In a previous article, we discussed the 9 Red Flags of Airbnb Guests – not that you should decline a guest for having any of the warning signs, but you should take that as an indication that you need to pay attention.
But what happens if a potential Airbnb guest only triggers one red flag? Or maybe they pass all of your criteria, but for some reason you still feel uneasy about hosting them?
That’s when you need to dig for more information.
Although this may seem like a daunting task, there are efficient ways to gather this data so you can make an informed decision, protecting your family and investments as best as you can.
How to Screen your Airbnb Guests Part 2
If you are unsure about whether to accept a guest or not, all it takes is a few minutes to gather some more information about the guest.
Follow our 7 due diligence steps below, and you will have enough facts to feel comfortable about making a decision to decline or accept these potential guests.
7 Steps of Due Diligence
1. Check Reviews
This is the easiest way to weed out potential troublemakers, and also the most effective. After all, this is what Airbnb’s review system was made for.
Just click on the round icon by their name (where their profile picture will eventually appear), and you will be able to see the guest’s verifications and previous reviews.
Read through the reviews, but read with a careful eye…hosts often feel uncomfortable leaving a negative review, even if the guest was truly awful. That means that future hosts must read between the lines to get the full story.
For example….”This guest is probably better suited to a hotel” signals a high maintenance guest. Or, “This guest needed to be reminded about our house rules” indicates that you might be better off declining.
Be sure to check the number of reviews vs the number of host recommendations. If they match, that’s a great sign! If they have 10 reviews and only 3 host recommendations – definitely trouble.
But what if the guest doesn’t have any reviews, or is new to Airbnb?
The next best way to get a feel for future guests is by examining their messages and interacting with them yourself. Look at their introductory message…does it seem relatively normal? Did it answer your pre-booking questions?
Ask them some friendly questions about their upcoming trip – have they been to your town before? What are they most looking forward to during their stay?
This tactic accomplishes two things:
1. Asking pleasant, broad questions will paint you as an extra attentive host. While you are chatting, make some connections with the guest. Recommend your favorite place to eat, or see if you have anything in common. Doing this increases your likability, and makes you seem like a real person (instead of just a stranger on the internet). Guests who have things in common with their hosts and can relate to them are more likely to give you 5 stars.
2. Engaging with the guest via the message thread will give you a better indication of their overall personality and reason for their stay, giving you more information to use when making your decision. Even though the communication happens via an app, you can get a surprisingly accurate read on people!
3. Ask Specifics
If their messages remain a bit on the vague side, they are either hiding something or genuinely don’t get that you are trying to learn more about them. Ask them direct questions about their trip, such as how many people are staying, when they will be arriving, the purpose of their trip, and how they will be getting to your place. Make it clear that you aren’t trying to be nosey (even though we totally are!), by blaming things on insurance requirements.
For example, “Our insurance requires that we ask all guests how many people will be staying on the property, and their relationship to the primary guest. If you could provide that information for us, that would help us out a lot, thanks!”
You can also pry for details because you “want to give them the best possible experience”. For example, “We like to know how guests are arriving and about what time they will be there, that way we can provide accurate directions to the listing and be sure to keep a lookout for messages in case you have any issues checking in!”
Some guests don’t understand that you want real answers – directly asking the guest puts them on the spot and is more difficult to dance around. Although it may be a bit uncomfortable for you at first, assure the guest that the questions are coming from a good place. Not that you don’t trust them…you just want to make their stay as convenient as possible!
4. Airbnb profile
If you still can’t get a feel for their intentions after messaging with them, or maybe their messages brought up more red flags, it’s time to go into sleuth mode.
Check their Airbnb profile to get some identifying information, such as their name, location, school, etc.
If their Airbnb profile isn’t filled out, just politely ask the guest to do so.
For example, “We like to get to know about the guests who stay with us – it helps us give you a better experience in our town! If you could take a few minutes and please fill out your Airbnb profile, that would be great.”
After you get the necessary personal information from the Airbnb profile, it’s time to pull out that Sherlock Holmes hat and do some lite cyber stalking. Start by typing their name and location into Google, and see what pops up!
One Google search of a potential guest showed that he was arrested the previous year in connection with child pornography. Yikes!
6. Social Media
If you can’t find anything – I mean, how many Amy Johnsons can there be in NYC – the next step is to search the main social media sites. By “main”, I mean the typical Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Many social media profiles are set to private, which would limit the amount of access you have to their profile. However, you can still get some valuable information. Are they doing something dangerous or illegal in their profile picture? Do they have tons of political or offensive “joke” posts? Might want to rethinking that booking.
7. Personal check-in
If you complete the steps above and still are unsure…it’s time to pull out the big guns! Tell them you are going to meet them at some point on their first night to show them around the property. This will either put your mind at ease, or you know you need to call Airbnb and get them out ASAP. You can also tell a lot by the way they react to this request. Hopefully they welcome the idea of a personal check-in from their host, or at the very least they don’t seem put off by it. But if they refuse to meet you, or are weird about letting you onto your own property – definitely suspicious.
We have hosted plenty of people with incomplete profiles that end up being great guests! However, when we see an inquiry from a profile like this pop up – created the same day they booked and with the minimum number of verifications…
It is completely within your right to be slightly suspicious. After learning more about them and their plans, we decided host them anyway – and they ended up being wonderful guests.
While no system is 100% foolproof, these red flags and steps of due diligence work together to give you the best possible picture of potential guests.
Above all, listen to your gut, and don’t be afraid to decline or cancel.
The biggest times we have had issues with guests is when I thought, “Well, I wouldn’t normally let them book, but ________ (insert excuse here – it’s slow season, it’s not going to get booked, we need a new fridge, etc)”.
While you do not want to cancel too often, you don’t automatically get a penalty for canceling an instant book. Be prepared to justify the cancellation with a good reason, and be careful not to make it a pattern. To prepare for when you DO have to inevitably cancel an instant booking, you should pre-approve inquiries whenever possible. If someone messages and requests dates that are already booked, or asks to bring a pet when you tell them they can’t, tell them no in the message but approve their inquiry anyway. Save your denials and cancellations for times when you really need them.
Airbnb is based on trust, and unfortunately there are people out there who will violate that trust. If you do happen to get a guest that causes damage or breaks your house rules, collect photographic evidence and alert Airbnb immediately – and then be ready to file for Airbnb’s million dollar host guarantee.
We had our fair share of rookie mistakes – one of them being that I didn’t listen to my gut.
If you are dealing with major guest damages, or want to be prepared if it ever does happen, check out this article for exactly what to expect from the Airbnb host insurance.