Tips on Booking Airbnb: A Detailed Guide – Podcast 016

In this episode B and Jack discuss the major and minor aspects you should consider when selecting your Airbnb.

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1. Summary

1.1. This topic within the context of the broader Digital Nomad Life System [3:18]

The Digital Nomad Life System is a 6-step meta-system created by us at Nomad Tactics that aims to explain how someone can go from living a non-nomadic normal life to living an optimized digital nomad life.

The fifth step of the system is called “Base Research and Arrangements”. Once the nomad has selected the key variables related to the base (Step 2: Base Pre-Planning), he needs to do some in-depth research and arrangements about his soon-to-be new base. Finding an appropriate Airbnb to book for the new base is one of the crucial things a digital nomad needs to do in terms of travel arrangements, that is why we decided to place this topic within this step of the system.

To have a general overview of the Digital Nomad Life System you should listen to this episode.

1.2. Major Tips on Booking Airbnb [6:21]

Just a bit bigger

I will start my list of tips on booking Airbnb with the factors that are easier to check in your listing. These are easier to check because these have a section of their own in the listing.

A. Reviews

      • Read the negative reviews: Usually negative reviews are more reliable then positive ones. It is normal for someone to write a very generic positive review (e.g. “Very good host and flat” or “I would recommend”). On the contrary, if someone takes the time to write a negative review it is because indeed this person had a bad experience and is trying to portray it as accurately as possible. In other words, people tend NOT to write generic feedback, if the feedback is negative.
      • Give more credit to the reviews that are under 6 months old: The situation of a property changes over time. A problem indicated by guests years ago might have been fixed by the host. Or a new construction site might have emerged next to the property last month, making it impossible for you to sleep past 8 am due to noise. The point here is that you should always give more relevance to the new reviews, since these tend to be more informative about the current situation of the property.

B. Host

      • Type of host: The Airbnb host is, usually, either the owner of the property himself or a company that manages the property. It is important to establish who you are dealing with. If the host does not own the Airbnb, it will likely be harder to get juicy discounts (like the ones that I teach you how to get using my script.One method to try to assess if you are dealing with a company or an owner is by checking how many properties the host has listed in his profile. If there are too many properties then usually it is a company, not a single person.
      • Does the host live in the flat or not: There are pros and cons of staying with a host. The main pro is that if the host lives in the property, then the host is likely a local and he can give you some tips about the city. On the other hand, living with a host means you will likely need to obey all the house rules in a very strict manner (e.g. if the house does not permit guests, then you will not be able to bring people over).

C. Location

      • The purpose of your trip: First and foremost, you need to establish the purpose of the trip. Is it a business trip, a temporary base to stay as a nomad, or a short tourist trip? Once that is clear, you can see if the location of the property fits your needs. For instance, if you are going to a city for a business trip then probably you would like to stay near the working/conference place. If you are going to temporarily live in a location (i.e. nomad base) then it depends on you. Some people prefer more central places and others prefer more relaxed residential areas. Finally, if you are only going to the city for a few days, you should probably consider staying in the city center since the main attractions are likely around that area.

Pro tip: You can see a summary of the different neighborhoods in each city at nomadlist.com. Also, if you want to check where the high foot traffic areas in a city are, then you can look for the brown areas on Google Maps.

      • Key places around the property: Check if the area  where the Airbnb is located has all the essential places for daily living around. These include, but are not limited to, supermarkets, pharmacies, gyms, affordable restaurants, etc. You should search for these on Google Maps.

D. Amenities

Airbnb Amenities

Make sure you get one of this

      • Home appliances: Different people will have different needs. But, as a rule of thumb, most people would benefit from having things such as a hairdryer, washing/drying machine, wifi, fridge, and microwave on the property.
      • Check what the host provides: The majority of places will provide bed sheets. Nonetheless, towels, shampoo, and things like that depend on the property. Always check what they already offer to make sure you bring with you what they do not.

E. Refund Policy

      • The cancellation policy: Different listings will have different cancellation policies. These cancellations policies affect you when canceling before and after check-in. So it is always a good idea to know the specific cancellation policy of the property you want to rent. Of course, the more flexible a cancellation policy is, the better. Check out Airbnb’s cancellation policy here.

F. House Rules

      • Always check the house rules of the property and see if those fit with what you intend to do when you are in the city. Usually, the most important house rules to watch out for are the ones related to bringing visitors to the flat, smoking, and parties.

