Guest Screening Best Practices

Alina127
Level 7
Taylorsville, UT

Guest Screening Best Practices

Hello Community; I am a new AirBnb host but come with 4 years of experience hosting au-pairs/live-in nannies so I leveraged some screening practices from that into my AirBnb hosting.  

 

I do Instant Book but on my “Greeting” I have a questionnaire that guests are required to fill out.  This is done under the Guest Trip information.  I require verified ID.  I do not require recommendation from previous hosts.

 

Making guests fill out out 5 essential questions before arrival can help you weed out duds. I’ve enclosed them here and my advice as to what to look out for:

 

Guest Questionnaire:

 

1. Full names of guests on reservation. 

 

WHY YOU NEED TO ASK THIS QUESTION: if the guest does not want you to look them up on Google, LinkedIn, or Facebook, they will not give you their name.  Asking for names  is a reasonable request to ask because it is a confirmed booking and you need to ask for ID upon check-in

 

2. Occupation/Work Profession of guests on reservation

 

WHY YOU NEED TO ASK THIS QUESTION: Stable people have careers or are happily retired!  People who hold jobs and show up to work have a predictable routine!  Stable people do not do things that will make them lose their jobs: robberies, illicit drug use, stay up late to party/play video games and sleep in (ie: show up late to work)...basically guests you don’t want inside your home.  Most tourists have day jobs back home.  I do short-term stays and only want stable people in my home; and people who will not mooch around my home all day long doing nothing or squat forever!  Local drifters who are unable or unwilling to hold a job will not answer that question.  

 

3. Have you &/or guests used Airbnb before?  If yes, how many times & dates?

 

WHY YOU NEED TO ASK THIS QUESTION: if a guest answers all of the other 4 questions and you’re happy with their responses along with a profile pic but just started using AirBnb in the past month; you should consider hosting them!  My first two reservations had no Airbnb reviews yet answered all my questions and had decent profile pictures.  They had no reviews because they just started using AirBnb but their hosts were either too busy or too lazy to write a review.  They were great guests and I got my reviews! 

 

4. Reason for being in the area?

 

WHY YOU NEED TO ASK THIS QUESTION: If your goal is to host tourists or working professionals; they need to have plans to be out and about during your stay.  In my area those reasons should be: I’m in the area for skiing, job training, attending a conference, going to a show, catching an early flight or visiting extended family — A (wo)man should have a plan!  A red flag answer to this question is not answering this question or saying something like “Oh I’m just winging it with my plans”. 

 

5. Why you are interested in this accommodation?

 

WHY YOU NEED TO ASK THIS QUESTION:  “Why Us?” you are one of hundreds of Airbnb options the guest is looking at.  There’s always going to be an Airbnb that’s better than yours in terms of location, price, amenities, more privacy etc.  The answer given to you should be genuine, something you believe to be valid.  

 

***The first answer out of their mouth should NOT be the cost!!***

 

 If they give you that as an answer; be suspect and know this is a red flag guest.  Just like in job interviews, we interview because we know the job pays more but we don’t give “It pays more” as our answer, there is something else besides the money that makes us want to interview.  Likewise, people go to AirBnb because of the cost but their motivation to book an Airbnb out of all the other options available needs to go beyond the cost.  

 

Your guests need to give you a better answer than “Yours was the cheapest to book” or “I sold my house and living in motels and Airbnb is cheaper and decided to give it a shot”....answers I’ve received and denied.  Especially if it’s coming from a local...if a local really want to save money, why can’t they stay with family or friends in the area? 

 

The answer you should be looking for should be tied in with their answer given in the forth question.  “It’s 11 minutes away from my job training”,  “It’s close distance to the airport for early flight”, “My daughter lives 6 minutes away”, things like that. 

 

If they are serious about booking your accommodation and have nothing to hide; they will answer all 5 questions.

 

If I’m satisfied with their answers, I go ahead with receiving them.  No problem guests so far!  Those that did not answer my questions or dodge answering my questions with asking me questions that are not about them, “Do you have TVs in the bedrooms?” most likely have something to hide and I decline the booking.  

 

 

 

22 Replies 22
Russell49
Level 10
Katoomba, Australia

Though I understand the desire for a questionaire, I can see how it would leave a vacant calendar for bookings.

 

I have had some bad experiences and have my own reservations towards some type of guests and try to screen as much as possible to get a feel for what I may/may not be dealing with. One thing I always do is remind 0 review guests about our house rules and to please keep it a quiet atmosphere so as to not disturb our neighbors. If they get offended by me making this statement-I cancel their booking-simple as that.

