Thursday, April 9, 2015

My Experience with Airbnb

I've heard nothing but good things about Airbnb, so when we needed a place to stay until we found an apartment in Chicago, I chose the site over my usual favorites, HomeAway and FlipKey. I now wish I hadn't.

Finding a dog-friendly rental was a challenge with two dogs (one of them being 100 pounds), but I thought I lucked out with a place in Logan Square. It was only 4 miles from Graham's new workplace, so it seemed like the right fit.

We arrived to find a large apartment on a quiet street. We walked upstairs and into the library to find stuff strewn everywhere. Art supplies were on a table in front of the window and more supplies filled a dog kennel on the ground. A pile of mail was waiting on the stairs. The owner had offered to let us use the kennel, but when we saw we would have to clear it of its contents we were glad we still brought our own. It still looked like a nice loft, so we just cleared a space for our things and made the best of it.

It was cold inside the apartment. We turned on the heat, but it never rose above 61 or 62. Upstairs, the master bedroom did not have a functioning light, only a night light on a desk. The bathroom lights didn't work either, and there was a desk lamp on the sink for lighting. The guest room had a lamp, but we didn't sleep in there because the bed was too small for two people. Free Wi-Fi was listed as an amenity, but it wasn't working. We were told to unplug the router in the library via a text message from the owner, but I couldn't find the router in the middle of the pile of stuff in there. The next day, the owner called Comcast and had the Wi-Fi reset. It worked from then on. I was glad it was fixed because I was supposed to work from home on some days. (Though, it was terribly slow when it did work.) Also, there was no toilet paper in one of the bathrooms, and the other only had a little bit. The toilet in the downstairs bathroom did not appear to have been cleaned. One of the chairs at the dining table was on its last legs. And there was no TV. (A TV was not listed as an amenity, so I wasn't surprised, but it seems odd to not have one.)

While the owner was quick to reply to our messages and tried to help, I felt that the rental was not what we were expecting. I should have taken photos, but I was kind of embarrassed. When we booked the place, we were told we would need to pay a $150 pet deposit. It was not handled in the proper way, according to Airbnb. It was my first time using the service, so I did not know that. I should have done more research. The owner simply added the amount to the rental and agreed to refund the deposit at the end of our stay as long as the place was clean.

When we checked out, Graham and I cleaned up after ourselves and threw out our own trash. We received $100 back, after I sent several emails over many days to both Airbnb and the owners.  Our review from the owner said we left the place clean, but apparently the remaining $50 was for a cleaning fee. (I confirmed the fee was in the listing.)

I won't say it was all bad. We did stay warm by bringing our own space heater and keeping the doors to the bedroom closed. We liked being able to cook our own meals instead of spending money at restaurants every night. And it was dog friendly, our top priority. We had a home base to start our apartment search, and I guess that is all that matters. But after this experience, I'm not sure if I'll rent from the site again. I learned that you can't really trust photos on rental sites. The place had mostly positive reviews, but there was one negative one that stood out. I wish I had chosen another property.

Have you had a positive or negative experience with a property on Airbnb? Would you use it again?