G. Listing Photos

      • Look carefully: When looking at the photos try to establish which appliances and features the house has to offer. Sometimes the listing does not mention all of those.
      • The distinction between photos and reality: Usually, the listing photos portray the property quite accurately. Nonetheless, I already booked houses that had good photos but the actual place was bad and, vice versa. Try to think beyond the quality of the photos and evaluate if the place is good or not.
      • Create a mental map of the house in your head: Sometimes hosts are not very helpful in terms of taking photos that depict how the place is set up ( this might be intentional, to make the place look bigger than it actually is). You can use key features that appear in more than one photo (e.g. a wardrobe, sofa) to try to create a mental map of the house. For example, if you see the same table in two different photos taken from different angles, try to imagine how big the room is by connecting, in your head, the photos and using the table as your reference point.
      • Ask for exterior photos: Sometimes even though the place might look fine from the inside, the place might look horrible from the outside. Therefore, it is always a good idea to ask the host for an external photo of the building in which the accommodation is located.

Pro tip: Alternatively, if the host cannot provide a photo of the building, you can ask him for the exact address of the building. Then you can use Google Maps Street View function and check it out yourself.

1.3. Minor Tips on Booking Airbnb [19:18]

Now that we covered the tips on booking Airbnb related to factors that are easier to check, I will move on to present things that are harder to check. These factors are harder to check because these do not appear on specific sections of the listing. At first glance, you might think that these minor tips on booking Airbnb are irrelevant. But, trust me, these are not. Sometimes, the small details are the most important ones.

To get this information you will need to either read reviews (use the review search function provided by Airbnb and put keywords like “noisy”, “bright”, etc.) or read the property description in the listing.

Keep in mind that, sometimes you will not be able to find this information in the listing (no matter how hard you try) and the only way to actually find out about these details is by messaging the host and asking him directly.

    • Floor number:  If you are staying in a flat, knowing the floor it is located is important for security reasons. First-floor flats in some areas and countries are generally not safe since someone can come in from the outside quite easily. Also, another reason why you should care about the floor number has to do with noise. The lower the floor, the noisier it gets.
    • Brightness: This is a problem if you need a pitch-black environment to sleep. Some places are just too bright since the curtains cannot block the sun properly. Always check if that is the case in the property you want to rent. The best place to find this information is probably in the reviews section.
    • Noise: Similar to the brightness issue just mentioned you should also assess the level of noisiness. Especially if you are a light sleeper. Check the reviews for that.
    • Lock in the room: This is especially a concern if you are renting a shared place. Sometimes the rooms do not have locks. That can be a problem if you want to leave your valuables in the room and not worry about them.
    • Number of flatmates: The number of flatmates is important. This factor will determine how busy the flat is. This is especially important if you do not have your own private bathroom. The more people, the busier the bathrooms will be to use.
    • Type of check-in: Is it self check-in or check-in with the host in person? If the latter is the case, then you will need to plan to arrive at the flat in an acceptable time. On the other hand, if the property offers self check-in, then you will have no problem buying that 8 Euros Ryanair flight that gets you to the destination at 2 AM.
    • Type of bed: This is especially a concern in Asia. But you should check if the property has a real bed or not. Sometimes in Asia, the “bed” is just a very thin mattress that is hard as a rock.
    • Getting orders: Do you want to buy things online? Check if there is an intercom or a doorman in the building. If neither exists then it will be very hard to get the things you ordered online.

[1]Like this one and this one

2. Transcript

Mr. B: Hey guys just before going to the actual episode a quick announcement so this episode is part of a small series that me and Mister Jack decided to do about Airbnb which is the most widely used platform by digital nomads to book their accommodation.

Mr. B: I hope you find this series useful.

Mr. B: So hello welcome to the Nomad Tactics podcast here we provide life optimizing tips and systems for the digital nomads I'm your host B. and I'm joined with Mr Jack the topic we're gonna talk about today is what are the main factors you need to assess to choose a good Airbnb I would start to with a quick summary of the episode.

Mr. B: First me and Mr. Jack gonna talk about the exact problem that we are trying to tackle in this episode.

Mr. B: After that we gonna talk about in which step of our broader digital nomad life system this topic would best fit in.

Mr. B: Then we will talk about the major factors you should consider when booking an Airbnb.

Mr. B: And finally we gonna talk about the minor factors you should consider when booking an Airbnb I hope you enjoy the episode.

Jack: So hello Mister B.

Mr. B: Hello Jack.

Jack: So the topic we going talk about today is tips to book an Airbnb

Mr. B: That's right that's right.

