Think Twice Before Renting A Local Apartment To Save Money While Traveling

The cost of accommodation can really drain the travel budget, especially if you're traveling to a popular holiday destination where tourists flock during the peak season. That's when many hotels will pump up prices and, unless you can afford to splurge, budget options can be pretty sterile and joyless. This is where services like Airbnb have cashed in; supposedly offering guests the chance to live like a local, while also saving a few bucks.

"Supposedly" is the key word here. While the roaring success of Airbnb has revolutionized the travel industry, the company has attracted substantial criticism over the "Airbnb effect." This is the phenomenon where neighborhoods effectively become gentrified over a short space of time, driving out locals with the increased cost of property in the area. 

It doesn't come as any surprise that some landlords are attracted to more lucrative short-term leasing, depriving other people of affordable homes to buy or rent in the places where they live and work. Most of us like to think we are respectful and ethical vacationers, but money always talks, and there are some who won't lose sleep over the negative socio-economic factors of using Airbnb if it means saving a few dollars. 

However, it isn't just the impact private home rentals have on the local community that has made homestay services so controversial, and there are plenty of things to consider before using one to rent a property for a short while.

Biggest potential risks of renting a local apartment

Over recent years, many popular destinations have placed heavy restrictions or outright banned Airbnb rentals and similar services. That doesn't necessarily stop some hosts from listing their properties anyway, and that arguably becomes an issue between the owner and the authorities. However, it could become your problem too if you are unlucky enough to be staying at the rental when inspectors inspectors clamp down, potentially leaving you out with no place to stay.

It should be noted that the vast majority of people who rent short-stay accommodation through Airbnb enjoy their experience: the company claims that 90% of its bookings get a five-star review. Even so, there are plenty of horror stories of hidden spy cameras, con artists using bait-and-switch tactics to force guests into accepting a worse place for a higher price, and scammers exploiting the platform with a variety of fake listings and stealing personal information.

Then there's always the possibility that your host is simply unreliable, and there are also lots of tales from travelers left stranded when their host canceled or failed to show. In this kind of situation, you could be left scrambling to find somewhere suitable to stay within your budget, which can prove difficult — especially if you are vacationing in peak season.

Tips to avoid a bad experience

The backlash against Airbnb is unlikely to deter millions of travelers each year from using its services. If you are one of them, here are some tips to help reduce the chances of a bad home rental experience.

Firstly, check to see if the host is verified and if there are legit reviews from previous guests. Be wary if a property has neither, or just a few suspiciously glowing write-ups. Descriptions of the property are fine, but your primary source of information will be the photos included on a listing. 

It is important that a host provides pictures of both the interior and exterior: if they don't show what the outside of the building looks like, they could be trying to hide something. Also, be wary of heavily edited images that might be disguising less desirable aspects like damaged furniture or general shabbiness.

Check the listing to see if the apartment comes with safety and security features like smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and cameras. These items may indicate that the owner takes good care of the property and is concerned about the welfare of their guests. When communicating with a host, it is always best to do it through the Airbnb messaging system to make sure conversations are recorded in case of any disputes. 

Lastly, if you have any doubts, don't book. Renting a shady private property can cost you a lot more in the long run.