Affordable host hosted guest with Hilton expectations

Hello Airbnb we are just starting up as a host. The asking price is well below the neighborhood average (25-75% depending on day) and we have a (absolutely accurate) 4-star rating for cleanliness. We are the affordable option above mold, cobwebs and funk but we don’t dust all that much and we are up front about it. We’re not ashamed to have this ambition+price level, it’s that or no Airbnb for us.

All other guests have had reasonable expectations, seen the 4 stars for cleanliness and booked us anyway, probably because the price.

One of my recent guests had expectations of cleanliness that I agree are perfectly reasonable for a property of double the asking price, but it baffled us (and the other airbnb:ers we were hosting).
The complaints were a handful of the severity “blankets on sofa were not folded” (neither are they in the pictures) and “a hair in the sink” (now this one is understandable, but the bathroom is shared with other guests. I clean what I see but upon their arrival I had not been home for 4 hours) and “dust made the room ininhabitable” (this one is also understandable, but my friend with medium-severe asthma insists it is absolutely fine so if your tolerance level is that low you should book only properties with stellar 5-star cleanliness AND call ahead).

Having not managed expectations properly I took responsibility for the situation, I booked and paid-the-difference for a hotel near by, and drove them there. The original booking still in place.

I have only a few reviews and theirs will set me in a hole so deep I can’t get out or get suspended. And frankly it turned us off to Airbnb. If we keep going, how to keep these people from not booking my place? I took intentionally dirty photos now (I had to empty the dishwasher and “stage them”) but it seems drastic.

You can’t keep people who expect clean accommodations from booking. However we have another host here with 4 stars overall and he keeps hosting. You get suspended and come back. Don’t worry about it.

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Hello and thank you for your response. I am asking not so much for me as for them. I was sad that they were inconvenienced, which is why I proposed to solve it in such a reasonable way.

But at the same time we just don’t have the above-and-beyond-ambition level ourselves, or the budget to hire cleaners. If we were to do that we would have to ask same as our neighbours which we don’t want to do.

We just need to manage expectations all right. 90% of our guests expect what they in fact get, for the sake of both us and our guests we want to screen for that 10%.

Fanny, I’m curious. Is the dresser and night stand a dark color? Because that would show dust. However, if it were a lighter color, you would not see the dust. That might be the solution, switch to light colored furniture but not white. White too would show dust.

Hello and thank you for your input. Actually this room I’m airbnbing is because the moving in and out of my lodgers don’t quite overlap. The window sill is marble and wallfixed shelves are light wood. The room was thoroughly cleaned (including dusting of course) less than a week ago when my ex lodger moved out and the bed, nightstand and two chairs (white and light wood) are brand new less than a week old.

Well I know I’m a 4-star “slumlord” so I feel maybe people are imagining our house being a real dump. But my other airbnbers at the time and my medium-severity-asthma-and-has-kicked-17-lodgers-out-for-being-too-dirty friend thought these people were ridiculous and for the life of me I can’t understand why they booked and stuck with us since many of the complaints are evident in the listing or during the pre-moving-in dialogue (cancelling is consequenceless) and why they waited 6 hours after check-in until 7.30 PM to raise their concerns.

I have nothing but respect and love for people of high standards, but that’s just not what we offer and I want to be abundantly clear about that for the sake of everyone.

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Hello @Fanny, I can understand your pain and frustration. that is the trap to which we are all subject in airbnb, guests with expectations of 5 stars hotel booking for the price of a hostel. Unfortunately, we can not do anything to protect ourselves from this type of guest and from the reviews that they later leave as an evaluation of their experience. Welcome to the club.

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Hello @Mirta_Gubetta,

Thank you for your kind response.

What about intentionally posting dirty pictures and disable InstantBook just to be able to communicate:

*Please check photos thoroughly and consider if you can stomach it

  • no mold but dust manageable by medium-severity asthmatic
    *common area shared, no cleaning service and only cleaning by low-ambition 4-star property owners

Please indicate you read and understand the conditiond by responding “Yes” to proceed with this booking. We reserve the right to cancel bookings if the expectations of the property exceeds the condition as clearly communicated.


