Airbnb Industry Insights

Tips for Using Airbnb: How To Screen Potential Guests

April 16, 2015 |

For most hosts, the most foreign aspect of listing on Airbnb is the idea of welcoming strangers into your home.

On the bright side, Airbnb allows hosts to pick and choose these strangers by publishing guest profiles and write reviews, while opening up the platform for communication between users.

On the not-so bright side, this kind of on-the-surface interaction can’t really paint the whole picture for you to be an entirely trusting host. And of course, there’s that uneasy feeling most people naturally have about trusting people they meet over the internet, for those obvious reasons…

Tips for Using Airbnb

Luckily, there are ways for Airbnb hosts like you to go about selecting trustworthy guests that you’re comfortable inviting into your home, so your social interactions with them can be positive and you can look at these strangers as…well, less strange. Here are some tips for using Airbnb to screen potential guests that should be kept in your back pocket throughout your hosting experience on the site.

Make a List (and Check it Twice)

There are a few ways to go about this. First off, prepare a set of ideal guest criteria to resort to every time you encounter a booking request on Airbnb. Think about these guest standards as you would staff recruitment, ask yourself: what type of person would I be comfortable trusting and opening my doors to? If you’re new to being a host or you’re struggling to turn ideas into words, try approaching this thought experiment by imagining reliable colleagues, friends, or family members…then deduce what it is about these people that you consider reliable. Keep in mind that fair housing laws may apply, and that you may be prohibited from adding race, origin, religion, sex and other similar guest particulars to your list of excluded criteria.

Once you settle on the golden ratio of ideal Airbnb guest qualities, you can screen potential guests accordingly. In a way, you’re creating an equation that will equal a guest you are happy to have. So stick to it, because math is the only true science (so they say).

Guesty For Hosts

Now that you know what kind of person meets your standards for an ideal guest, you need to decide what kind of Airbnb qualities would best represent that kind of person. Maybe you’ll look at the number of reviews your potential guest has. Or the number of positive reviews. Or how early in the search results his or her profile showed up. Regardless of the qualifications, you’re searching for, you need to find a way for those qualities to translate not only over secure guest messaging but also over the Airbnb website itself. After all, this will likely be your only resource for sizing up potential guests before they book your home.

While there’s no way to narrow down booking requests according to this type of personal criteria, there are some qualifications that Airbnb’s system does allow hosts to publically display. For one, hosts have the opportunity to require their guests to have verified ID badges, which essentially confirms that your guests are who they say they are. (Provided this is something you decide to require, you will have to become verified first.) Taking this sort of action will help weed out some unqualified guests before you spend the unnecessary time assessing them.

At this point, it’s possible to wipe your hands of the whole screening process. You can tell us the specific criteria that you’ve determined are the most important when selecting potential guests, and Guesty can screen prospects from there. Depending on your preferences, our team can confirm our decisions with you before we finalize or we can just go ahead and complete bookings for you.

If you’d prefer to continu the screening process and dig a little deeper on your own, you might want some method to help weed through what can be Airbnb madness. So now that you already have a guide for how to arrive at a list of necessary qualities in a potential guest, here’s are some tips for using Airbnb to screen potential guests for those qualities (and against their antitheses).

How Can Airbnb Lead You To Your Guest Soulmates?

