Airbnb and Self-Catering vacation rentals have become a great alternative for anybody that wants to visit the Non-Stop city (and anywhere else) without paying incredibly high hotel room prices, while enjoying superb locations and bigger spaces for half the price of hotels!
However, the downsides of Airbnb allowing anybody to open and publish vacation rentals within less than an hour, needing only some apartment photos and nothing more – is that an uneducated choice may just ruin your entire vacation.
As an experienced Airbnb host and manager of vacation rentals for over 8 years, I’ve received countless guests that arrived after being previously checked in to an uncleaned, cockroach infested, double booked or simply totally different apartments than the ones they booked.
It is unfortunate to admit, but this phenomenon is quite common not only in TLV and in Israel, but around the world too.
The easiness in which Airbnb allows apartments to go online creates an opening to unpleasant surprises – and sometimes even complete scams.
With the upcoming Eurovision contest in Tel Aviv on May 2019, new and (not positively) creative spaces have popped out on Airbnb’s platform.
I’ve gathered 5 experienced insider guidelines that may just spare you some extremely unpleasant experiences, and may just protect your money!
Rule #1 – Booking through Websites gives you assurance (Airbnb & Booking.com)
While you may pay a significant fee to websites like Airbnb, it will prove itself worthy if any issues come up with the rental. Airbnb, for example, have 24/7 dedicated trip managers that will do their best to help you find an immediate alternative in a similar cost, location and class. As a host – I’ve received many calls from Airbnb and Booking.com trip managers and you can really hear how much they care for the guest’s well-being.
Warning! In high demanded months, Tel Aviv could get so overbooked that no case manager could find you a proper alternative. In the worst case of a host not showing up for check in (yes, it happens), you may just need to find accommodations in another city.
If hosts will offer you a better deal by taking the conversation outside of the website – Stay away! Nobody could help you if you booked on a private channel and you may find yourselves “homeless”, and in cases when pre-payment made in advance – ripped off.
Same goes if you are the one trying to save those fees and contact the host out of the platform. From my experience – it usually ends badly.
It’s a common mistake to think the bigger the website is, the safer it is to book, however, since Airbnb is taking most of their fees from the guests (12% of the price), they will be the ones to put the guests interests on a higher priority than the host. In Booking.com and Expedia (Hotels.com and others) – the fee is taken fully from the property, therefore, although they do try their best to help – their interest is tending more towards their partners – the property owners.
Moreover, these days it is just as easy to add a vacation rental or an “Airbnb apartment” to Booking.com and Expedia, as it is on Airbnb. Booking through the veteran platforms will not necessarily ensure your booking will end up to be as advertised.
Rule #2 Read between the lines (of the reviews)
Property is “New” or has no reviews?
Unless you are travelling in a low season and can take the risk of arriving to an unpleasant surprise but still find alternatives – never fall for the mistake of booking a new listing with no reviews!
Even though it could be significantly cheaper than anything else online – it may be a trap!
It could be:
- An apartment that previously reviewed badly, and the host simply posted it again with a clean slate.
- A genuinely new apartment on the market – and you’ll be the first to review it – to the good and the bad.
- A scam, or simply an apartment that is offered unprofessionally by several host accounts and in several platforms simultaneously – trying to catch the best bid.
If you suspect anything, click on the Hosts profiles and see if they have other reviewed properties. If you find a “New” apartment listed by a host with many positive reviews on other listing (in the same profile) – it’s safe to believe the host is a professional that will make the outmost effort to have a good first review.
A new profile with a non-reviewed apartment is risky to book.
What if the reviews seem too good to be true?
While making sure the apartment you are checking have several positive reviews, note that a bad review is not necessarily a negative thing. It may just prove the authenticity of the host and apartment, for the good and the bad, and their commitment to improve (if the next reviews turn good again).
You can also click on the profiles of the reviewers and see if they have reviewed other properties around the world as well and been reviewed themselves as guests?
It is very easy to open FAKE ACCOUNTS on Airbnb or any other platform to add fake reviews and mislead potential guests.
What else can the reviews reveal?
Check how old the reviews are? If an apartment isn’t published all through the year, that could mean it is someone’s home, which can hint you on the cleanliness level (can never be as clean and well maintained as a professional vacation rental), and hosts like those may change their mind without any guilt feelings or fear from bad review, as this is not their main business.
