7 Homesharing Safety Tips for Travelers
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) You've probably heard the buzz about homesharing websites like Airbnb.com, which connect travelers looking for a good deal and a cool place to stay with private residents around the world who are willing to rent out their homes. From apartments in New York to castles in England to villas in Italy, the range of accommodation types and price points are broad, offering travelers the chance to enjoy a truly unique vacation at a cost they can afford.
Sound exciting? It can be, but the idea might also give you the heebie-jeebies. After all, is it safe to stay in the home of someone you don't know? And how can you be sure your money will be transferred to a trustworthy source? You might also wonder whether the home will really turn out to be as fantastic as it looks in its pictures.
The good news is that booking a vacation rental through a homesharing website can be safe if you take proper precautions. After picking the brains of several travel pros, we've come up with a list of ways you can help protect yourself and your money when using homesharing websites. Here are our top tips for travelers.
Check the Site's Policies
Before booking an accommodation through a homesharing website, be sure to read the refund policies first to make sure you'll get your money back if something goes wrong.
Airbnb, for instance, promises to hold onto your payment until 24 hours after you check in before giving it to the host to offer you the chance to walk through the accommodation and make sure everything is as expected. The company says that guests could be eligible for a refund if they alert Airbnb of a travel issue within 24 hours after the start of the reservation. Examples of travel issues include if the description of the accommodation in the listing is "materially" different from the actual accommodation (such as the accommodation's size or location) or if the accommodation is not clean.
As a general rule of thumb, the more specific the policies, the better, advises Clinton Emerson, CEO of Escape the Wolf , a personal security and global travel mitigation company.
You should only use a homesharing website that allows guests to comment on their rental experiences, and be sure to pay close attention to these reviews. While you should look for an accommodation with mostly positive feedback, be wary of responses that seem overly inflated. Sometimes mixed reviews give you the most honest picture of a host and accommodation.
"Reviews can be good, but remember some could be fake," says Emerson. "Look for detailed reviews that mention names of the host and specific details. For instance, if there are photos posted of the location, it's great if you can identify a detail from the review and match it with something in the photo to verify the person has actually been there."