When we first started out in Airbnb, the description of our property read like a Victorian romance novel. It was flowery, focused only on the positive, and didn’t even hint at any negatives. We learned pretty quickly that we were setting expectations way too high and we got some negative reviews because of it.
Now, our Airbnb listings talk about both the positives and negatives of our property and our ratings and reviews have significantly increased because of this one change. Managing expectations is key!
In real estate, they would have referred to what we did at first as “puffing”. Puffing is when a realtor exaggerates and says we are the best house in the neighborhood, best neighborhood ever, gorgeous everything, you have to see it to believe it! This is not illegal—as realtors, our goal is only to make the house sound amazing and get people in the door to look. It’s the standard in the market—if you’ve ever seen a real estate listing you know you’ll never seen one that looks like this:
This is a basic 3-bedroom, 1 bathroom very small home. Kitchen is not updated and the floors creak a lot.
You’ll see instead: This home features original wood floors throughout. Imagine cooking dinner on your quaint stove as you settle in to your cozy living area after the end of a hard day’s work.
Here’s a real life example of a property we bought recently. The first one is the real estate listing and the second is our Airbnb listing.
On almost an acre, this fabulous home offers an open floorplan & so much more. The over-sized island kitchen has gas cooktop, ample cabinet space, pull out shelves & a walk-in pantry. Formal dining & living room with fireplace. Large master has cathedral ceilings, a walk-in closet, his/hers vanities, soaking tub & separate shower. Generous sized secondary bedrooms. Two baths have Travertine showers with pebble floors. Laundry room with sink & cabinets. New roof. Energy efficient ceiling fans & solar tubes. Awesome 3-car garage has three separate roomy storage areas. Remodeled, with additions, in 1996. Step out back to an expansive patio with built-in BBQ & Ramada. Fenced, diving pool. Beautiful trees. Large grassy lawn. RV gate/parking. Horse privileges.
Ultimate house for events, groups, reunions w/ beds for 17! Amazing location near Shea&Scottsdale shopping/dining/bars! 3300 sq ft w/ pool, ping pong, poker, foosball, Playstation, darts. Cons: AC is loud in one bedroom. Good outdoor seating but backyard isn’t fully renovated yet.
There’s a reason why real estate listings and short term rental listings are different. When you’re looking at homes to buy, you’ll go look at 8 to 10 houses. The buyer doesn’t care if the listing was puffed up or not, their loss is minimal. But a short term renter who is coming into town and staying sight unseen at your place, their loss is huge. They likely don’t have a backup plan if they don’t like your place. If you puff up your Airbnb description, you’ll put your renter’s expectations way too high.
In business there is a saying that you should always “under promise and over deliver”. This is very true in Airbnb as well.
One of our properties is in a great neighborhood, probably one of the nicest in town. Our actual property is pretty old and it’s definitely basic accommodations. But the neighborhood is ideal. We do our best to manage expectations by saying exactly that—this is an older place in a great neighborhood. Don’t expect luxury accommodations, this is basic. You’ll still get some jerks who will give you 3 stars for having an older place, but for the most part you will get more 5 star reviews because you’ve been completely honest about what you’re offering and the renter’s expectation was met.
Include as much information as possible. We’ve found that really listing out what your home has and doesn’t have is very helpful to renters. Coffee is a really big deal to most people. If you provide a coffee maker, let them know exactly what kind of coffee maker and supplies you provide so they know up front if they need to bring their non-fat soy whip with them from home.