Garrett47
Level 2
Louisville, KY

Don't you get some kind of mark or something from AirBNB if you cancel a guest?

Emilia42
Level 10
Orono, ME

@Garrett47 One of the selling points of the instant book is that if you have it enabled you can cancel reservations that make your uncomfortbale. 

Ian-And-Anne-Marie0
Level 10
Kendal, United Kingdom

Our accomodation sleeps eight. If your accomodation is only for one or for two then your experience may well be different.  It is disconcerting that often the person who books is not the first to arrive and that person does not always pass on imformation to the other guests as they should. As we greet our guests personally to hand over keys and give brief instructions on Cooker/Heating/Hot tub etc we often hand over keys to unidentified guests.

 

Our home comes with a responsibility of care, it is not for abusing and so in my opinion, the more guest information obtained - the better. You would happily provide your home to your friends who you would have known in depth for years and would trust, so too should you know in detail the strangers you dont know and who you are allowing to use your home.

 

Some bookings do have multiple Airbnb guest profiles attached which is always a relief to see as when you are renting to eight with only one verified guest the possibility for rogue guests to hide within the group is very easy. Even though the verified guest has accepted T&C's / House Rules / Responsibility - the rest haven't and they have no idea what they might be, they have no idea of the expectations of the host and really, they're not really interested.

 

So the idea of obtaining as much information from the guest who books is very important. I would like to extend that depth of imformation to every other guest too, pointing out the house rules to them, having them accepted, and then making them individually  responsible for their own actions.

 

Here's a few examples of why; We've had guests use decorative hand bowls to be sick in, in bedrooms. Then just left it. We've had glass broken in the hot tub where our house rules state NO Glass anywhere near the hot tub. We've had guests smoking in bedrooms and piles of cigarette butts dumped around when we have no smoking rules, dogs in-doors where we have 'no pets' rules and towels used for bleaching hair and cleaning makeup. These are just irresponsible actions and I think greater identification measures would go a long way to reduce these irresponsible actions from those invisible guests.

 

Another example; The guest who booked a group via AirBnb was arriving late. Her sister (with different Surname) enquired via TripAdvisor where she could collect keys from for earlier access !?

 

Since guest want to believe they are utilising a 'hotel' and not as AirBnb is intended - somebody's home, perhaps hosts should be more wary and take all guest information on arrival, along with scans of credit cards and - even retinas. 🙂

Andrew0
Level 10
Berlin, Germany

@Donald28 A great thing about choosing not to use Instant Book is that host and guest are free to ask questions (outside of those excluded by the non-discrimination policy) before a commitment is made that requires some maneuvers to get out of. It may cost some potential business, but sticking with "reservation by request only" creates space for a civilized dialogue rather than an awkward interrogation.

 

@Emilia42 Often I find that a person's communication style reveals more useful insight than a questionaire can. Guests who convey that they understand the listing, express genuine appreciation for it, and supply relevant info about the nature of their trip and the people in the party usually turn out just fine. The request process is a good filter against those who have reason not to be forthcoming about these things.

 

@Inna22 Very good point - guests are also taking a leap of faith when they choose to stay in a stranger's home. They have to trust that the host who has access to the place where they sleep and keep their valuables is not going to go through their stuff, spy on them with hidden cameras, sexually assault them, or any of the other things we've heard about in Airbnb horror stories. But no host would accept them if they asked unwelcome questions about their personal lives.

 

Helen609
Level 6
Polperro, United Kingdom

I am probably your ideal guest, but there is no way I would book with you with that list of questions. What an absolute pain to write all that, to be interviewed basically to be allowed to stay with you!

 

I would look elsewhere.

Emilia42
Level 10
Orono, ME

@Alina127,  Over 250 reservations later and I've actually had the opposite experience. The best guests are those that message me with a "We're coming into town for a concert. Super excited to spend the night in your beautiful space. Thank you!" A polite and well-mannered acknowledgement does it for me. No vetting required.

Lauren18
Level 4
Tucson, AZ

Me too.  Some 375 reservations later, and a polite, appreciative introduction generally works fine for me.

Donald28
Level 10
Lithia Springs, GA

You can certainly ASK these questions but if you're using instant book, you're screwed if they don't answer. You can't just cancel if you don't like their answers or if they choose to ignore your questions. 

 

If you got rid of IB and then used these questions, you'd be far better off. 

Helen3
Level 10
Bristol, United Kingdom

Actually that is not true @Donald28 

 

You absolutely can cancel if you have questions as part of your IB process and in your house rules which guests don't respond to.

