Home sharing has seen a surge in recent years as people all over the world are choosing the often more economical and flexible alternative to a hotel room. In fact, category leader Airbnb just announced plans to go public in 2020—an indication that these hotel substitutes aren’t slowing down anytime soon. With easy-to-access websites that let users scroll through a variety of options, home sharing platforms provide convenient ways of reserving a place to stay. However, with the ever-growing popularity of these platforms, safety has become a valid question when a home and its owner are only known through a screen. While home sharing platforms require verification of both hosts and guests, methods are not foolproof and incidents continue to occur.
In May, Airbnb users were charged for reservations they didn’t make while others this past August were victims of fraud when they booked a stay at a Colorado home only to find that the homeowner never listed it. On the flip-side, hosts have reported returning home to discover broken furniture and other issues that come when allowing strangers to inhabit their spaces. While experiences with home sharing are likely to be uneventful, it is important to be prepared for unsafe situations in the off chance that they happen.
Takeaways: Think critically about what you’re reserving before signing on a home sharing platform. Chances are if it seems too good to be true it probably is; unrealistically low prices may be a sign that something is off. Opt for homes with more rather than fewer reviews that speak thoroughly to the space. If the home isn’t pictured, assume there is a reason—the host is hiding something, the home isn’t real, etc. If renting out your home, meet your guests in person and with someone accompanying you. Lay out the rules ahead of time and hide irreplaceable valuables before your guests arrive.