Sometimes, the stars are not aligned. I’m not talking about the stars in the sky. I’m talking about the stars that light the way for The Hosting Journey. You might get 5 stars overall but then 4 stars in different categories. Yes, we blame our guests. How dare they give me 4 stars in cleanliness? Didn’t they get clean sheets and towels? I live 5 minutes from the train station. Why am I getting 4 stars on location? What else do they want from me to give me 5 stars for value? I just don’t get it. Today’s episode is all about the question, “Is MY Home a 5-Star Airbnb?”
Airbnb Luxe Category:
Dear hosts, did you know that Airbnb just started advertising a new category called Airbnb Luxe? The TagLine is “Extraordinary Homes with Five Stars Everything.” Per their description, these are properties chosen for space, privacy, and expert design. They are homes in the over $500 per night category, and I saw some in the thousands. es, thousands a night. I’m not kidding.
Besides a luxury price tag, here are some of the other perks a guest can expect from an Airbnb Luxe home:
- A trip designer who coordinates arrival, departure, and everything in between.
- Every home is personally verified to be in pristine condition with a 300-point inspection. Of course, they don’t specify what is included in this 300-point inspection.
- Premium on-demand 24-7 assistant for any questions. (You heard that right…at any hour.)
- After booking a home, a trip designer can arrange for additional services like housekeeping, airport transfer, car rental, fresh groceries, childcare, chef, butler, driver, and more.
Clearly, I’m not competing with Airbnb Luxe properties. My price is not $500 a night. I’m not available 24-7. The butler quit the team. Ok, I haven’t actually found one for my guests or for me.
Learning from Our Mistakes:
But what can I learn from these Luxe properties? Will my home pass my own 5-star, 300-point inspection? Can I provide a Luxe-like experience for my guest so it’s reflected in my own reviews? Can I be a 5-star everything Airbnb (minus the Luxe)?
One of the reasons for today’s episode is that I got back to Eveland New York and I felt like, “OMG, at the moment my home is not a 5-star home. What is going on?” Yes, I was getting some 5-star reviews, but I was missing out on others. I needed to fix that immediately. After all, I just did a huge renovation, which you can hear all about in “Episode 74: Reviews: Learning, Adapting, and When to Say, No, Thank You.”
As you all know, we live and breath reviews in the vacation rental world. Reviews give you a pulse of what is right and wrong and what is going on in your home. They can give you peace of mind…or keep you up at night Yes, there are times that you can’t please your guest, but at other times you have to wonder, “Are they right? Am I not a 5-star Airbnb… How can that be?”
Remote Hosting Surprise… for Them and Me!
I arrived home without warning. Surprise! So neither my cleaning person nor my friend Wayne had any idea I would be there. Yeah, everyone was busted. If you’re a remote host, I highly recommend you do this because you get the inside track to what is really going on at your place. For this to work, your team cannot know when you’re coming back. Hey, you need to know how your home is running. How is your team taking care of things (or not) when you’re not there?
Yes, you might have an extensive checklist for your team to follow…but is it being followed? You know the saying, while the cat is away… Hopefully, you don’t have mice, but you know what I mean.
Airbnb Luxe Home Inspection
Now, going back to Airbnb Luxe listings and their impossible to find 300-point home inspection. This is what I actually found, which we can use for our own 5-star home inspection. Airbnb split their inspection into five categories: Form, Function, Feel, Location, and Services.
Form (how a home looks): This category evaluates the design of a home, inside and out.
Function (the purpose a home serves): Your home might have breathtaking views, but this category evaluates the ease of use by guests.
Feel (the story a home tells): every home is a destination. Airbnb Luxe properties offer unique attributes, whether it is through their amenities, architecture, geography, or place in local culture or history. What about us non-Luxe properties?
Location (the home’s surroundings): The location of your home contributes to the type of experience your guests might seek. Yes, even if you don’t have Wifi.
Services (enhancing the experience): In this category, Airbnb Luxe homes already include staff within the booking, including a driver, chef, butler, etc. How can we provide something similar without having extra staff?
Think essential design. Yes, I keep saying I don’t have a design bone or fingernail in my body. If you’re like me, I feel your pain, my dear host. But don’t give up hope. You might know someone who can help you like a neighbor or a friend, or you might get an idea. Look at other Airbnb listings, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. to get inspired.
Get rid of hangers that don’t match. A pack of 50 nice hangers is $20, and this provides a positive experience. It’s nice to open the closet and not see bent wire hangers. Or try a simple, creative touch like one of the members of my Facebook Group, who wrote inspirational messages on his wood hangers. his guest’s even commented on it in their reviews. Yes, a simple touch that went a long way.
