Living in someone else’s home: Guest perspectives

Airbnb. HomeAway. VRBO. HomeExchange. Booking.com. There are literally hundreds of platforms now that offer homes or rooms for rent, with more popping up every day. This means that for hosts, competition can be tough! If you’re considering renting your home and making the investment to market your place on one of these sites, then it had better rent! So put yourself in your guests’ roller bag and experience it from their perspective. It’s a great way to make sure you’re offering what guests are looking for.

  • My best experience was when I rented with 4 college friends. The home was cozy and had everything we needed to have a night in of visiting and reconnecting. We had a fondue party and the hosts asked how they could help. They were there instantly if we needed help, but also left us on our own. The toiletries were top-shelf. The linens, luxurious and crisp. The fresh baked goods sold us. In stark contrast, I was with the same 4 college friends when we rented another home in which the family was still doing laundry, frantically trying to get out the door when we arrived. They handed us a key and said, see you tomorrow, leaving us to fend for ourselves. There were no clean glasses or dishes (a full cookie was sandwiched between plates in the cupboard). We washed our own plates before dinner. There was gross old, leftover food in the fridge. There was no wine opener, and when we texted for assistance in locating one we were informed (4 hours later) they don’t drink so they don’t have one. The final straw was bedtime. the sheets on the bed were stained and dirty. And since we were in a new subdivision there was no driving to any nearby hotels—we were stuck. When we told the hosts, they were silent. We left the house in better shape than we found it. The whole experience turned us off and we have not rented again.

—Isabel, occasional guest

  • Renting places with multiple rooms and amenities, like kitchens, is much more affordable than sharing a single hotel room, and hotel suites with similar amenities are considerably more expensive. Often, we can rent in better locations where we’re near parks, or in quiet neighborhoods. On the other hand, there have been disappointments. Security often isn’t taken seriously. Most places I’ve stayed have a key which could be copied by any guest. For those that have codes, most of them are rarely, if ever changed. This makes me cringe when I think about the safety of my family. I’ve stayed at only places where they customized the code to the last 4 digits of my cell phone number. That made me feel more secure, and more likely to look for, and rent from, other places that do the same. Privacy is another big concern. The last place we stayed at the host entered our unit while we were gone to take photos of some damage. They didn’t see this as invasion of privacy, but I certainly did.

Kevin, regular guest

  • The first place I stayed in was in San Francisco and while I rented the master bedroom the owner of the condo was staying in the other part and I had the master bedroom and master bath to myself, very neat, very clean, etc. except they gave me 1 towel, which was basically threadbare and I got to use (I did not because I bring my own along) the family shampoo and the family soap. Sharing other people’s toiletries is never acceptable. And the fact there was no wash cloth and only the one towel. I paid $250/n for a large master bedroom and bathroom. It is SF, but amenities I would expect at that price were sorely lacking. On the flip side, I have rented some lovely places on business trips. One of the places I rented in Des Moines (condo) could not have been nicer. The people were lovely, the location was great, but the soap and shampoo were “family”. It just isn’t acceptable! So far, my experiences have been world’s apart and you can never be sure what you’re going to get. I am more likely to stick with a reputable, consistent, well proven source than take my chances on a subpar homesharing site.

—Paul, frequent guest

  • I’ve rented all over; NYC, Chicago, Honolulu, Tel Aviv, Tahoe, and Los Angeles. The best experiences have been those where the house was as advertised. I try to look for “Superhosts”, or those with 10+ stays, because I feel hosts who have that many stays have probably covered the small things. Hosts that have more stays tend to communicate better before, during, and after the stay. The best hosts send across clear instructions beforehand. I’ve never had a truly bad experience on airbnb, but I think this is based on my research. Also, my expectations aren’t that high, because of the rates I get.

—Jack, frequent guest