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Reviews and Market Pricing

Hey gang, I’ve been a host since 2018 and stumbled across this very helpful forum just a few days ago while trying to figure out if there’s any real benefit in being a Host Ambassador (I feel offended by their offer, honestly). Anyways, I had a recent epiphany re: reviews and ratings and thought I’d share my experience and how I’ve retooled.

Quick context: I’ve tried Airbnb and VRBO, and found managing one platform was more convenient and got me as many bookings as I wants. I’ve been on Airbnb exclusively since 2019. My guest suite is my MIL apartment located in Anchorage, Alaska, which is very tourism heavy.

I have worked very carefully to make the guest suite as comfortable and consistently amazing as possible, to include specific recommendations to make my guests’ vacations pop. Out of all the reviews it seems the quality of my recommendations and the mountain view from the yard has been the most memorable parts of the stay. I have an overall rating of 4.91 (69 reviews); 5.0 in every category except location and value, 4.9 in both. I have a total of 5 overall 4* reviews; the remaining have been overall 5*.

This past spring I had several locals book the place. One was a staycation. One was temporary housing between homes. One was a local buying a car and then traveling back to their home. All described their stay and the place as outstanding. But four stars.

So…what did I miss?

This summer I tried something different: I substantially increased prices, with the intent to price myself out of the locals market. One local, three weeks out from her stay, had a week in peak season and requested it be adjusted to a single night. Knowing I could fill that, I accepted the reservation modification and then immediately increased the price for that window. Two days later I had it booked and the opening message was “Hey! Looking forward to my amazing Alaska adventure and your place looks like the perfect place to start! So excited!”

Boom. Not only did I price myself out of the local market, but tourism guests are SO much easier than local guests for me. And this new guest was great. Low maintenance and just a young couple excited by Alaska and stunned by the view from their front door.

I hate to sound greedy, but I raised my rates to escape working so hard for 4 stars. I wonder if the guests are attributing value just because there’s a higher price point?

I understand avoiding low rates to avoid low lifes, but honestly I have attracted a different guest at a higher price point.

Anyone else have similar thoughts or experiences? Or have you had great locals who gave you outstanding reviews?

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I’ve had about 800 guests. When I’ve had locals I’ve always gotten no review or a 5 star review. Just guessing off the top of my head I’ve maybe had 10 people with El Paso listed as their home.

That said, I don’t really attract or get many tourists. I get travelers. I love the one night just passing through on the move or trip to visit family or on the way to the real object of the trip.

Many people here advocate raising prices. I think what it did for me was cause me to be booked later. This works best for me so not a problem. But when everything is booked there is my humble little suite, just waiting for it’s grateful guest.

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Yes, I have. Most of them have been between homes, having structural work done to their own places or having to leave their homes for some legitimate reason. Incidentally in the last couple of years, I’ve rented local Airbnb rentals near to my home for various reasons.

I also have a small network of real estate agents who recommend my rentals when their clients are looking for somewhere to stay between selling their old home and moving into the new.

They have all been great guests and ,as I am one of the most expensive rentals in the immediate area, I don’t quite understand pricing yourself ‘out of the local market’?

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@jaquo
Interesting to consider. To give some context, I’ve traditionally been in the $110 range. Maybe it’s less “locals” market and more “budget” market?

I’m going to think about that some more.

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It’s a very interesting subject, isn’t it? There are several hosts here who specifically deter local guests although I’ve never had a problem with them. In fact, one of my best guests ever was local. A very interesting topic,

I’m going to suggest that’s also based on a fairly small sample of 6 %. It feels like more since is was 4 in a more concentrated time but there’s also a pandemic that has greatly impacted travel to places like Anchorage. Not so much in FL where there’s no pandemic, right? :wink:

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Ha!

:rofl:

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@KKC
It’d be interesting to see how my booking timing works differently with a higher rate. Since I’m in Alaska many folks plan for months if not years ahead and most of my entire summer is booked solid by April. Also, my occupancy has always been 98% despite my incremental increases over the years.

Now, to be clear, 95% of my guests have been polite, friendly, and excited to be here. They are awesome and I appreciate them so much.

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A few years ago I was booked by a fellow host who lives in a town about 3 hours away. No commercial airport so she has to drive here to fly out. She suggested I raise my prices and I did. No decline in bookings, just more later. She has once more suggested I could get more than I typically ask. She has a similar type of rental but in a hipster, artsy town, Marfa. So I may raise rates again. When I look at the competition I see so many rentals at a lower price. So I assume they get booked ahead of me and I get, like you, guests who are happy to get a place.

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Casual readers here might get the impression from many of the posts that being an Airbnb host is fraught with difficulties and horrible guests. But it’s important for them to remember that very few hosts are going to come here and talk about their wonderful guests.

People turn to the internet to ask for advice or share their horror stories. And sometimes, sadly, it’s been because the hosts haven’t managed the guests properly.

