb.com advertising services & website

With all the talk you’ve heard about people posting their vacation rentals up on Airbnb.com, you’re just about ready to give them a try.

But before you decide take the plunge, we’ve put together this detailed review of their website and vacation rental advertising services, for the sole reason of giving you the information you need to help make your decision.

And if you have any personal experience you’d like to share, or maybe some questions you’d like answered, feel free to post them in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Enjoy!

Airbnb homepage screenshot

A short intro the AirBnB website and services

Airbnb was founded in 2008, is based in San Francisco, and is now one of most successful and fast growing vacation rental websites today. Their newest evaluation topped out at a whopping 10 BILLION dollars! From the looks of it, they aren’t slowing down anytime soon.

A large portion of Airbnb’s success and popularity is due to the strong emphasis they hold on trust and security. With profile verification & review system, a secure payment platform, and a $900,000 Host Guarantee, it’s no wonder their community is growing as fast as it is.


Listing your properties on AirBnB

Listing a property is completely free and fairly simple. Upon signing up and creating an account, hosts can list any type and any number of properties as well as any and all provisions related to them. 

One of the company’s goals is to provide excellent and unique accommodations at any price point, so everything from a shipping container to a castle is a valid property. Hosts also have the added option of sharing a space instead of renting one out completely, giving both parties more freedom and opportunity for a truly a unique experience at any budget. 

As a host, you choose how much to charge per night, week, or month, and can even choose to charge a security deposit. 

Hosts are entirely in charge of their own listings. They decide who stays and when, and can use their calendar to specify when the property is available.

Features

Free to list

While it is completely free to list your properties on Airbnb, once listed, there are transaction fees that are absorbed by both host and guest once a booking is confirmed.

Hosts can expect to pay a simple 3% transaction fee, while guests usually pay a 6-12% service fee on top of your listed price.

Host Guarantee

The company offers a Host Guarantee, which is a form of insurance that covers up to $900,000 – with some restrictions, and it is one of the largest coverage plans out there right now.
 

Free professional photography

As an added perk, hosts have the option of a free professional photography session in order to give the listing that polished look and really make their listing pop. 


iPhone App

Hosts are also supported by an iPhone app as well as an SMS option, in order to stay on top of guest messages and requests. 

Since part of the listing rank depends on the consistency of host replies, this is an excellent use of technology to keep hosts connected to the site at all times. (We’ll explain this in more detail a little below)
 

Secure payment platform

Guests pay through a secure platform on Airbnb when they book a vacation rental. 

Hosts can also specify how they’d like to be paid, though Airbnb supports all major forms of payment, including major credit cards, paypal, and even checks in certain countries. 

The only downside is that funds are usually withheld until 24 hours after your guest has checked in. But this does give both parties the time to do a walkthrough of the rental upon check-in and make sure everything is as expected. 

On the other hand, hosts can charge security deposits, whereas you have 48 hours after checkout to claim it. But if a host decides claim on it, Airbnb will step in to mediate and collect the payment from the guest as they see fit. 
 

Property Ranking Factors

The rankings for your vacation rental on Airbnb depend on a mixed set of factors. The website breaks them down into three areas: quality of listing (profile and listing completion), ease of booking, and guest preference (reviews). 

Really though, it comes all down to consistent activity, trust and networking. Hosts are encouraged to verify any and all personal information, with each verification counting as a boost. 

It’s also important to remain active, keeping your listing looking professional and up-to-date (which is where the free photographer comes in handy). 

Response time is a plays a big factor in your ranking as well. As a result, owners should reply to all messages within 24 hours at the latest. 

One unique factor Airbnb uses to rank your property is their Social Media factor. Basically, because many people verify their social media profiles with Airbnb, the more social connections a host has, the more likely they will be to show up in search results related to those friends and acquaintances.

And last but not least, your ratio of acceptances to declines and cancellations will also affect the rank. Hosts have the option of turning on the Instant Book feature, which auto-accepts bookings and also bumps up their rank.
 

What Travellers Are Saying

The Good

Airbnb provides a unique experience, in that it offers such a wide array of unique property types. 

A traveller can choose to share a space or rent their own, and with 800,000 listings to choose from, they can find exactly what suits their budget. 

The atmosphere of the website is definitely younger, with a huge emphasis on social media and adventure. It makes it inviting and easy to use for just about anybody. 

