Showplace: Five keys to a five-star short-term rental listing

US: Justin Miller, co-founder of “smarter hosting” technology platform Showplace [which recently raised $2 million in seed funding], provides his five top tips on how hosts and property owners can achieve a five-star listing for their short-term rentals.

In a competitive short-term rental environment, it is harder than ever for a property listing to stand out. It has also never been more important.

Fortunately in this industry, it is not hard to tap into your customer’s mindset. Hosts can rely on a mix of written reviews and numerical ratings to understand the aspects of a property that are pleasing guests and the ones that leave something to be desired.

A strong rating – five stars on Airbnb for example – drives more traffic to a listing, leads to more bookings, and affords pricing power.

For nearly a decade, I have been steeped in the industry, first as a co-founder of short-term rental platform Pillow [sold to Expedia in 2018] and later as an upstart property host. Today, I am co-founder and CEO of Showplace, which helps Airbnb and Vrbo hosts design, furnish, and restock listings.

Through all of these experiences, I have managed to gain valuable insights into the thought process of short-term rental guests.

Here are five keys to a five-star listing.

  • Pick the right photos

Think of the first photo as a first impression. If it is not appealing, you have lost potential customers before they even click the listing.

But it goes beyond that very first one. Through our work at Showplace, we have found that hosts should carefully optimise the first four photos. Listing photos should be high-quality and accurately represent the condition and layout of the property.

  • Have a theme

Make guests feel like they have booked a unique experience – John Steinbeck’s writing studio / Scooby Doo’s van – while they are away from home.

Airbnb this year redesigned its entire search experience around property type with Airbnb categories such as boats, shipping containers, islands, treehouses, and much more. Airbnb is even setting up a $10 million “OMG!” fund to award $100,000 to 100 people with wacky ideas for listings.

Not everyone has a giant shoe or a spaceship to list but you can use design to create memorable character in a space. Who doesn’t love a classic bird theme?

  • Make sure the experience matches the listing

Be honest upfront about the listing – quirks and all – so your guests know what to expect. They will be understanding if a historic 150-year-old home has creaky floors, quirks, and oddities. And, if you’ve made any upgrades worth noting, be sure to tout those.

Amenities, features, and even potential drawbacks should be mentioned in the listing. It is only when guests are caught off guard that a property’s uniqueness could lead to a negative review.

  • Refresh the amenities—and the essentials

In the early days of Airbnb, Netflix was still selling DVDs by mail. Today, streaming platforms are standard issue in most short-term rental properties.

In addition to keeping up with modern amenities like streaming and strong wifi, be sure to stay on a regular schedule for restocking the less exciting, but just as important, essentials such as towels, sheets and pillows. You would be amazed how many short-term rental hosts set up a great listing, host guests for weeks, and then realise they do not have a plan for restocking essentials. Those trips to the local supermarket can get old quickly.

  • Sweat the small stuff

Score points with guests by presenting towels and linens in a professional way, leaving handwritten notes, and other small delights. Put yourself in the mind of a guest. What are some of the experiences you remember from your favourite Airbnb stays?

For its part, Airbnb offers its own more general advice: “We’ve found that hosts who get great reviews tend to focus on five things: cleanliness, essential amenities, accurate listing details, a smooth check-in, and proactive communication.”

One more thing that you will hear experienced hosts and influencers talk about: asking for a five-star review. That is a good idea. It doesn’t hurt to show your guests that you care about your reputation as a host.

Those are the things I am thinking about right now when it comes to creating a five-star listing. I’ve seen the short-term rental market change a lot since I first got involved in 2013 and it certainly will continue to change.

Airbnb, Vrbo and short-term rentals are no longer a novel concept. The post-pandemic travel boom we are experiencing today is no doubt reshaping travel and hospitality forever.

As the short-term market becomes more and more popular, you can still set yourself apart.

One key shift I foresee is that you are going to have to run your listing like a business. Guests have become accustomed to a certain level of service and professionalism. We are far removed from the early days when Airbnb’s founders embraced air mattresses on the floor – thus the name, from “Airbed”.

Star ratings, as well as written reviews, are a great quick way for guests to share feedback and help others know what to expect before they book a property. Pay close attention and embrace the feedback to create the best listing possible.

Justin Miller is co-founder and CEO of Showplace, a technology platform helping short-term rental operators host smarter. Miller was previously co-founder and president at Pillow, acquired by Expedia, and Notehall, acquired by Chegg.