5 Steps to 5-Star Reviews

Aug 30, 2022 | Improve Ratings

Reviews matter. If you’ve been a host for any amount of time, you’ve learned this. If you are new to your short-term rental journey, you’ll quickly discover this. Reviews matter because they are a direct line to the Blessed Algorithm, which determines your place in Airbnb’s pecking order. They also matter because prospective guests check them before selecting a rental and – believe it or not – they can and will determine whether someone chooses your rental or keeps scrolling to one of the other hundreds of rentals available at their fingertips.  Let’s prevent that from happening! Here are 5 steps to 5-star reviews!

First and foremost, know thy algorithm.

Ah, the Blessed Algorithm. The tool that has us all by the…feet…and determines where your listing plops in a sea of endless STRs…which leads to dollars quickly falling in or out of your pocket. Lovely.

This is why it’s crazy important to take what measures you can to ensure your guests leave glowing reviews. Having been in the STR industry since 2014, we’ve learned a thing or two about what steps you need to take to ensure 5-star ratings, and we’re here to share them with you.

1. Have a great cleaner. I REPEAT. Have a great cleaner. 

Let me tell you a story. When my husband and I (Charli) purchased a larger STR in Nashville, I. Could. Not. Wait. to find a cleaner so I no longer had to clean it myself. I had been cleaning our other STR for years and cleaning two at once was never something I wanted to do. This part will be a breeze! I thought. Hands-off rental, here we come! I thought. 

And that’s where I was very, very wrong.

I’m going to save you the long, painful journey of even finding a team of cleaners that had the capacity to take on a new client. And skip to the part where we began the chapter of working with the cleaners. 

Spoiler Alert: The professional cleaners did not clean. 

At least, not by my standards. I would run by the rental to do a quick check after the team of cleaners left to make sure everything was guest-ready and be appalled by the state I found the home in: balls of hair on the floor under a stool, makeup smudged all over a “clean” pillow sham, dust lining the back of the toilet seat. The condition of one check was so bad, I even pulled the sheets back on each bed to make sure there weren’t any stray hairs left clinging onto the clean sheets (from those vicious stragglers coming out of the dryer), only to find they had washed and dried a bloodstain, permanently setting it into the brand-new sheets. 

Thank goodness I pulled the beds back that day. What a fun review that would’ve been. 

An hour or so later, I would finally be leaving from my “quick check.” 

We went through THREE different cleaning companies before one of my dear friends had pity on my weary soul and offered to do it for me as a side hustle. I owe her my firstborn. 

Quick AND efficient cleaners are getting harder and harder to come by in the Nashville area. Cleaners are getting away with subpar turnovers at best because of the high demand and lack of resources. An “at first glance” clean is not clean in the STR world. Visitors pay a lot of money to stay in great vacation homes, and at the very minimum, they expect them to be sparkling clean. Don’t lose stars here. Lost stars equal lost dollars.

Check on the cleanliness level of your own rental by stopping by your property (or having a friend or relative stop by for you if need be) after it’s been turned every now and then to make sure your guests aren’t walking into any unwelcome surprises. Be sure and check places that are easily missed, like the inside of the microwave and refrigerator, as well as the coffee pot to make sure old grounds have been dumped. 

All that to say, when it comes to having and maintaining a profitable STR, we put a good cleaner at the top of almost every list we make. If you have found one, hold them close to your bosom and never let them go.

2. A Welcome Guide

A Welcome Guide may sound intimidating to put together, especially if you’re new to being a host, but it really is a key ingredient to earning consistent 5-star ratings, and it’s not difficult! It doesn’t need to be fancy – a simple Word doc is perfectly fine. Guests will greatly appreciate a handy piece of paper much more than scrolling through a digital guidebook when all they need is the WiFi password. Just be sure and laminate your Word doc so it doesn’t show signs of wear and tear – a quick stop at any UPS, FedEx, or Staples can have someone print and laminate it for you for about $5. 

To see what you should include in your Welcome Guide, click here

3. Pleasantly Surprise Guests with Extra Amenities…& Chocolate.

When it comes to earning 5-star reviews, the secret is always to under promise and overdeliver. However, we also know there are some unfortunate surprises you can’t control – your AC unit decides it’s sick of being an outsider and throws a heated tantrum in the middle of a 100-degree guest stay; the bifold closet door is tired of being shut and becomes unhinged 10 minutes before check-in time; you know, things exactly like that. Since these misfortunes are inevitable, control what you can and toss some good surprises in the mix: amenities.

