Red Flags

in
Wales, United Kingdom
Level 3
374 Views

We are new hosts. We recently took a booking for our entire house (red flag 1) for one night (red flag 2) from what turned out to be a local guest (red flag 3) with a new profile (red flag 4). These concerned me.

 

I couldn't see much about this guest at the point of the request to book. I didn't want to create an issue with our property in searches, so I naïvely accepted their stay. I called Airbnb to discuss this.

 

The lady who booked asked for an early check-in (red flag 5?). She did not reply to either of my messages. I called Airbnb again. They contacted the guest on my behalf and said the guest said they were happy to proceed with an early booking. I was concerned of cancelling and was persuaded to continue.

 

She was not at check-in as agreed. Two people claiming to be their parents did appear. 

 

During her stay she did not respond to my messages.

 

I returned to the house for checking-in at the agreed time. No one was there. To my horror the keys were left outside, next to the front door mat, the windows were open. The lights and other electrical appliances were left on. We have a no smoking policy. There were cigarette buts thrown on the drive, the terraces, in the pond and in plant pots. The house smelt of smoke. Our neighbours told us that they had been making noise outside after the 10pm time we had requested and that they could smell drugs. The bins were full of empty beer bottles, cans and spirit bottles. I am guessing around 50 to 60 bottles and cans. 8 wine glasses were also used. Too many for the 6 booked guests. so I think it is safe to say they has a party - which we do not allow. There were also three beach towels missing. It could have been much worse.

 

I messaged and called Airbnb on three occasions asking for some help. The first time the support officer was not particularly interested or supportive. The second was, but I was cut off and did not receive a call back. The third time I messaged, I received a link which did not work and the staff member stopped the conversation. I was told that I had to go back to an old thread, which I did. I responded and again nothing.

 

There are several questions here...

Airbnb are aware of problem guests outlined in their video message in October 2020 and said that they were acting on the four flagged red flags, (I think I have found a fifth) by November 2020 to prevent these bookings coming through to hosts.

 

Were we missed?  Has anyone got any experience of Airbnb actually acting on these 'Red Flags? Hosts do not appear to be privy to the guest information that Airbnb holds at the time of booking. I was not supported by Airbnb at the time the booking, when the guest requested to book, nor afterwards.  How many time do I need to ask for some help?

 

Why aren't we told as new host, if you are worried don't accept the booking, we will stand by you? Perhaps most importantly somewhere along the way I was told a senior member of staff would call me back...I am still waiting days later.

 

I don't know what more I can do. I feel unsupported, let down and concerned. On my own initiative I am no longer taking one-night bookings, I have raised my prices and I am no longer accepting bookings unless I am convinced they are genuine and have put in a minimum stay of two nights, but I have done this myself. Surely we should be getting more support.

 

I would appreciate any advice from fellow hosts whilst I wait to see if do decide Airbnb to engage. In particular, I would be interested to hear if you have had similar issues and how you changed your booking policies or approach to protect yourself and your property.

21 Replies

Re: Red Flags

in
Sayulita, Mexico
Level 10

@Colber0  You should spend some time reading through a few pages of posts here and your questions will be answered.

 

There is virtually no support for hosts from Airbnb. Reps are outsourced, ill-trained, give out erroneous info. Expect nothing from them and you won't be disappointed.

 

Always listen to your intuition and decline bookings that throw up red flags. If you are scared to decline because it might drop your search ranking, you will have no end of guest issues. 

 

Also never kowtow to guest demands or breaking of house rules during their stay because you are afraid of a bad review. Bad guests leave bad reviews, no matter what. You can't avoid them by letting guests abuse your hospitality. Keep control of your property and act immediately if guests are behaving badly. 

 

If the booker doesn't show up for check-in, do not admit others who do show up.

 

A bad review, which you can respond to, is far preferable to having your place trashed.

Re: Red Flags

in
England, United Kingdom
Level 10

@Colber0 Red flag 1 is not a red flag. If you rent an entire property this is what you get bookings for. ALL the others are red flags (except perhaps 5) that are so big you shouldn't have taken the reservation.

Based on the state of the property you have dodged a bullet so, as @Sarah977  says, learn from the community centre and go forward with more knowledge and you should avoid most problems.

Re: Red Flags

in
Alberta, Canada
Level 10

@Mike-And-Jane0 @Colber0 A local guest requesting early check in can be a red flag, absolutely. Why do they need early check in anyway? If nothing else, this is classic 'ask-y guest' red flag type behavior that may be indicative of more exasperating or troublesome behavior to come.

Re: Red Flags

in
England, United Kingdom
Level 10

@Colleen253 I would say local guests would often need early check in as they are not likely to spend the day sightseeing in the local area. That said we would NEVER accept a local guest unless they give us good reasons for needing the place. So far two local guests, both moving house, and both great.

Re: Red Flags

in
Wales, United Kingdom
Level 3

That's a really good point @Mike-And-Jane0 . Make sure we know what they are staying. Thank you.

Re: Red Flags

in
England, United Kingdom
Level 10

@Colber0 Other thing to consider

Putting some personal information into your listing that says (or implies) that you are close by as this will help put off the party crowd.

Also, if possible, ensure the neighbours know,  and are encouraged, to contact you in the event a party is detected. In times of Covid I imagine even the police would help you break up an illegal gathering

I think 2 night is too short. You will get Friday and Saturday's booked but might not get the rest of the week. We have a 3 night minimum allowing a 3 night weekend and then a 4 night slightly cheaper weekday stay with a small discount to encourage weekly bookings. For School holidays on our 3 bed listing we insist on weekly (or fortnightly) stays with an enforced Saturday check in/out to ensure we can be fully booked.

