How To Avoid Being Scammed On Airbnb

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know how much I love traveling with Airbnb. It is literally my Holy Grail of travel accommodations. I always get asked by friends and family how I find such beautiful Airbnb homes at such an affordable price (And trust me, I have stayed at some pretty gorgeous homes in the past without spending more than $200CAD for a full week). If you'd like to see photos and links of places I've stayed at, in the past, read my "Why I Stopped Booking Hotels For Airbnb's" blog post!

Unfortunately, with all of the fraud horror stories that follow Airbnb, I know several people who are scared of giving the service a try. In my experience, I have never had a bad experience with a listing. I have always been able to find stunning homes, at affordable prices, while always ensuring, from the beginning, that the home is legitimate. Today, I show you how YOU, too, can find beautiful listings to stay at during travel while avoiding fake, sketchy homes/hosts. 

Before we start, if you aren't an Airbnb member yet, you can use my referral link (click here) to sign up and get $40 CAD off your first trip!

Start Searching Early | If you really want to find the perfect Airbnb, you need to start searching for a place early. The earlier the better. This way, you have way more options to choose from. I suggest starting to sift through the listings AT LEAST a month before your planned trip. I repeat, AT LEAST. I typically like to keep it to three months before my trip, but I narrow down my options two months before my planned trip. This gives me a full month to decide which of the listings I did like is my favorite. 

Dedicate Plenty Of Time For Searching | As I said in the earlier point, I like to dedicate a month to searching and deciding which of my choices is the best of the best. Within that month of searching, I typically check Airbnb two to three times a day, spending a couple hours just looking through listings in that area and surrounding areas. New listings pop up every day. Popular listings re-appear as people cancel reservations. You never know when something new will pop up and, of course, you want to be the first to see it!

Use the "Wishlist" Function | I find this is the perfect way to organize my thoughts when looking for an Airbnb. I can save all the ones I really liked from my search in a single wishlist, then later go through the ones I liked to finally narrow it down. I like this option as well because it allows me to see, every day, which listings are still available for my chosen dates and which ones are not. 

Use Search Filters | I can't stress enough how important it is to use your search filters. They just make sifting through the listings so much easier. Here, you can choose your price range, the number of bedrooms, facilities, amenities, which neighborhood in that area you are interested in, languages, and more. Want a place with a pool? A fireplace? Free parking? This is where you state it all, to help you find listings focused towards your needs. As for price range, for anywhere in Ontario and Quebec (the only places I've visited with Airbnb so far), I never exceed $110 per night (on average, we spend about $60 - $80 a night) for a couple trip (Just Adam and I) and $350 (on average, we spend about $150-$200) for a group trip (4 - 10 people, including ourselves). These just seem like the most reasonable prices for my budget--and in the end, I still end up with gorgeous homes! While the numbers seem high at first sight, when you begin splitting the price between people, it actually turns out to be significantly cheaper than it would be to stay at a hotel. 

Thoroughly Read Through Description & Analyze Photos | When I have finally narrowed down which listings I really want to stay at, I thoroughly analyze the descriptions and photos. These are the first two places to recognize if a place is legitimate or a scam. Some places just look too good to be true--especially when you have a really affordable home that looks really upscale. If there are full, thorough, detailed descriptions of the unit, you can bet it is legit. I like to look for descriptions on the specific bedrooms details, what is available in the kitchen, what entertainment options they have in the home (Wifi, Netflix, Cable, Pool Table, etc.) and what is available in the surrounding areas. Genuine hosts tend to take the time to include all of these details because they know that the description area is the only place they are able to "sell" their place to searching travelers. Without a great description, how is anyone supposed to know how great a place is? A lot of the time, with professionally taken photos, it can be hard to tell if a person paid someone to take these photos or if they just stole them off the internet. To ensure they are real photos, Airbnb sometimes has "Verified Photo" under the photo caption. When "Verified Photo" captions aren't included, I like to avoid listings with places that have watermarks on the photos or look like print screens taken off a website. These places are more likely to be fake.

Read Traveler Reviews | Sometimes the Description and Photos aren't enough. Sometimes there may not be "Verified Photos". Sometimes the descriptions aren't very thorough. The next place to look is the review section. These are honest reviews from other travelers, like yourself. If the place sucks and is inaccurate, you will see that in the reviews, for sure. I try to avoid places that don't have any reviews. As tempting as it is to book a place without reviews even though it is so gorgeous, I'd pass because you are the guinea pig. It may actually be real (and you miss out on a nice place), BUT it could also be inaccurate and you waste money. If it is a real listing, it will always be there in the future to visit later on, after someone else has booked it and given an honest review. Also, if you see in the review section that the host has canceled multiple reservations, you may want to steer clear of them, as well. 

Pay Attention To Communication | I think communication with your host is very important too. If your host is genuine, you will find they reply rather quickly. I like to send a message to a potential Airbnb host before booking/paying for the listing just to chat it up a little bit. I ask any questions I may have, tell them a little bit about myself, and my reason for visiting. Majority of the time, they will message you back, thank you for choosing their home, and answer any questions you may have. When you finally book, most genuine hosts will provide you with a manual or some sort of information message with everything you need to know about the home (WIFI information, Parking Information, Directions, Local Recommendations, Etc.,). If your host just accepts your listing with no message, I'd call it a red flag and proceed to book a different place. 

SuperHosts | I don't always do this, but booking with Superhosts is a great way to ensure it is a legitimate listing. Super hosts have this badge over their profile picture that notifies everyone that they are a "Super Host". That typically means they have received multiple 5-star ratings. These badges are awarded to them by Airbnb, so you know that not only are they legitimate; but that they are also AMAZING hosts.

These are my fool-proof tips on avoiding being scammed on Airbnb. As long as you give yourself enough time and have enough patience, you will be able to find the most beautifully designed homes, at affordable prices, while finding genuine hosts. I can almost guarantee that!

Don't forget, if you aren't an Airbnb member yet, you can use my referral link (click here) to sign up and get $40 CAD off your first trip! Also, if you'd like to see photos and links of places I've stayed in the past, go visit my "Why I stopped booking Hotels for Airbnb's" blog post!

Happy (Stress-Free) Traveling, Friends!


Do you have any awesome tips for avoiding sketchy/fake Airbnb listings? I'd love to read them in the comments below! Your tips may help others too!

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  1. Love this! My mom has an airbnb but I've never been to one. I'll definitly use these tips on my next trip :)

    1. Glad to see you liked my tips! Airbnb totally isn't scary after you learn what to look for and what to avoid :)