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Reviews are extremely important to an Airbnb host. They are the major factor that contributes to guests booking a stay, and they hold much more sway than a description or even a photo provided by a host.
We all have to start somewhere, so you shouldn’t automatically discount someone based on lack of reviews alone. However, there are some additional precautions you should take in order to make sure you book a reputable listing.
Should I be Concerned that an Airbnb Host has no Reviews? Not Necessarily, but You’ll Also Need to…
- Look for detailed photos and descriptions
- Cross-reference other websites
- Contact them
- Use your judgment
Read below for some detailed tips and tricks on how to avoid suspicious listings on Airbnb.
Look For Detailed Photos and Descriptions
Descriptions can be faked, but not believably and definitely not easily. It is harder than you’d think to come up with paragraphs worth of detailed information about a made up (or greatly embellished) house.
Be on the lookout for inconsistencies in the listing. As we mentioned, specifics are hard to fake and extremely easy to spot when inconsistent. How does the host describe the atmosphere of the rental? How many rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.
Do they include a floorplan in the photos? This is one of the most obvious ways to spot a fake. If the exterior photo of the house looks completely inconsistent with the floorplan or description, it probably is!
In that same vein, are all the photos of the exterior of the rental? Just the interior? Just one room? These are all big red flags. They could be images pulled from the internet, or they could be hiding the rest of the home intentionally.
Check Out This Rental Recon Article: Airbnb Essentials: 75+ Items Every Host Should Have For Guests
Cross-Reference Other Websites
Many Airbnb hosts cross-list their rentals on other sites like VRBO and HomeAway. If you search for similar criteria on these websites, can you find the same listing? If not, this does not necessarily mean that the listing isn’t real.
However, if you do find the same rental you’ll definitely want to dig deeper. If there are any reviews on another website, check them out. Also check for other pictures or details. If all of the websites have no reviews and the same vague photos and information, that’s a sign that you may be dealing with a scammer.
A great feature of Airbnb is that you can contact the host prior to booking a listing. Use this opportunity to ask lots of questions, particularly centered around whether they are new to hosting. If they continue to be non-descriptive or cannot provide satisfactory answers, don’t book with them.
Use Your Judgement
If you’re reading this article, you have most likely been considering staying with a host who has no reviews. Again, this is by no means guaranteed to be a bad situation. However, trust your gut and never go somewhere that you aren’t comfortable.
If you’re concerned about your money in the event of a scam, read up on how Airbnb payments work. Airbnb is usually very good about refunding money in the case of extenuating circumstances such as someone misrepresenting themselves.
If you’ve already booked but are getting cold feet, Airbnb does have a somewhat strict guest refund and cancellation policy. Cancelling can reflect negatively on your rating, and sometimes (depending on the terms of your booking) you may not get all your money back. However, this should not deter you if you feel unsafe or wary of your host or the listing itself.
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Can you get scammed through Airbnb?
While unlikely and uncommon, scammers exist everywhere (especially online). There are some simple steps you can take to screen out potentially sketchy listings and protect yourself from being scammed.
Beware of listings with very few photos and especially photos of the same things. This means that the host might be hiding something, or their listing isn’t real. In fact, just a year ago a British couple were scammed out of over $12,000 by a listing for a too-good-to-be-true vacation home that didn’t even exist!
Very short and vague descriptions are another red flag, as are multiple cancellations and prices that seem unbelievably good. Always use your judgement and don’t be afraid to ask questions!
How do I contact an Airbnb host without booking?
It’s actually really simple. Just find the listing for the host you’re interested in, click on Contact Host, and fill out the questions it asks you. You aren’t committing to anything, and most hosts are very responsive via the Airbnb messaging system. Look here for more detailed directions.
Airbnb doesn’t share hosts phone numbers or email addresses prior to booking for safety and privacy reasons. Once you’ve booked, however, you’ll be given more immediate access to your host.