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Competition for Airbnbs has only increased since the start of the pandemic. Total demand for short-term rentals in September was up 26.6% compared with the same period in 2019, according to vacation rental data platform AirDNA. And for some guests, successfully booking an Airbnb means more than just paying the cost (plus any additional fees) — it means maintaining a good rating from hosts.
Like Uber and other peer-to-peer rental platforms, the reviews on Airbnb go both ways. Guests review properties and hosts to inform future guests, and hosts review guests to inform future hosts.
Having a poor or nonexistent rating as a guest can make it hard to book stays, particularly on peak travel dates when hosts can be choosy about whom they accept.
“If somebody doesn’t have any reviews, that’s kind of a red flag — especially if it’s a brand-new account,” says Patrick Moltrup, an Airbnb host in California’s Coachella Valley. He says brand-new accounts with no ratings are a concern because guests who get bad reviews tend to delete their accounts and open new ones.
“We require a review before we book you.”
Despite recent horror stories about hosts demanding that guests perform arduous tasks at checkout, and reports of hosts getting fed up with unruly guests, maintaining a good guest rating doesn’t require a lot of effort, according to Moltrup. Being thoughtful about some basic rules can make the difference between a successful rental and a canceled (or rejected) booking.
How to find your Airbnb reviews
Just like reviews for the properties themselves, the reviews you receive from hosts have two parts: a written review and a numeric rating on a 5-star scale.
Finding your reviews can be tricky, since Airbnb hides them deep within the account menu. On the website or app, navigate to the “Account” page, then select “Go to profile” near the top.
There, you’ll find any written reviews from previous hosts. Can you see your Airbnb rating? No. You won’t find the numeric rating itself, as only hosts can see this rating when a guest tries to book a stay.
So, unless you know a host who is willing to share it, your guest rating will remain inaccessible.
How to maintain a good rating
Unlike hosts, who go to great lengths to maintain their positive ratings, guests don’t have to do much.
“You’ll almost always get a positive review from your Airbnb host if you do two things: Respect the house and respect the rules,” Scott Lieberman, a former Airbnb host and frequent guest, said by email.
Each rental has its own house rules, which can be found in the booking details. Hosts sometimes leave hard copies of the rules within the rental. These include prohibitions, such as smoking and loud music, as well as checkout procedures, which can be as simple as locking the door when you leave and possibly running the dishwasher.
Of course, accidents happen. Plates break. Walls get crayoned. But hosts suggest they rarely leave bad reviews for these issues so long as they're accidental and guests communicate them as quickly as possible.
“If you break something, that’s OK, just tell us that you broke it,” says Moltrup, suggesting that failing to communicate clearly and consistently can affect a guest’s rating. “When we leave a review, we’re asked: ‘Did they communicate well?’”
In the end, hosts say it comes down to respect. And there’s a big difference between an accident and a clear breach of considerate behavior. Moltrup says he almost always leaves a positive review unless the guest leaves him no option.
“We had a guy who melted chocolate on the stove and then threw it on our driveway,” he says.
What to do if you get a bad review as a guest
Sometimes communication goes south, misunderstandings arise, or a host simply has a bad day and leaves you a bad review. These situations can affect your rating and your ability to secure bookings for years to come.
Here are some steps to take if you find yourself with a bad Airbnb review:
Respond to the review to explain your experience. This will help future hosts understand the broader picture. It might also encourage the original host to modify or update their review. Striking a calm, bridge-building tone can go a long way.
Message the host directly and explain. Especially in the case of misunderstanding, this action can help clear the air.
Contest the review. If all else fails, or you believe you're being unfairly treated by the host, you can try to dispute the review. Airbnb has clear guidelines for what can be disputed, including reviews that are biased or irrelevant.
A single negative review might not have that much of an impact, especially if it's countered by many other good reviews. Just like savvy shoppers on Amazon, many hosts look into the details of bad reviews to see how bad they really are.
“We read the reviews to see what the issues were,” Moltrup says. “If they bring extra people to a property, that’s no good. If you’re damaging stuff or you’re not communicating, we look at that.”
The bottom line
Because they feel so personal, reviews from Airbnb hosts can seem like a big deal. And they can jeopardize your ability to book future trips, especially during busy travel dates. But maintaining a good rating is as simple as respecting the property and communicating effectively with the host.
Unlike rideshare drivers, who sometimes seem to leave bad reviews for passengers who breathe the wrong way, Airbnb hosts tend to be forgiving of minor issues.
And if the host asks you to trim the hedges before you leave, feel free to consider Airbnb alternatives — or simply push back.
“You shouldn’t have to do unreasonable checkout tasks, such as stripping the beds, doing the laundry, or vacuuming,” the CEO of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, wrote this month on Twitter.
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