Jack: And I think at the start of this episode will be nice to talk about what kind of problems do we going to try to solve in this episode.

Jack: So as you can see we just booked a new Airbnb and it's a pretty good Airbnb.

Mr. B: Yeah just to contextualize a little bit better which is an area in Taiwan which is a place we are right now.

Mr. B: Mmhm yeah I mean we just move into this new Airbnb.

Mr. B: And pretty good so far and I think as you said this is kind of related to today's topic of the episode today which is how to find out what are the good Airbnb within the website so of course there is a lot of tutorials online to teach you how to book Airbnb and they usually go through the the main steps or the main things you can select in terms of the options available to you but that's not the purpose of the episode today while we are trying to do today is to basically go through the main things you should look for in the listing to try to assess if an Airbnb will be good or not.

Jack: I see.

Jack: So I think as usual it would been nice to put this topic tips to book a good Airbnb into our digital nomad life system. For you the audience if you don't know what the the digital nomad life system is. It is a six step system aims to help people going from the normal life to a optimize digital nomad life.

Jack: So Mr B. where would you put this topic in which step of the system?

Mr. B: So yeah I think the topic today fits the third step of the digital nomad life system in this third step is called base research and arrangement in this step the digital nomad is going to do the research and make the main arrangements for his soon to be new base so you can arrange everything for the new city in which he gonna live for a while and Airbnb most likely if he is a digital nomad it will be the form of accommodation in which he will book therefore finding a good Airbnb is a crucial part within this step.

Jack: So before we go into how we will divine this episode and guys you be a great help you can leave a review because we Nomad Tactics podcasters is still a new podcast so every reviews help.

Mr. B: Yeah for sure if you guys can leave a review that would be great.

Jack: Yes so Mr B I think we can divine this episode into two big category the personal be the major tips or factor in this sense well the second one is the minor factors.

Mr. B: Basically the idea here with major factors to consider when you're booking your Airbnb is more less the following so when we are talking about the major factors we are talking about the things that you can easily check in the listing so usually they have an area within the listing that is only referring to that specific thing.

Mr. B: Apart from that the major factors one could say constitute the more important details to be observed.

Mr. B: On the other hand minor factors are things that are kind of hard to spot within the listing these are things that you're going to need to search either within the reviews of other users or by reading the property description and one more thing one more characteristic about the minor factors is that these are smaller things so perhaps one could say perhaps less important.

Jack: I see so Mr B. why don't you talk about the first factor in the majors section?

Mr. B: So sure the first major factor that we listed here are reviews and within reviews.

Mr. B: There are two main things to look for.

Mr. B: The first thing is that you should look for and read negative reviews.

Mr. B: And the reason for that is because usually negative reviews are more reliable than positive ones.

Mr. B: So it's kind kind of normal for someone to write something very generic in a positive review like it was a very good stay or I would recommend things like that things that don't really contribute for your understanding about the Airbnb.

Mr. B: On the other hand if someone takes the time to write a negative review.

Mr. B: It is usually because the person in fact had a bad experience and the person is trying to portray as accurately as possible what the bad experience was.

Mr. B: In other words people tend not to write generics feedback if the feedback is negative it's a rule of thumb but I think it applies in most cases so the second thing to do with reviews is how old the reviews in which you're reading are. so you should give more credit to the reviews that are under six months old.

Mr. B: And the reason for that is because the situation of the property changes over time of course so a problem that was indicated by guess perhaps years ago might have been fixed by the host or conversely a new construction site for example might have emerged just next to the property last month and that makes it impossible for you to sleep past eight AM due to the noise. The point here is that you should always give more relevance to these newer reviews since it seems to be more informative and accurate in terms of the property overall situation.

Jack: So the second factors here is the host then the first thing to do with host is know which type of host you're dealing with so the Airbnb hosts usually either the owner of property or a company that manages the property.

Jack: It is important to establish who you are dealing with because if the host is not the owner of Airbnb it is likely to be harder for you to get a discount so we did talk about how to get discount on the ninth episode If i'm not mistaken we teach nine ways you can get the discount on Airbnb.

Mr. B: Yeah and one of this ways was to negotiate with the hosts.

Jack: Yeah so one way to assess if you are dealing with a company or an owner is by checking how many properties the hosts has listed in his profile.

Jack: If there are too many properties then usually it is a company not a person.

Mr. B: Yes of course because you know it's very unlikely someone gonna have that many properties to you know post on Airbnb so I think that's a great method.

Jack: Yep so the second thing is.

