How Does One Handle "Hypersensitive" aka Picky Princess Guests?

I probably shouldn’t be so annoyed/uptight over this issue but I am. :confused: My listing is a 72 year old home. It is built with recycled redwood timbers from a train station that was old when it was torn down and the walls are plaster instead of drywall because of the time period the house was built, 1946. It has no dampness or mold issues, we have checked numerous times and stay of top of it. It does have a faint musty smell when it is closed up for a day or two. The smell dissipates quickly when the windows are opened. I have air purifiers/ionizers in every bedroom and a big one in the dining room. The carpets are new or less than 5 years old. The soft furnishings are all less than a year old as well. It is located on the coast of true Northern California in Redwood country, foggy most of the year. Most of the older homes in the area have this same slight musty odor. It truly isn’t that bad, I have asked past guests and all but the very few hypersensitive (usually younger 20 something females) have said it just wasn’t a big deal, they understood that it is common in older homes. I am going to try one more cleaning method on the walls, that I just recently learned about and hope it helps even more. However, how do I deal with these Picky Princesses that didn’t read the listing and see that it is an older home in the first place? I am REALLY tired of their 4 star Overall and 4 star on cleaning. The house is clean, that slight smell has nothing to do with cleanliness. The really annoying part - THEY UNPLUG THE IONIZERS! Seriously?! And then complain about the odor!

There are other things they complain about as well, Location is always one of their favorites to remove a star, and I had one that tagged me on Accuracy claiming amenities and house size but no further explanation. HUH!? She and her boyfriend got a 3 bedroom house to themselves for the price of a Motel 6 room and I had all the amenities I list and a few extras as well.

I also got a NEW Picky Princess complaint today - It was off-putting of me to ask for the names of the other adults in her group. When I asked, I did say it was so I would know who was in my home for added security. I further explained that this is one of the differences between Airbnb and a hotel. I know these guests are not generally the majority, but it is starting to become a more regular occurrence. Advice?

I would take specialist local advice on combatting the damp smell. I believe there’s a solution somehow.

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@Jess1, it isn’t a damp smell, the house is bone dry. It is an “old house smell” often called musty.

‘contaminants are now firmly stuck to many of the surfaces of the room such as the walls, furniture, carpets and table tops.’

Apparently the above is what happens with an ioniser, but I have never used one myself.

oops. My bad. I read that as Ozone, not ion. I’ll delete.




  1. having a stale, mouldy, or damp smell.
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How do you know it’s bone dry? What reading do you get from a dehumidifier? What does a specialist say with a damp meter?

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@Jess1 I see where you are coming from. Please excuse me, I overreacted.

@Jess1, We have checked under the house, in the attic, in the closets, in the walls when doing some recent repairs. No damp, no mold. There is, of course, some dampness in the air due to being coastal. We have not had a specialist in with a damp meter. That may be next if the cleaning solution I came across doesn’t work.

So you mean you are relying on human senses? You need objective measures. Use a hygrometer or a dehumidifier with the ability to measure humidity levels. It should not be above 50% indoors.
Make sure you have humidistat fans in the kitchen and bathroom to extract moisture. Bedrooms also need ventilation as we sweat etc about a pint a night.


It’s not just about cleaning. It’s about eliminating the cause of the smell in the first place. Number one culprit is human activity, especially showers.

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I really appreciate all the advice on how to deal with the musty smell. However, that wasn’t what I was after. I need help dealing with the Picky Princess types. How to approach them in a better way to make it a good experience all around. I feel like I am not communicating properly to that particular group and they are becoming a larger part of the Airbnb demographic.

LOL. Welcome to Airhost Forum. Our speciality is telling you what you are doing wrong!

That I don’t know. Maybe title your listing something like “Just as musty as Motel 6 at half the price!”


It’s all part of hosting Ava! You have to put up with the pickies, I don’t think there’s a tried and trusted way to deal with them, just to tolerate, and take it on the ol’ chinster.

And just for a laugh 20202020

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Mostly I ignore guests’ ‘suggestions’. (Like the guy who said we should have a coffee machine - we do, and the woman who said our teeny kitchen should have a dishwasher - where???) But if a comment is recurring on a regular basis, then it seems that there might be a genuine problem.

It seems that there are members here (@Jess1 in particular) who can advise about the musty smell problem, so that’s a great start. Hopefully someone can help with the ‘Picky Princess’ problem too (I’ve never come across it).

I’d worry about getting poor accuracy ratings though, but if it was just one guest who dinged you on it, I’d ignore it.

Could the problem be that you’re getting budget-minded guests? They do tend to be very picky. A Motel 6 room around here is about $65 per night so a three bedroom house with extras for the same price is definitely at the budget end.

@KKC, I meant it, I truly appreciate the advice, someone may know of something that I don’t. But this particular group drives me crazy. I make it clear in my listing that the house is old, 72 years old, and if the expect sleek and modern this won’t be the place for them. Just not sure if there is a discreet way to put that it may have a slight old house smell if you close all the windows and leave it that way. I am thinking maybe, even if I get the smell out of the walls, that I need to invest in a better air purifying system. We also have a marshy Redwood forest combination area one block away from the house. That may be contributing as well. It is probably as @Barns says, you just have to put up with it.


@jaquo, Accuracy was just that one time. Motel 6 here, at the time she came, was $85 a night and we charge $80 because it is an older home. The musty smell has only come up twice, but it still bugs me, I want it to be extra nice.

In that case, ignore it :slight_smile:

I still think that’s way too cheap.


Having grown up in Mendocino and Humboldt Counties and having lived 12 years on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, I can assure you that there is absolutely nothing you can do to mitigate this away completely in an older structure. Even if the house has been bone dry for the last 75 years, it’s still going to have that smell. Because of the dampness and the coolness, fungus is everywhere. Even dry wood will have molds. Newer structures with vapor barriers, concrete foundations and treated framing below the floor level, will not have this problem if the roofs don’t leak and there’s no problem with the plumbing.

Sounds depressing, don’t it?

Re-painting the interior with Kilz, or it’s equivalent, and caulking will help considerably however…it’s always going to be there because of the age of the wood used in it’s construction.

My thought is to make it a “feature” and prominently described in your property description. The “mustiness” is not unpleasant, just odd, for someone who’s never been exposed to it.

I’ve been dinged a couple of times for location despite telling folks that we’re a few miles from town. There’s nothing I can do about it…oh well. Good luck.


I wouldn’t say anything if this is a rare complaint. If more than rare, maybe note in your listing “Our Northern California coastal climate is great for our specimen redwood trees and our fruit growers, but please be aware of the humidity if you are sensitive to it. Our home is built with reclaimed 100-year old train station redwood timbers, so the indoor environment may also be more humid than you are used to. We provide air ionizers in every room for your comfort.”
Wooden houses + damp air, you are going to get that bit of smell, especially if the house has been closed up for awhile. I love that smell, it flashes me back to summer cottage rentals at the beach with my extended family when I was a sprout.