Insider Secrets: Mastering the Art of Maintaining a 5-Star Vacation Rental for Stellar Reviews and Happy Guests

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Updated on August 28th, 2023

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Step into a realm of unparalleled vacation rental mastery, where insider secrets await to catapult your property to five-star excellence. In this Redfin article, we explore these closely guarded secrets that will elevate your guests’ experience during their stay at your vacation rental

Whether you’ve already established your venture on Airbnb and VRBO, or are beginning to enter the industry in unique destinations, like the beautiful shores of Virginia Beach or the charming community of Katy, Texas, our guide will equip you with distinct strategies to unlock your property’s true potential. Ready to transform your vacation rental into an enchanting sanctuary where guests revel in unforgettable moments and glowing reviews naturally follow?

Luxury Apartment With Private Pool

1. Become an informed and successful host in the travel and hospitality industry

Heather Bayer from Vacation Rental Formula states, “The moment you exchange your accommodation for money, you have entered the travel, tourism, and hospitality industry. It is not a passive business. Gain comprehensive knowledge through continuous learning: engage in networking, read industry-related materials, listen to informative podcasts, attend conferences, and enroll in relevant courses. Being the best-educated host on the block will be the key to your success.”

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2. Set the stage for a memorable stay in the first 10 minutes

“The first 10 minutes of your guests’ stay is pivotal to their overall experience,” says Heather. “Ensure entry is easy, the temperature is right, it looks just like the photos, it smells fresh, the Wi-Fi code is prominently displayed, and there is a welcome message.” 

3. Leverage the pre-stay period by sharing your local knowledge and expertise

“Don’t leave your guests wandering in tumbleweed time,” says Heather. “This is the period between booking and the stay when travelers are eagerly anticipating their vacation, yet most hosts and managers ignore this opportunity to share their local knowledge and expertise. Share your best recommendations for restaurants, tours, activities, and events way before your guests arrive. They will be able to plan and make reservations and avoid the disappointment of finding the things they want to do are sold out.

Woman packing suitcase for summer trip, including face masks and travel-sized antibacterial hand gels

4. Make a direct booking website for your vacation rental

“Savvy owners and managers are creating content-rich websites that serve as a showcase for their location,” shares Heather. “They no longer rely on the big platforms to deliver their guests – instead, guests are being encouraged to book directly for the best value and experience.”

6. Control the guest experience by owning the entire rental stack

“In our experience, the key to maintaining a five-star rental property lies in a balanced blend of hospitality, high-quality amenities, and efficient communication. Our motto is ‘Strive not just to meet, but exceed guest expectations,’” says Murat Gocmen from MG Vacation Rentals.

“Owning the entire stack, from the cleaning company to the hot tub cleaning and snow plowing businesses, is a cornerstone of our vacation rental management strategy. It allows us to ensure an exceptional level of service and quality that’s consistent across all aspects of a guest’s experience. 

Our hot tub cleaning company makes sure that this popular amenity is always in top condition, while our snow plowing company ensures clear and safe access to the property regardless of the weather, and our in-house professional cleaning service is employed after each stay to ensure a thoroughly cleaned and comfortable experience for the next guest.

By controlling these critical services, we have the ability to directly address any potential issues swiftly, maintain high standards, and uphold our promise of a pristine environment for every guest.”

MG Vacation Rentals property in a mountainous area with a cabin like feel

In Courtesy of MG Vacation Rentals – North Lake Tahoe Vacation Rental Management Company

7. Address guest’s needs promptly

“Our most successful strategy for ensuring guest satisfaction and positive reviews has always been proactive communication,” insists Murat. “We believe in the power of listening to our guests’ needs and promptly addressing any concerns. This creates a trust-based relationship that often results in repeat bookings and glowing reviews.” 

8. Personalize your amenities

“We’ve found that offering personalized amenities, like local coffee or guidebooks for local attractions, adds a special touch that enhances the guest experience. These thoughtful extras show guests that we care about their stay and are invested in making it memorable,” recommends Murat.

9. Provide feedback-driven improvements

“The main focus of creating a five-star rental experience lies in continuous improvement based on valuable guest feedback. While meticulous upkeep and personalized service are crucial, understanding guests’ unspoken needs and consistently enhancing your property based on their input is key,” shares Lotus West Properties

“By prioritizing immaculate cleanliness and providing amenities that offer a true ‘home-away-from-home’ experience, you establish a strong foundation for guest satisfaction. Moreover, incorporating a personal touch, maintaining open communication, and actively implementing improvements based on feedback become the pillars of a rewarding and unforgettable rental experience for your guests.”

10. Deliver impeccable cleanliness

“As a frequent traveler and hospitality industry professional, I leverage specific elements to create a wow factor that ensures an exceptional experience for my guests. Anyone can provide basic accommodation, but to maintain a five-star experience, I always want to ensure immaculate cleanliness,” says  ResortCleaning. “Guests should have peace of mind that your rental is cleaned to the highest standards.”

Shot of a couple relaxing in the chairs at a balcony

11. Shift your focus from ratings to guest care and unique experiences

“My first advice is to stop pursuing five-star ratings. It makes you one-dimensional. Instead, make it clear that your top priority is to genuinely welcome and care for your guests,” insists founding member Alan Colley of Host2Host and co-owner of Summit Prairie. “Caring is the secret sauce of superior hosts. Do your honest best to ‘sell the sizzle’ that makes your place one where a guest feels comfortable and enthusiastic about telling others why they chose you.”

