There seems to be a lot of confusion out there as to what the various star ratings on sites like VRBO and Air B&B mean. I often see questions in short-term rental discussion groups on sites like Facebook or Reddit like "What is the difference between 4-star and 5-star review?" and "What does a 5-star review mean?"
To put it simply a 5-star review means anything from "They wow'd my socks off!" to "My expectations were met." I know this seems at odds with how restaurants and hotels tend to work, but for short-term rentals each review is like getting graded in school. A 5-star review means that everything was as expected and the service was great. Using the test analogy, a 5-star review is like getting an "A" in school or 100% on the exam. You did your homework, you studied and you got everything right.
A 4-star review or lower means that something was off. This is like getting a "B" in school or 80% on the exam. It's still passing but there is room for improvement.
Anything below that... run away!
In the world of Air B&B and VRBO there is a lot tied to your rating. Not just the ability to get new guests, or super host status, but if you get more than a couple 4 star ratings you run the risk of suspension. That's why for hosts like myself, anything less than a 5-star stay is a failing grade.
A guest's rating, much like a host's rating, can tell us a lot about a potential guest. A 5-star means that they were good guests, where a 4-star could mean there is room for improvement.
Yes there are! The wording associated with the review goes a long way. Sometimes people will rate a home a 4-star stay but give it a glowing written review. This is often the case when people don't understand the review system (hence why I wrote this article). It could also mean that one of the aspects of the stay wasn't 5-star to the guest (like the ever-subjective "value" or "location" metrics). A less than 5-star rating there could bring down an overall rating. There are even some people who simply refuse to give more than a 4-star review, believe it or not! That's worse than the "Bell Curve" grading system!!
With guests, a bad review could be from a misunderstanding with the host. We had one guest who had a 3-star review in his past with no explanation. I asked the potential guest and he said it was because of a misunderstanding/communication about the internet caps and costs. The rest of his reviews were 5-star, but this one review brought his rating way down. I confirmed his booking and he was a great guest and got 5 stars from me.
This is something I see frequently asked by new guests and new hosts concerned about renting to brand-new guests. My answer to them is "we all have to start somewhere." At one point all of us hosts were zero-star brand new hosts with no reviews too.
Personally, we have no problem with brand new accounts, it's part of the territory when you accept direct bookings like we do. I've had people reach out to me on Air B&B and tell me they created their account today just to rent our "The Resort" home, which is super flattering!
There are some hosts who have been burned in the past by no-review guests, so some make it a policy to not rent to them, we're not one of them.
One final thing about the review system that's specific to Air B&B, once your stay is completed you only have 14 days to submit your review. Once that time has passed, you will not be able to review them.