Personally, I would not post photos with a purposely dirty scene.
Yes, it seems reasonable and appropriate to express in a previous dialogue the characteristics of the listing, to avoid people with “preposterous” expectations booking your place. Although I would withdraw the part “low-ambition 4-star property owners”, because I consider that it is not the case, when what is offered is not “the perfection” of houses that are cleaned like hospitals or laboratories.

Fanny, I don’t know what is your problem with your guest’s honest review. People will not give you 5 stars for cleanliness because your reviews and photos suggest that it is not all that clean. That might mean 5 stars for accuracy, but not for cleanliness. Personally, I think that even the cheapest Airbnb shouldn’t skimp on cleaning, but if you have already decided that this is your hosting style, start dealing with such comments and accept that your account will be suspended now and then.

Hello, @fanny, and welcome to the forum. You’ll find tons of advice and a opinions from hosts all over the world here. You’ll learn something new every time you visit!

Personally, I would disable the instant book feature until you really get into a rhythm with hosting on Airbnb. I would try to set the expectations very clearly in a message when they inquire, as well as in your “other things to note” section, which they must agree to prior to booking. Airbnb is about managing expectations, and “under-promise and over-deliver” seems to garner the best reviews. I would make sure you make it very clear what people can expect when booking your place–a well lived in, shared space. A bit of dust is one thing, but make sure they know that you always provide clean linens and towels. If their room (and bathroom) look dirty to begin with, you’ll find guests begin to question how diligent you were with other things like their bed linens and towels.

If you house is not clean, you will hear about it on reviews. There isn’t a lot you can do to stop that, and why would you want to if it is an accurate assessment? In that case, your hosting style and general guest care become more important. People will overlook a lot if they feel a bond with their host and believe the host did their best at offering them a clean and safe place to sleep. I would not book a house with three (or probably even four stars) for cleanliness, but those hosts wouldn’t want me as a guest, so that’s a good thing. Your description, pictures, house rules, and pre-booking messages are the best way to draw to you the guest you want to host.


Hello @Inna, I think what @Fanny wants to express is her frustration with guests who expect a perfection that only exists in their minds. And that she prefers to diminish her listing in the eyes of the guests so she does not need to deal with their false expectations. She does not offer a dirty listing, she offers the reality of any house that after leaving a window half an hour open, will have a thin layer of dust on some surface.

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Thank you for your input.

I think I haven’t communicated my intention correctly. I think it is completely fair that I get a 4-star rating, it is exactly the level of cleanliness I offer.

I don’t deserve a 5-star rating and I would not want 5-star ratings because it gives prospective guests the wrong idea.

What I would like is for guests who expect a 5-star cleanliness, or would not stomach a 4-star level for the savings, to never book me.
I’m not ashamed nor secretive about what I offer.

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I think I’ve condensed my intentions with airbnb and why this situation bothered me so much.

I used to be on Couchsurfing but then when I moved to one of the most expensive cities in the 1st world sadly that became unmanageable (~10 requests a day). I’ve already expressed that I don’t want to increase my prices. I don’t want to play the good samaritan card but I guess that

  1. I want to be affordable so that also people of meager funds can afford to come to our city
  2. I can’t increase my cleaning effort. I work a full time job and study in the nights.
    but also
  3. I don’t want people beyond the standard I can offer to book me because it will be a bad experience both ends.

i think the reason I am even writing this post instead of just closing my account like I wanted to, is because a large portion of the guests that I have had express sheer gratitute to my face and in their feedback, to me for even existing. It’s foreign workers and students, or recreational travellers that found themselves in a pickle.

I want to stay on for them, but I need some kind of way to avoid people who expects more of me than I offer.


What you said right here is perfect, and I’d add something just like this to your listing, if you haven’t already. The reasons you host touched me, and we need more of you in the hosting world. Just make your listing and your hosting style abundantly clear. There is a fit for everyone–you just have to draw to you who you want to host and who will appreciate what you offer.


First, Fanny, these guests are taking you for a ride. They tagged you for a new host with a too good to refuse price and a below average cleanliness rating = :bell: of a $$$ refund after their stay. Instead they made out even better …with a hotel room at your expense.

