There have recently been a number of stories about the Sharing Economy, and the leader in this growing travel space is Airbnb. (Read more at the end of this article). It’s a trend, but is it meant for everyone? Is it meant for you? I wanted to find out if it was meant for me.
I wasn’t familiar with Airbnb, until speaking with a friend who had just returned from two weeks in Europe. She showed me photos of where she stayed in Paris, and I became excited about the possibilities,but thought, that was Paris. What types of properties will I find here in the United States? Am I ready to stay in someone’s home?
Airbnb is easy to navigate; but after spending a bit of time on the site, I discovered a few things that I could do that would help me get closer to what I wanted for my vacation. Most of the properties are ones that people are using for investment purposes. They range from the basic to the extravagant. It was fun to look at the pictures, but first I had to determine, where I wanted to go. I selected Montreal.
The inventory of properties that the site displayed for Montreal was tremendous. The best thing about Airbnb is that you are getting a lot more space, (in my case an entire apartment) for less than the cost of one night stay in a good hotel. The excitement started to build. I must have spent a couple of hours on the site. I was like a kid with a new toy, moving about the site, looking at the pictures and imaging myself in the location. After almost wearing myself out, I settled upon a modern apartment with a garden. The idea of a garden just seemed too good to pass up. I could envision myself having morning coffee, and drinks in the evening. That’s the magic of Airbnb. They sell the “fantasy” of where you are going to be staying. If this works out, who knows, it may be difficult for me to go back to a stodgy hotel. Actually, not really. I still need access to a great restaurant, spa and a golf course. But using the sharing economy does offer an alternative that should be explored and used from time to time. Here are my tips for using the site.
1 Know what type of property you want. Use the filters The site has individual homes, condos, villas, apartments all for sharing. It is essential before you begin that you have an idea as to the type of property best fits your travel needs. I recommend spending some time within the category that you select, and then further narrowing your focus. For example, you may decide that you want a condo, but you don’t want to be in a high-rise building. Or, you want to be in a house with a garden or back yard, or across from the beach. Make sure that you complete the section on amenities, particularly if you are looking for parking, or fitness areas
2. Scrutinize the photos The photos are what “sell” you on the property. You can tell the owners who have used a professional service for the photos from those who took their own photos with their phone and uploaded to the site. Look at each photo carefully. Are there things in the photo that seem out of place, or strange? I have seen nice properties where dirty laundry appears in the photo. Ok, what’s that about? I’m not your mother coming for a stay. The photos tell a story about what you might expect so examine them with a watchful eye.
3. Carefully screen the reviews The reviews are the lifeblood of the Airbnb business, but make sure that you read as many of the reviews as possible, even the negative reviews. I tend to look closely at the reviews that talk about how the unit was managed, its cleanliness, its furnishings,etc. I pay very close attention to any review that speaks negatively about the area in which the unit/house is located, or its general appearance. Any mention of bugs or untidiness is a definite “no” for me, no matter how many positive reviews exist. Pay attention to traveler’s experience with parking or amenities at the location. Look for signs of whether or not there were issues with travelers using services, such as swimming, gyms, or gates, if a gated community.
4. Pay attention to the Owner Profile & Reviews The Owner Profile provides you with a glimpse of the owner and their background, but the key information comes from the owner reviews. When you are reading reviews, you will see a number of comments about the owner. From the reviews, you will get a sense of the owner’s involvement in the property, their personality, and general character. This is all important because you want to make sure that the owner’s personality and style is one that matches yours. For example, there are some owners who greet guests with flowers, stay to show them around, and generally make themselves available.There are others who leave a key with a designated person, and a list within the venue of contact numbers. Both forms of communications may be operating at the extremes for your particular taste. Find the style that is best for you and fits your needs.
5. Check the total fees What may appear like a deal, may not be a deal at the end of the transaction. That is because the total may include fees for housekeeping, lodging, etc. These fees tend to vary by location and type of property. So check the fee before you hit that “submit” button.
Read how Airbnb is making it easier to click to that perfect spot that most closely fits our dream vacation. It is gathering data on our preferences. Read more about how the company is using data in an effective way. http://www.businessinsider.com/airbnb-data-analysis-2015-2