How to Get Five-Star Reviews on Airbnb as a Host

It all comes down to one important rule.
Seth Kniep
Nov 1, 2021
Real Estate Investing
Five-star reviews are the cornerstone of any successful Airbnb business. With them, you’ll rank higher in search results and be able to charge higher nightly rates. Without them, guests will quickly cast your property aside as they research their next stay. With so many highly-rated properties on the Airbnb platform, there’s simply no reason for guests to bother staying at a place with mediocre reviews.

Luckily, the process for earning five-star reviews on Airbnb is not particularly complicated. How do you earn a five-star review? Treat your guests as you’d want to be treated. Even as we explore the nitty-gritty details, you’ll find that everything that follows is an extension of that golden rule. If you’re ready to become a five-star host, read on. Below, we’ll discuss seven action steps to help you consistently earn five-star reviews on Airbnb.

Write an Accurate Description

This is where it all starts. Before you’ve even had your first booking, you’ll need to write a property description that attracts guests. There’s a lot to remember when writing your description—be detailed but not long-winded; focus on unique features; don’t forget spell check—but above all, the most important thing is to be honest.

When guests leave a review, Airbnb asks them directly how accurate the listing description was. You want them to give you 5/5 without thinking twice. So, don’t overstate views, amenities, or the overall size of the property. Write an enticing description, but tell the truth. The worst thing you can do is to over-promise then under-deliver. 

You also need to be honest about the location of your property. Sometimes the best returns are found in “up and coming” parts of town. If your rental is in an area that’s a bit rough around the edges, that fact should be made clear to your guest before arrival.

Communicate Clearly and Quickly

After booking, you’ll begin messaging with your guest. You need to be polite and attentive throughout the entire process, from the guest’s initial booking through checkout. During business hours, you should strive to respond to guest inquiries within 15 minutes. Outside of these hours, you still need to try to respond as quickly as possible. You can make this a lot easier by using property management automation software to set up auto-responses that are triggered by certain types of guest inquiries. When you write these auto-responses, make them sound human. You don’t want guests to feel like they’re talking to a robot.

Not all inquiries can be handled automatically by software. What if your guest messages you saying that the air conditioner is broken or that they found a mouse under one of the beds? Obviously, inquiries like these can’t be handled with an auto-response—you will need to get involved and find a solution. (If you’re running JOD-style property management, your real estate manager should be equipped to handle this for you.)

If a guest messages one of these more complex requests and you cannot respond within 15 minutes, set up an auto-response to say, “I will be with you shortly.” This message helps keep your response time short and assures guests that their inquiry is not being ignored.

Pro Tip: Keeping your response time short does more than keep your guests happy. Response time is also tracked directly by Airbnb. They use this data to determine Superhost status and rankings in search results. So, it pays to respond as quickly as possible!

Communication should be as clear as possible. If you notice that multiple guests are having the same problem (like being unable to find the keys or the detergent), your description could probably use a rewrite.

Solid communication is even more important when guests have had a subpar experience. If you were highly communicative and accommodating, they’re more likely to be forgiving with their feedback. Show empathy, compassion, and genuine care.

There are situations where you just need to let the guest win. We’re not necessarily the biggest fans of the saying “the customer is always right.” But, we will say this: “It’s not worth winning the battle if you lose the war.” In the context of five-star reviews, this means that there’s no point in winning an argument if the guest retaliates by giving you a low-star review.

Not all guests are going to be that ideal guest—friendly, understanding, and tech-savvy. You’ll have guests whose expectations are unreasonably high, who complain about everything, or who can’t understand basic technology (like how to use a keyless entry keypad). With these guests, communication skills are critical. Help them to the best of your ability while keeping drama to a minimum, even if the person is a jerk that you’d never host again.

Provide a Seamless Check-In Process

Check-in provides an opportunity for hosts to shine. But if you mess it up, it’s an easy way to make guests angry and lose points on reviews. First impressions count!

Around check-in time, you should make yourself easy to reach. If guests have a problem checking in, you ideally want to respond within a couple of minutes. Nothing is more frustrating than showing up, ready to start your getaway, and being unable to unlock the front door. We recommend using keyless entry with a code that you share with guests. Guests love it because it’s simple and basically foolproof. Also, for those with Covid concerns, the lack of physical interaction is appreciated. From our perspective, keyless entry is great because we can handle it remotely. It’s the most efficient way to grant access to your properties and has helped us scale our business without hiring additional employees.

The day before your guests arrive, send automated check-in instructions using Guesty (or whichever management software you prefer). You only have to write these once, then just send the same message to each subsequent guest. These check-in instructions should include, at least:

  • The property address
  • Where to park
  • How to get keys
  • Anything else guests could need

You’ll also want to consider other things that will be important to guests as they get settled. One particular is making it very easy to find the WIFI username and password. You might consider printing this out and placing it in an obvious location, like on the fridge, as well as including it in your check-in instructions.

When it Comes to Cleaning, Strive for Perfection

Guests don’t necessarily notice when a property is clean; they just expect it. However, having an unclean property is one of the quickest ways to lose points. You want to aim for perfection here; even if the house is 95% clean, if there’s a nasty wad of hair left in the shower, guests are going to be grossed out and will dock you points in their review.

