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What Is Airbnb? All Your Questions Answered

Last updated: June 19, 2019
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If you follow the news at all, you’ve probably heard of Airbnb. The online marketplace for finding places to stay in people’s homes is part of the growing sharing economy, a system in which people earn money through sharing assets such as their cars, homes, and even sporting equipment.

But even though you may have heard of this service, you might still be confused about what exactly it is. That’s why we created this article, which will answer your burning questions about what Airbnb is and how it works.

What Is Airbnb?

At its core, Airbnb is a service that lets people find and book accommodation in people’s homes. Beyond that premise, the details vary immensely. This is because the company caters to almost every price point and almost every purpose. You can use Airbnb to find a cheap vacation rental, a place to meet with clients during a business trip, or a luxury penthouse for your anniversary.

The goal of Airbnb is to provide a more interesting place to stay than a typical, cookie-cutter hotel room. You get to stay in the home of a real local and see a side of a city that you might not otherwise. If your host lives on the property where you’re staying, you get the chance to interact with them and get recommendations of the best local things to do. On the other hand, if you prefer privacy, you can find plenty of properties that you can have entirely to yourself.

There’s also one additional aspect of Airbnb that we should mention. While the company built its business on helping people find accommodation, they’ve recently expanded into a new market. Airbnb Experiences help people find things to do while they’re traveling.

These experiences are led by locals, and they can include almost any type of activity you can imagine. One Experience might have you rappelling down a mountain; another might take you to a bar only locals would know; and still another could take you on a tour that explores a city’s historic architecture.

You can book both accommodation and Experiences through the platform. You can choose to book one or the other, or you can combine both if you want to use Airbnb to take care of most of the details of your trip. It’s completely up to you.

How Airbnb Works

Now that we’ve covered what Airbnb is, let’s take a look at how it works. The process varies depending on whether you’re a host or a guest, so we’ll explore each aspect individually.

How Airbnb Works for Guests

If you’re traveling, then Airbnb is a great way to break away from the regular tourist spots. When you go to book, you’ll be able to choose a variety of places to stay and things to do. It all starts, however, with visiting the website and searching for your destination.

For instance, here’s the result of a search for Chicago, IL:

Airbnb listing homepage

Airbnb will first show you suggestions of places to stay. You’ll be able to see the listing title, the price per night, and the property’s rating. If you click on a listing, you’ll be able to see more details:

Airbnb listing in Chicago

You can also see Airbnb Experiences on the same page that shows accommodation suggestions. All you have to do is scroll down:

What Is Airbnb? Experiences listings

Once you’ve picked a property or Experience, you can then book and pay for it through the Airbnb platform. Your host will then send you details about things such as your check-in time, how to access the property, and the all-important WiFi password. If you’ve booked an Experience, you’ll get more info on where to meet your host and any special things to bring or do to prepare.

During your time staying at a property or doing an Experience, you can use the Airbnb app or website to contact your host or get help from customer service. And once the booking has ended, you can use the review system to let others know what you thought about the property or Experience.

How Airbnb Works for Hosts

Dining room in A-frame home

So what if you have a spare room in your house and want to rent it out to earn extra money? You could post about it on Craigslist or any number of other rental sites, but the process of screening and finding a tenant can take time. What if, instead of renting your room that way, you rented it out on Airbnb?

Whether you want to rent out a piece (or all) of a property you own, or you want to earn some extra money leading a cool experience in your city, Airbnb gives you the chance. To list your home, you’ll first need to submit an application.

Don’t worry — Airbnb makes this process super easy. As long as you can pass a background check, have a safe home, and are ready to provide great customer service to your guests, Airbnb will help you take care of the rest.

After the platform has approved you to host guests, you’ll need to take some great photos of your listing and write a detailed description. Again, Airbnb will help you with this. They can even help you find a professional photographer to take gorgeous photos of your space.

Once your listing is live, it’s time to start hosting guests. This can be a nerve-wracking process the first time you do it, but soon you’ll get comfortable and be hosting guests like a pro. The most important things to keep in mind are providing great service and communicating with your guests. As long as you do these things, the rest should take care of itself.

If you’re concerned about strangers staying in your home, you’ll be glad to know that Airbnb takes safety very seriously. They perform ID verification and background checks for all users, and they also allow you to correspond with a guest before accepting their booking request. This way, you can make sure that your guest won’t cause any issues while staying with you. And if you ever do have an issue, you can contact support 24/7 to get assistance.

When hosting an Airbnb Experience, the process is actually quite similar to hosting guests. You’ll need to send Airbnb a description of your Experience, as well as what you intend to charge and what qualifies you to lead the Experience.

Assuming Airbnb approves all the details, you can start hosting the Experience right away. Airbnb makes sure that your guests pay before the Experience starts, and guests can also use the platform to securely communicate with you if they get lost or have any questions. After the Experience ends, guests will be able to leave a review and (hopefully) spread the word about your Experience to others.

If being a host is something that interests you, then sign up here to see just how much you could earn.

Airbnb FAQ

To conclude this guide, here are answers to some common questions about using Airbnb:

1. What is Airbnb Plus?

Airbnb Plus is a selection of properties that stand out in terms of the service and attention to detail that they offer. An Airbnb representative has personally visited each property on this list and performed a 100+ point quality inspection. All Airbnb Plus homes have great amenities, beautiful design, and a high level of comfort.

Airbnb Plus is perfect for guests who like the idea of a vacation rental but still want a luxury experience. It’s also a good choice for hosts who have exceptional spaces and want to charge accordingly. Learn more about Airbnb Plus here.

2. Can I book a property last-minute with Airbnb?

Certainly. Just be aware that the selection of properties will be more limited than if you booked in advance. Also note that many hosts don’t accept same-day bookings. If you’re curious about how to make last-minute, same-day bookings, check out this guide. We also recommend looking at HotelTonight for another way to book affordable accommodation on short notice.

3. How long can I stay at an Airbnb?

While Airbnb mainly caters to travelers looking for short-term stays, you can also use it to book stays for months at a time. There’s no limit to how long you can stay at an Airbnb. As long as the host will allow it, you can stay indefinitely. Check out this guide for more information on long-term stays.

4. Do I need to own a property to list it on Airbnb?

Generally, yes. It is possible to get permission from your landlord to put your property on Airbnb, but few landlords will agree to this due to the liability issues it can cause. Whatever you do, make sure that you always get permission from your landlord before hosting guests at a property you rent. Otherwise, you could face fees, legal action, or even eviction.

5. How much of my house can I list on Airbnb?

As little or as much as you want. If you want to list your entire house, Airbnb is happy to let you. You can also rent out individual private rooms, space on a couch, or even a place to camp in your backyard. It all depends on the space you have and your goals for becoming a host.

6. Where is Airbnb available?

Airbnb is available all over the world. You can use it to book a getaway in Europe, a safari in Africa, or a beach getaway in Florida. Here are just a few of the many cities where the service is available around the world:

  • Amsterdam
  • Barcelona
  • Bogotá
  • Lagos
  • London
  • Los Angeles
  • Madrid
  • New York
  • Paris
  • San Francisco
  • Tokyo

If you’re curious if Airbnb is available in the place you’re visiting, the best way to find out is to visit the website and type in your destination.

Airbnb Is a Place to Stay and Explore

We hope this guide has helped you understand what Airbnb is and how you can use it to find a cool place to stay or fun thing to do for your next trip. It can also be a superb way to earn some extra money sharing your home or hosting an Experience.

However you use this service, we wish you safe and pleasant travels!

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