Jack: Does the hose live in the flat or not so of course there are always pros and cons of staying with a host.

Jack: The main pro is that if the holes lives in the property then the hostess likely at local and he can probably show you some tips about the city.

Jack: On the other hand living with a host means you will likely to obey all house rules in the very strict manner so let's say the whole system allows the house guest then you will not be able to bring people over.

Mr. B: Yeah just will be perhaps stressful stay because you know the owner of the property will be there watching and you need to you know follow everything as he wants otherwise you risk getting a bad review in the end totally true okay let's move to the third factor when you are booking at Airbnb property and this is the location.

Mr. B: The main consideration within location has to do with the purpose of your trip.

Mr. B: So first and foremost you need to establish the purpose of your trip is it a business trip is it a base which is most likely the case if you're a digital nomad or is just a short tourist trip so a place that you're not going to really consider your base because you're just going to stay in a couple of days or a week once that is clear and you know exactly the the purpose of your trip you can see if the location of the property fits such purpose or not for instance if you are going to city for a business trip then probably you would like to book a place that is quite near your work for your conference.

Mr. B: On the other hand if you are booking base as a digital nomad then will would kind of depend on you.

Mr. B: Some digital nomads prefer more central areas other digital nomads prefer more quiet areas more relaxed residential areas let's say.

Mr. B: And if you're only going for a few days so if you doing let's say a short tourist trip what I would recommend is that you stay in the city centre because usually most attractions are there and you don't want to you know waste time.

Mr. B: Going from a faraway residential area or suburb into the city center to do the stuff you really want to do.

Mr. B: And you can go to Nomadlist.com one section that some people are not aware is the neighborhood section so what you gonna do on the list of companies you simply gonna type the name of the city as you usually would and you go in and look for the neighborhood at the tab it's going to give a general idea about each neighborhood what you can expect if it's somewhere like hipster neighborhood if it's more like a financial center more like a posh area and things like that and of course this is not a hundred percent accurate but you can have an idea another thing that you can also do to have an idea about neighborhoods is to simply go to Google maps and go to the city you're planning to go and look for the brown areas within the map because the brown areas stand for the high foot traffic areas within the city also thinking about location another thing to consider are the key places around the property.

Mr. B: So what I'm talking about here is to check if the Airbnb in which you are thinking to book has all the essential places for your daily living around it.

Mr. B: And of course this will vary slightly depending on who you are and the things you need but I would say that most people most digital nomads would benefit from having a supermarket perhaps a gym if you're into that a pharmacy local public transport tab.

Mr. B: And even affordable restaurants around them.

Mr. B: And the way to search to see if they are such key locations around is simply by going to Google maps and search there.

Jack: Yeah knowing key places for your stay as a digital nomad is kind of important so going on to the fourth point here is the amenities so the thing to do is amenities is the home appliance so different people would of course have different needs but as a rule of thumb most people will benefit from having a things such as hair dryer washing or drying machine wifi that's very important a fridge and microwave on the house you're living in.

Mr. B: Okay let's go to the next point and the next factor is the refund policy of the property.

Mr. B: So I think everybody's aware by now but every Airbnb property has what is called the cancellation or refund policy.

Mr. B: And there are slightly different refund or cancellation policies and these are set by the host so these cancellation policies will affect you as the guest when you're cancelling before or after your check in so it's always a good idea to know the specific cancellation policy of the property that you're planning to rent.

Mr. B: And of course the more flexible policies are preferred here.

Mr. B: So what we did is we put on this episode show notes a link for the official Airbnb website where they describe all the different cancellation policies.

Jack: Yeah that's really helpful for knowing the cancellation policy.

Jack: So the six factor here is the house rules.

Jack: So always remember to check the house rule of the property and see if those fit with what you intend to do where you are in the city usually the more important house rule are the ones related to bring visitors to the flat, smoking and parties.

Mr. B: So the factor number seven which is a the last factor are the photos so there a couple of points here.

Mr. B: The first one is that you should look really careful at the Airbnb listing photos to try to establish which appliances the house has to offer and this is because some hosts do not list everything the house has so you gotta check by yourself by looking at photos.

Mr. B: Another point and perhaps this is the point that has proven to be the most important to me at least in the last few years is to ask for photos of the exterior of the building in which the Airbnb is located.

Mr. B: And this is because sometimes even though the Airbnb itself might look fine from the inside.

Mr. B: The place outside may look really bad and it seems to me that it's always a good idea to ask the host for the external photos of the building.