Guests always seem floored by the number of amenities we have available to them, but here’s the thing – it’s not a big expense or burden to provide these. Sure – for some things, it’s a small expense and a little extra effort up front – but you stock your rental with a few of these items once and that’s it. Trust us, these small investments pay off in a big way. 

Also, chocolate. We stock our rentals with Andes Thin Mints – a very low-cost item for the amount of happiness it brings – and only have to restock these 2-3 times a year. Whether guests are a fan of these or not, they’ll appreciate the gesture. 

Here are a few additional amenities we provide guests: (to see the Amenity Essentials list, click here.)

  • Standing / Boxed Fans
    • Whether you have a ceiling fan or not, we recommend having one of these for each bedroom. Some guests just appreciate it for the noise. And the alcohol sweats.
  • Lint brush, Extra Toothbrush + Paste, & Razor
  • Pack n Play + High-Chair (parents will be thrilled)
  • Coffee + Tea Fixings / Accompaniments + Snacks
  • At least one bottle of water per guest. For those such as myself who think they might shrivel up and die if forced to drink from an untested tap.  
  • Umbrella

I’m going to cheat for a second because that’s how I get by in life. Just kidding. But I’m still cheating.

This isn’t an amenity, but another very important thing to consider is if your home has ANY odor, at all. Just no.

Whether a home does or not, we use Glade Plug-Ins in all of our STRs – just choose a neutral, inoffensive scent. Our go-to is Cashmere Woods. Cheat card: stamped. 
And here’s a bonus for you: these extra touches subconsciously persuade guests to excuse things that are, let’s say…less idyllic…when leaving you a review. Like the peeling front porch that is in between fresh coats or the turning-pink-at-the-bottom-shower curtain liner you’ve been meaning to replace.

4. Quick, Easy, & Friendly Communication. 

It’s extremely important to respond to guest inquiries or booking requests as quickly as possible. Airbnb, for example, allows you 24 hours to respond to these, but the faster you respond, the more visible your listing will be on their platform. If you fail to respond within that 24 hour window, your listing is bumped down in the algorithm and your Superhost status *could* be at risk.

Once an inquiry has been responded to and confirmed or declined, any lags in communication after that aren’t tied to the algorithm, but you still want to respond promptly to ensure a 5-Star rating with your overall communication. 

Here’s something that shouldn’t come as a surprise: as a host, you need to be… F R I E N D L Y .

And most people are, but since tone can be tricky to determine through messaging, one easy way to avoid any confusion is to use my faithful friend, Exclamation Point. Contrary to popular belief, it won’t kill you.

Lastly, keep in mind how easy it can be to sound robotic. If you prefer to send automated messaging to help address the response-time issue, try to make it sound as curated as possible, and make sure you’re either entering the guest’s name when addressing them, or using the automated tools available to enter them for you – that friendly gesture goes a long way. 

For more info on Airbnb Response time, click here.

5. A Keyless Entry for Seamless Check-In. 

If you are already a STR owner, odds are you’ve already invested in some kind of keypad entry. If you haven’t, stop reading this and purchase one right now. We use the Schlage smart lock, but use whichever one you’re most comfortable with. A keyless entry is a must for a 5-Star rating. If something hasn’t gone wrong with a traditional keyed entrance yet, it will. Like the time my husband and I went on vacation and locked ourselves out of our own Airbnb. ☺ Another time.

Not to say keyless entry locks are fool proof, but as long as you regularly check or change out the batteries every couple of months, you should rarely have issues. In the event you do, keep a lockbox with a manual key hidden somewhere on the property as a safeguard. 

There you have it! Implement these 5 steps and you’ll be well on your way to receiving 5-Star ratings. If you need additional help getting your rental off the ground, or just giving it a refresh, you can schedule a discovery call with us at wildcatinterior.com  Whether you need help with your STR design or just some consulting, we’re here to help! We want to see you and your STR investments thrive and get the return on investment you deserve. Happy hosting! 

And now, for Charli & Natalie’s Q&A of the Day

“Natalie, where does your love of plants come from?” 

“Well Charli, it comes from my mom. She has been in the plant business since before I was born. Today she and my father own a plant nursery and landscaping business in my hometown of Bastrop, LA (and that’s about the only exciting thing there).”

“Charli, where did your taxidermy inspiration come from?”

“Hi Natalie, I’m from Louisiana.😃 Although I grew up around it, I don’t particularly care for much of what passes for taxidermy decor in the south. However, I love the potential it has to set a space apart when done tastefully. 

A Word of Advice: Think outside the box! For more taxidermy inspiration, follow my taxidermy board on Pinterest. 

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