How to Airbnb - Part 2
Dennis Rettke
September 14, 2017

In the first part of our "How to Airbnb" series , we shared with you some basics of the platform. We covered what you can expect in an Airbnb place, how to locate it, and discussed the differences between the different room types, including elaborating on what it means to have an "Entire Apartment", as well as a "Private Room."

We also want to look deeper and show you how to make your stay smoother and to closely match your needs. We've done this through learning at every place we go and applying what we've learned into our next stay. Here are the topics we are going to take a closer look at in this article:

  • The weekly and monthly discounts
  • How the check in/out process works
  • Wi-Fi, free parking, washing machine and other amenities
  • The need for detective skills in searching for details
The weekly and monthly discounts
So, on Airbnb, hosts can give a discount for those staying for a week or more. It's quite simple but definitely something you should be taking notice of, especially if you're thinking of staying, say 5 days or more. When you check the price, it will tell you if there is a weekly and/or monthly discount. The weekly discount will be applied for stays of 7 days or more, until the monthly discount kicks in if they have one (which is typically higher).

Below are two screenshots of the same place with the weekly (14%) and monthly (31%) discounts applied
These discounts can offer excellent value, especially if the accommodation's usual nightly rate is out of your price range. Therefore, if you feel you really like a property but it's just out of your price range, check to see what the discounts are and then reassess. If, for example you are thinking that 5 or 6 days is your budget, you might find that place becomes better value or even cheaper if you stay 7 days. Because we often like to be in a place for some time, a week tends to fit in nicely, so this works well for us.

Monthly rentals are aimed at people needing temporary housing to be in a place for short term business or as a way to find a house if they've moved. The monthly discounts allow the price to come down to a level closer to an actual lease. So don't forget to take a look at Airbnb if you're in that category!
How the check-in/out process works
Image: Katy Belcher
So you've found a great place, paid for it, and then the time comes to stay. What happens next? If this is your first time, then it helps to know what to expect when you arrive at the place. It's very different to a hotel experience, where you arrive, walk to the reception desk and "check in" to the room. With Airbnb, it's much more personal. Very often, the owner gives instructions to you after you pay, or in the day or two leading up to your arrival, informing you of the check in arrangements. 
More often than not, the owner, or someone they know, will be present when you arrive. This can be for a few reasons. One is that it exhibits a personal touch, so that they can greet you and welcome you to their home and show you about the place. They might also like to see who is going to be occupying their place. Or it's simply because they live there and it's easier! Overall, it's a nice concept to meet the owners and get that individualised attention when you arrive. But sometimes it's not what you need, especially after a long journey and all you want to do is have a shower and go to sleep.

​We have seen a growing number of places (especially the investment-type ones we talked about in Part 1) that have a key code system to enter the place. Typically, the owner keeps the keys in a lock-box outside the house with a code, or lately we've actually seen key codes on the doors themselves. The owner gives you the code before you arrive and then you take care of yourself. Usually, the reason they do this is because they own the property, but live somewhere else. Hence, the "investment" theme indoors too. This arrangement makes it feel more like a hotel in that sense, because you just turn up and enter the property.
After several instances of both methods, we can say we generally prefer the key code one. The reason for this is the flexibility it gives. A few times, we have been rushed to arrive at our accommodation due to a delay from traffic, roads, or an unplanned stop. Once or twice, we were even made to feel guilty, and on another occasion, we missed the "appointment" to meet with the owner, and had to wait hours for them to come back and let us in. All this is really not the point of Airbnb, right?
​​Happily, we can say this was rare and often the owners were really happy to greet us at anytime. This was especially so when the owners lived on the property. However, due to our independent nature, along with the fact that it's difficult to plan your day on an arrival time, we prefer it when we can check in whenever we want with the key code.​​
Wi-Fi, free parking, washing machine and other amenities
​​ As we mentioned in the first article, every Airbnb has its own distinct character , thanks to the owner's input. The same extends to what amenities there are in the place. It really depends on what the owner can provide. Of course, you can select them when you search for a place to stay. Just make sure you read the accompanying description from the owner as well as reviews from others. 
For example, the owner may list they have Wi-Fi. There have been a few occasions where the advertised Wi-Fi has been very poor. Either it only worked at certain locations in the apartment, or not at all! On every occasion, we contacted the owner and they did do their best to rectify the situation. But it made the situation uncomfortable and, moreover, took time and effort to deal with something that should already have been in place. It might not sound important to some people, but the fact is that it was advertised and for people that rely on these things, it becomes paramount. We want to add here that poor Wi-Fi is more likely to occur in a remote area and that is where we study the reviews more closely.
Image: Andrey Yachmenov
​​Therefore, take a look at the reviews for an independent view on it. If you notice a few people commenting that the Wi-Fi had issues, then it's likely to be the case. Same with any other amenity that they list. Make sure that they actually work and work well. Generally, you'll get an idea once something is mentioned a few times whether it works well or not. We also want to add here that a lot of owners are really nice and they are honest too. We have found that if they really care about their home and guests, they will offer as much information as possible and in an honest manner. For example, regarding Wi-Fi, they might tell you about how good the Wi-Fi is, in the sense that if it's limited, they will say so - "Our Wi-Fi is present but it's not great for streaming movies". Such a respect for guests is refreshing to see and enables you, the traveler, to determine if that place is going to be suitable. In other words, will you be a happy guest?​​
The need for detective skills in searching for details
We have touched on this in our article several times already so will summarize now the thought. To get past the hype and get to the real feel of a residence is a tough task. Unfortunately, many descriptions are often riddled with misleading photos and descriptions. Of course, this applies to all accommodation and not just Airbnb. Therefore, the following tips can be useful for any potential accommodation.

Image: Clay Banks
  • Thoroughly examine descriptions and reviews
  • Study photos for clues on size and location - what can you see outside the window...?
  • Use Google maps to analyze the surrounding area - even "throw the man" to "walk" the area
  • Check how far nearby landmarks are on a map (not relying on the description) - are you REALLY on the beach when it's 1 hour away?
  • Check out surrounding places and see if you can find additional information there.
  • Does the description sound realistic - does it correlate with photos and reviews?
  • See if the host is a "Superhost", meaning they have a lot of reviews and are considered reliable.
We have one more article to go in our 3 part series. The third part will discuss issues with hosts and 5 mistakes to avoid. While unpleasant, such things can occur. So we will share from our experience what to do in these situations.

Until next time!