 

Where guests haven't responded. Airbnb has contacted them for me to secure the information and confirmed that if they don't respond, they will cancel the booking.

Inna22
Level 10
Chicago, IL

@Alina127 I would utilize the 48 grace cancellation as soon as get your list if I booked with you. Unless it was in your description that you would be asking these. Then I would not have booked in the first place. And this is precisely because I have good answers to those questions and I have no interest in someone knowing everything about me, my travel patterns, my plans during a particular trip. I do not want “some” host collecting all this private information about me.  I think more “stable” people tend to be more private unless they want public exposure for work. Plus this is a lot of work- every Airbnb stay with dates? Is this a visa application? And how would you feel if I sent something like that back to you? Your family names and occupations, your plans for when I am at your property etc? I also do want to know if my host is stable!

i am also wondering what percentage you end up cancelling as a result of unsatisfactory answers and if it affected your cancellation rate. 

Helen3
Level 10
Bristol, United Kingdom

I am sorry @Alina127 but I think you will put many lovely guests off by your approach.  You will find many like me will not want to offer such personal information about ourselves.

 

1. Full names of guests on reservation. 

 

Unless you live in a country where it is a legal requirement, you don't need anyone's ID. I and many hosts I know don't feel the need and certainly don't have the time  to check out the ID of the hundreds of guests who stays with us.

 

2. Occupation/Work Profession of guests on reservation

 

I wouldn't book with you if you asked for my occupation. Quite frankly it is none of your business. You can vet people to ensure they are good fit without asking this question.

 

3. Have you &/or guests used Airbnb before?  If yes, how many times & dates?

 

I am certainly not going to look up all the times I have used Airbnb before and list them for you.

 

4. Reason for being in the area?

 

I ask about people's plans for their stay too to ensure there is a good fit (however I don't have a list of reasons which I have identified as being acceptable) 

 

5. Why you are interested in this accommodation?

 

I actually ask what made you choose my place. Again to ensure there is a good fit.

 

 

Linda108
Level 10
La Quinta, CA

@Alina127   Your questionaire would definitely be off-putting to me as a casual short term guest but your thought process is interesting

Ann489
Level 10
Boise, ID

@Alina127   question: have you had any reservations with this "über-questionaire"?  It seems a little overkill-especially, asking potential guests about their occupation.  

Andrew0
Level 10
Berlin, Germany

@Alina127  I can understand the benefit of asking about a guest's profession if the listing is oriented toward long-term (30 days or more) stays. However, for the short-stay guest it seems needlessly intrusive and can easily be viewed as discriminatory.

 

Also, I don't think I agree with your extrapolation of which people are "stable." I've come across many people with advanced degrees and distinguished professions who also happen to be psychologically unstable, or drug addicts, or party animals, criminals, and in some cases all of the above. And on the flip side I know plenty of stable and responsible people who are unemployed, studying, or doing low-skilled work. In this regard I don't think a prospective guest's profession is any better indication of their suitability than things that it's against Airbnb policy to ask about, such as their race or religion or sexual orientation.  Plenty of good guests will take offense to the question, and less desirable guests can simply lie.

 

The other 4 questions seem quite reasonable and are pretty close to what Airbnb advises guests to volunteer in their initial requests.

 

 

Sarah977
Level 10
Sayulita, Mexico

@Alina127  Those are really good, well-thought out tips. I don't use IB, so guests have to send an Inquiry or Booking request, and when they do, I've been very lucky to have the kind of guests attracted to my place who generally volunteer all that type of information in their first message. Guests who expect to be welcomed into someone's home by presenting themselves as anonymous silouettes with no profile info are guests I'm not interested in.

Lauren18
Level 4
Tucson, AZ

Me too.  No instant book.  I like to read their profiles, reviews if they have any, and if they don't introduce themselves in the inquiry I won't rent to them as a rule anyway, because it tells me they think I'm a motel.  And cross my fingers, I've been lucky to have lots of great people stay here because of that.

Branka-and-Silvia0
Level 10
Zagreb, Croatia

@Paul154 

The worst answer: we are coming for our cousin's wedding

Linda-And-Eddy0
Level 2
Caldwell, NJ

Sorry, I know this is three years old, but why is that the worst?  Honest, I don't know!

@Alina127 thank you so much, this is very helpful.

 

It's a crying shame that us hosts have become so leery and defensive. I firmly believe that Airbnb's hands-off approach to any dispute a host might have with a guest is the root cause of this problem.

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