Longmont, Colorado, resident Judith Batty rents two rooms in her Old Town home through the web site Airbnb, April 2016. (Lewis Geyer/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images)

Gender, Age, Attractiveness Impact Airbnb Listing Success, Study Reveals

Hosts who are perceived as trustworthy enjoy higher prices and more frequent rentals than do hosts with less trustworthy photos

Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have found that certain traits make prospective Airbnb listings feel more trustworthy according to a recent study.

Professors Eyal Ert and Aliza Fleischer at Hebrew University’s Environmental Economics and Management Department found that there are two main criteria for determining the “visual trustworthiness” of a listing.

Profs. Eyal Ert and Aliza Fleicher (Courtesy Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

“Our new study quantified the qualities that define the sort of attractiveness that online shoppers identify with trustworthiness,” explained Ert, in a press release released on February 25, 2020.

The characteristics that link to perceived trustworthiness include the host’s gender. the facial expressions in the profile photos, and the quality of the images posted to the application.

In their study, Ert and Fleischer discovered a “trustworthiness” pecking order: People perceive women as more trustworthy than men and older hosts as more trustworthy than younger ones.

Aside from gender, resolution and clarity are the biggest factors, but certain facial expressions like smiling increase trustworthiness over neutral faces.

The attractiveness of the faces is also a factor with more attractive people rating higher on the trustworthiness scale than less attractive people.

According to Ert, some of the criteria work in tandem.

“There correlated,” he told The Media Line. “Women are perceived as more trustworthy and more attractive.”

Netanela Baram, a Jerusalem Airbnb host who gets around 50 guests a year says she’s “never thought about it [her gender]” when it comes to why people choose her place,

She told The Media Line that the responses she’s gotten from guests on why they chose her West Jerusalem apartment vary from price to her pets.

“My Airbnb is cheap, and it’s a shared apartment, so they like the company,” said. “I wrote very nice things about myself and the apartment and I put a picture of Wolf [her dog] and I said that there’s a dog in the apartment,” she explained, listing reasons she has heard from guests for preferring her apartment over others.

According to Ert and Fleischer, “Visual trustworthiness is king in the Airbnb arena,” but this means “perceived trustworthiness”; it’s not a measure on the actual trustworthiness of the hosts.

Thirty-seven-year-old American traveler Loyal Olsen, who now lives in Germany, frequently travels across the globe. He told The Media Line of a system he uses before booking a listing.

“If safety is a concern in the city, that would change what I look for. I typically don’t rent a car so I look for [listings] with proximity to city activities and balance that with the price. Then, I read through all the past guest reviews to see their comments and feedback. Then I typically pick the one that has the best all-around score based on those several things.”

Ahmad Dana, a student from London who recently visited Jerusalem, told The Media Line that it wasn’t the hosts he pays most attention to when booking a place.

Ahmed Dana, in front of the Dome of the Rock during his visit to Jerusalem (Courtesy Ahmed Dana)

“For me, in general, reviews are important. If the listing has many authentic reviews, then I would trust it,” he said, adding that “there’s nothing in particular about the hosts” that he looks for, but that “it’s a good idea to send them some messages beforehand to see if they’re trustworthy.”

Olsen mentioned that since he has “only rented Airbnb’s where I only have the place to myself,” gender wasn’t a large factor, but he did cheekily add that “if I was sharing a house with them, I’d prefer a model-looking host.”

The study, which was conducted in Sweden using a sample of 320 Airbnb listings, also noted that race wasn’t a factor as 98% of those surveyed were white, but cultural differences might change the results.

The team is currently working on conducting this study in Tel Aviv to see if Israel’s greater diversity changes the result.

Ert states that it’s something the team is considering as “we know in the US, there were certain indications of African Americans getting less money from rentals.”

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