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How to choose the best Airbnb: 8 tips from an Airbnb Superhost in Marbella, Spain

Updated: Jan 13, 2023

Airbnb is safer than you think, and with a little experience, it is easy to choose the best property and get the best possible experience for your holiday! Here are some tips and ways to check out your property, from an Airbnb superhost.

Follow these tips to make sure you know what to expect and get the best deal.

(1) Look at the pictures. Really look! Ask yourself:

  • Do the pictures look like they are professionally done? A host who does not invest in his pictures, will probably not invest in the rest either.

  • Were the pictures taken at night, dark black windows, no outdoor view? Bad sign, a careful host will plan and stage a photo shoot to show his property in the best light. Is the host trying to hide lack of natural light?

  • Look for at least one photo of the outside of the lodging.

  • Look for photos that were bizarrely cropped - what are they hiding?

  • Are there a high number of close-up photos? Maybe the host is proud of a decorative touch or of his coffee machine. But sometimes, people hide undesirable aspects of their property, by taking close-up pictures of a few things. Make sure you can see entire views of the rooms, the views, the outdoor areas, and the amenities that are must important for you, on the photos.

  • Zoom in to the photos of the terrace and windows. What do you see? Is there a view, a wall, a tree? If there is any kind of view, you can be sure it will be highlighted in the first photos. If not, don't expect one.

  • Do any of the terrace/garden pictures show sun on the terrace? If not, there is probably no sun at any time of day! Ask the host!

  • Don't assume that since the property is in Spain, you will be right on the beach or have a sunny terrace! Many properties do not get sun on the terrace - if it does, the host will surely show it. If there are only pictures of the terrace or garden in the shade, that is probably how it will be all day long.

(2) Look at the description and amenity list

  • Before asking the host if they have Wifi, Netflix or air-conditioning, look at the listing.

  • Everything on that list must be there - and working - when you arrive, or else you can complain to Airbnb (after telling the host first to give them a chance to fix it).

  • Did the host fill in a thoughtful description to help you imagine what a holiday at their place is like?

  • Does the listing look like the host took time to write descriptions? Make translations? List all the amenities? Description of the neighborhood? The more thoughtfully filled in the listing is, the more you can be sure you have a thoughtful host. Negligent hosts might not take time to provide lots of information on their listing.

  • Search out the house rules. The more experienced a host is, the more problems they will have encountered, and the more complete their rules will be, like this property in Marbella center.

  • Scammers will never have strict or long house rules! Detailed and strict rules should be reassuring sign of an experienced host who respects their neighbors and wants things to go great, for you and for them.

(3) Look at the cancellation policy

Does the host allow free cancellation until 24 hours before arrival?

This might not be a good thing.

Most experienced hosts, with popular listings, do *not* enable fully flexible cancellation on Airbnb. A listing with "moderate" or "strict" policy is the sign of an experienced host with a highly appreciated property. Of course with the global pandemic, many hosts have resorted to more flexible policies to allow guests flexibility in case of true Covid emergencies. Scammers, or inexperienced hosts, will want to attract everyone without caring about cancellation policy, so of course they will set their policy to "flexible". Talk with the host, before instant booking, about how cancellations will be handled. The host can always accept a change of dates, or decide to issue a partial refund, regardless of which cancellation policy they have. The host can not refund Airbnb service fees though, you'll have to contact Airbnb for that. If you are considerate and transparent, you will usually be able to find a solution with your host. If you blocked the host's calendar many months ahead, and then cancelled one day before arriving, the host might be less understanding and flexible.

Even if you purchase a "strict" or "moderate" policy stay, you will always be able to cancel if you have an "extenuating circumstance". Read the Airbnb policy on this subject. Extenuating circumstance does not mean that you missed your flight or you just don't want to travel. Airbnb provides clear guidance of what is covered. You will have to provide proof like a doctor's bill or other documentation. Covid-related travel bans are no longer considered extenuating circumstances anymore, so read the fine print. If the listing is not as described when you arrive, or if it is not clean, or an essential amenity (pool, airco, internet) is missing, you can cancel your stay for a full refund and host will not get paid! Make sure you gave the host a chance to solve the situation first, and you have pictures and documents to prove your case. However, don't try to get the best of your host and stay for free. If the place is not acceptable, you should not stay there. Refuse to check in and ask for a refund. (4) Whatever you do, do not mention the review process or threaten your host about leaving a bad review, while you are making a legitimate complaint about something. This can be seen as extortion.

(5) If it looks too good to be true - it probably is. Check the price and policies against other similar properties of the same size Experienced hosts know how much to charge, you will rarely get a crazy great deal unless you are booking last minute and off-season. Scammers set all parameters to attract the highest number of potential victims, using super low prices, and setting all parameters super flexible for the guest: accepting smokers, pets, parties, ... everything! Flexible cancellation, no house rules, no minimum age, flexible check-in, etc etc. If you see a listing where everything is set to flexible (to the detriment of the host), your spider senses should start to tingle. Does the property have a realistic cleaning fee? There is no way a professional Covid clean, including laundry sheets and towels, can be done for less than 80 euros in a two bedroom apartment. Do they charge for extra guests or can you come with as many friends as you want? These are all signs of an over-eager inexperienced host or a property manager that does not pay attention to detail.