Airbnb also offers a bit of protection by holding the booking fee for 24 hours after the booking date. It’s still automated, but does offer a bit of a cushion if accommodations aren’t up to par.
 

The Bad

Airbnb, like most marketplace websites, takes a cut of each transaction. The number quoted on the website is for hosts at 3%, but travelers can expect to pay up to 12% in fees alone. 

That means the price being quoted to buyers and sellers can be different, setting up somewhat of a barrier in communication and cause confusion. With that said, the website will calculate the total cost of booking for the traveller.

Moreover, for more traditional travellers or business people, sharing space might not always be ideal. It’s important for guests to read listings in their entirety to ensure that they’re renting the right type of property. It happens where guests think they’re getting a steal, only to realize that they haven’t booking a full property but in fact just a room. Ouch!

Another popular complain among Airbnb travellers are that cancellations seems to be a hassle, with the traveller having to absorb a fee, and sometimes being unable to recoup any money at all. And trying to solve these kinds of problems with customer service doesn’t seem to be a walk in the park…

And which brings us to our next point; travellers have been very vocal about their views on Airbnb’s review system and customer support. There are many claims that Airbnb will not post negative reviews, and when trying to solve monetary problems like refunds, support is borderline non-existent. All of which completely goes against their corporate philosophy of transparency, togetherness, and trust. 


What owners are saying about listing their properties on AirBnB

The good

AirBnB seems to work best for people looking to fill space for shorter periods of time and who are fairly active with social media. They encourage social media activity and they rank properties higher that use it. More social = more bookings; a feature many younger hosts like very much.

In response to many of the bad reviews and horror stories out there, many owners have found that Airbnb has been their one and only vacation rental advertising site.

You can see from many reviews out there that many people have made a lot of money on the website, and continue to do so every year.

The Bad

The Host Guarantee is great, but it does have it’s fair share criticism. It has been the center of a few very popular news stories (sample) and it also has some pretty note worthy limitations that need to be considered; It doesn’t cover cash, jewelry, collectibles, rare artwork, pets, or personal liability, and they do encourage securing or removing any valuable personal items before leaving the property. 

Another problem area that often arises with owners is their payment system.  With payments being performed by AirBnb, hosts are basically at their mercy and that is a difficult pill for many vacation rental owners to swallow. There are some pretty bad horror stories out there involving payment/refund issues so owners be wary.

The most popular complaint from Airbnb hosts is poor customer service. The lack of response to owner issues is a common reoccurrence, and with good reason too.

The grand conclusion

The consensus about AirBnB is mostly great. Why else would they be growing so quickly? But that's not to say they don't have few major issues to address.

But when you really think about it, the issues they face are by no means a universal occurrence. With over 800,000 properties listed, and only a few hundred bad reviews spread across the Internet, it really isn’t a bad ratio.

Many people have had their issues resolved in a timely fashion, and in many cases both parties have been able to resolve issues on their own. So the chances of running into huge problems are pretty slim.

Another important note is that many of the complaints AirBnb is seeing are pretty much the same industry wide. In other words, they fall short where most others do as well.

The vacation rental industry is a very personal industry, and moreover so should be the booking process. Booking a vacation rental property is not as simple as booking a hotel room online, and therefore should not be reduced to it’s simplicity.

Each vacation rental property is unique, and so are the policies of their owners. Most issues can be easily avoided by simply taking logical precaution such as thorough communication and doing your due diligence when verifying your guests and confirming bookings.

While Airbnb provides many of options for hosts to protect their homes and their reputations, there is also currently nothing stopping you from going an extra step or two and requiring an extra rental agreement to be signed before confirming the booking.

In conclusion, considering they are one of the most popular vacation rental websites in the world today, AirBnB is definitely worth a try. As far as free advertising goes, there probably isn’t a better option out there.


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References:
http://www.airbnb.com
https://www.airbnb.ca/help/article/39
http://blog.airbnb.com/hosting-101-your-response-rate/
https://www.airbnb.com/about/about-us
http://blogs.findlaw.com/law_and_life/2013/06/top-5-airbnb-home-rental-horror-stories.html
https://www.airbnb.ca/help/article/262
http://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/032814/pros-and-cons-using-airbnb.asp?performancelayout=true
http://gizmodo.com/5918204/read-these-tips-or-nobody-will-ever-let-you-be-an-airbnb-guest-again
https://ca.trustpilot.com/review/www.airbnb.com
https://www.airbnb.ca/help/article/51
https://www.airbnb.ca/help/article/140

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