vacation rental reviews

7 Ways to Protect Yourself from Bad Reviews.

With the rise of sites like HomeAway and Airbnb, reviews are now king. I’m sure the last time you bought something on Amazon, you looked for reviews to make your decision. You’re not alone. The vast majority of consumers look at reviews before making a purchase, and even one bad review can make them change their mind.

The upside is that reviews can be a huge driver to differentiate yourself from the competition and boost bookings.

The way most rental managers handle reviews is to hope that nothing went wrong. This is crap! The best way to get a good review is to protect yourself from a bad one.

Here are 7 sure-fire ways to dodge bad reviews before they happen:


Make it a rule to call every single guest that has booked your property. Keep in mind that I said call, not email or text. Leave a message if they don’t answer. Ask why they are coming, recommend some sort of local activity, and say something like: “It’s my goal to make sure every single person that stays in one of my properties is ecstatic with their stay. With that said, things don’t go perfectly every single time. Please let me know if there are absolutely any issues and I will do whatever it takes to fix the situation.”

Saying you can be contacted for anything probably scares you, but honestly people are less likely to bug you if you offer it. If the guest feels like you have done your best and they like you, they’re less likely bug you with mundane items.

White Sheets and Towels:

If your rentals have sheets, towels, or pillowcases that aren’t white, I want you to walk in the bathroom, look in the mirror, and slap yourself as hard as you can! Using any color but white linens is begging for someone to complain about cleanliness. I recommend buying microfiber sheets in bulk from Amazon. They are super soft, dirt-cheap, and you can just replace them if they get a stain.

Cell Phone Chargers:

Cell phone chargers are the most common things to be left at home by a guest. There are basically two types of cell phone chargers used today – the lightning cable (Apple) and micro USB (Android). You can buy these in bulk on sites like eBay for cheap. Leave at least one of each by the welcome note. Let the renter know that they are theirs to keep as a thank you for staying with you. This is like buying insurance against bad reviews.

Welcome Note:

This is by far the one I am proudest of. If you’ve done a good pre-call, you should know why they are coming to stay. In the welcome note make sure to reference this information. Here is an example of something I would write:

Dear Peterson Family,

I hope you have a blast at Disneyland for the next two days. Don’t forget what we talked about; you have to try the Blue Crab at Benisons down the street. You won’t regret it! I left some extra towels in the linen closet in case your kids are anything like mine. Please call or text with absolutely any issue. 555-555-5555

P.S. Here are some cell phone chargers. I always forget mine when I go on vacation so I make sure and get extras for my guests. Even if you remembered yours, you can always use an extra! ☺

Clean is better than nice:

Different prices come with different levels of quality. Just look on Airbnb and you can find the deepest holes in the world to sleep in or the nicest places imaginable. Guests will accept places that aren’t new or nice. They chose it because it’s what they can afford.

One thing all guests have in common is that there is no tolerance for dirtiness. I’m not talking about just changing the sheets. There should be no dust behind the stove, no water spots on the windows, and the shower shouldn’t have anything approaching the color of black on it. A once-every-six-months deep clean should keep the lesser-seen areas looking great. Most people will forgive outdated furniture, but they won’t forgive grime.

Don’t fumble the key exchange:

A common bad review comes from key exchanges. This was the absolute bane of my existence. If you want to absolutely guarantee a bad review, have a guest arrive with no way into the property. I’m biased but I suggest getting a coded lock you can control remotely.

Keys and keycards get lost and can’t scale with guests. And don’t you dare put one of those nasty lock boxes you have to slide that little cylinder into to input your code. This is a rental, not a high school locker. There are providers out there including Parakeet (wink, wink) that can solve the entry and exit problems and save you money in the process.

Don’t complicate the TV:

Guests expect the TV to just work. I don’t care how good your instructions are, guests will not understand the 3 remote “system.” Buy a cheap and SIMPLE universal remote. If they have to do any more than punch power to get it working, it’s a problem. Fudging the entertainment is not only a recipe for bad reviews, but also 3a.m. calls because someone can’t watch The Bachelor. Providing instructions on how to switch between the Blu-ray player and TV is also something that has worked well.

Exit interview:

Call every guest the day they are leaving and ask how the trip was. For most, an email will suffice in this case. The biggest reason people leave bad reviews isn’t to warn other people, it’s because they want their frustrations to be heard. Give them a way to vent to you and even if their experience wasn’t ideal, at least your potential guests won’t see it online. Ask them how their experience was. They will say one of two things:

1) It was horrible.

In this case, you try and address anything you can. Apologize the best you can and try to fix the situation. Even a tiny discount will make most people happy. The most important thing is that they feel you heard their frustration and are actually going to make it right.

2) It was great.

In this case, ask for the review with some form of the following:

“I’m so glad you had a great stay. Would you do me a favor and write a review for me on Booking Site? I make my living by renting out these homes and good reviews help me get customers. If I don’t see the review in the next few days, can I email you and remind you?”

Some guests don’t have the heart to tell you it was bad to your face. These are the most dangerous guests there are. If you have done everything above, then hopefully they will feel you did your best and stay off of the computer.

There is no way to 100% guarantee you will never get a bad review, but this will get you as close as you can be. Focus on the 99% of people who are reasonable and the occasional imperfect review will be drowned out by all of your happy customers.