It’s Easter bank holiday weekend in London and it’s very sunny. My airbnb is full over the long weekend as usual. My strategy is to be fully booked at all times and it works fine for me (even if I am charging lower prices than this time last year). My average charge per night is only £18 now (my price was £20 when I first started as an airbnb host nearly 5 years ago). This should be a warning to other airbnb hosts that your income could possibly fall over time. The major reason I think this has happened is the increase of rival airbnb hosts in my area. Also the two year delay for the new crossrail train line has not helped.
Airbnb changes to reviews system
Airbnb has informed us that the way it treats your less that positive reviews has changed. The idea is that getting one very bad review when your reviews are usually positive or excellent will not negatively effect your appearance in the search rankings (well thats sort of what it says). I have generally found that getting bad reviews had not overall affected my bookings. There are some reasons for this. The first is my low prices – guests don’t tend to have high expectations of a cheap one night stay. The second is that I have so many one night guests that often a bad review will get pushed down the review feed quickly (hopefully replaced by better reviews) and someone will have to scroll down far to get to the bad reviews. This is another reason why accepting one night only bookings can be a very good thing.
What bad reviews do I get?
For an example of my bad reviews take the case of the guest who wanted to put cheese in my fridge. I have a very clear rule in my listings and that is “no access to the kitchen”. This is mentioned frequently in my listing description (it’s mentioned 3 times in the description and once before you can actually book). I mention this so many times in big letters because so many guests fail to read the reviews properly and just assume they can use the kitchen. So when this guest asks to put cheese in my fridge I said “sorry no I can’t let you use the fridge”. He complained that he got bad service and he didn’t feel welcome. One of the reasons why I don’t let guests into this part of the house Is because my dog is there (the dog will most certainly attack an intruder like this) and in my mind more importantly the guest already agreed to no use of the kitchen when he made the booking. So I believe this bad review to be unfair but there is very little I can do. He is entitled to leave his review. There is nothing I could have done differently other than buy him a fridge for his own personal use for one night and put it in his room.
The most surprising bad review I get is for ‘Value’. I say bad review. This is the Star Ratings that guests can leave at the end of their written review. It’s between 1 and 5 stars (1 being the lowest obviously). I usually get either 4 or 5 stars for everything. But occasionally I get a low star rating for Value and this I find strange. The main reason being is that I am so cheap. I charge £20 or less a night for central London. This is a rock bottom price. I could maybe understand a low rating if my house was literally falling to bits but it’s almost brand new and has most of the modern conveniences. Many of my guests are genuinely surprised how nice it is. So a low rating for value makes little sense unless your really trying to say something else.
The worst review I received was from a guest who didn’t even stay at my listing. A guest booked but was expecting to be able to check-in to the listing very early morning. This was not possible as the room was still occupied by the previous nights guest (checkout is by 11am). The guest was upset and cancelled. A full explanation of this incident can be found here. The guest promtly left all single star reviews for each category. The worst possible. It made no difference that she didn’t even set foot inside the listing. She was still able to rate the listing 1 out of 5 for cleanliness for example. This to me is a very unfair system. The only thing I could do was to leave a reply to the review explaining the incident. But overall it has not affected by bookings (I have over 1400 reviews so this is a drop in the ocean).
It’s July in London and it has been a record hot summer. It suddenly became warm at the end of April and it seems is just getting hotter and hotter. Airbnb has been busy every day but my prices have been kept low because of the Airbnb smart pricing system (it only shows the lowest possible price on every day no matter what, if you ask me it simply doesn’t work at all). So i’m still charging £20 per night on average which is the same as nearly 5 years ago.
How to be a real Airbnb Superhost
This year I finally went on holiday myself and booked a private airbnb room in a hosts apartment in Istanbul, Turkey. Although I have been a member of Airbnb for 5 years this is actually the first time I have stayed in a private room, in another Airbnb hosts place. Being a live-in host myself I now experienced the other side of hosting. I guess my host made it very easy for me as he is possibly the ideal airbnb host and rightfully holds the coveted Superhost Status badge.
I arrived in Istanbul very early in the morning but my room was already ready for me. My host Savas uses the Airbnb Calendar setting: Preparation Time – Block 1 night before and after each reservation. This means my room could be made ready the day before I arrive and I can check-in straight away. 1. Excellent Check-in
The apartment I was staying in was very central but was tired and old. The apartment was clean but struggled to ‘look’ clean. But for me this was not a problem. I came to enjoy Istanbul and not the apartment, that is only for sleeping and washing. My host took me for breakfast in a local cafe and afterwards showed me how to use the public transport. 2. Make your guests aware of local Amenities
I wanted to try the local food and drink. My host took me to a great local Turkish Kebab restaurant. He was a regular there are we got special service. Afterwards he took me to a local bar and even introduced me to some of the people there he knew. We drank beer and I hanged out with his friends and had a great time. 3. Live like a local
Anytime I had a question on how to get places I could send my host a message on airbnb or even on his WhatsApp and he would reply usually within a few minuets. This was very handy for me as I don’t speak Turkish and did have a lot of trouble working out how to use the ferries and other problems. It was a huge help to me that my host could answer my questions whenever I needed. 4. Great communication
I will never be an Airbnb Superhost and here is why
To be a super host requires something very special from you – your time! I have a demanding job on top of my responsibilities as a airbnb host so this means I simply can’t be the great host I would like to be. My friend Savas in Turkey does have a job but it’s closer to part time than full time and he is not married with all the additional responsibilities that come with it. Despite this I have come close to being a super host in the past but have always seen it disappear in-front of my eyes because of one bad review. Even if I were a super host I do get the impression that it has no overall effect on bookings and creates unrealistic expectations for your guests. Perhaps it’s better to be a near-superhost that an actual superhost!
From the start of the year my star ratings have gradually gotten worse. In January I had 79% 5 star reviews, just shy of the 80% required for Superhost status. Since then my five star reviews have dropped to 66%.
For a while I was very unsure why the ratings had dropped so much. Almost all my guests had written in their reviews that they were very happy with their stay. The only negative review I recall said the “bathroom was too cold” which was true because my wife had left a window open in the room across the hallway and we didn’t notice for two days (whoops!).
Room For Improvement
Recently Airbnb have introduced a tool on the dashboard giving you a breakdown of the categories for your star ratings (previously these were aggregated). So you can now see how many stars you got for ‘Cleanliness’ for example.
My breakdown for each of my listing highlighted my problem – the location. I had been marked down on location several times (some reviews only giving me one star) which explains my ratings dropping off gradually. Frustratingly location is the only area I can do little about. It true the area I live in is not considered the best part of London (to put it mildly). But It is located in zone 3 (of a possible 9, the closer to the centre the lower the number) and my low price reflects the unattractiveness of the area. If I was located in a leafy part of central London then you can bet I would be charging much much more.
Airbnb recommends me to better describe my area in my listing description so to give guests a fair warning of what to expect. I’m hesitant to do this as this would surely put guests off. I’ve added into my description ‘ethnically diverse part of London.’ My area Newham is about at ethnically diverse as you can get as it attracts the poorest people of London, mostly new arrivals in the UK from Eastern Europe, and has a large Muslim community from the sub continent.
Your only as good as your last review
Potential guests do look at your star rating when choosing a listing but the most emphasis is on your most recent review. A recent review (ideally very recently, no more than a couple of weeks old) is the best advert for your listing. If you’re unlucky enough to have a very bad review recently then this could explain a significant drop off in bookings.
My chances of reaching Superhost status are looking very slim. My booking have not suffered since my ratings decline, mostly I think because of the general increase in demand during the summer, and keeping my prices well below the London average.