private airbnb in a windmill in the Kent countryside in England

The Private Airbnb: The Five Flavors of the “Entire Place” Home Type

Moving from one Airbnb to the next, our stays vary in all sorts of unpredictable ways, from the coziness of the bed to the walkability of the neighborhood to the preparedness of the kitchen. When we first started traveling, we found it just as difficult to anticipate the amount of privacy we’d have at a given Airbnb, even when we’d opt for the “Entire Place” home type. But the more we traveled, the better we got at spotting helpful patterns. If you’re a guest wondering how much privacy you can expect, take a look at the five different flavors we’ve noticed in our travels of the “Entire Place” Airbnb. We’ve found that if we can spot which of these Airbnb arrangements a host has, we can get a pretty good sense of how interactive or private our stay will be. In broad strokes, here are the pros and cons of each setup we’ve defined, along with a few of our favorite Airbnbs that exemplify these categories. Enjoy!

Relaxing on a hammock in Saskatoon

1) Shared Home

The Shared Home category is the most intimate of the “Entire Place” flavors, and it captures Airbnb in its original form: hosts welcome guests to come stay with them in their home. The other two “Home Type” options Airbnb offers (the Shared Space and Private Room categories) almost always fall into what we call the Shared Home setup. However, “Entire Place” Airbnbs can also fall into this category when the Airbnb is a self-contained suite nested inside the host’s main house. What defines this flavor of Airbnb for us is the fact that we are sharing the host’s home with them. This close proximity means our paths cross more frequently and we’re more conscientious about shared resources (internet, water, common spaces, etc.). If hesitation about this kind of arrangement has kept you from giving Airbnb a try, keep reading! There are plenty of less intimate options to come.


With their attractive price point and proximity to their hosts, these Airbnbs are perfect for travelers on a budget who are eager to soak up local recommendations from residents.


Close quarters means less privacy. Noise might travel, schedules might conflict, and a host you’re not crazy about can damper your trip in this arrangement.

Featured Stays

We loved this private, park-side basement suite in Saskatoon, Canada as well as this stunning hayloft in Nailsworth, England. Both Airbnbs were part of the host family’s main house.

Cherry Valley Farm Airbnb

2) Shared Property

This is our favorite and most sought-after Airbnb setup. The Shared Property arrangement involves an Airbnb located on a host’s personal property but separated in some way from the structure where the hosts actually live. This might mean a suite over a standalone garage, a camper tucked in the corner of the yard, or a separate cottage in the distance. More common in rural and suburban areas, these Airbnbs strike that perfect balance between privacy and personalization. As guests, we love knowing we’re not bothering our hosts with any noise, but that they’re also nearby if questions come up.


The Shared Property Airbnbs offer travelers a lovely blend of unique surroundings with plenty of privacy. These places tend to be designated specifically for Airbnb guests and assembled with personality and care.


The additional space usually comes with a higher price tag than the Shared Home Airbnbs. Also, hosts with such ample space will often run two or three Airbnbs simultaneously. This can mean other guests visiting the property while you’re there as well.

Featured Stays

There are so many good examples to choose from! We adored our barnyard adventures at the Cherry Valley Farm and Retrograss Farm. We also loved this Carriage House in British Columbia, this tiny cottage just outside San Francisco, and this sprawling house in New Mexico.

Red Character House in Saskatoon, SK, Canada
50s teal appliances and a fiddle cutting board in Saskatoon

3) Primary Residence

This type of Airbnb caught us a bit off guard, maybe because it’s less common or maybe because it deviates from the branding Airbnb promotes on their homepage. Primary Residence Airbnbs are kind of like a mini subletting arrangement. They tend to crop up in densely populated, in-demand locations. Essentially, if a guest comes along who’s willing to pay a premium for the host’s primary residence, the host will tidy up their home, change the sheets, and make themselves scarce during the guest’s stay. This works well for folks who travel frequently themselves and want to make a bit of money off their property while they’re away. Other hosts can scoop up a month’s worth of rent in a week of crashing on a friend’s couch while their own home functions as an Airbnb.


These listings often open up a location that would otherwise be Airbnb-less. Plus they tend to have just about anything you could need since they’re outfitted to function as the host’s primary residence.


The other side of that coin is clutter and some cleanliness concerns. Whereas other Airbnbs are geared towards hospitality, these more lived-in spaces tend to be focused on making money.