  1. Full Profiles.
    Especially one with photos. Any Airbnb user who has taken the time to complete their profile should be considered someone who takes the process more seriously than someone who hasn’t bothered to fill in all the information. It’s an opportunity for you to get a grasp of the type of person you could be hosting and whether or not that person will fall in line with your set criteria.
  2. Verifications.
    Of course, it will probably be a huge weight off your shoulders to know that a potential guest is sporting a verified ID badge, but that may not be one of your obligatory standards as a host. In that case, you may still want to check that they’ve supplied a few minimal forms of identification, such as an email address and a phone number. This will give you that extra confirmation that your guest is in fact not made out of cups.
  3. Social Connections.
    Airbnb has been kind enough to offer a social connections feature that allows its users to link up their Facebook accounts to their Airbnb accounts. Why is this awesome, you ask? Because now hosts like you can screen guests for mutual friends and tap into reviews made within your circles. But Facebook’s not all she wrote: Airbnb users have the opportunity to connect Google+ and LinkedIn accounts, too. This will bring you that much closer to feeling comfortable trusting your potential guest’s identity. From there, you can also browse for mutual friends and any other relevant and available factors that you may deem important in a booking.
  4. Reviews.
    With the exception of extreme cases, Airbnb will not remove any guest reviews, regardless of how brutally honest they may be. The whole point of Airbnb’s review feature is to build the trust of the community, so expect reviews to be transparent and telling of the type of person you’re dealing with.
  5. References.
    Airbnb users can compile references from colleagues, friends, family members, what have you – just as job applicants might for a resume. The references will only appear if the writer has an Airbnb profile as well, so just because you don’t see one doesn’t mean your potential guest doesn’t have any. That being said, references are just one other way for hosts to screen potential guests a little more thoroughly, and to learn as much about them as possible from online sources.

Digital Red Flags

1. BEWARE: Guests who try to do business or communicate with hosts outside of the Airbnb interface are bad news bears. For one, Airbnb enforces certain terms and conditions that are designed to protect its users – external transactions run the risk of losing these protections and coverages. Also, Airbnb is a rewarding environment that allows good, trustworthy users to thrive and standout. If your potential guest wants to leave this nurturing cocoon, there’s probably a reason (and it’s probably not a positive one).

2. Naturally, part of your screening process will include some form of communication. If your prospects refuse to respond to any messages or questions, they’re giving you insight into the kind of guests they will likely be (this could mean irresponsible, careless, etc.). While this may not be a pressing issue for every host when choosing a guest, consider the notion that you would never hire an employee with these qualities. Shadiness generally comes with a reason, and once again, it’s probably a reason you wouldn’t like.

3. Pay attention to the type of information your potential guest is giving you while communicating. If you’re receiving questions about surveillance, present neighbors, or anything else dodgy, then I’d suggest pushing those potential bookings aside. If any responses sound odd, rehearsed, or inconsistent, then trust your instincts. Chances are, you wouldn’t want to host a stranger putting up a front (but that’s just my assumption).

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

If you don’t see what you like, or you don’t like what you see, then all hope is still not lost. You don’t have to throw away every potential booking that has a red flag. Instead, request the answers you’re searching for or inquire into any suspicious information the user has provided. For instance, if you screen a seemingly solid Airbnb profile, but it’s missing one or two necessary criteria, ask for those details. Or, if the profile is perfect but lacking the verification you require, request that your potential guest get Airbnb-verified. If you see a bad review, ask for this user’s side of the story. While a responsible Airbnb user should have already posted an explanation, some may not consider this escape plan until they’re asked by an interested host.

Making The Final Cut

If you’re still unsure about any decisions, there are few preemptive things you can go over with the guest in order to move along the process. or instance, if you require a high-security deposit, you can assess your prospective guests’ reactions to paying such a high rate upfront. If you’re challenged on this, it could be a sign of a bigger billing issue down the line – something that is safe to assume you’re not interested in. Similarly, if you explain any other payment or house rules in advance and sense any indication of opposition, you may want to begin looking for a houseguest elsewhere.

As a general rule, approach the system with common sense and above all, listen to your gut. Always communicate before you book, it’s an opportunity, not an inconvenience. If you don’t have a good feeling about the user, simply decline the booking.

But don’t look at the screening process as the be all and end all: while the heat is on, it’s not on all the way. Why? Because Airbnb offers a host guarantee that will make up for certain irresponsible guest damage. So if you do make a mistake in your choice of guest, you won’t have to pay the costs. Ultimately, you can use any negative host experience as an angle with which to tweak your criteria for the next stranger you invite into your home.

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