Ask Me Anything And Help Me Understand: Short Term Rentals

44 Replies

I’m in a unique situation. My wife and I have been investing in short term rentals in Carolina Beach, NC since 2019. We have 10 listings here on the island and have built the systems to run a portfolio of this size at a very high level. We are in the top 10% of my market.

Here is the situation. We currently have 991 reviews on airbnb. Every property is managed and run with the exact same systems. One of my properties is a quadplex. Each of the four units are identical! Everything from the rehab, the staging, all the way to the owners closets are the exact same. Each unit has about 50 reviews from this last season. The first 3 units range between a 4.95-4.91 rating. The last unit is currently sitting at a 4.81 rating.  I can’t figure out why this specific unit is getting roasted on Airbnb so i'm turning to you all for wisdom! 

1. Ask me anything you want to know about short term rentals and how we run our 10 unit portfolio.


2. Why do you think this one unit is getting roasted with 4 star reviews.

Our profile:

The struggling unit:

See you all at BPCON2021!

What are the negative reviews about? 

Have you fixed any issues dealing with the negative reviews?

Is your pricing the same across the board?

It could be totally random in that you had some people who stayed there that don't give out 5 stars.

@John Underwood , Most of the reviews are positive even stating they plan on booking again in the future but they leave us 4 stars! The complaints if any are about the physical structure or the stairs (It's a bit of a weird layout). Any legitimate issues have been fixed or are fixed immediately. We use the same process for pricing all four units. I find it strange that all the random guests who won't leave a 5 star review somehow end up in this property haha.

Originally posted by @Joe Prillaman :

@John Underwood, Most of the reviews are positive even stating they plan on booking again in the future but they leave us 4 stars! The complaints if any are about the physical structure or the stairs (It's a bit of a weird layout). Any legitimate issues have been fixed or are fixed immediately. We use the same process for pricing all four units. I find it strange that all the random guests who won't leave a 5 star review somehow end up in this property haha.

 It could be totally random.

Can you fix the stairs? If not call them out as a cool feature or do something to mitigate the issue before renters set foot in the house.

@Joe Prillaman Honestly Joe, with those numbers and that many reviews you are just going to get some 4 star reviews.  I would think I am in the top 10% as well in my market as well, but there are just some people who do not give 5 star reviews.  The review reads great and then 4 stars.  Kind of like those teachers who felt like most of the class should get a "C" cause that is average kind of thing.  Most guests can see past that stuff.   Getting to 4.81 on that one out of four units is just statistics playing on you I think.  I wouldn't spend any time worrying about it.

@Ken Boone , I agree and I think over time it will sort itself out. My market is seasonal and I’m curious to see if it will have an effect on the profitability of that unit vs the others during the winter months.

Being in the top 10% of your market are there any must have amenities that make or break short term properties in your specific area?

In my area you have to have a hot tub and multitude arcade cabinet to just be average.  You have to have a lot more to be above average - indoor heated pool, more video games, other games - i.e. pool table, foosball, etc.., theater room - those kinds of things.  As far as make or break, if you run your rental well in my area I think most folks do pretty good, because we have just about year round demand in this area, but to do REALLY well, you need the extra stuff I mentioned.

@Joe Prillaman we are not talking much difference between 4.81 and 4.91. A couple guests with really bad reviews could account for that difference. It looks like your areas of lower scores are value, cleanliness and location. How does that compare to your grades on the other properties? Have you had any guests who really nailed you with low numbers to skew it down, like giving you a 3? 

Is this even affecting your business? What I mean is are you having lower occupancy or lower nightly rates in that unit?

Originally posted by @Joe Prillaman :

@John Underwood , Most of the reviews are positive even stating they plan on booking again in the future but they leave us 4 stars! 

Do you ask for reviews?  When you ask for them do you just ask for a review, do you ask for a great review, or do you ask for a 5* review?

I don't have anywhere near 991 reviews but so far fortunately I haven't run into anyone that loves the place and then leaves 4 stars.  One thing I do is CONSTANTLY use the terminology "5 star review" in my messaging with the guests.  All of my automated messages start with some form of "I hope you're having a 5* stay".  When guests message me with an issue I specifically reference taking care of it because I want them to have "a 5* stay".  My post check-out messages specifically ask for a "5 star review".  My wifi password even has the term "5*review" in it.

I don't know if it helps or if I've just gotten lucky, but I absolutely hammer it into my guests head that I'm not looking for a good review, I'm looking for a 5* review.

@Joe Splitrock ,

Hey Joe - great name.

We have not received a 3 star on this property. We are coming off the heals of the beach season and in this market anything will rent during that time. I’ll update the post once we get through the off season and report back if it has any negative affects on the business. Value tends to be the area of lower values across our portfolio. 