To avoid a loss of points in the cleanliness category, you need to have a rock-solid arrangement with your cleaning team. This isn’t just for reviews, either—a solid cleaning team is a critical part of any property management strategy. Have your cleaners use a checklist every time they clean the property and share guest reviews to show them that their work has an impact. Since you likely provide 5+ cleaning gigs every month, it’s in their best interest to complete the job to your standards. 

Pro Tip: With your cleaners, set an expectation from the start that they will Facetime you for a property walk-through after each cleaning. This helps you keep an eye on your properties, and ensure that cleanings are being done to your standards. It’s especially important for remotely-managed properties that are difficult and time-consuming for you to visit in person. Ask the cleaner to point her camera at every possible corner of the house, like the floor behind the toilet and the insides of cupboards. You need to make it clear that you require these Facetime walk-throughs when you first hire your cleaners. If you wait until after you’ve had some kind of problem to ask for these walk-throughs, it will seem like a punishment and erode the trust between you and your cleaners. Remember, building trust with your cleaners is essential because they are your eyes and ears on the property. 

There are situations where you can simplify the cleaning process by modifying the property. For example, we’re changing out the floors in one of our properties in southeast Austin. The current floors are painted concrete. This sounds like something that would be durable and low maintenance. In practice, however, these floors chip, peel, and look dirty within a half-hour of being cleaned. We’re switching to ultra-durable vinyl flooring that cleans easily and stays looking clean for longer. Features like this increase perceived cleanliness, and therefore perceived value.

Set Your Rates Right

Pricing is a balance. You want to charge as much as you can, but this is not a game of “let’s see what we can get away with.” You want to provide good value. If you charge double what a comparable Airbnb charges in the same location, your guests will likely be disappointed to pay $400 for a $200 experience. Luckily, this typically works itself out naturally; if you’re way overpriced, you probably won’t ever get booked. You might also consider using a short-term rental automation platform to set prices for you based on an algorithm.

Look at similar-sized Airbnb’s in the same neighborhood as your property to ensure your prices are competitive. You should evaluate your pricing and competitiveness at least once per month. As you rack up more five-star ratings, you’ll be able to justify higher nightly rates. More stars = more money.

Go Above and Beyond

As a host, your goal should always be to exceed expectations. Imagine that you’re the guest, and work to create an experience that you would give five stars. In our experience, we’ve found that there are a few little touches that really go a long way:

  • Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash
  • A wine bottle opener (Not being able to open your bottle of wine is the biggest buzzkill ever.)
  • A Keurig coffee maker, along with a variety of coffee pods

You should also message your guests before they arrive and see if they have any special requests you might be able to accommodate or if they’re celebrating a special occasion. For birthdays, a happy birthday balloon is a nice touch. For newlyweds or those celebrating an anniversary, rose petals and a bottle of wine help to set the mood. These little touches don’t take much effort on your part but make guests feel welcome and appreciated.

If you have 5+ short-term rental properties, providing this level of custom service could be extremely difficult. It all depends on how you set up your system and build out your team to help you. For example, you might pay your cleaners to help you provide this level of custom service.

Pro Tip: Ask, “do you have any special requests that we may be able to accommodate?” That last part helps to keep guests reasonable with their requests—you don’t want them to think that you’re giving them a blank check and that they can ask for anything. We once had a guy ask us if we could provide him with an electric guitar, like that wasn’t even a big deal. And honestly, we’ve had weirder requests. There’s no shortage of crazy stories in this business—that’s part of the fun!

Ask for Good Reviews

Following check out, reach out to guests with the following message:

"Hi {{guest_first}}, we want to thank you again for choosing to stay with us during your visit to Austin! We hope you thoroughly enjoyed your stay. We would be honored if you would be open to leaving us a 5-star review. If there's anything we could have done better, please send us a message so we can improve future guests' experience. We are working hard to constantly improve for all of our guests. We appreciate any feedback you're willing to provide. Thank you!"

Mistakes happen. If anything went wrong on your end that caused the guest to have a bad experience, now is the time to own up to it. Admit when you’re wrong or could have done something better, and see what you can do to make it right. It’s often better to comp a night or provide some other freebie to placate the guest than to risk them giving you a low-star review.

Conclusion

A plan to earn five-star reviews is an essential part of any Airbnb investment strategy. Anything less than five stars is viewed negatively, both by Airbnb and by guests browsing the platform. For this reason, hosts should aim for perfection. If you’re doing serious volume, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to achieve a perfect five-out-of-five rating for all of your properties. Nonetheless, it is an ideal to strive for. The higher your ratings are, the more you’ll get booked, and the more you can charge. And as a bonus, you may even achieve Superhost Status. When in doubt, just remember the golden rule: treat your guests as you’d want to be treated. Or, think of it like this: provide an experience that you would rate five stars.

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Seth Kniep

Married a pearl. Fathered 4 miracles. Fired his boss. Turned a single dime into $104,857. Today, a self-made millionaire, Seth and his team of 8 badass coaches teach entrepreneurs how to build passive income on Amazon.

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