When the Guest Likes your Place TOO Much…and …Strategies for Screening Guests

We all want our guests to be attracted to our listing — some hosts are spending regular time  trying to find ways to make their listing more appealing. More amenities, more great photos, more attractions, more services…lower prices…they do all they can to stand out among their host competitors.

So, it may seem strange to introduce the idea of a guest who likes your place TOO much.  How could this be a problem?

It’s not a problem when guests from other nations, other states, other cities just LOVE your listing and can’t wait to stay there!  Generally this is what gives us as hosts so much satisfaction, delight and gratitude, and makes us feel blessed.  That we can offer something that makes others happy and gives them pleasure.
Colorful fish

But what if a prospective guest says they LOVE your listing, and want to stay there LONG TERM, and they are not from another nation or state, or city — but live in the same city you do?  This is the story of the guest who loves your place too much. 

Most of us are doing short term rentals because we there is something about long term tenants that is problematic for us.  If we are in-home hosts — the style of hosting which was the original kind of hosting on Airbnb — then this is quite often about more than just money.  Yes, it’s possible to earn more doing short term rentals than standard long term ones– but not always.  Particularly in saturated markets where there are actually too many hosts and too many listings, many of us have seen our nightly prices drop quite a bit with the additional competition, and perhaps our bookings have dropped as well.  So it’s not clear that doing short term rentals is always more lucrative than doing standard long term rentals.  It is a heck of a lot more work and the income may be the same or actually less.

But in home hosts have other concerns besides money.  Often, in home hosts want some time alone, or dont’ want to see too much of any one person.  Theres’ a saying that both fish and house Guests and fishguests start to smell after 3 days.

Other hosts just don’t want anyone getting possessive about their home, so they dont’ want any permanent tenants.  Others worry about guests staying so long that they obtain “tenant’s rights” and could be difficult to get out of their home.

Whatever the reason, in general, Airbnb hosts are not interested in hosting people who are seeking something which they are not offering — such as long term or permanent tenancy.

However, it does seem that a number of people who are seeking a new permanent residence, are looking for one on the Airbnb listings.  And I can see why this would attract them. Consider the way that long term rentals are “packaged” or advertised, compared to vacation rentals and Airbnb listings.  It’s quite unlikely that any standard long term rental is going to be presented as attractively and with as much effort and appeal, or with as many photos and delightful amenities, as a vacation rental or short term stay.  Why? Because offering a vacation to someone tends to be pretty different from offering permanent housing.  Standard property rental ads have several down sides: they mention credit checks, security deposits, ask for references, work history.  You know you’ll have to fill out an application, and, in areas of the country where there is a housing crunch, you’ll likely attend an open house with several other interested parties.  You may not hear back at all from someone whose apartment is listed on Craigslist.


FishCompare this to responding to ads on Airbnb.  There, you’re showered with gestures of hospitality both in the listing description, and in the many photos, often depicting gorgeously laid out rooms with chocolates on the pillow and freshly made beds in optimum lighting, with professionally shot photos.  You are offered breakfast or fruits and bagels.  Your host offers to take you out for dinner or to a local bar — automatic friends!  And, because hosts get penalized for not responding to inquiries or not responding fast enough, if you inquire about a place to stay on Airbnb, even if you are seeking something that the host is definitely not offering, or if you are definitely not the type of renter the host wants, the host is still obligated to respond to you, because of the way the platform is set up.  This means that someone inappropriately seeking permanent housing on Airbnb is guaranteed to get a response, whereas on Craigslist, it’s quite possible that they will be ignored by the first fifty property owners they contact — particularly if there is something red flaggy about their presentation.

What tenant seeking a permanent home wouldn’t be enamored of finding a permanent residence where they were showered with such hospitality and attention? What a difference, this, from the tales of the “greedy landlord” that are promulgated in the media.  No wonder some tenants turn to the Airbnb listings and hope that they might find a home there.

I have advertised my listings as exclusively short term rentals, and I still get inquiries from local people who are pleading with me that they absolutely adore what I’m offering, and would just be so happy to stay there for a few months [I’m thinking — they really mean a few years] and would be such good tenants!  I am reminded of the fact that some of my worst tenants, back when I had standard roommates, began life in my house by promising me what good tenants they would be.  Promises, promises…so quickly made and so easily forgotten!  Or — more likely — promises made that never meant anything at all from the moment they were uttered.
Last week I had an inquiry from a couple who live in my area who wanted to stay a few months in my listing.  No explanation was given about why they were wanting to stay in a short term rental for several months when they live in my area.  Just this week I had another inquiry from someone who lives in my city, who said she wanted to stay several months and be a “long term tenant”.  The only problem — I make it pretty clear I am not seeking a long term tenant.  I asked what she meant, and where she lived, and words came out both sides of her mouth.  She spoke about having a wonderful apartment in another part of town, but of loving my neighborhood and wanting to live there — and yet at the same time, saying that she was not seeking a permanent home.  I asked her to explain this, and no satisfactory explanation was given because there was none.  She was just hoping that by having great reviews and good references, she could ingratiate herself with a host doing short term rentals and ply them to rent to her long term, meaning, perhaps, for the next decade, or maybe the rest of her life.  Squatter

I appreciate that it can be difficult to find an ideal place to live, particularly in a difficult rental market.  But the solution is not to look for the keys you lost in the bedroom, out in the street under the lamp-post, because there is more light there.