@Ryan Moyer

That’s a great idea, currently we do not directly ask our guests to leave us a review. In the beginning I felt like it was a pushy salesman approach. I love the idea of slipping In 5 star review terminology everywhere. Almost pre conditioning them to hit 5 stars.

Guests leave 1-5 stars in, what, 4 or 5, or is it 6, categories. Given that they can leave all but one 5 star rating, it’ll drop you down to the 4.81, as I’m sure you know. I agree, I think it’s just statistics and splitting hairs. Give it a year and see what happens. Question: has that one unit experienced a lower occupancy, and which category gets the lower mark?
 Really, 4.81 is almost as remarkable as your 4.91-4.95. 

@Nancy Bachety , Hi Nancy, it’s interesting the stars are only affected by the overall rating. We use the other categories to get an idea on how the guests feel about our property. Typically Value is one of our lower categories.

I have a quad Plex with the same situation. My reviews are skewed between 4.91 and 4.69. from my interpretation and experience, I have just rented that unit to more Karen's than the other units. Some people say my units located in the perfect spot, others say it's not near where they wanted to go. Some say they're clean and beautiful, others say quite the opposite. Basically some of your guests are just more picky and entitled. I actually had a guest tell me that my place didn't have a meat thermometer or an oven mitt. Mine you it's $85 a night and it's a two bedroom two bath. And I have two pot holders, but no oven mitt. Point of the story, some people just have to complain about something. I like to think about it as the lawyer mentality. If you pay a lawyer money, he has to find something or he didn't do his job right. Ask somebody to review something, and they'll find something to say. Just hope they're an optimist not a pessimist. 


I really wouldn't worry about said struggling unit---an abover 4 star review average is fine, and as most people have said on this thread, some people are just going to give it a 4, for whatever reason. Maybe there were in an hurry, their dog died, they were intoxicated. You never know unless they have a specific complaint that needs to be addressed. I wouldn't worry about it.

I'm in VaBeach. You mentioned that we could ask you about your processes. What are they? And what are your best practices. I've not started AirBNBing multiple units yet, though I've stayed in many Airbnb's around the world.

Very Best, Morgan


Is there anything subtle about the unit that could drive that? Differences in sights, smells, sounds?  Aside from something minor like that I’m not sure what would prompt this. People leave us 4-star reviews and tell us it’s the best Airbnb they’ve stayed in lol 🤷🏽‍♂️. 

I hope you run into you at BPCON!

@Morgan Daniels

Hey Morgan, I love VABeach I have some great friends up your way. Short term rentals in my opinion are a great way to get started with investing. They take more time but can springboard your investing timeline substantially. I would recommend listening to Avery Carl's episode of the BiggerPockets podcast (364). Cute, Clean, Comfortable are the best practices. I can talk all day about our processes but it's best if I could answer some specific questions! 

@Justin Melendez ,

Hey Justin,

The only difference is this unit is at the back of the property. You have to drive past the other 3 to get to this one. In my opinion it's a better spot because it's right beside the dog walking area and you have more parking options because you will not block anyone. We have a shared driveway between all 4 units. 

Looking forward to meeting you at BPCON!!!!

Hi Joe,

When I first read your post, I thought 4.81 was a typo! No worries, it's such a minor difference, and unless the reviews are actually mentioning something that you can fix, (adding a dishwasher?) or point out in your listing, then there is nothing you can do about it.  

How fast is your wifi?

How is Roku working out for you? Does anyone miss cable?

What brand smartlock do you use?

What software packages are you using for all of your automations?

Have you had any issues with allowing pets?

Thanks Joe!

@Joe Prillaman I am going to rent out your "struggling" Airbnb and help you boost the ratings. Be advised, I am very high maintenance and will require you to be on call at all hours, especially if I wake up in the middle of the night and want someone to talk to. Also, I expect you to be there to greet me each morning with a hot cup of coffee and a Britts donut. 

@John Majoris ,

Hey John,

We use the Orbi routers and get about 220meg download speed.

Roku has been great we provide Netflix, Disney +, Hulu, and ESPN +. It’s very rare but we occasionally will have a guest ask how to see local channels “typically those guests are in their 50s+”. It has never resulted in a bad review.

We use the Yale Smart locks with a backup physical key option with the August Connect. We picked this lock because it has a seal on both sides and the humidity in my market was frying the other locks.

We use IGMS for the management and have tested Pricelabs but didn’t have good results with them. We manually price right now and run everything through IGMS.

Pets have been great for us! We have hosted 397 dogs this year so far and had zero problems. We have more issues with toddlers then we do dogs.