Step 10: Superior Guest Hosting That Will Get You Reviews
Now that you have your property listed on all the major booking sites. What’s next? Is it time to sit back and let the money come rolling in? No! Now the real work begins. By listing your property, i.e., hosting, you are entering into a long-term commitment to serve your guests. Short-term rental hosting is really a service industry. By the way, if you have not listed your property yet, see our post on “Setting Up Your Listing.”
Reviews make you successful and Guest Hosting is Key
As mentioned in the previous post, the first thing that gets people’s attention is the cover photo of your listing. But, the thing that gets people to click on your listing is ratings. A similarly priced listing with a 3.0 rating will not compete with a property with a 4.8 rating. It is imperative to do everything you can to get a good review. Currently, our property has a 4.9 rating with 46 reviews. 83% of the reviews are 5 stars. I don’t share this to brag but to lend credibility to the advice below.
Short-term rental hosting is a service
The first thing to get good reviews is to remember that short-term rental hosting is all about service. Most hosts do not understand this. They think it is about providing a clean property at a reasonable price. Because of our rating, I charge about 20% more than most other properties in our condo building. Reviews are subjective to the guest’s impressions. To consistently get good reviews, you have to have your guests like you and your property. As a service, you want to make sure you have great guest management software. For more information see our post, “Who’s Checking-in Next!”
Getting great reviews
Your guests want to be treated with respect, fairness, and honesty. Your response time and the tone of your replies are key in establishing your rapport. You want them to feel like they know you. As soon as possible after the guests make a reservation, send a thoughtful welcome message using the guest’s first name. Then follow up with answers to any questions promptly. For example, I recently received a question about the best place to charter a fishing trip. Of course, with my listing in Destin, FL, the guest assumed I live around there. I don’t; Relaxing Condos is based out of Ohio. So, I immediately got back to them to let them know I am checking around and will provide an answer in a couple of days. So I check with other owners that live in Destin and sent the guest a couple of names I received. It would have been much easier to explain that I don’t live there and don’t have a clue. But, I want the guest to remember the extra effort when they write the review.
Getting your first 5 reviews
The first issue you will face as a new listing is getting people to choose your place. Price is the only factor you can control. When you are first starting, your only goal should be to get a handful of 5-star reviews. Your base price is a balancing act. If you raise it too high, no one will stay as mentioned above. Though if you lower it too low, you get the wrong type of guests. Super low price tends to push your place to extreme bargain hunters or folks who may not take care of the place. I would look at other listings in your area when you open and try to beat their price by 20%. This strategy does not work for the slow seasons. During slow seasons, most owners have lowered their prices to the minimum they are comfortable with to attract guests. For more about pricing, see our future post, “Pricing your Property.”
When problems occur while hosting guests
Unfortunately when guest hosting, problems will occur. Some of them may be in your control, and others are not, but they are all your responsibility as the host. Above, I mentioned the importance of the first five reviews; but on my second set of guests, I get a phone call the following morning after they check-in. They inform me that overnight the main pool had been drained and closed for repairs. Yikes, this is one of our main selling features. It was in December, so nobody was going to swim in it anyhow; but, still my problem. Desperate not to get a 3-star review, I called around and found a hotel with a heated lazy river open to the public. So we refunded the guests roughly $100, enough to pay for the family for two days at the lazy river. Additionally, I mentioned that our cleaning crew forgot to clean the condo in a previous post, and the guests walked into a dirty condo. I immediately got the cleaning crew over there and refunded the guests their cleaning fee. Then, I promptly fired the cleaning company; it was the second time this happened. When a problem occurs, you need to make every effort to make it right and compensate the guests. I find that $100 for small issues and $200 for large tend to smooth things over. I figure that 1 in 7 guests will have a minor issue. So, I add that to the price of the listing and my operating costs. Also, it goes into a special box on your taxes; see our future post on “Short-Term Rental Taxes.”
Guest Hosting Summary
When covid hit, and before Airbnb came out with their cancelation policy, we faced a major dilemma. We had people bound by a contract with cancelation fees on several hosting sites. Only being in business for 3 months, we would take a major loss if we let these people cancel without the fee. In this time of panic, my company and I took a step back to ask the question, “How would I like to be treated?” This philosophy of putting ourselves in the guest’s shoes has guided us well. It naturally leads to the service mindset. We lost ~$14,000 in lost revenue and re-occurring expenses during the first few months of Covid. Later that year, things turned around. Even if they hadn’t, “Guests First” was the right mindset to have. Remembering “short-term rental hosting is a service” will separate you from the majority of the other hosts. It will show in your reviews, and the reviews will draw people to your place. When you become famous and a multi-property investor, you can thank me by sharing this post on your social media :>
This post concludes our 10-step guide to getting started with short-term rentals. My goal with this series was to get you excited about becoming a short-term rental owner and investor. First, we started out discussing “how to start a business,” moving quickly to “finding a property” and “closing,” to finally talking about “setting up your list.” We topped the series off with this post on hosting. Does that mean it is the end of this Blog? ABSOLUTELY NOT! There is so much more to discuss, so check back weekly to find the posts labeled “Future posts” posted. I will also post about some current events in short-term rentals and some in-depth discussions on what is happening.
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Thanks for joining me on this journey,