Re: Red Flags

in
Wales, United Kingdom
Level 3

Hi @Mike-And-Jane0,

Thank you for your response and your advice it is very much appreciated.

 

We had discussed stating that we lived nearby. I was concerned we may get called out, but you are right I would rather deal with that and have a deterrent. We will definitely take your advice on that. Thank you.

 

Looking at durations, we went for 5 nights minimum for high season and and are nearly fully booked with stays from 5 to 9 nights with I think two blocks of four nights not booked yet, but as we have a unusual property, we also went much higher than advised on rates which has worked in high season. 

 

I like the idea of having set weeks, can I ask why you settled for a Saturday start date. Was it because you saw a trend or was it as it is practical for guests working on Fridays? We have had equal bookings for Friday and Saturday starts and for midweek to midweek. 

 

We tried 3 nights minimum for midseason as we were not getting bookings for June. When we tried two nights we received three bookings that filled in gaps. It did feel anti-intuitive.

 

We have gone for a 3 night weekend, but currently with a 2 night minimum for September which is mid to low season. We may well go back to three, even if we offer a cheaper Sunday night. We are thinking about staying ourselves mid week during term time but if we don't we will definitely go for the 4 night slightly cheaper weekday stay with a small discount to encourage weekly bookings.

 

I was looking to see if I could discount a 4 night stay over say a 3 night stay, but I don't think Airbnb allows that as it has to be a week or a month for discount?

 

We are also set up for weekly guest stays in school holidays and will definitely go for an enforced check in/out to for Christmas, Easter and half terms  Am I right in saying you can only switch the enforced check in/ check out for the full year not just for certain weeks?

Re: Red Flags

in
England, United Kingdom
Level 10

@Colber0 No you can force a Saturday check in for a limited time period. Switch on pro tools from your account settings and then learn how to use rule sets. They are great an open up a whole new level of complexity in how you list your property.

Saturday just felt right for us as people often hate traveling on Friday night after work but are happy to sightsee on Saturday before coming to the property and then travel home early Sunday to be ready to work the next week.

You say you went higher than recommended rates - WELL DONE. The Airbnb suggested prices are beyond stupidly low. It often suggest £30/night for our 3 bed place - Just dumb.

Re: Red Flags

in
Wales, United Kingdom
Level 3

@Mike-And-Jane0  @Great, I will make a start in the morning. The suggested rates just felt strange we've a large property facing the beach on gardens and s lawns and the suggested prices for us is consistently far below what is sensible

 

Before we started, during our renovation, we set up our Airbnb profile without internal photos and still managed to get 5 bookings averaging a week each at our preferred rate. Airbnb keeps on trying to get us to go for very low rates and if anything as we get more confident, were ignoring them more. 

 

Perhaps we should start 'Maintain your Nightly Rates' group!

Re: Red Flags

in
Sayulita, Mexico
Level 10

@Colber0  Airbnb's price tips are a total joke and no experienced host pays one iota of attention to them. They have nothing to do with what your place is worth, what guests will be willing to pay, or your business being successful. 

 

They are designed for one thing only- to get guests to book as fast and furiously as possible, so Airbnb can get their service fees. They couldn't care less if you don't make a penny in profit.

 

Airbnb's price tips for my really pretty and comfortable private room with private bath and balcony, use of my large kitchen and outdoor areas, are usually $10 lower than what a hostel room shared with 3 strangers, and a bathroom shared with 6, goes for in my town. And half of what I actually charge and my guests are happy to pay and leave me 5*s for.

 

The price tips are only good for one thing- if you need a laugh, or have some need to feel insulted.

Re: Red Flags

in
Wales, United Kingdom
Level 3

That us disappointing @Sarah977 .

 

I wonder how the pricing Algorithms actually work?

 

We are in a postcode of 15 houses, none of which offer Airbnb. We are in a popular tourist destination, half a mile from the main village.

 

Not only do the rates suggest not appear to be sensible, but when I look at our profile, 'other similar properties' appears to randomly pick houses on the other side of he country.

 

If we were able to have a more constructive dialogue with Airbnb I would be keen to try and get this changed. On a positive I assume it discourages others to go looking around once they have found us.

 

So there are some positives!

Re: Red Flags

in
Sayulita, Mexico
Level 10

@Colber0  I have no idea what that algorithm is based on. And the "Similar places" aren't necessarily similar at all, because an algorithm can't compare anything but price, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, max number of guests. It can't compare what a place really looks like, whether it is new and shipshape or run down, how it is furnished, or what the surroundings are like.

 

For instance, one of the "similar places" on my listing page is "Monster Truck on the Beach". It sits in the middle of what looks like a sandy, dusty yard (my yard is a tropical jungle), has an outdoor shower with a junky looking curtain around it (my guests have a really attractive private bathroom), is at the beach ( I'm a 20 minute walk from the beach, in the countryside), etc.

 

Another "similar place" pictures barren looking rooms,  beds with cheapo looking bedding and one flat pillow, horrid wall colors and tacky tourist art in the walls. I also know it's in a really noisy part of town.

 

That's awesome that you don't have any Airbnb competition in your neighborhood. Most hosts aren't that lucky. You'll probably do really well.

Re: Red Flags

in
England, United Kingdom
Level 10

@Colber0 Where do I go to see what the similar properties for my listings? I have always wondered what we are being compared to.

Re: Red Flags

in
Sayulita, Mexico
Level 10

@Mike-And-Jane0  They appear across the bottom of the screen under your listing info. You don't see that on yours?

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