I have a friend who worked for a few years doing research at AirBnB, and she shared this knowledge with me that changed the way I search and book listings. The internal studies and data she looked at found the average rating of an AirBnB was 4.7 stars.

What this means in practice is that anything rated 4.7 (±0.05) is “accurate to the description.” So ratings are not really indicative of the quality of the place, just how accurate it was to the description and photos. For example, a place $500/week can be rated 4.7 stars and a place $5000/week can also be rated 4.7 stars. The latter is almost certainly nicer, but both are doing the same good job at portraying what you get.

Another, more helpful takeaway, is to steer clear of anything that is less than 4.7 or so. This was a shock to me, because prior to learning this I’d consider something with, like, a 4.5 to be “pretty decent.” However, chances are that it’s considerably worse than what the photos and description portray. And “considerably” is the right verbiage, because the margin for difference drops off significantly, and it’s pretty rare for places to drop below even that.

One last tidbit she shared is that their research found places which scored above 4.8 usually did so on the grounds of hospitality or “small touches,” rather than just being a higher-quality place. So things like having the air conditioning running and cool upon check-in, being communicative, adjusting check in/out times for the guest, leaving personalized notes and things to do in the area, etc.

Anyways, I’ve found this really helpful when searching for places and used it as a pretty consistent way to benchmark. I’ve stayed at a lot of AirBnB’s and the only one which failed this litmus test was one which had a 4.8 average, but not a ton of reviewers.

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