I’ve been hosting off and on for three years and overall have a 4.8 average with 140 reviews. My biggest struggle (which I’ve posted before) is noise complaints. I have a very common set up for my city: a basement apartment in my home where I live overhead with my family.
Maybe 1 out of 5 guests mentions the noise but says it was mitigated by the earplugs and white noise machine I reply. Maybe 1 out of 15 outright complains about the noise in the review. I can deal with this: I still have Superhost and I know nitpicky reviews can actually ward off other nitpicky guests.
What has gotten me down is that my last four or five reviews have mentioned or complained about noise so I wonder if it has gotten worse. My booking rate has dropped as well. Mercifully, one of the guests left a contextualized review stating that for my price-range, most AirBnBs in my city are basement apartments with noise overhead and mine is one of the nicest they’ve stayed in.
My guest who left this morning PMed me to say it felt like being inside a drum.
I haven’t decided if I should reply to her (it was over the chat, she hasn’t reviewed me yet). I’ve considered replying and explaining my husband has a minor neurological disability that slightly limits his mobility. He can’t tiptoe and basically has a stompy gait. I don’t know that this is relevant or the business of a guest, however.
Is there anything else I can do to soundproof or set guest expectations? Since my husband can’t physically tip-toe, I am going to see about getting my him some slippers to see if that will mitigate the noise. We don’t wear shoes indoors.
See about getting more/newer insulation installed between the floors. Does the basement have a dropped ceiling? Maybe newer, better sound baffling ceiling tiles and new or added insulation batts added between the drop ceiling and underside of the floor above. For tax purposes that would certainly count as a “home improvement”.
I have it written in several places on my listing that I have four children and two dogs and that they will be heard during the daytime hours. I also have some of my kids artwork in my B&B to subconsciously drive home the point that I have kids. I also mention it while giving a tour. No one has ever complained and I’m not looking forward to the day that I get the jerky guess who clearly didn’t read or listen. I would put down rugs but my dogs see them as opportunities to relieve themselves
Do you have carpet on the floor upstairs? That alone should minimize noise from a “stompy gate”. Wall-to-wall carpet with high-quality pad would be best.
What is material on the ceilings in the basement? If it’s plain drywall, you could remove it, add normal fiberglass insulation, then install mass loaded vinyl and resilient channels and then 5/8" or thicker drywall. I’m not sure about your budget, but you’d probably need to do it only in the bedrooms, so it might not be that bad.
I strongly believe all paying guests should receive the maximum hospitality and comfort during their stay.
I would be upset to discover later how noisy your family is upstairs.
If you cannot better sound-proof your downstairs rental unit, I would quit hosting guests. Sorry.
My suite is above me and the thing that wakes me up the most is the stairs that they use to get to the suite. I recently replaced the carpet with a commercial grade berber but I splurged on the padding and got tempurpedic padding. I almost NEVER hear guests any more. (I do have a white noise machine and a fan going at night.)
I agree with @Don_Burns
I stayed in such a place. I couldn’t sleep a wink. My own house has a bedroom facing a very heavy traffic street. Half of my life i lived in flats near the train stations and in buildings that trembled when the tram passed in the street but nothing felt so horrible like the sleepless night I spent in one airbnb with kids running all over and people flushing the toilet or taking showers. It was as if the walls were paper thin. Yeah, the description is accurate: like in a drum.
Insulate between floors, put heavy carpets, ask your family not to run or quit hosting. Sorry but you have to offer a minimal comfort to your guests.
Thank you for the practical solutions to those who suggested them. I will get rugs for the floors that don’t have them already. That is within my budget. The ceiling is just drywall material. I’ll get a quote to see how much it would cost to rip out the ceiling and install soundproofing material in the guest bedroom. Good point that it would be a tax write-off.
Guests can pay more if they want a top-floor unit elsewhere. Plenty are available in my city, but they cost $30-50 more per night than basement units. I’m not going to stop hosting because guests don’t read or expect nicer accomodations than they paid for. My family isn’t running indoors and I can’t ask husband to just stop being disabled (disability doesn’t work that way). Even the pickiest of guests admit the house is quiet during quiet hours (11 pm - 7 am).
Obviously with 140 4.8 star reviews you shouldn’t quit hosting. That’s ridiculous. There has to be a happy medium between guest comfort and the host getting to continue living in their home. If you’ve disclosed the noise and that it’s a basement and you are observing quiet hours then you’ve been reasonable. Guests who need absolute quiet should go stay in one of those shepherd wagons on the Navajo lands. And there is no guarantee of total quiet anywhere. I’ve stayed in multiple hotels where my fellow guests let doors slam as they went in and out of their rooms. Pre-Airbnb I stayed in a “garden in Chelsea” basement apartment in NYC and heard walking and dog toenails in the residence above me. That place is $350 a night and up and it’s booked all the time.
