Setting expectations for new Airbnb guests who are used to hotels

I have a guest coming next month and her introductory message is reminding me of a horrific new guest I had last year. I’m wondering what I can do to set expectations about what Airbnb is about so she doesn’t complain about it not being like a hotel.

As background…the previous guest was new to Airbnb, and was a retired middle-aged woman coming to visit her child in the area. Her communication was great and she was very thankful for all the guidance I provided. I didn’t expect any problems. Shortly after checking in, she approached me and said she was uncomfortable staying at my place because of her OCD about how things should be in a home and the fact that my dining room wasn’t as pristine as in the pictures (I had some items neatly stacked on the table for a project I was working on). Apparently she wanted a sterile environment with no signs of a host living there, even though there was no dirt or mess in my home.

Anyway, this new guest coming is in the same demographic (retired, coming to visit an adult kid), and usually stays in hotels but her kid told her to try Airbnb. She gave me an introductory narrative about who she is, etc. and was very complimentary about my house. I accepted her, but now am having a flashback to this horrific guest from last year and want to establish expectations about Airbnb before she arrives so there are no surprises or negative reviews.

How do you typically explain how Airbnb works to new guests, or ones you worry will have unreasonable expectations? I’ve already reminded her that I live here and the common areas and bathroom are shared. My listing is very thorough about what is included in the room and my house rules. Should I go further and say that there is no maid service or meals? Anything else to make sure new guests know? I can also explain Airbnb’s rating system when she checks out so she doesn’t use the Ritz as the criteria for a 5 star rating.

This is your issue, not the issue of the new guest. She is not responsible for the behavior of the other woman. Stereotyping her as same demographic therefore needing special help is wrong.

Your well intentioned efforts are equally likely to seem condescending as they are helpful.

I neither explain nor worry. Unless I have unequivocal evidence a guest may need special treatment (like a review of another host where they complained about something) I try not to worry in advance. Worrying about the future poisons the present.


I don’t explain. I’m not paid to be a teacher, after all. Guests are grown up people who have minds and wills of their own. I also don’t worry about guests in advance - if I did I’d have many, many, MANY more grey hairs than I already have.

There’s no reason to suppose that this forthcoming guest will be anything like the one you described - she might just as easily be a total sweetheart :slight_smile:


@GardenFairy, I get it. I think I would be having similar flashbacks in the same circumstances. If you have not already, the only thing I might do would be to send a message along the lines of “Do you have any questions about the difference between a shared space stay vs. a hotel stay? Any concerns that I can alleviate ahead of your arrival? I want your first experience to be the best I can possibly make it. I am looking forward to your stay.”


I recently hosted a lovely old couple who had never used airbnb. Gave a fantastic review and declared themselves airbnb converts. You will never please everybody though.

If your guest is not comfortable, I personally would offer to have her re-homed. It’s a sincere, genuine woman to woman chat. How you want to manage a refund is up to you, but sometimes it’s not their No shame, no blame.

Flashbacks happen, but this time around you are going to assume that she is being honest and straightforward. From this keypad, she sounds it.

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Thanks for the feedback; I’m sorry if it came off as stereotyping or condescending, and maybe the question should have been more general as to how to set expectations for all new guests. I have had plenty of new guests and most are perfectly fine and don’t need any explanations. I never had second thoughts about this guest until after I accepted her and she sent me a message informing me of her medical condition (nothing that will even affect me and doesn’t require special accommodations) and her recent divorce, so it made me wonder what else is going to come up.


This is great. It leaves it up to her and still comes off as friendly rather than lecturing or condescending. I will try not to let my previous experience color this one, as I’ve had so many other positive experiences with new guests since then.


You’re welcome. I have the advantage of being married to a High School English teacher who was also a Nationally Recognized and Awarded Speech and Debate Coach. ( I like to brag about him, can you tell? ) He helps me out so much with the wording on these things. I so often just want to ask “What part of this do you not understand? DANG!” of course that all stays in my head :rofl:

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Ah, much better. A desire to not only manage new guests for your benefit but to also somewhat teach them about how Airbnb works (sorry Jaquo, another rare disagreement with you) benefits everyone. But there is a fine line between helping the guest understand and being condescending. I find that people who make it clear they have read my listing tend to be very good guests. So if she complimented your home she must have looked at the listing somewhat closely.

Now you are adding info not in the OP about medical condition and recent divorce. Yes, that would put me on edge as well, I don’t care how many reviews they have. But as long as she’s not asking for any kind of concession due to those things, it’s probably okay.

Please update us after the stay and let us know how it went.


Can he Help with These Capitalization erroRs? LOL. (I hope you get the joke)

That is absolutely awesome. In my experience speech and debate coaches are some of the very best teachers and they make lifelong connections with their students. Congrats on snagging him for yourself.


I definitely agree with this. Since I started hosting, I have struggled with getting the right balance of giving enough information in my listing and my welcome message (since many guests don’t read it), without coming across as too parental (I’ve been asking guests to make sure they’ve read my full listing and rules to try to prevent any issues, but I’m guessing some guests cringe at the word “rules”).

She’s a new user this month with no reviews, but seemed friendly and communicative so I gave her a chance. I bet she’ll be out with her family most of the time, so hopefully won’t need much from me. I’ll come back and update this post next month after her stay.


I’ve been hosting 5 years and I’m still learning. The fact that you found this forum shows that you are ahead of the game because you are trying to be proactive.

As I said in another post, I learned (sadly late in my career) that the words “I need your help,” are very powerful. No one likes “do this or else.” But looking someone in the eye and saying “I need your help, could you sort your recycling and garbage for me?” sounds so much better than “guests who don’t recycle will be fined” or whatever.


I get you Garden Fairy. I’m a touchy-feely, artsy person, but I feel icky when strangers reveal upfront stuff that has nothing to do with the accoms, like their recent divorce. That having been said, when my instincts tell me it’s right, I’ve become quite close to some of my awesome guests.

Maybe it’s cultural, but in my experience, guests (mostly millennials) frequently write how cute and awesome and perfect your place is when they make a booking request…meanwhile they haven’t read the listing. I don’t take compliments like that at face value.


For my listing I think it’s that I don’t get many tourists. I’ve worded it like this: travelers, not tourists. I suppose that’s a kind of culture, the tourist culture. People who think they are doing a place a favor by gracing it with their presence aren’t the best guests.


KKC: unfortch, all we have is tourists. We’re an island of 25K and it’s the only way most of us make money for 3 months.

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I think this is exactly right. Just sounds helpful.

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My wife always explains it to people as “It is like staying at your aunt’s house “. It seems to convey a more casual, less servant type atmosphere. No problems yet.