Steadily dropping ratings for four years!

I put my first apartment on Airbnb four years ago. A tenant died and left the apartment full of very old, worn furniture. There was no AC. There was no TV. I threw it up on Airbnb with a couple of crappy pictures and a description that started with “Old apartment with no AC or TV.” I priced it low, and I got steady bookings and consistent five-star reviews.

Even with the low price, I was making more than with long-term rental. So I started making improvements. I installed central AC and a TV. Then I added Netflix. I reduced clutter. I made repairs. I took better pictures. And the average star rating very slowly trended downward. What started as 4.9 became 4.8.

I got a better cleaning lady. I took much better photos. And reviews dropped to 4.7. So then I worked with a friend who has great interior decorating taste and we bought all new furniture. And got an even better photographer. And, now average rating over the last few months has dropped to 4.5!

You can see it here:

The big change over time seems to be that the guests in the beginning were very easy-going and tolerant. Now it seems like the guests approach it with the attitude of “it can’t be perfect, so let me just hunt around until I find something to complain about.”

I’m definitely regretting the investment on upgrades. I do get a higher nightly rate, but it’s going to take a loooong time to recover the investment in new furniture.


When I read your post at first I thought you may be overpriced. Then I opened your link and saw your prices. I put in a few nights in September and I wonder if you don’t have it priced too low? There are theories that say that if price and offered quality are inconsistent, satisfaction becomes difficult to predict. The actual explanation is longer and more difficult, but the important conclusion was that you should never have anything priced too low unless you clearly mention the normal price.

Curious to see what other people think about your experience. Maybe @jaquo can give her thoughts on your price setting. She has a better grasp of the area.


That is a very interesting and thoughtful comment. I will have to discuss this with some friends who work in marketing.

However, September is the worst month in Florida, and right now I’m sitting at 76% occupancy for September (across six apartments, all similar). Depending on what dates you put in, you are seeing my very aggressive discounting for “close in” bookings.


I started out like you and steadily invested in improvements and now get an average 5.0 stars. As my price went from dirt cheap to good value to reasonably priced. I noticed a “Valley of Disenchantment” where I got more lower reviews than when priced below or above. It seemed to me these were people who thought they deserved something better but still at a lower price. Now my price is higher I seem to get guests who would have been prepared to pay more for a hotel but recognise my place is better and at a much lower price. Or I could be imagining it. Your post made me think though. Even those of us who get 5 stars get the occasional 4 star from a guest who seemed to be very happy in the review. is there something in the 4 star reviews that indicates an issue? If you are getting 3 star reviews then I would think there is definitely a problem.


Looking at percentages of 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 star reviews, my two lowest areas are

Overall Experience: 75% / 21% / 4% / 0% / 0%
Cleanliness: 81% / 15% / 3% / 1% / 0%

This is across 229 reviews.

I struggle with Cleanliness despite multiple cleaners and doing it myself. One thing I do is to get a friend who has worked as a housekeeper in a hotel (my very own Hotel Inspector) to give me an honest review of the place (and a bottle of wine as a thank you). Some of it irked me a bit (I’m a solid 3 stars myself in my own space) but rather than make excuses I took on board everything she said, and things some guests said. One guest complained about streak marks on the bathroom door to which I thought “oh really? is that all you’ve got time to worry about?” but then realised it’s not that hard to do the bit of extra cleaning and so now look for things like that which wouldn’t bother me in the slightest and I wouldn’t have noticed before. Now I have a cleaner who comes in once a month and does a deeper clean.


I can’t see any photos of the bedroom on the listing. For me that’s the most important space since I go on holiday to sleep well and go out. Would it be worth making the living room into a double duty space with a wall bed etc to offer flexibility? It’s just a thought. Maybe guests really do want to go on holiday and watch Netflix.

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There are bedroom photos. You must be on the app that just does scroll through the first few pictures.

So if your low category is cleanliness you should know what to do. I assume they are giving some feedback on what it is they don’t think is clean? Have you addressed those concerns but there’s still no improvement in scores?

I do think you have raised expectations with new decor and fancy pictures but at the end of the day it’s still the same apartment with no view, 2 miles from the beach and a common laundry area.

When Airbnb began there was a certain kind of person who would stay there. People with a sense of adventure who wanted something different, who preferred not to put their money in the pocket of a big corporation if they could avoid it. The more people hear about and use Airbnb the more the average quality of guest will drop I suspect.

I have not had the problem you had. I upgraded my rental and my scores went up so I’m probably not helpful here.


I would stay there in a heartbeat, wish I would’ve known about it pre-cruise a couple years ago. It’s hard to tell what’s going on without more data. One of my hypotheses would be that as Air goes more mainstream, (and as shows like Stay Here appear!), newer populations of guests are expecting HGTV level decor, an amazing “experience,” as well as an assortment of lovely local snack items! Maybe experiment with raising the price a bit unless that puts you totally out of whack with your competitors? Are you check-boxed in the Air business category? Maybe be more explicit you are competing with local hotels and looking for business clients as well as those who are vacationing but can’t afford to be right on the waterfront. I don’t know your market – does everyone but you have a pool? The cleanliness thing is a mystery – the floor covering makes sense for a beachy enviro but is it one of those that is speckly and looks a bit dirty no matter how clean? I did, to my surprise, have a visceral slightly negative reaction to the floor (honest to god, I had a flashback to cheap, slightly mildew-smelling beach rentals my grandparents crammed the whole extended family into in the summer), but oh bother, spending more on laminate or hardwood is a difficult thought. Others have brought up the tendency of some guests to confuse “older” and “not-quite-clean.” One last thought, the BR looks a little plain, how about a colorful spread?