The plus side of renting someone’s home is that it will most likely be equipped like only a real home can be.
Property has reviews of Cancelled guests? (on Airbnb only)
Do you see any cancellation reviews? Note how many of them are there, from when and how much time in advance they got cancelled. Hosts that cancelled on their guests within days of reservation are likely to do so again. If you really like the apartment, feel free to ask the host about those cancellations. A dedicated host should feel very uncomfortable with this kind of reviews, although there may have been a justified reason (sometimes its just technical issues).
Rule #3 Research about the host and property
Ask for the address. Check it on Google Maps and Street View. Check if the host is advertising in other platforms like booking.com or Expedia. You may also find that some properties can get cheaper in other platforms, but you must compare it to the final prices including all fees.
For example – in Central Stay properties we set the our base prices on our website cntrlstay.com, and a software is automatically adjusting the prices on the websites to include the platforms fees (+3% on Airbnb and +18% on booking.com).
In cases like this, finding the property’s website can cost you up to 20% less than anywhere else online!
Once booked, it will be wise to verify that the host doesn’t continue offering their properties elsewhere. If they will have a double booking, intentionally or not, they will make a choice between you to another guest solely based on who is paying more.
Rule #4 Remain calm to make the best out of a bad situation
If you followed all of the above guidelines or if you didn’t – once you found yourself in a situation where you won’t or can’t stay in the accommodation you booked, don’t be hasty with your next actions.
First, contact the website where you booked and explain the situation. Be calm and don’t threaten them by no means. They are people too, and the difference between helping you and just waving you off could very much depend on your approach. Be positive and they will stay with you on the line until you manage a solution.
Same goes with the hosts or property managers. Express your feedback and issues in a polite manner, so in case of no choice – you could still rely on their cooperation, especially if you don’t have an alternative yet. If the city is over booked, it may be wiser to suffer a day or two in a bad situation rather than worst – not having a room to sleep at all. All websites (and especially Airbnb) will fully refund you when the reasons are true, even if you had to stay a day or two until better alternatives open up.
In some cases, if you do not have enough justified reasons to cancel, you may end up paying the entire reservation price even if you couldn’t, wouldn’t and didn’t stay one day – ending up paying double and sometimes even more than triple than the price you initially wanted to pay.
Either way – make sure all of your communication is documented (Via Airbnb chat, Emails or other messaging platforms).
Rule #5 Put your vacation in trustworthy hands – even if it costs more
Hosting and Hoteliering is a profession that requires a very unique, almost fathering personality. It is much more than just renting an apartment or a room, but generally understanding the importance of each trip to the travelers.
In some of the Central Stay properties we offer a 24/7 flexible check in and out, using a comprehensive self-check in and apartment user guides, while making the best possible effort to get a confirmation on the acceptance and understanding of the documents by the guests.
The self-check in procedure is very common in Tel Aviv’s Airbnb scene, so make sure to understand from the hosts if they are meeting you at the apartment, or giving you the access information enough time in advance.
A good host must wish and do his best to provide a perfect and fully functional accommodation to the traveler from check in to check out.
Look for a host that understand this, and it will make the difference between an OK trip – to an amazing one. Reviews may give some indication, but also the speed and character of the replies.
In Central Stay, we always provide our guests with personally fitted recommendations for food, tours and activities that amplify their experience and save them valuable time!
Does the host make an effort to accurately schedule your check in? Do they ask for your personal needs? Do they ask for a legal documentation?
Remember that an organized and legitimate tax paying business is a safe one. An automated welcome answer is expectable, but it’s the next messages that will reveal the dedication and care of the hosts. A good host will not disappoint you, and it is worth paying slightly more than the market prices, to ensure that your vacation and yourselves are in good trustworthy hands.
Throughout the years I heard so many horror stories from disappointed guests that I could not believe my ears. Luckily for some, having a big inventory of options, I managed to rescue quite a few holidays in the last minute. Unfortunately, there were also many situations where I had to sadly turn back travelers that had no bed to sleep on.
Don’t gamble with your long-awaited vacation, follow these tips, and you will get to enjoy the Tel-Avivian experience to its fullest!
Do you have anything to add to our guide? Please tell us in the comments 😊