I appreciate that you love my listing, in fact that it’s pulling your heart-strings and making you coo and ahhh, and have fantasies about being there for a long time.  But please keep in mind, this is my house.  It’s a little weird and perhaps more than a little uncomfortable for hosts when a guest they dont’ want essentially admits to salivating over their property.   You just may feel an inclination to yank all your listing photos off the internet.

And hosts dont’ want to end up filleted and served up in a platter, by the bully tenant or the possessive tenant, or the tenant who comes in as a guest with great reviews but somehow ends up becoming a person who’s trying to run your house, or who squats and refuses to leave, because “I like it so much.. and besides, I don’t have anyplace else to go…I gave notice on my other apartment and now I can’t afford to move either.” .  So although as hosts we are very oriented to being welcoming and offering hospitality,
Mackerel in platter

we cannot offer that hospitality blindly.

I have some suggestions for hosts on how to avoid the guest who loves your place too much.  These involve screening and communication techniques.

Consider, how in  job interviews the applicant doesn’t necessarily tell the truth to the prospective employer, but rather, may “play” the interview and strategically create their resume specifically for that employer, to present themselves so that they seem to be exactly what the employer wants.  Prospective guests/renters may do the same thing.  They may be “playing ” the host and presently themselves to intentionally come across in a way that they think the host will like.

So what can you do to deal with this? The primary technique I encourage you to strive for, is to hold back information about yourself, your values, what kinds of renters/guests you want, and what kind you wont’ accept.  In other words, dont’ reveal your screening techniques in advance, to those who are being screened.  Of course, you do want to have complete and clear house rules, and you will have set your minimum and maximum stay settings, but I strongly encourage you to avoid revealing in advance (such as in your listing description or ads) any of your screening techniques. Because if you say in advance what you screen out, dishonest guests can simply alter their presentation so that they don’t seem to be the kind of guest you are screening out. No locals

For instance, many hosts dont’ rent to locals.  At all.  Some will, but only if there is a good reason — eg, a person having their home remodeled, needing another place to stay, a person in the process of divorce, a person having their in-laws visiting.  But many will not be comfortable renting to a local who is a married person, so that they can carry on an illicit affair in your home, or so that they can do a drug deal there, or so that they have someplace else to stay while they go through a psychotic break because their family  doesn’t want them around in that condition, or because they got drunk and their spouse kicked them out, or so they can have someplace — anyplace — to stay after being evicted from their current residence.  There are some problems with renting to locals.

But I suggest that you never state in advance that you don’t rent to locals.  That way, locals can innocently inquire, without feeling like they need to hide the fact that they live in your area, and you can have accurate information instead of being fed lies by someone trying to game you.

Similarly, I suggest you don’t announce in advance any other reasons you might decline someone (apart from what should be obvious to the guest, eg, someone intending to violate your maximum occupancy or house rules).  It is not fareSo  if you have a practice of analyzing inquiring guests’ grammar, spelling and ability to communicate professionally, when considering a guest inquiry, I suggest not announcing this in advance, so that you leave space for the guest to honestly inquire in their standard bad english and/or unprofessional communication, eg, “Hi I interested in renting ur place, is it availbel?  Cool thx.”  If someone regularly communicates like this in professional settings, you want to know that, and tipping them off in advance that you’ll decline people for such communication may seek them to get someone else to type their inquiry.  In which case you’re not able to actually screen the guest because they have a stand-in communicating for them.  Lets Eat Grandma
All in all, the motto here, is that as an Airbnb host, as well as in other areas of life where you have to screen/assess people in your job, it’s wise to give those inquiring, enough rope to hang themselves.  Naturally most guests will not hang themselves, they will prove themselves delightful people we would love to have in our home.  But for the occasional problem person who inquires…wouldn’t you rather know in advance about the likelihood of problems with this guest, than wait and only find out after they are settled in to your guest bedroom?
Give him enough rope
Doing this is not a guarantee to eliminate all types of problems, but it can potentially help you in avoiding dishonest guests, scams, problem guests, guests who violate house rules with impunity, squatters, or other problems.  And the absence of those problems leaves you (and any of your other guests) having a much more pleasant experience at your own home, which is the most important thing.

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