12. Build a top-notch management team for the unexpected

“In my opinion, to maintain a five-star rental managed by a property management team, it is essential to uphold the highest cleaning standards, incorporate pre-checks between cleaning crews and guest check-ins, hire experienced reservationists for top-notch guest communication, and ensure the amenities are delivered as advertised,” recommends Reservation Specialists

“Setting accurate expectations is critical. In case of unexpected circumstances, maintaining upbeat and positive communication is essential, along with providing alternative options if advertised amenities are unavailable.” 

13. Have a single, dedicated point of contact for guests that can streamline communication between all channels

“The key to maintaining a five-star rental property goes well beyond mere upkeep and starts with having a dedicated point of contact for seamless communication,” suggests Jim Lagan from Home Realty LLC. “From there, having a mindset for meticulous maintenance, an unwavering focus on cleanliness, and a commitment to providing swift resolutions is what creates an exceptional experience for every guest or resident.” 

14. Creating unforgettable stays goes beyond cleanliness with thoughtful details

“When it comes to running a five-star rental, it’s the details that make the difference. Immaculate cleanliness, combined with thoughtful touches like curated amenities, crafts an unforgettable guest experience,” explains Soda Stays. “It’s more than just maintaining high cleaning standards. It’s about putting your heart and soul into creating an environment where guests don’t just stay, they feel valued and appreciated. This unwavering dedication not only ensures an exceptional stay but also engraves an unforgettable experience.” 

Modern patio next to swimming pool

15. Manage your guest’s expectations

“I’ve managed everything from mansions in Malibu to cabins in the woods, but the best thing you can do for five-star ratings is manage guest expectations,” recommends Jeff Iloulian, CEO of HostGPO. “You should take great photos and your place should look like the photos. Is there anything guests should know about your place? Send them a message to let them know in advance. Share the amenities you provide in your listing so guests know what will be there for their stay.” 

16. Provide the guests with a guidebook and all essential information about their stay

“I’ve found that answering all guests’ questions before they even have a chance to ask them through the use of a digital guidebook such as Touchstay, is essential,” says Avery Carl from The Short Term Shop. “Many guests are traveling in the evening to an area they are unfamiliar with, and having a resource prior to arrival that provides them with all the necessary information, such as the nearest grocery store and the type of coffee maker in the rental, can really take the stress off of guests after a long day of travel.”

17. The importance of high-quality products in vacation rental properties

“High-quality and durable products are crucial in a vacation rental property as they enhance the guest experience and reduce operational hassles. By providing reliable appliances, comfortable and well-kept furniture, and durable fixtures, vacation rental owners can ensure guest satisfaction, receive positive reviews, and minimize the need for frequent repairs or replacements,” insists Minoan Experience. “This not only leads to repeat bookings but also contributes to the long-term success and profitability of the vacation rental property.”

18. Positively set the ground rules 

“One of the biggest keys to keeping any rental – as in not getting banned – is ensuring your guests behave respectfully in your community,” says Alexa Nota, Co-Founder and COO of Rent Responsibly. “Frame your house rules positively but clearly before guests arrive so they know what to expect. For example, for noise hours, you can say, ‘We love our neighbors and our neighborhood, so we kindly ask all guests to honor local quiet hours of 10 AM to 7 AM.’

Another tip is to offer an alternative. If you can’t accommodate many cars, for example, recommend a great parking area nearby so guests don’t park where it disrupts nearby homes.”

Personalized welcome note from a host given to a renter

19. Quick tips for managing your vacation rental listing 

Lifty Life provides a straightforward list of tips and tricks with managing rental vacation properties “to enhance the guest experience and satisfaction”:

  • Clear and accurate property descriptions: Provide detailed and accurate information about your vacation rental in your listings. Highlight the unique features, amenities, and any restrictions or limitations. Use high-quality photos that showcase the property’s best aspects.
  • Transparent communication: Be transparent about your rental policies, pricing, and any additional fees. Clear communication helps build trust and ensures guests have the necessary information before booking.
  • Thoughtful welcome pack: Create a welcome pack or basket that includes small but meaningful items such as bottled water, snacks, local maps, and guides. You can also leave a handwritten note to greet guests upon arrival. These small gestures make guests feel welcomed and appreciated.
  • Guest feedback and reviews: Encourage guests to leave feedback and reviews after their stay. Positive reviews can attract more guests, while constructive feedback helps you identify areas for improvement. Respond to reviews promptly and professionally, addressing any concerns or issues raised.
  • Flexibility and personalization: Whenever possible, try to accommodate special requests or preferences from your guests. This could include flexible check-in/check-out times, arranging transportation, or offering additional services like grocery shopping before their arrival. Personalized touches can leave a lasting impression.
  • 24/7 support: Provide a reliable point of contact for guests in case of emergencies or any issues that may arise during their stay. Make sure they have access to a phone number or email address they can use to reach you at any time.

20. Invest in your vacation rental

“The number one trick to keeping your property rated as a five-star rental is understanding that, as owners, we must be willing to invest each year in the upkeep and maintenance of our properties,” suggests Norman Block from Block & Associates Realty. “Everyone who buys a car knows and expects that they will spend money annually to maintain the vehicle and protect their investment in that car. Yet, when it comes to rental homes, I am always amazed that landlords are reluctant to do the same. 

Every property owner should expect to spend somewhere around a fourth to a half percent of the property value annually for repairs, fix-ups, and improvements. Real estate properties are most people’s biggest assets and these properties often carry our largest debts.”

family walking outdoors at beach house

If you are represented by an agent, this is not a solicitation of your business. This article is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional advice from a medical provider, licensed attorney, financial advisor, or tax professional. Consumers should independently verify any agency or service mentioned will meet their needs. Learn more about our Editorial Guidelines here.
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Holly Hooper

Holly is part of the content marketing team and enjoys writing about home improvement and lifestyle. Her dream home would incorporate both an industrial and biophilic design.

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