(6) Look at the prior guest reviews

  • Did guest leave one-liner reviews "apartment was fine", or did they write a paragraph? Some scammers can pay to have fake reviews put on their listing - but rarely do they go to the trouble to write volumes of text about their experience

  • Are the guests all from the same area, or are reviews in multiple languages and from guests around the world? Depending on the market, this could be an important giveaway.

  • Did guests share details about the hosting, or just talk about the property? Did they mention the cleaning, the view, the location, any problems such as neighbor noise?

  • Not everyone leaves a review, so if a host has 10+ reviews you can consider they probably had 20+ guests are are quite experienced and reliable.

  • If you see a bad review, read the host's answer and try to determine if the guest was just unreasonable or were they unhappy with something other guests mentioned.

  • If you see a property with only one or two reviews, there is a higher risk that the host is new, and you also have less guarantee that the property is as described. An experienced host with many reviews could not get away with portraying the property differently than you find it.

(7) Look at the host profile "Hi, I'm Susan" !

  • Click on the photo of the host and go to their profile page.

  • How many properties do they manage? 1-5? They are probably private families managing their own or their friends listing, you can expect thoughtful and personal

experience and considerate hosting and touches.

  • If the host manages over 5 properties, they are perhaps a professional property manager, managing homes for many people. In this case, they will probably be experienced and have a professional system for doing things. But you might find less thoughtful personal touches and perhaps the properties not as thoroughly inspected in between stays, as when the landlord is doing it herself.

  • Read the host description to get a feeling for how you will be treated. Scammers will probably not go to the trouble, to tell you much about themselves!

(8) When you arrive, if the property is not as described, tell the host first - depending on their reaction, tell Airbnb.

It's virtually impossible to be “scammed” on Airbnb from a customer perspective, but many people don't realize this. You might have an uncomfortable experience on arrival day but you will most likely eventually get your money back.

If you arrive at your destination, and you can't check in, the apartment does not exist, or the property does not match the listing - you can, and should, contact Airbnb! A scammer who puts up a "fake" property, can only do this once! Airbnb will delete their listing very quickly. So, it is almost impossible for a scammer to have a listing with 30 guest reviews. So if your host leaves you hanging on arrival day, don't worry - involve Airbnb customer support immediately. It might take a while but you are virtually guaranteed to get your money back.

First, try to resolve the issue with your host - you need to give them a chance to respond. Then, make an immediate complaint to customer support and do not check in.

Airbnb customer support is there, in case you have a problem.

The owner will not be paid, if you declare that the property does not correspond to the description, and you request to be accommodated elsewhere.

Airbnb will even intervene to find you alternative accommodation! If you can't reach customer support, book someplace else on airbnb so that they can see the whole transaction.

Obviously, one should not ask for a full refund, while staying in the property the first night for an unimportant or easily resolved excuse. But if there is a big problem, Airbnb won't pay the host, they will find you alternative accommodation, and / or refund your deposit if you couldn't reach them and found alternate lodging yourself.

Be a good guest!

As you can see from this article, Airbnb is on top of the game and Airbnb hosts have lots of responsibilities. As an Airbnb guest, you have the right to find the place you booked, as described with the amenities listed; You have the right to smooth check-in *as described in the listing* and a responsive host who answers your messages. Please make the most of this knowledge, and also, please be a good guest! Why? Because it will be easier for you to book future stays and even perhaps get special treatment if you have good reviews. If you have very neutral or bad reviews, or if you leave a bad/dishonest/unreasonable review of your host - other hosts will see this and may choose to pass on your booking.

So what do you need to do, to make Airbnb an all-around great experience for everyone?`

Of course you should leave the apartment clean, similar to as you found it, you should tell your host if anything broke or was missing, and you should have respected house rules. It is the norm to do your own dishes (or put in the dishwasher) and take out your trash before you leave. Cleaning fees do not usually include deep cleaning of a filthy oven or taking out bags of trash or doing the dishes. Other tips to make sure you get the best review from your host: - Answer host messages in a timely manner! The things they are asking you, are for a reason. - Do not hold the dates, only to cancel last minute, if you know there is a good chance you won't be coming. Don't book several properties "just in case". Remember to cancel early if you think you won't be coming. Most hosts will be more flexible, the more lead time you give them. - Install the app on your phone, for communicating with your host.

- Read the listing, all of it, to know what to expect.

- In case of any issue, tell the host directly and give them a chance to resolve the problem.

- NEVER threaten a bad review for any kind of compensation

- Don't leave a bad comment for something that was clearly stated in the listing! No sea view? That's why the price was 50 euros a night, it was part of the deal! Not a reason to remove a star. Removing a star means you were disappointed with your stay based on what was promised in the listing, not as compared to the Ritz hotel. - Don't leave a bad review, for something the host didn't know. Hairdryer was broken? Tell the host. In most cases a solution will be found quickly. Above all: - Be aware that removing a star or leaving a negative comment not only will impact the host, but will impact you. Future hosts will look at your profile and see what you said about prior stays. Formulate your review in a factual, and non-emotional way. If your review makes it look like you were a complicated/entitled guest, you might find it difficult to book anyplace else in the future.

Have fun planning and dreaming about your Airbnb holiday in Spain!

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