Then, re-describe your listing as "to help cost down and make your stay affordable this room is ‘self service cleaning’.
Search the forum for this term, there are a couple of hosts like Annet3176 that successfully utilize that concept.


Maybe message this at the time they book,

Thank you for booking with us we look forward to hosting you at our 4 STAR listing. Yes, 4 stars not 5 we keep it reasonably clean but its not the Hilton (think motel 6) so if you expect perfection you can still cancel penalty free (even strict has grace period) That being said we love our home and would love to host you we just do not want to suffer a bad review because of Hilton expectations at a Motel 6 price.




It sounds as though you think I should talk to airbnb about it? Do they help me once I get talking or do you have tips? I seroiusly wanted to un-recommend them but it’s just a suspicion and hard to prove on my side.

Trust me, the suspicion crossed my mind more than twice, because of several details about it (the fact that they waited until 7:30 to raise the concern, the fact that they travel a lot and have several reviews as hosts but only one as guest and from 2012 and more).
But this was one of those days where my rate was at 75% or the alternative and they were so loud, rude and intimitating that it was a small price to pay so that they’d leave my house.

I guess I misunderstood Fanny’s post. In my opinion, she raised two separate concerns. One is about guests having Hilton-level expectations (folded blankets) and not understanding the concept of shared space (the bathroom not being pristine at every given moment). The other is her 4 stars cleanliness rate. From my experience as a guest (and I have been using Airbnb extensively), if a place has overall 4 stars in cleanliness, it usually means it is really not clean. Not Hilton level clean, but just not clean by any normal standard. It took me a while to realize this, and since then I’m not booking places with less than 4 1/2 stars in cleanliness. I can imagine that less experienced Airbnb users do not know that, but simply assume it is “clean but not sparkling”.

While I wholeheartedly support Fanny on the first concern, I have some doubts about the second one. For me, there is no connection between place being affordable and the place not being clean. Some perks just come with the type of the listing (shared bathroom usually means that it cannot be sparkling clean all the time), but some are unacceptable by any means. If the place is affordable, it is usually because the location is not so good, the furniture is dated and the amenities are basic. Not because it’s not clean.

If your listing also includes substandard cleanliness, I would agree with RRR and suggest that you make this perfectly clear in your greeting message. I’m not opposed to your hosting style, I believe that Airbnb should accommodate different listings and hosting styles. My point was that you cannot expect people to connect lower price with a lower cleanliness standard. At least I don’t.

Sorry I just realized I started replying to Mirta and then switched to replying to Fanny. :smiley: Sorry! @Fanny

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How much longer is this reservation? You mentioned it is ongoing?

If so I do recommend to call Airbnb and ask for their input …just so that it is on the record. And make sure to let them know you are paying out of your pocket. (I would not get into any 4 Star discussions with them - just say guest was not happy)

I would certainly not be bleeding money for them any longer. You went above and beyond.
If a guest wants to leave, it is best to let them go.

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Hello @Inna and thank you for your input.

It has been suggested to me I got played. There seems to be a thing that experienced airbnbers (they have hosted a lot) will find a new host with less-than-stellar cleanliness rating and a comparatively attractive price. Go there and snap a few photos of the dust that likely is there and then extort the host or claim a refund from airbnb. If that is a thing then many details of the incident support that it was intentional.

In my searching for the answer to my questions in any similar threads I have seen some hosts with your sentiment that cleanliness should not correlate with price, and some hosts who feel it is fair that cleanliness declines somewhat with price. I only mention it to say that I appreciate your respectful and accomodating tone, as some of the representatives of the former school have expressed themselves very rude, condescendingly and vile to the latter. It is one reason I hesitated to make the thread; I just had a very unpleasant experience and I wasn’t looking to get dust-shamed by strangers on the internet too. So thank you :slight_smile:

And not that it matters but because I’ve mostly hosted to new airbnb:ers it fits well if they have had the same assumption you initially had about 4-stars, thinking it means “clean but not sparkling” (I have only 2 reviews, both from second- and third-time airbnbers).