@Xena, I have a remote listing. No humans other than guests, no traffic, not even the buzz of electricity or the hum (does it hum?) of wifi. No plumbing, so no flushes to hear. Nothing.
One of my guests noted in her private comments that the birds were loud. One mentioned it to me at breakfast. Other guests have mentioned the squirrels. Squirrels have no idea that running up one side of the roof and sliding down the other is generating guest criticism. It’s all fun and games to them.
I’m not going to poison the wildlife or stop hosting. I just try to be clear that it’s the woods. If you are clear about it being a basement (make the listing title “Stompy Walker’s Basement”!) and you have quiet hours, which you do, for crying out loud, I see nothing wrong with it.
That said, I always do take reasonable guest comments on board, and if a rug or some insulation or cushy slippers are in your budget, I would go for it.
I have a pattern for double-soled slippers if you are a knitter.
But really, I kind of love “Stompy Walker’s Basement”. If not you, I want someone to call their place that.
I love it too. Xena don’t you have parrots? Maybe you could do a pirate themed rental. Eye patches, parrots and a peg leg ( oh gosh, I hope that’s not insensitive). How does your partner’s “Arrrrggggh!” sound?
Not insensitive, it’s funny! We do have parrots, who thankfully I’ve trained to be fairly quiet. At least to me! Probably still noisy to non-parrot people since they whistle, chirp, and make an assortment of sound effects (truck backing up, microwave beep, phone ringing).
People will sure complain about anything! I see listings that advertise they’re over a bar or nightclub and then the reviewers complain about drunken revelers.
Soft soled shoes will help with stompy noise.
You may wish to verify the white noise machine is being used.
Is there a time of day that heavier foot traffic? Maybe text guests that the kids are home from school and remind them to use the white noise machine to cover some of the family sounds from above.
We are in the same situation but reversed… we live in the downstairs apartment. After a few guests with “stompy gaits” we installed rock wool soundproofing insulation in our drop ceilings… wow, what a difference it made… it cost just a little over $250, but was so worth it! An easy DIY if you have drop ceilings.
I am very sound sensitive myself and stayed in an Airbnb once that sounded like a herd of elephants above me dragging balls and chains above my room. One of the hosts children also would bounce a basketball up each and every stair as they ascended…three feet from my sleeping head. It was horrendous and though I politely let my host know, (and the early morning noise dissipated), it still screwed up my sleep pattern for the rest of my holiday. So do take the feedback seriously, but also keep in mind that some guests will also parrot what others say in reviews. Example: we had one guest who caused damage (from smoking inside) and paid damages, but then wrote us a scathing review complaining of phantom odors. Lo and behold, other [problematic] guests parroted that original review…almost to the letter. Some people are so basic. So do address the soundproofing, but also keep it in perspective. Test it out with friends and family to see how bad the noise can get, at varying hours.
There are loads of amazing soundproofing products out there. You needn’t rip out the ceiling to drop it several inches and add soundproofing materials, like someone mentioned here. Ask a New Yorker. Those who don’t live in pre-war apartments are well versed in dropped ceilings!
Wall to wall carpeting and plenty of textiles also absorb all kinds of sounds. I have never heard of tempurpedic carpet padding but wow, I wish I had that installed in my place!! There is also acoustic cork flooring that can be added underneath area rugs or carpet padding or just put on the floors. Being a shoeless household also helps.
One amazing product we used in our listing is QuietRock drywall. (with acoustic foam in between). I can swear by this product. We had a highly-rated “soundproof” door (forget which level)…that was anything but. We added a Quietrock double panel with foam in between and wedged it into the other side of the doorframe and voila! Now you can literally scream at the door and it is just a muffled sound on the other side.
This sounds intriguing and of possible future use in my home. Now, if you can figure out a way to muffle the sound traveling though the vent work without hindering the movement of warm and cool air… lol.
Do you have rugs? When I lived in NY I had a fifth floor apartment and the neighbor below complained about the noise the cats made running back and forth. I had beautiful wood floors but had to cover them with carpeting and extra thick padding. That eliminated the noise.
Oh, if it’s quiet at night than the rest shouldn’t matter that much. Where I was there were noises, steps, things dropped, people running and later on taking showers almost all night. That’s why I couldn’t sleep at all. I had no idea what they were doing.
I had a guest who complained in her 2 or 3 star review that the neighbors were noisy during the day and she couldn’t sleep. I don’t think anyone who is not a night nurse is going to care…
I am very sympathetic Xena, I am in the same situation, and recently got a rough review from a Superhost who said my children were making too much noise. I’ve tried multiple interventions including rugs, insulation, but ultimately we can’t prevent noise traveling through the vents (1920s house) or even much through the floors. And I can’t give up hosting either. My solution has been to limit the hosting I do to higher value stays (i.e. to 3-day minimums), but to accept some limitations on my family during that time - we have “shh! guests downstairs” special rules during weekend days when we have stays.