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When you step off listing sites and OTAs to take your vacation rental marketing into your own hands, you already have plenty of things to worry about. How can I get more traffic landing on my website? How can I ensure site visitors convert into bookings? What other tactics can I use to market my vacation rental? One thing you don’t want to have to stress over, however, is accepting the wrong guests at your rental.


Even though listing sites often require users to verify their account with a government ID, Airbnb horror stories can still happen. So, when you’re going it alone, how can you make sure you pick the right guests every time?

We take a look at seven of the best ways to screen guests before accepting a booking. Read on to find out more!

1. Be alert to weird email addresses

As a general rule of thumb, if an email seems unprofessional, spammy or simply fake, it probably is. While it’s true many people will have had an embarrassing first email address, most will have grown out of theirs and made an appropriate adult email address for situations such as renting vacation homes. If they don’t – this could be a big red flag. You can check a list of potential spam email providers here.

Equally, if the email comes from a college student’s address, this could be another issue. Of course, not all college students have a bad reputation, but pay particular attention if your rental is near to the school – otherwise it might be an out-of-control party just waiting to happen.

2. Make it clear they will have to sign your tenancy agreement

To ensure that every guest who enters your home is a good egg, make sure they’re aware of the terms and conditions of your rental agreement – including house rules – from the very first inquiry.

If you don’t already have this listed on your website, it’s a good idea to include it in the introductory or “getting to know you” email, so that they know they have to accept the agreement in order to stay at your place. This will deter any unsuitable candidates from proceeding with their booking inquiry.

3. Phone/WhatsApp/Skype them

During the early exchanges with your potential guests, ask them if they’re available for a quick phone call, Skype or WhatsApp (call or instant message). If the traveler won’t talk to you, that’s an immediate warning sign.

Speaking on the phone is not only a good way to introduce yourself, but also to ask all those questions you want to know, without coming off too strong. Skype calls and WhatsApp are even better, so you can put a face to the name. They may be less likely to trash your home if they know you’d recognize them in the future! Additionally, if you already have the guest’s number, it will be much easier to reach them during their stay to provide recommendations and other friendly advice.

4. Increase your minimum stay

Another idea to help filter out any no gooders from staying at your place to throw a wild party? Increase your minimum stay length. If your minimum stay jumps from one or two to three (or even four) nights, it suddenly becomes a much bigger commitment and will discourage party animals looking for a cheap yet luxury venue for the night.

5. Impose a hefty damage deposit

It seems obvious, but when renters have to hand over hundreds of dollars for a deposit, it will make them think twice about trashing your place. Setting a high (but refundable) damage deposit will help dissuade any unsuitable renters from even thinking about staying at your place.

6. Google them

You don’t need to be a private detective to carry out a bit of online research. Check their phone number to see what state or city it’s registered to – if it’s close by, this could be a red flag that they want to rent your place to throw a party. Check up on their Facebook to see their pictures (you can compare these against a Skype call later). Or even search LinkedIn to see a more professional profile of them, read recommendations from former employers or colleagues and get a better idea of who they really are.

7. Check in during their stay

Whether you simply send travelers a quick text message mid-stay, or let them know beforehand you like to drop by and see how guests are getting, checking in on your guests will help ensure that you did make the right choice, after all!


While there are always exceptions to every rule, these seven tips for screening inquiring guests can help you rest easy knowing your vacation rental is in good hands. Do you have any other screening tricks that you swear by? Let us know in the comments!

What do you think about this article?

1 Comment
  1. Sandy Reply

    Sooooo, what ARE the important screening questions to subtly ask during a phone call?

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