Howdy to all you happy hosts and rental rock stars! I hope your December was full of booked nights and 5-star reviews. Holy news drop Batman! The last week of 2019 Airbnb dropped a ton of news on policy changes for hosts and guests. It looks like they are trying to do everything they can to prevent any bad press from affecting their 2020 public stock offering. Given the volume and importance of the changes, we dedicated the first 2 sections of this newsletter to helping hosts understand the changes. I hope this helps you cut through the corporate-speak and understand what is actually happening. Now let's get on with the November Host Wrap-Up!
Massive Airbnb Rule Changes Part 1
As the mountain of new policies and programs are rolled out by Airbnb, keep in mind these are all in the early stages so they will change and evolve. They will not be perfect right away. Hopefully, over time they can get them right. At first glance, I think all these changes will be good for hosts.
The first major announcement is Airbnb will be creating 3 new lines of communication for guests and hosts. In Airbnb's own words they are:
- Urgent Support Line - We recently began piloting our new Urgent Support Line in the U.S. and plan to expand to more countries next year. If you’re in the U.S. with early access through the Airbnb app and you’re experiencing an urgent matter related to your security or safety—like if a guest refuses to leave at checkout—you can tap the “Call Airbnb's Urgent Support Line" button in the Safety Center (available via the Profile tab) to quickly connect to a specialist for help. Keep in mind that the Urgent Support Line button is designed to be available only for active reservations, from the day before check-in to the day after checkout.
- Local emergency line - We know that guests traveling in unfamiliar countries may not know how to contact local emergency services, so we’ve also launched an in-app emergency call button. This button provides a direct line to local law enforcement and emergency services. We’ve already rolled it out in the U.S. and China.
- Live chat - For non-urgent issues, we’ve heard from you that you want the convenience of live chat. So we’re excited that we were able to introduce that feature to English and Mandarin speakers this year, with plans to roll it out in seven more languages next year. Right now, it’s the fastest way to get the help you need for things like updating your calendar or adjusting your pricing
Second, there will be changes to the review system hoping to eliminate irrelevant reviews. Specifically, they are adding new criteria for how reviews can be deleted. Again in Airbnb's own words, reviews can now be removed if they meet one of these criteria:
- A guest accidentally leaves a review on your profile that was meant for another host
- A guest never checks into your space (for a documented reason unrelated to you as the host or your listing) and leaves an irrelevant review about their experience. For example, a guest never shows up, due to a canceled flight, but leaves you a review that complains about a dirty couch.
- A guest leaves a comment about your appearance
- A guest leaves you a bad review because they were frustrated by public transit in your city
- A guest leaves a review about the type of people in your neighborhood
Massive Airbnb Rule Changes Part 2
But wait there's more! This one is a little less clear-cut in how it will be executed, but it is certainly a move in the right direction for helping hosts. They are creating a set of Guest Standards. Essentially these are house rules that will apply to all guests at every listing. As many hosts are well aware, in the past Airbnb would not help you enforce your house rules. This was often a source of contention between Hosts and Airbnb. However, it does make sense from Airbnb's point of view to not be the enforcer of every house rule. Hosts can make up any rule they want for their listing so Airbnb doesn't want to be held responsible for enforcing every crazy rule. Crazy rules like guests can only enter the house when the sun is down or showers can only be used for 3 minutes a day. But over time I think Airbnb has realized there are a handful of rules that every host includes and are reasonable requirements for every guest. In their own words these are Airbnb's new Guests Standards that will now help host enforce:
- Excessive noise: A disruptive level of noise, like loud music, prolonged shouting, or repeated pounding or stomping. It does not include complaints about minor or short-term disruptions (like a loud phone call) or noise that can’t be avoided (like walking up and down the stairs).
- Major cleanliness concerns: Anything that requires excessive cleaning after a guest checks out. This means extensive amounts of trash, debris, or food strewn throughout the property. It does not mean minor messes (like food left in the fridge or bagged trash left next to a trash can) or anything that could be considered part of normal wear and tear or turnover (like unwashed linens or a dirty kitchen).
- Unauthorized guests: When more guests stay overnight or visit the space than the host has authorized for that reservation.
- Unauthorized parking: When a guest or one of their visitors parks in an area that the host designated as off-limits, or when a guest or their visitors exceeds the number of cars that the host allows to park at the property, as set out in the listing description.
- Unauthorized smoking: When a guest or one of their visitors smokes inside the listing and the listing description prohibits smoking (this includes the use of tobacco, marijuana, e-cigarettes, etc.).
The Miller's Cottage
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How do Airbnb Reviews Work?
Airbnb reviews are at the heart of what makes the site work. It is the way bad guests and hosts can be outed on the platform. For hosts, guest reviews affect your listing ranking, booking rate, and super host status. It is important for guests and hosts to rack up as many good reviews as possible. At the same time, don't get bent out of shape over a single bad review because even the best hosts get them. Given all this, it is important to understand how the review system works. Let's take a look at a quick list that will clear up some of the most common misconceptions:
- Hosts CANNOT read a guest review before writing a review.
- Guests CANNOT read a host review before writing a review.
- Reviews CANNOT be edited after they have been posted.
- Guest reviews will be posted after 14 days even if a host doesn't write a review.
- You can only have a review deleted under special circumstances.
- You can respond to reviews and should do so for all negative reviews.
Question of the Month
Rental hosts rarely receive the opportunity to see how other hosts operate. Which makes it hard to learn and improve. The solution? Every month I ask a question so we can all learn from each other. Let's take a look at last month's question:
Are you a member or in any way connected to an STR Host Association?
- 20% - Yes
- 80% - No
I am hopeful that as the short term rental market matures more and more hosts will begin banding together. When hosts join forces they can get more accomplished, ask for more from the platforms, and even get laws changed. But this only happens when hosts band together. That being said its better to be alone than part of a bad organization. So choose wisely.
For this months question, I want to know if you respond to reviews: