How To Make Sure Your Vacation Rental Is Safe Before Booking Your Stay

You have to look before you leap, which can be difficult when booking accomodations for a new place, as research can only take you so far. You could stay at a five-star hotel right in the mix of nightlife, awesome restaurants, and world-class museums. But this has its risks, internationally or otherwise, as pickpockets and scam artists also dwell in these areas. Or you could stay in a "less desirable" area and find an off-the-radar, mom-and-pop diner that's been there for four generations and be totally safe. Point being, it can be impossible to tell if an Airbnb will be safe or not judging solely by location. 

However, when staying within the U.S., there are two online tools that can help you gauge the safety of an area when shopping for a vacation rental: Family Watchdog and CityProtect. Family Watchdog locates and pins sex offenders and other types of offenders in specific areas, while CityProtect provides you with crime reports. Needless to say, these online resources can be helpful in identifying seedier neighborhoods. 

While utilizing these sites is a good starting point, you should also size up hosts and read between the lines of glowing reviews. There are many vacation rentals — in good and bad neighborhoods — that may not be right for you, especially if you're traveling with your family. 

Renting from a person versus a business

Money doesn't dictate your safety, and if you're shopping for a vacation rental — in a "good" or "bad" neighborhood — you'll need to do a deep dive into the Airbnb or Vrbo. Remember that peer-run vacation rentals were a modern-day gold rush, and whenever finances are involved, the situation will attract seedier types of people. As Tony J. Robinson, co-host of "The Real Estate Rookie" podcast, told KRON4 in December 2022, "Over the last three years in the world of real estate investing, short-term rentals have been sort of a gold rush. ... I think a lot of people who jumped in looking to make a quick buck will back out."

And that's not meant to scare you — it's just part of the peer-to-peer rental model. But athough we've all heard horror stories, these really are the extremes. That said, you need to read rental reviews closely. Above and beyond that, consider taking pictures of your Airbnb once you arrive and before you leave. Most hosts are not scamsters, but charging guests for "damage" is a pretty popular way to charge morre.

You may also consider renting from a person or amateur host versus a rental company with multiple listings. You may find that someone simply supplementing their income will offer better communication regarding any risks or issues of the rental area. 

Stay outside of the mix (just a little)

So, this is a bit deeper, but if you've come across a rental with absolutely glowing reviews, but it seems those reviews are from bachelor or bachelorette parties, this may also be a red flag. If you're planning this type of vacation, then it might not be an issue. However, if you're planning a family vacation, you may want to skip these types of rentals — no matter how well-located the rental may be. The place could be very nice, but typically (and not to overgeneralize), seedier hosts tend to cater to a bit of revelry. 

Not to judge these types of vacations or vacationers, but these rentals are often in areas that can create an anxiety-inducing atmosphere for people traveling with their family. This can be especially true if the host seems to host multiple properties. They may even manage an entire block of rentals catering to these party-forward vacationers. 

A little knowledge about choosing a peer-to-peer rental can make or break a trip. The deeper you dive into a rental's reviews, area, and the guests it typically caters to, the less likely you'll choose an Airbnb you don't like.