Mr. B: Just in case and then if you think it looks really bad and you know you don't like to to live in a place that looks that bad it's just something to to keep in mind some hosts cannot provide the photos of the exterior of the building for one reason or another like they live far away so they can take the photos for you.

Mr. B: So one thing you can ask them is to get the exact address and use Google maps street view to check the outside of the building so this is something that I did a couple of times and works really well.

Jack: I see so I think we finish the major factors so going on to the next section which is the minor factors that you should consider when booking an Airbnb.

Mr. B: Yes so as I said before but so far we cover the major things right so the things that are easy to check simply going to go to the Airbnb listing and you gonna look to the specific sections to do if the photos to do with the host to do with the location so very easy to check the things that we're gonna talk next are things that are harder to find out and the main reason for that is because there is not a specific section within the listing that you can always find information so in order to find such information most likely you're going to need to use the reviews provided by other guest more specifically the review search function where you can put specific keywords to check if something comes up in the review.

Mr. B: Or are you going to need to look for this information in the property description.

Mr. B: Keep in mind that sometimes no matter how much you look for this information you are not gonna be able to find the things are going to talk about so the only way to figure out is to contact the host directly.

Mr. B: Mr Jack why don't you go through the the first minor factor to consider when you're booking your Airbnb.

Jack: Yeah sure so the first one of these minor factors is the floor number.

Jack: It you are staying in the flat knowing the floor number is important for security reason usually the first floor in some area of the world are generally not safe since someone can come in from the outside quite easily also another reason why you should care about the floor number is to do with the noise the lower the floor the noise it gets.

Mr. B: Yes especially to do with security in some developing countries that is a good minor point and the way to look for that as I said its property description.

Mr. B: Or the reviews the second minor point has to do with brightness this is especially a problem if you need a really dark environment to sleep.

Mr. B: Some places are just too bright since the curtains cannot you know totally blocked the sun especially considering the position of the bedroom and how the sun shines so it's always a good idea to check if that specific property you want to rent faces this problems or not.

Jack: Yeah especially when you're dealing with the jet lags the least thing you want to have the having a bright room in the morning.

Mr. B: No no doubt about it.

Jack: So the next point we have here is the noise similar to the brightness we just talk about is you should assess the level of noise.

Jack: Especially if you are a light sleeper you should always find if there any reviews talk about how noisy the flat as.

Mr. B: The next minor factor to consider it has to do with having a lock in your room this is especially a concern if you're renting a shared place instead of renting the whole place to yourself sometimes rooms do not have locks and this is a problem of course if you want to go outside and you want to leave your valuables there.

Jack: Yeah of course if you always have to worry about the security of your things it's always gonna be bothersome.

Jack: So the next thing we have here is the number of flat mates of course the how many flat mates to have is important because you gonna determine how busy the flat is and this is especially more important if you do not have your own private bathroom the more people the busy the bathroom it will be.

Mr. B: And this consideration would be relevant to once again if you're renting a shared flat instead of the flat only for yourself then the next minor factor to consider when you're booking your Airbnb has to do with the type of check in so pretty much every Airbnb property involves either a self check in.

Mr. B: Or the. host of the property going to go there in person and do they check in for you.

Mr. B: If the property in question has a in person check in then you will need to plan to arrive at the property at the reasonable time.

Jack: So the next factor is the type of bed this is especially concerned in Asia for you should check if the property has a real bed or not sometimes in Asia the bed it is just a very thing mattress that is super hard.

Mr. B: Yes and unless you're like a very hard mattress you're probably not gonna be able to sleep I mean I had this experience a couple of times and yeah I would really advise people to check if people are complaining about the bad in that reviews the final minor factor has to do with getting orders assuming you want to buy things online from whatever website Amazon or something like that you need to check if the property the Airbnb property in which you intend to stay has an intercom or doormen in the building because if neither of those exist it will be very hard for you to get your orders I mean I guess you could try to do a work around solution by asking them to call you but when the delivery is there but you know I find that it's not such a reliable method to get things especially when you don't speak the language in the country.

Jack: I see so we just finish the factors on the booking Airbnb so Mr B. do you want to add anything before we finish this episode.

Mr. B: Yeah I just hope the list that we provided can help people to to book better properties especially because I think we talked about certain things that not many people think about when they're you know booking their Airbnb so I hope that's a quite comprehensive list.

Jack: Yeah me too so if you enjoyed this episode please make sure to leave a review on your listening platforms on Jack and thanks for listening.

Mr. B: Thank you very much.

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