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Hebrew University researchers determined that Airbnb renters choose hosts based on perceptions of trustworthiness related to appearance, among other factors.

By United with Israel Staff

Israeli researchers from Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Department of Environmental Economics and Management recently discovered that Airbnb hosts’ “visual trustworthiness” is a key factor affecting the success of rentals on the popular short-term rental app. The findings were published in Psychology & Marketing.

Professors Eyal Ert and Aliza Fleischer analyzed 320 Airbnb listings in Stockholm, Sweden. They found that renters’ online decision-making process is based on trustworthiness, a characteristic renters glean from hosts’ appearance and gender.

“Our new study quantified the qualities that define the sort of attractiveness that online shoppers identify with trustworthiness,” Ert explained in a statement.

The study defines “visual trustworthiness” as a conclusion based on a host’s gender, facial expression, age, and image quality. According to the research, “women are deemed more trustworthy than men, older hosts over younger ones, smiling faces over neutral expressions, attractive hosts over unattractive ones.”

Unsurprisingly, high-quality photographs reap more renters than blurry images.

Images showing the host interacting with others brought more business than solo shots of the host, perhaps because hosts who appear to socialize with others are deemed more reliable.

Race of the host was not evaluated as 98 percent of the Swedish hosts were Caucasian.

The team found that many Airbnb hosts are unaware of these insights. Though 68 percent of the photos studied showed smiling individuals, many did not show women even when the property was owned by both genders.

“Visual trustworthiness is king in the Airbnb arena,” Fleischer said in the statement. “Hosts who are perceived as trustworthy enjoy higher prices and more frequent rentals than do hosts with less trustworthy photos.”