The truth behind Airbnb listings

This article is reprinted by permission from NerdWallet.

If youre not a regular Airbnb user, it may take trial and error to interpret some of the language in the listings.

You dont always know what youregetting, and listingssometimes fail to deliver what they advertise. But the possible benefits saving money and experiencing a destination like a local are worth the gamble for some travelers.

Heres how to prevent some Airbnb aches and pains, with tips from frequent gueststo help you read between the lines of listings.

Readingdescriptions for red flags

One way to get started is to search for listings with four or five-star ratings and comprehensive reviews about not just the property, but also the host, the neighborhood, etc. It also doesnt hurt to look for experienced superhosts, who earn five-star reviews 80% of the time. Other guests have vouched for these hosts, and the reviews can help you determine whether a rental meets your standards.

Apart from that, decoding the language of an Airbnb listing can still require some experience, such as knowing the kinds of phrases to watch for and that you might want to avoid based on your preferences.

Keep to yourself

Not all hosts have approval from their landlord or homeowners associations to rent out their homes, condos or apartments. Your tip-off about these listings might include a request for discretion or avoiding communication with building staff. If you miss thesered flags, your staycouldbe an uncomfortable experience.

Read: Want to travel the world in retirement? Try these travel hacks

Ive straight up seen people say that you have to be very quiet because the building doesnt actually allow this, says Allison Bieller, travel blogger who runsThe Endless Adventurewith her husband. They said, Dont talk to the doorman.

Regulations for short-term rentals vary widely, but per Airbnbs terms of service, the onus is on hosts to ensure they are complying with local laws that may restrict their ability to host paying guests for short periods or provide certain host services. Still, guests who unwittingly walk into such a situation might findit awkward and difficult.

Also see: Iceland is hot, the U.S. is not and other travel trends

Regardless of the perks and amenities a listing may feature, think carefully about choosing an unauthorized rental for convenience, affordability or aesthetics. It could mean sacrificing peace of mind and the freedom to vacation on your own terms.

Near restaurants or bars

Places close to restaurants or bars are convenient and fun for the right traveler. For others, they may cause sleep deprivation.

That might be a big attraction to, say, like a backpacker who is looking to party in the city, says Jake Littlefield,blogger and photographer atJake and Dannie. If youre traveling with a family, that just means that its going to be too loud to put your kid to sleep at 8 p.m.

If the hostprovides earplugs oroffers a rental in what they describe as an energetic neighborhood, that could indicate that thelocationis noisy.

A quick Uber ride from the city

You might save money by staying a little fartheraway from your destination, but transportation costs could eat up your travel budget especially if there isnt a goodpublic transportation system.Even if the area does have transit options, they might not be availablelate at night, or they may be inconvenient in bad weather.

I recently stayed in Montreal and it was negative 30 degrees Fahrenheit, says Christian Lowery, a travel writer and filmmakerwho runs the blogBeyond Your Bubble. My criteria for this Airbnb was to be as central as humanly possible because Im not going to be commuting and walking for 10 minutes outside.

Be on the lookout for language that says or suggests you might need a cab,a ride-share service or other means of transportation, and plan accordingly.

The host was really friendly

If most of a listings reviews focus on tangential topics such as the host or the neighborhood instead of the property itself, that could be a clue that the rental might not be up to par, Littlefield says.

And it might be difficult for some guests to write honest reviews abouta house where the owner lives, especially if the hostwas kind. Littlefield once found it difficult towrite a negative review even though the wooden baskets intheirvery cold and damp Airbnb sprouted mold.

They picked us up at the airport; they even had to make two trips because their car was small and we had a lot of luggage, Littlefield says.Even we went out of our way to say howgreat the host was.

Searching fordetails in photos

Reading between the lines of reviews and listings can help steer you toward the right Airbnb rental, but the photos will reveal even more about a space. Knowing what to look for in the pictures can supply you with questions for your host.

See: In the magical world of Airbnb, ideals still trump earnings

Here are some suggestions offered by seasoned travelers:

If its not in the photo, dont assume its there.If youre not seeing chairs, a table, windows or other must-haves, they might not exist.

Amenities in photos arent always accessible.Make sure the pool or gym isnt off-limits. Just because its in the photo doesnt mean you can use it whenever youd like.

Picturesof attractions and knickknacksmight be a distraction.If a listing has more pictures of local attractions and close-ups ofd茅cor than photos of the rental itself, the space may besmall or unsightly.

Wide-angle shots can be misleading.Taking pictures with a wide-angle lens can make spaces look larger. If a picture has stretched corners or if its taken from abovethe corner of a room,you may want to ask about the rentals size.

Asking the right questions

Make a listof your must-haves in a rental, then consider whetherwhats missing in the pictures, reviews or listingcould potentially be a deal breaker. Bridgethat gap by coming up with a list of questions for your host.

Also read: Airbnb seeks to broaden appeal, adds more hotel listings, loyalty program

Message the owner about things yourebooking that specific listing for, Lowery says. If theyre not willing and nice enough to answer a simple question before booking, then it might not be the best fit for you anyway.

More from NerdWallet: Frequent Flyer Programs: How to Make the Rules Work for You When Renting Your First Place, Good Credit Can Open Doors How to Save on Your Destination Wedding in Hawaii

Melissa Lambarena is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: mlambarena@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @LissaLambarena.

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