I wanted to tell you about our experience of booking and staying in an airbnb apartment whilst we were in New York. Because it was absolutely awesome! I have done apartment swapping in the past, with amazing results. (I stayed on a private island in Miami!) So when we were looking for accommodation in New York, we decided to do a similar thing. With airbnb you actually book to stay in someone's private apartment. It works out so much cheaper than booking a hotel and, in my experience, staying in a spacious apartment is usually a much nicer and more interesting experience than staying in a hotel. (I've apartment swapped in NYC before as well and it was also a winner.)
As we were planning to get married in an out-of-the-way part of Brooklyn, so we thought it would be great if we could stay in the area, and we totally lucked out. I found this loft apartment right in the neighbourhood which was absolutely gorgeous. And, at about £100 per night, much cheaper than a New York hotel. Here are some pictures. Unbelievably, I managed to take very few of the loft. (There are a couple in my post about our wedding, I think.)
To my mind, a hotel could never match up to the experience we had there. It was a huge loft owned by a gallery director, filled with artefacts, photographs, books... even the light fittings were gorgeous. I got ready to get married using the theatrical lightbulb vanity mirror in the bathroom. (Well, I had to fight my friend Jenny for mirror access.) (Can't believe I didn't take any pictures!)
There was a kitchen with everything you might need (and it was all lovely stuff) which you obviously wouldn't get in a hotel. A huge dining area, a living space full of interesting books, and even a film projector.
The building itself was incredible, an old factory converted into lofts. The hallways and doorways and everything else about it were solid brick and over-sized. Again, like a wally, I managed to take no pictures. (I'm secretly happy about that though, because I was just enjoying it, as opposed to feeling the need to record everything.)
I also have to say, we nearly booked this place in Willamsburg before finding our Red Hook place and the host was so helpful and lovely; definitely check this place out if you want somewhere more central in Brooklyn.
To summarise: I can't recommend airbnb enough. You get better value for your money and stay in more interesting neighbourhoods. You can get a rough idea of whether the host is going to be reliable through their reviews. They also link their page to their Facebook and Twitter accounts, so you can sort of see whether they're a real person. I personally had a great experience and say go for it.
EDITED: Just had lunch with a friend who asked me a couple of questions after seeing this post. We didn't share the apartment with the host, he was away, hence him renting it out. Some apartments you do rent with the owner occupying, it is all detailed on the airbnb profile of the property. We picked up our keys at a neighbourhood bar, which was super handy. As soon as you book the apartment you get your host's email address and phone number and then just work out all the arrangements.