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If you’ve never booked an Airbnb you may be hesitant not knowing exactly what to expect. Thanks to a few horror stories spotlighted by the media, you’re certainly not alone, but it’s important to understand the reality as often times it can be the best way to go in terms of value and experience. After all, the hospitality service and online marketplace, as of 2017, had served over 80 million guests with more than 2.5 million listings across the globe in less than a decade of being established, according to valuewalk.com. It must be doing something right.
Here’s how it works. Guests and hosts sign up for an account and are required to show an ID and add a profile picture. Phone numbers, emails and addresses are all verified, and all users can receive and write reviews. When you want to find a place to stay, you can search location, the dates you’d like to stay and other requirements, such as whether you’re seeking a room, or an entire place to yourself. A non-refundable fee is required of guests upon booking, typically 6 to 12%, depending on the total reservation cost.
Considering the pros vs. the cons, it can be a great option for many.
A Better Value
Airbnb rentals are often cheaper, or on par with hotel rates, depending on the destination. Frequently, you’ll find multiple apartments or homes that include full kitchens, which means you’ll be able to save on dining out and possibly enjoy other comforts of home, like a washer and dryer. When German hotel reservation website HRS released its data in January 2018 on hotel prices around the world in major cities, it found that typical hotel rooms in New York City, for example, averaged $306 per night. AirDNA, a site that tracks and analyzes the Airbnb market, revealed that by comparison, an Airbnb room in the same city would average $187 a night, saving travelers a whopping $119. Now consider the savings if you were to do your own cooking and avoid dining out, something very pricey in the Big Apple.
Typically, you’ll have more space to stretch out when booking an apartment or home as compared to a hotel room too.
Sharing With Family and Friends
As you can often find an entire house or apartment via Airbnb, it can be a great way for a group of friends or a large family to travel together. You won’t have to book separate rooms, which can be extremely expensive, yet you’ll still enjoy some privacy. By splitting the cost, you can potentially save quite a bit too.
More Options in Remote Destinations
If you’ll be traveling to a remote corner of the world, perhaps northern Iceland or just about anywhere outside the capital city in Newfoundland, for example, hotels can be few and far between. By considering Airbnb, you’re likely to have many more options as locals can choose to rent a room in their home or an entire guesthouse to travelers.
Many Airbnb hosts enjoy sharing insider advice with guests about their area for a far more personal experience than what you’d get a most hotel desks. They may provide personal recommendations or perhaps even introduce you to other locals. Some even serve as tour guides, make for an especially authentic experience.
One of the biggest general concerns over Airbnb is that in some destinations it’s hurting the rental housing market, pushing locals out of a particular neighborhood or city with homes that would have been rented now being used as Airbnbs. More than a few people have invested in Dallas real estate and many other markets around the world, using a second home as an Airbnb property as a good way to make money without having to worry about long-term tenant concerns, though that’s led to some severe housing shortages.
A big concern for guests is usually not problems with the property itself. Instead, it’s last-minute cancellations. While it doesn’t happen often, sometimes a host will cancel, leaving the guest to search for other options. In areas where rooms need to be booked well in advance, this can be a challenge. Airbnb refunds what the guest has paid and will help search for other options, but if there aren’t any, there isn’t much that can be done. You can limit your risk by reading reviews thoroughly and keeping lines of communication open with the host.
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