The Art of Airbnb: How to cut through the blurb and choose a great rental
Travel tips & advice
Published 16/10/2016 | 02:30
Airbnb has a number of filters to help users narrow down their choices... here's how to navigate them.
Airbnb's filters are helpful - the price one especially - but I've come to think of them as just a prelude to my personal vetting system.
Like a lot of Airbnb members, I have criteria that must be fulfilled before I even consider booking. Sure, location, price and reviews are key, but you need to ascertain who exactly you're staying with and what exactly they're about. You also have to cut through the exaggeration and embellishment.
Airbnb may be part of the touchy-feely 'sharing economy' but the hosts still rely on hyperbole to push their properties.
As with any property search, the words 'cosy', 'charming' and 'cute' mean 'tiny', just as 'up-and-coming area' means a coffee shop that offers non-dairy milk options recently opened nearby.
However, Airbnb also has its own distinct language and, after plenty of searching, I'm slowly learning how to read between the lines.
As a general rule, I avoid like the plague any host who describes his property as 'cool', 'hip' or 'trendy'. It's impossible to define the elusive quality that is coolness, but it's fairly safe to conclude that self-proclaimed cool cats are anything but.
Worse, these listings seem to imply that a stay in their home will give you a glimpse of a world you otherwise couldn't access - provincial Neanderthal that you are.
I also avoid the vegans and vegetarians. I have no issue with non-meat eaters per se - I used to be one - however, I find their house rules (no meat, fish or by-products on the premises) much too oppressive.
The vegan's bedfellow is the host who describes his home as 'conscious'. What he's really trying to say is that if you don't drink reishi mushroom tea, practise yoga and read Eckhart Tolle, well then you are clearly a psychic parasite who could jeopardise the precise energetic alignment of his space. He may host you, but make no mistake: he'll conduct a sage-burning, rebirthing seance as soon as you leave.
Likewise, I avoid hosts that describe their home as a 'Zen retreat'. In most cases, this simply means they bought a Buddha statue for €29.99 in Home Depot and are trying their best to grow bamboo in the garden.
Hosts who describe their homes as an 'oasis' are also to be avoided. In most cases, it's the equivalent of a highway motel calling itself 'The Paradise Inn'.
When it comes to House Rules, I immediately veto any host who uses CAPITAL LETTERS to emphasise a point. I also run a million miles from hosts who try to camouflage their anal-retentiveness with a contrived air of easy-breezy conviviality.
''Like most people, we love to let loose from time to time (seriously, you should have seen us in Vegas last year), but if you so much as attempt to crack open a beer after 8pm, we're going to hold your deposit and call the cops... And they will Taser your ass, wiseguy...
"These rules mean we can continue to host super-awesome peeps from around the world. Carpe diem!'
Passive-aggressiveness is frustratingly common on Airbnb. Many hosts purport to be 'live for the moment' types in their bio before asking that you 'place paper towels over microwaved items to avoid spillages' in their House Rules section.
I hasten to add that the new Airbnb slogan is 'Live there. Even if it's just for a night'. However, worrying about microwave spills, biodegradable toilet tissue or broken cat flaps while on holiday is simply not living.
Speaking of kitchen appliances, I swipe left on hosts that don't allow visitors to use their kitchen. My interpretation of this rule is that they like the extra money that Airbnb brings in but they don't actually enjoy the experience of having strangers in their home.
Similarly, I steer clear of male hosts who have Tinderised their profile in the hope of meeting hot Swedish women. They tend to be called Blaze or Diego or Zayn and, invariably, they're topless and wrestling an alligator in their profile picture. Meanwhile, their bio includes the phrase 'citizen of the world' and a motivational mantra that they came up with when they were heavily stoned - "Freedom is the willingness to fly" or the likes.
My next rule is very personal and very bigoted: I avoid blissfully happy couples, possibly because I'm becoming bitter and cynical but also because I imagine 'Romeo y Juliet' would gang up on me if I broke the toaster by trying to light a cigarette in it.
I also imagine having to listen to their primal lovemaking as I sit in the next room looking up Yelp recommendations for sushi restaurants.
There are 2.3million listings on Airbnb so everyone needs to have their own system for navigating it. These personal filters may be unreasonable, irrational and sometimes completely jaundiced - but rest assured, the hosts have their own systems too.
And they're just as unfair.