JERUSALEM, Israel — Taking a trip anytime soon? If you plan on finding a place to stay on Airbnb, you might be surprised to learn that the pictures of the host can really influence where you choose to stay. Researchers from the Hebrew University have identified the characteristics of hosts’ photos that help renters determine if the host seems trustworthy.
Airbnb is an online platform that offers travelers the ability to rent a space in the home or apartment of locals. Hosts usually post pictures of the space on their rental page, but guests can have a hard time telling if the place will be as nice and accommodating as they seem in the pictures.
This is when guests turn to the pictures of the hosts themselves. The pictures of the hosts give guests a strong first impression of their trustworthiness and help them decide if they will rent from that host or not.
So what makes a host seem trustworthy to guests? The research team looked through photos of the hosts from 320 Airbnb listings in Stockholm, Sweden to identify the aspects of the photos that made some hosts seem more trustworthy than others.
The characteristics of the host have the strongest influence. An attractive host is perceived as more trustworthy. Women seem more trustworthy than men. The older a host is, the more trustworthy they seem. If the host is smiling in their picture they appear more attractive and more trustworthy.
The image quality is the second biggest factor in determining trustworthiness. Blurrier images of the host don’t do as well as high-quality images, partially due to the fact that blurrier images are perceived as less attractive.
One particularly interesting finding is that images of the hosts interacting with other people make them appear more trustworthy than pictures of them by themselves. Researchers suggest that hosts seem more reliable if they are seen as part of a group than if they are alone.
Aliza Fleischer, one of the study’s leading authors, comments on the importance of this study in a press release: “Visual trustworthiness is king in the Airbnb arena. Hosts who are perceived as trustworthy enjoy higher prices and more frequent rentals than do hosts with less-trustworthy photos.”
The researchers conclude by providing a formula for Airbnb hosts to help them attract more customers. A high-resolution, group-photo of an older female host that’s smiling will make them appear more trustworthy than other hosts on the site.
The study is published in Psychology and Marketing.