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Rent an Airbnb or Not? – Learnings from Tokyo

Are you planning a vacation soon and wondering whether to rent an Airbnb or not? As an Airbnb traveler and host here is my advice. What is Airbnb? Airbnb is a website for people to list, find, and rent lodgings – a consumer to consumer marketplace. It has over 1,500,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries.

To Rent an Airbnb or Not?

I had my first Airbnb experience two summers ago when backpacking with the kids in Europe. We visited Venice in mid-summer when hotels were packed and prices high. Instead of a hotel we rented the cutest Airbnb apartment which was tucked amongst the canals. The experience was wonderful – the host met us and escorted us to the apartment, the kitchen was well appointed, and it had a washing machine! We loved being able to shop for fresh food, make our breakfasts, and feel like we had a home in Venice for a few days. A few months ago I became an Airbnb host in Tokyo renting out a few units in the building we own and live. The experience has had a very steep learning curve and taken quite a bit of work, but overall has been worth it. In two months we have hosted over 15 groups of people (over 60 people) from over ten countries. Everyone has been gracious, and very inquisitive to learn about Japan. My kids are learning about sweat equity by being involved in meeting and supporting guests and helping to keep the space in tip top shape. Through this experience, I have also learned what makes Airbnb guests happy and not. Read on to learn why Airbnb has great benefits and how you can find the best Airbnb for your family.

AirbnbWhat are the benefits of renting an Airbnb over a hotel room?

  1. You will have more space for your kids. Typically you can get a two bedroom Airbnb for the cost of one hotel room.
  2. Most Airbnb units have a kitchen with proper cooking and storage equipment (pots pans, dishes, fridge).
  3. Most places offer a television and sofa area which is way better than watching TV from your bed. Not all TVs have cable so bring your iPad or PC to hook-up for your favorite movies.
  4. Many apartments are in residential areas where you can enjoy parks, supermarkets, and family-friendly restaurants.
  5. Many Airbnb places have washers and dryers which are a must with kids. Make sure you filter search results for units with washers

Top 10 Hints to Find a Great Airbnb

  1. Search Airbnb by filtering on the exact number of people in your party and “Entire Place”. I would never consider renting a room within someone’s place for my family. I would be too worried every moment that that kids are touching something they should not be.
  2. Book a few months in advance to get the highest rated places in the location you want. Note: Airbnb charges the full amount on booking, so you need to be able to pay the month you book, not the month you stay. If you cancel, depending on the cancellation policy, you will be refunded the money.
  3. Find places that have good reviews and a Host profile that appeals to you.
  4. Review all the costs per Airbnb. The list price may be very low, but the per person fee or cleaning fee can be high. The normal professional cleaning fee is $40-100 USD depending on the size of place and location.
  5. Pick 3-4 places you want to stay which have the availability you want and ask all the same questions before you book. Filter out the Hosts that do not answer quickly or in detail.
  6. Contact the host and ask some questions. If they do not respond within a few hours and specifically answer your question move on to the next option. You need to consider time zones, but a good host will answer very quickly and in detail.
  7. Ask the exact address via email before you book. Once you have the address look at Google maps using street view to “virtually” walk around the building area and neighborhood to make you like what you see. If a host does not give you an exact address until you book, do not book.
  8. Ask if the host lives in the neighborhood, and if you have questions about the area and sites when staying at the location if he or she will be available for questions and support.
  9. See if consumables are included and stocked, such as laundry soap, dish soap, paper towels, coffee, tea, sugar, etc. If these are included, the Host is thinking about his guest’s experience, not just the money.
  10. Review all the photos in detail and ask detailed questions. Most Airbnb photos are shot with q wide-angle lenses so spaces will look larger than they may be. Ask about measurements of rooms or square meters to understand that you are renting.

The key to a successful Airbnb rental is to have your expectations in line with the space you are renting, get to know your Host before the visit, and understand you are renting someone’s home not a hotel room.


To Rent an Airbnb or Not?

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  1. 7. Ask the exact address via email before you book. Once you have the address look at Google maps using street view to “virtually” walk around the building area and neighbourhood to make you like what you see. If a host does not give you an exact address until you book, do not book.

    NB! Host can not give you the exact address prior the booking, you as a Airbnb user should know that.

    ” Your location is private, only confirmed guests see your exact address. ”
    * What should I do if a guest wants to see my place before booking?
    Typically, Airbnb only releases contact information for hosts and guests after a reservation is confirmed.
    If a guest requests a viewing of your space before they book, it’s up to you if you want to accept. If you decide to set up a viewing contact us for help.

    *Can I view a listing before I book?
    We encourage all hosts and guests to complete their bookings through our website before meeting in person to best ensure their safety and privacy.

    So, never give out the address prior the booking, its not safe.

    • I think you should give as close an address as you feel comfortable. Too many Airbnbs are not using real addresses, and customers have very poor experiences. If your address is 1-12-12 you can say 1-12 . That is close enough for a customer to determine Wht the neighbourhood looks like.

      • ” If a host does not give you an exact address until you book, do not book.” is misleading. Many responsible hosts actually do write the proximate location info to the profiles and provide information on the Airbnb map, people just don’t bother to read.

    • Thank you, Liina. Your comments are exactly what I thought when reading.

  2. Dear Lauren,

    Greetings from Hong Kong.

    My apologies for leaving here my enquiry regarding your hosted Airbnb. Just remove this ticket if it seem a bit odd to you.

    Will your hosted Airbnb be re-offer to guest in foreseeable future? Our family is planning to make our first visit to Tokyo this summer 2018.

    • Hello Louie, We are not taking any new reservations as of March 1st 2018 due to the change in Japanese regulations. All Airbnb hosts are now required to get a license by June 14th. We are in the process of applying for the Japanese license. We hope to have our license by the end of April and continue business. However we do not know if we will get a license or not yet. So as not to cancel on any reserving families we have stopped taking bookings. Many hosts are still taking bookings despite not having a license yet. If you do book with another Airbnb location for a date after June 14th make sure they have a license in their listing. It is projected that over 50% of airbnb listings will be delisted on June 14th leaving many travelers without housing. Check back in late April to see if we are good to go!

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