I echo the sentiments of others - your weekday rate is appalling low for your area.

Pricing is a curious thing. When our daily rate was lower, we did get those “Four Seasons Accommodations at Motel 6 rates” guest expectations. Like others, at some point got tired of hosting, raised my rate, added smart pricing to get premium rates when Air algorithms see that availability of accommodations is low, and added a cleaning fee (laundry was wearing me out.) Instead of less bookings, they are increasing and my guests are better.

Personally, I think your apartment is very appealing but as a guest, the “Cleanliness” score might keep me from booking. You need to work hard on that. Maybe get a better cleaner, or pay the one you have to spend the time needed for a 5* rating. Also, raise your daily rate.


What if you painted the floor gray? A bit of an industrial/cement floor look?

I agree with the guesses above that the low cleaning scores are probably due to the terrazzo floor and the “old=not clean” mentality of some guests. The bathtub is 50-60 years old and the enamel has worn thin. I know that’s a source lower cleaning scores.

It’s not the cleaning crew. On one of my other units (with the same crew) the last 28 cleaning scores were five stars. On another, the last 23.

I recently inserted this into the description, and I made sure it was high enough to be visible before clicking the “see more” link.

IMPORTANT: No cable TV. Floors are terrazzo (cold, like polished cement). Living room window looks out onto a covered laundry area (no sunlight). 2.3 miles to beach.

Just one note: terrazzo is not a floor covering like linoleum. Terrazzo is marble chips in some kind of cement that has been polished smooth. It was used in virtually all houses built in this part of Florida in the 50’s and 60’s. You see it in a lot of public buildings because it is the most indestructible floor possible. It lasts forever.

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If I raise my prices, what kind of occupancy should I expect for the summer (low season) months? During the high season my prices will be $85/night and $100 for Friday and Saturday nights. I have October and November set to $62 and $75. Plus a $35 cleaning fee (although I pay $50 to my cleaner).

The place itself looks beautiful and most of the reviews state that it’s exactly like the pictures. There are a couple complaining about the mattress. Maybe get a soft mattresss top? I saw one complaining about no access to the deck too. And location, but you can’t change that. It looks like a place I would love to stay in.

I would describe more positively as “Polished terrazzo floors throughout.” and “Bedroom view of outdoor patio with tropical foliage. Living room overlooks covered laundry area.” Plus your beach distance. Can you say anything brief about beach parking there?

I saw the $44 min on your listing and that’s what made me think “Whoa, lower than Motel 6.” You could have these unconscious thoughts – what’s wrong with this place? Is it right on a highway? Crazy party people next door?


Also, subconsciously, if it’s cheaper than Motel 6, guests will respond like it’s cheaper than a Motel 6, ie, feel a bit bad that they are having such a (perceived) budget time. Although I do note that there are a LOT of similar priced places in Fort Lauds which makes it difficult to put a price up. But if people are staying at yours, what do they care about the other places!

The bathtub is a problem.
Could it be reglazed?

I reglazed the bathtubs in two other apartments. It costs about $600. The problem is that it chips, and then it starts peeling off. It seems that people are dropping metal cans onto it, possibly shaving cream. It’s definitely something to consider.

Hi @Matthew_Haines:

First, let me compliment you on using the heart symbol, it shows red on mobile devices and sometimes desktops. It really makes a listing stand out more than any other symbol at this time, I am the only one using it in my area :smiley:. Secondly, looking at your listing makes me sooooo homesick! I grew up in Florida and loved the Terrazzo floors. You are right, they are pretty much indestructible.

I love your place, it looks clean, cool and tranquil. Just what I would be looking for. I will be sure to recommend you to friends and family traveling to your area. I agree with the two main points, your pricing is a bit low and so many tend to think if it is so low, maybe there is something wrong and look for it, no matter how insignificant or petty. People ALWAYS notice what they perceive as wrong. The guests with true class weigh it against the overall. The other point I agree with was yours about the type of guests we are getting. I only started hosting in May of this year so I don’t have as much experience with the older style of easy going guest. I have had to deal with a few Prissy Princesses/Princes though. I feel your pain on that avenue. Just keep fighting the good fight, taking the feedback and gleaning out that which is truly helpful and try not to sweat it too much. I get it, that cleanliness rating is what, I feel, affects us the most. I just got a 4 star on cleanliness after a slew of 5’s and it was something I have no control over. My home is 72 years old, made of old growth redwood and plaster walls in the mid 1940’s. It has a very slight musty smell when all the doors and windows are closed for extended periods. Most of my guests either do not notice or don’t care and never mention it. Every once in a while though, well you get the idea. I keep working on it, like you keep working on your little issues, and we will prevail. Regarding the bathtub, do you have a bathmat in it? Those can go a long way towards distracting from the age of the tub and thinness of the enamel. We use them and not one guest has ever commented on the tub. I do show that it is a “bit old fashioned” in my listing. Just make sure the bathtub mat is the long one that covers almost the entire bottom of the tub. We keep 3 on hand so we always have a fresh clean one for guests. Good Luck!