In your dining room, you should have a table with enough chairs to seat all of your guests. This is something I need to rectify. I have been getting by because I have enough chairs around the house that they can use. The 5-star touch is in the details, dear hosts.
If you have a backyard, do you have different spaces for your guests to sit alone to reflect and also to sit together to chat?
In the Form category, look at your home design but also practicality:
- Do you have a night table with a lamp? Is there enough space for a guest to also place a glass of water and their phone?
- Is the light bulb bright enough?
- Do they need to get out of bed to turn the lamp on or off?
- Is the lamp easy enough to understand, or do they need an engineering degree?
- Do they need to move the furniture to get the outlet? Or do you have a power strip for plugging in multiple gadgets?
- Do you have a box of kleenex nearby?
- What about a wastebasket?
This was just for the bedroom. Imagine going through each room of your home with a checklist like this.
This category is all about the ease of the house, and if everything is in working order. At my place, I’m back to replacing more appliances. This time it’s a dishwasher and a washer and dryer. Hey, they’re over 15 years old so it’s time. The dryer worked whenever it wanted to, and the dishwasher…well, that’s just another story for another episode.
I know that soon I’m going to have to deal with the air conditioners. To tell you the truth, I would love to have the mini-split systems. They’re quiet, and I don’t have to place them in the windows. But they’re expensive here in NY, and before I do that I have to redo the siding on my home. Yes, that’s something that my guests may not care about, but I do.
In reference to Function, think about these questions:
- Does the kitchen have enough pots and pans?
- Are they clean and in decent order?
- Wine glasses. Do you have enough?
- Are your cooking utensils decent, or do you need to replace them?
- What about your pillows? Are they flat? with no life in them? Have they seen better days?
I’m going through my home and making sure that I’m inspecting towels, bedding, and replacing items on an as-needed basis. Not all at once because the wallet might not be able to handle it, but I’m making notes that I have to take care of some of these items sooner rather than later.
Think Mood. They want unique attributes, whether it’s distinctive architecture, a statement-making entrance, or picturesque geography. They consider location: Is this home somewhere where you want to stay, be it a remote location or in London’s hottest neighborhood? And services: will you have professional resources at your disposal?
Ahh, Feel: What is the story your home tells? What is the mood you want to create for your guests to experience?
I know in Eveland, New York I want my guests to feel the calm, comfortable home feeling. When a guest returns from a busy day around town, they can take a deep breath and relax. It’s quiet. You can hear the birds in the backyard and see the squirrels. But you don’t hear sirens and trucks. If you do because there is construction nearby, I make sure I let my guests know ahead of time.
The shared space feels lived in because I also live here. Yes, in my living room there might be laundry because you know laundry is always happening. It might not be pristine; it’s my home. But the kitchen, bathroom, and their private space are all clean. What is the story of your home? What do you want your guests' to experience? Think about it.
My home surroundings determine my guests. I’m not in busy Manhattan or hip Williamsburg Brooklyn. My guests are mostly people who are here, visiting nearby family members. Yes, I do get some tourists and people in town for work. But most of my guests are parents or grandparents, coming to New York for events or special occasions. Sometimes, they want to invite their family members to my home. I’m ok with it.
Think about your location. Are you near a college or a tourist attraction? Why do people want to stay in your home? Like Airbnb Luxe says, the location and setting contribute to the type of experience a guest might seek.
If you’re near a special place, do you offer extras for your guests to make the most of their experience? For example, if you are near a beach, do you provide beach towels, sunscreen, and aloe vera in case they spend too much time in the sun?
How is your location special? And how can you show it off to your guests?
You might not have a butler or a private chef, but you have information about your neighborhood that you can provide in your House Manual, of course. I start with my booking communication email. I thank them for the reservation and then share a few links about the neighborhood and things to do.
Then I make sure that my house manual has clear information about my neighborhood. The great restaurants that I love and recommend, hair salons, yoga studio, liquor store, upscale grocery store, and anything else I can think of that they might need and that will make their stay worthy of 5 stars.
I have updated my House Manual to make it even more 5-star worthy. The new version has a handy dandy table of contents, which I can customize to my guests' needs.
Look, I get guests who have specific dietary needs so why not create a small section for them? A few special restaurants that might be vegan or gluten-free or family-friendly. And because it’s a Google doc, they can get a digital version without any issues. Let your House Manual do the work for you!
Airbnb can come up with many more categories of vacation rentals. We have Superhosts, Airbnb plus, and now Airbnb Luxe. Who knows what they will think of next. All we can do is learn from what they’re doing and improve our own vacation rental.