But I truly think that most of us have lovely guests 99.9% of the time. :slight_smile:

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@jaquo
Yes! So good to be clear! And of the 5% that weren’t completely awesome, only a fraction of those were guests who I wish I hadn’t hosted. So in 3 years I’ve only had 1 or maybe 2 of those.

So yeah. Great experience with awesome people. I wish Airbnb as a platform and company was as amazing as its guests. Full stop. :slightly_smiling_face:

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I think that if you’re offering good amenities guests will see it as a good value, even at the increased rate. Think of what amenities you can add to your listing that you’re currently not offering and perhaps you can also add a welcome basket of local edibles and a bottle of wine.

Ding! Ding! Ding! We just hosted a local couple (my first guests in nearly two years) who are currently renovating their home. They had expected to be done before family - including a toddler grandchild - arrived here in Maine. Due to safety concerns, they decided to host their mini-reunion elsewhere, practically at the last minute. Which worked out fabulously for us. All the decent hotels in Portland were booked or charging upwards of $700 a night for a standard room w/ queen bed. They were thrilled to find an entire house rental for less than $600 a night. Absolutely the tidiest guests I’ve ever had, too. :slight_smile:

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I agree, I have found locals to be the hardest to please, although by local I mean within a 2 hr drive, since I’m in the mountains. I have also found that locals tend to be the least tidy, and use the most amenities. However I tend to give locals the best deals, such as free nights if the next night is available or very early check ins, sometimes they never even leave a review.

I’m in Juneau, where the wife of a legislator that I’ve known for a long time (him, not her) booked for a special session last summer, and she gave me 4 stars! I’ve had very few below five stars, and she was the only Alaskan.

I avoid renting to locals by not allowing same day booking and requiring a 2 night minimum. Back when I rented 3 rooms with shared bath, I couldn’t raise peak rates above $60 to stay full.

I started late this year with a 3 or 2 br apt — 2 listings but if one is booked it blocks the other. Started with the 3 for a few weeks first, and when booking slowed, added the 2 br listing. Even with a 2 br apt, I make more ($250) than with 3x$60.

With the rooms I got a lot of backpacker/kayaker types. Post pandemic the apt is booking families. Hotel rooms are in short supply everywhere, since they’re not fully staffed. Juneau biggest hotel which is a Holland America partner only has a couple of floors open.

Send me a personal msg with the URL to your listing so I can bookmark it. Where in Los Anchorage are you located?

BTW, I found out with my now demised tour business that when I upscaled (moved from a taxi to an Escalade limo permit) and raised my rates 25% I had slightly fewer bookings, made more money, and mostly had nicer people. The passengers that were horrible were there because someone else booked the tour for them (yep, that troublesome 3rd party booking!).

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Don’t get me started!!! :popcorn: :wine_glass:

I see the same thing - lots of $35/night places around me. BUT they’re not to my standards and they’re not booked either when I do anonymous searches for a place to stay.

I’ve raised my rates this year and am thinking of going to a 2 night minimum.

Honestly, you didn’t miss anything. I had a guest give me 4* for value based on AirBnB’s fees. When I asked her after the fact why she did that, she said the fees made her angry. I told her that those were Air fees and I didn’t get a piece of that. Then I explained Air not only charges her, but us also. She tried to adjust her stars but it wasn’t possible. She apologized.

Another gave me 4* for location - spring break traffic had the travel times on my listing as inaccurate. I’ve changed to miles, not time, because there’s so much construction and new home building that I can’t “guarantee” a 35 minute drive to the airport.

It sounds like your place is wonderful and I’d stay with you in a heartbeat!

We try to avoid locals. We are 5 miles south of town & have a large flat roof which is easy to access from the upstairs unit but is supposed to be off limits (there is a small deck to use & both have an amazing view). One night a local guy booked, he looked a little scruffy but it was a short stay & during the week. By midnight there was a large party of Proud Boys on the roof with drugs & motorcycles revving up the street until 5 AM. As we live downstairs, it is the first time we have felt nervous about our personal safety. (We thought about calling the police but did not want the retaliation.) Over the next 6 weeks I would come home to find a party goer in my driveway insisting he had rented it on Airbnb & wanting to pay & check in. (Some of these people are pretty stupid.) Anyway - don’t want the locals to realize it is the perfect party house. No problems with out of towners, even though we have allowed a couple of 12 person gatherings (with permission, of course). Too many crazies in my part of the South.

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I raised my rate by $10 mainly to make-up for COVID related expenses. Sadly we lost one repeat guest. I could have offered to keep that guest at the old rate, but I thought it was petty on their part given the slight increase. I haven’t had any horrible local guests, but they do tend to be more stressed out. They are usually ending relationships, moving or looking for a peaceful spot to finish a project. Thus their mindset is a little negative and reflects in their satisfaction with their stay.

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You can’t equate costs for a local guy staying a night to buy a (used?) car with a tourist from Chicago, New York. Los Angles or DC. What you think is high for Anchorage might be very reasonable in those previously mentioned cities. Besides, the Alaska experience is priceless.

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