Featured Stays

To date, we haven’t stayed in a Primary Residence set up that we’ve loved enough to feature on the blog. Perhaps we’ll find a great example in the future with a super savvy host who can pull this off.

4) Vacation Home

Then there are the Vacation Home Airbnbs. Unlike the Primary Residences, these “Entire Place” Airbnbs usually feel much more ready for travelers. Hosts tend to take great pride in their vacation homes, and are usually eager to share their happy place with guests. In addition to the extra income, these hosts are often motivated by a mindset along the lines of: “If I’m not enjoying this beautiful place right now, somebody should be!” Since hosts usually live far away, these Airbnbs are almost always self check-in and tend to be professionally cleaned between guests. Keep the ebb and flow of the local economy in mind as this often drives the price of these Airbnbs. We try to book these places during the “shoulder season”, a term we picked up from coastal hosts who lower their spring and fall rates and make the majority of their income during the lucrative tourist spikes in the summer.


These Airbnbs usually come with incredible locations. They are, after all, vacation homes! And while they’re outfitted to be truly livable spaces, they don’t come with all the unwanted stuff that Primary Residences tend to have.


Of course, as Vacation Homes, the hosts themselves usually live farther away. This translates to unparalleled privacy, but if anything goes wrong help can feel a bit out of reach.

Featured Stays

We’ve stayed in a cabin in the mountains outside Los Angeles and a ski resort condo outside Denver, but our favorite Vacation Home Airbnb is still this adorable cottage in Cape Cod.

studio apartment looking into kitchen

5) Real Estate Investment

Last but not least, there are the Real Estate Investment Airbnbs. When someone owns a property, instead of selling a starter home or leasing an apartment to local tenants, some folks will turn their real estate investment into an Airbnb. The nightly Airbnb rate is often much higher than renters would pay, and owners retain more control over the daily ins and outs of the property. As guests, the catch here can come down to the size of the operation. In our experience, if these real estate investments are run by an individual with just one or two Airbnb properties, our stay is often just as personable as any of the above Airbnb arrangements. However, when the operation has sprawled into a full blown business, the accompanying standardization can undermine the very diversity and intimacy that we love about Airbnb travel.


The investment type mindset often translates into clean and comfortable stays. And when they’re owned by someone who still lives nearby, the local recommendations are usually top notch.


In general, the larger the real estate operation, the less personalized the stay (although we have definitely seen exceptions to this rule!) Take a peek at the other listings under the host’s profile to get a sense of the scale.

Featured Stays

We were blown away by one St. Louis real estate company and their ability to combine their business venture with all the thoughtful touches and individualism we love about Airbnbs. Check out this Tower Grove apartment.

scenic byway the turquoise trail connecting Tijeras and Santa Fe in New Mexico

Happy Travels!

Thanks so much for reading our take on the “Entire Place” Airbnb! What patterns do you see in Airbnbs? Any clusters that other guests might find helpful? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and until next time, happy travels!

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One Response

  1. Hi guys, James here from JVNewNormal – pretty sure you’ll remember my wife Vivienne who emailed you a while back and shared our housesitting lifestyle with you. We love your article – very comprehensive indeed. We always book entire place – but love the way you’ve broken it down into sub categories. Our preferance has always been the “REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT” as described by you. For us it is the closet thing to haveing your own apartment, (we prefer minimalist, uncluttered) without signing up to leases and without worrying about bills. We tend to stay in cities as we do not have a car, so apartments are our fave option. We looked at some AirBnBs in northern Cyprus once and were amazed that they had a low ‘sticker’ price but then listed all the other charges – linen, electricity, cleaning etc etc – gave that a miss.

    We are currently in Vietnam for 3 months (travelling). We had a two month housesit booked – but it fell through 5 weeks before we left Ireland – fortunately picked up a 3 week sit (just started – with mini-schnauzer Henry) – then thought, what the heck – this is a great country for travelling very, very cheaply – but at 3 star + comfort. We just spent 2 weeks in an AirBnB apartment ( The Tresor, D2, Ho Chi Minh City), just next to the touristy part (district 1). in a beautiful two bedroom apartment on the 21st floor for US$28 a night. We find this type of accommodation has made travelling between housesits just so much more affordable for us.

    Vivienne and I love following your experiences – take care, James & Vivienne Hardie (

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Finally! You’ve found it. After all those online searches, you’ve discovered the all-in-one guide you need to prepare your Airbnb with confidence. We’ll go room-by-room, step-by-step until your Airbnb is just perfect.