In addition to being a host, I travel often and am also frequently in the guest role. This post is part of my Guest Perspective Series. Enjoy the love, insight, snark, and fair warnings!

I’m currently staying in a beautifully designed, modern Airbnb in Florida. It’s inexpensive, sparse, and clean. So, why should I have any reason to not give it five stars?

As I channeled the following list of reasons down in a flurry, I asked my partner for help.

“Why don’t we love this place?” I asked.

“Well, I like it…” he replied. “It just… It has no soul.”

No soul.

What is the difference between a place that has soul and a place that does not? How can you touch it? You can’t. It has to be felt.

The best way I can describe it:

An Airbnb with soul exhibits a divine series of touches and accents that bring about the feeling that you are having a human connection, even though you’re not physically having one.

Here are five things that, totaled, equal a void for me.

1) The hosts strive for professional impersonality.

Every time I try to interact with them, they write extremely carefully and sign their messages, “XYZ Properties.” And yet, they are two humans. I wasn’t even certain of their names, even after 4 message exchanges, until I met one in person.

I understand that if you want to do things by the book and become a legitimate company that rents on Airbnb and pay hotel taxes, you must be extra careful in your communication. But please, still be a human.

2) Minor human touch flaws: not having enough plugs, putting air fresheners in the wall.

This, for me, is filed under: Not Knowing Your Audience. A large majority of people who Airbnb also work for themselves in some form, or at least telecommute. Many of those people work from laptops. Airbnb users are part of a society that has what people call “disposable income.” We have iPhones and iPads and laptops and Kindles and backup chargers for these things. If your space does not have enough plugs to handle this (at least 3 per person, please), then simply buy a power strip. Just one is fine.

As far as air freshener plugs in the wall: please do not use these. So many people dislike or are allergic to fake, chemical smells. You don’t need to go all organic everywhere (though I do in my apartment listing), but very few people like to come home to a fake vanilla smell. And it can be seriously lung irritating to some.

3) Major human touch flaws: missing home essentials (like toilet paper).

Our hosts told us we were welcome to use the washer and dryer. And yet, there is no detergent. While this may be expected in a campground or hostel, this is not acceptable in an Airbnb, in my book. Same goes for no shampoo, soap, toilet paper and paper towels.

We discovered on our fourth day there that there was only one roll of toilet paper, as well. I’m not sure how fast one is supposed to go through toilet paper, but I think if two guests are staying for five days, you should at least stock two rolls.

For me, this added up to a sense of scarcity—of resources and mindset—in the entire place. Scarcity is the opposite of abundance; suffice to say, I wasn’t too pleased.

On Airbnb, there is an amenities box you can check for assuring your guests that you provide essentials. In my opinion, one should not even be hosting on Airbnb if these aren’t provided.

4) The house guide is filled with “NO this, NO that,” and threatens the guest’s damage deposit.

The house rules for our Airbnb were literally longer than the description. After reading such a plethero of NOs “NO loud noises” and very specific rules, “Always set the thermostat to 77,” we were greeted with a note saying that if we violated any of these it would be taken out of our “damage deposit.”

Guests who do not host, I’m here to tell you: do not listen to this bullcrap. Hosts can’t actually take out money from your deposit for leaving a thermostat at 76 instead of 77. I am a host; I require a deposit. But you have to go through Airbnb to touch any of that money, so I’m not going to do it unless something is actually damaged. Hosts cannot simply make up their own rules and then say they’ll take it out of your deposit.

5) The place is purely a vacation rental: sparse and one-dimensional.

This is where some people will have a different opinion than me. But I think this is what makes Airbnb different—Airbnb strives to be a place that welcomes people to feel at home wherever they are. Someone can’t feel at home in a kitchen with one pan, or a shower with no shampoo. I can’t feel at home when I am clearly not in any semblance of a home.

This isn’t to say that if it’s not your physical home, that you shouldn’t list on Airbnb. Of course you can. But put some of you into the place. My biggest tip in this arena? Live there for a week. See what you need. See what bothers you (maybe the blinds are too thin and let too much light in at night). Then go get it for your guest, because chances are they’ll want it too.

Thanks for reading! Have a question that wasn't answered here? If you'd like more specific help, I'd love to work one-on-one with you. Or, if you want to work collaboratively in a group with fellow motivated hosts, find out if the next Abundant Hosting Mastermind group is open. I also wrote a book, Cleaning Up, where I give you the nuts and bolts (and so much more) of finding your perfect turnover assistant, thereby upleveling your profit and success on Airbnb. Have a beautiful day!

Guest Perspective: Please, Put Some Soul Into Your Airbnb Listing
  • James Wangsness

    I’ve been hosting for a couple of years now. I’ve got a comfy bed in my living room that’s super cheap for guests who want a safe place to stay. My neighborhood is not Beverly Hills, but it is safe and walkable. I just got a notification from Airbnb stating that my last 2 guests gave a 4 out of 5 for “location”, which is puzzling to me; even Airbnb’s little prompt mentioned you can’t move your house but I was supposed to somehow be more specific about my “hood” so guests knew what they were walking into. I reworded my description by saying in as nice a way possible that, considering the amenities I offer along with the very reasonable price, they were getting an amazing deal.

    I have to take it all with a grain of salt, or at least TRY to :) It’s just frustrating sometimes to run across people who have unrealistic expectations, especially when just up the road there’s Motel 6 charging 2.5 times what I’m charging and where you get rough towels, dog noise, people noise, a small room.

    Thanks for letting me vent!

    Oh, and I totally agree with the no room freshener things. I’m not big on the chemical scents, especially when a guest shows up doused in perfume that takes me days to rid the place of.

    All in all, it really has been great fun having people stay. The majority of them have been fantastic.