While we've had several glowing reviews of our property, which, in turn, has drawn even more new guests, I have to say that the customer is right, and the customer is the property owner here. All of us pay several hundred dollars annually to be listed here, and with great results in our case, but reviews should be optional, given that each owner/manager has parted with the fee to be listed. We'll keep using the reviews, because we use them when we rent thru VRBO ourselves. They are pretty helpful, and generally, when reading through them, one can tell when the negative reviews are real or just the rantings of someone who had unreasonable expectations....
I am not a member of VRBO, but use the reviews to help in deciding where we
will book. If someone has a rant I can usually tell. However some are more
than rants, especially over recovering damage deposits. Owners generally
require fully payment before the rental commences, including damage
deposits. It is only reasonable that the deposit be offered to be returned
on check out, the day before if more convenient. I have waited 9 months to
get a deposit returned - the owner was just too lazy to be bothered. It has
not stopped us renting apartments on vacation. For every 10 good owners
there will be 1 dud, likewise with renters. Perhaps deleting all reviews
over a year old may be the way to go. After all the condo has an extra
year's wear and tare and that new construction is now blocking the view .
I am a VRBO owner and have referred to reviews when we travel. They do serve a purpose. However I think the entire process would be more palatable if VRBO would just put even a scintilla of effort into determining whether the reviews were accurate.
Re: returning the deposit upon check-out or even the day before? No way - I want my cleaning service in there cleaning, doing inspection and reporting to me prior to deposit being returned. I also am a dinosaur to some degree because I still use old fashioned keys. Keys are to be returned prior to deposit being returned. I let all our guests know our procedure and have referred to a 20-day time period during which I can return the deposit. Most, if not all, have been returned, in full, the day after I receive the keys back.
Return a deposit the night BEFORE check out? I don't think there's a landlord in his or her right mind who would do so. We plainly tell guests at several points in the booking process that deposits are generally refunded within two weeks of departure. When we send the refund, we also email them to let them know, and include 2 links: one to a post- checkout survey we've developed on Survey Monkey (free), and the other to the VRBO 'leave a comment' link. Not all guests leave a comment, butler take the survey, which gives us great feedback
Sent from my iPhone
I also agree. We return the deposit less damages and extraordinary cleaning fees within 2 weeks of departure. This gives us time to clean, check for damages, missing items or items left behind. We do a complete household inventory upon departure. We rarely hold any of the security deposit in order to avoid a negative review. And most often, if there is damage, we consider it the cost of doing business. The security deposit is basically for the extreme situation. We are onsite managers so interface with our guests, so usually find out if there are any problems during a renter's stay.
We do not solicit ANY reviews (period). We have NO reviews - either positive or negative and we have been in business for almost 15 years (on VRBO since 2006). We do not personally use reviews because so many are bogus and serve no purpose. I do not understand how someone can trust a stranger's opinion. I think I would trust the opinion of about 25% of our guests.
Yikes! I agree no owner in their right miond would refund a damage deposit before , or immediately upon check out. I've had renters go to pretty great lengths to hide damages that have been found only because my housekeeper is great about checking in all the right places. Normal wear and tear is to be expected, but major damages are often only found upon a very detailed inspection.
My contract states the damage deposit will be returned within 14 business days after check out .( It can take 4-5 business days for me to get a bid on a needed repair). I also include an information sheet detailing what constitutes Excessive Cleaning, and a general outline of what damages can be charged.
I wish renters of vacation homes would just realize the bargain they are getting to stay in a furnished, fully equipped home, as opposed to a hotel room. Maybe they would be better prepared if they understood the difference.
Wanted to share an update on the clause. I guest's wife books my home in June for Thanksgiving. They book it saying they will only have 7 adults and 1 child. Yet when the agreement comes back they change it to 10 adults 1 child and enter in 18 day guest vistiors. I email them that we cannot accept the reservation that they will need to hold family Thanksiving somewhere else. I finally get them to sign the agreement and do not hear a word from them until about a week ago becasue the final payment is due. The husband sends me an emai saying they want to come in a day earlier and sends me a schdule of how many people will be staying by day and wants me to adjust the rate by day. My agreement clearly states the rates is based on the total number of bedrooms during the entire stay and that they cannot adjust by day. We go around and around for more than a week on this and my husband and I are getting a sense this guest could be a problem but go ahead and send him a revised agreement adding the additional date along with some concessions on the rate. He sends back the agreement signed but crosses out the Non Disparagement clause. Although this was a nice premium booking we decided to cancel the booking and refunded the depsoit. My husband and decided that if a guest elects to cross this clause out and they have been such a pain to deal with up to this point that we are better off to cancel the reservaiton and let them go find other accommodations. I like the clause as it is really helping us to weed potential problem renters. We have a flawless record of reviews for tis home and we are not about to put this lisitng in jeapordy so foregoing the rental was well worth it to us.
AMEN msdebj! One of the most endearing compliments we get about our cottage is that "immediately upon arriving, we felt like we were at home". Our vacation rentals are NOT hotels; we don't have full-time, around-the-clock staff, and quite frankly, most rates are reflective of this. My husband and I use VRBO whenever we can when travelling and the whole point is to have a "home" to call your own for a few days or a few weeks. You have more room, more flexibility, can cut down on meal costs, etc. Some guests just don't get it!
As HA continue to ignore their customer's wishes in this respect the memory of other corporations with monopoly positions and bad attitudes comes to mind, they get away with just so much for just so long, until along comes their very own Netflix moment. My pet theory is that HA are continuing to see a booming number of listings and are tending to believe their own propaganda so to speak, that this is proof of how right they're getting it, whereas the boom may actually be more a reflection of the housing market, (if you can't sell it can you at least rent it to tourists). Eventually the market has to recover, a lot of VRs will go back to being lived in and HA Corp will be back in the real world. I like to imagine a world where they are emailing their customers to ask what they can do better, or even respond to feature requests with something other than filing on the long finger.
To digress slightly, has anyone else noticed a tendency of reviews to occasionally get lost. You go to huge effort to present a great place and keep it great, you deal with ALL the neediness, you squirt bottles of Febreze to recover from those who decided No-Smoking doesn't apply to pot, you follow up just right to coax a review, and then...nothing. A review has actually been written, but the guest hasn't noticed the HA comfirmation email or more often it's lost in their junk folder - and we don't know its been submitted so that we can nudge them. Yes, you can ask people, if they do add a review to watch out for the HA reply / check their junk folder, but a) people don't read and b) you make it sound complicated and you lose reviews. It wouldn't be unreasonable for HA-VRBO Corp to tell us that a review was posted but the confirmation didn't come back, so that we could follow up. But then, that'd be an owner feature request, where's that long finger again!
No, but here is what I did notice just over the past few days. I have put language into my contract that the owner will post all reviews as opposed to guests - perhaps heavyhanded, but I readily admit that I'm a control freak. To the extent that "owner-entered comment" makes people question authenticity, too bad!
In any event, when I had previously entered them, I got the immediate notification to my e-mail box that a comment had been entered (I know, I entered it!) and within the next 24 hours, the owner-entered comment appeared in my advertisement. Well, with this past one, there was a delay of about 5 days prior to it appearing...and I'm thinking "What the heck? Where did it go?"
My suspicion is that HA/VRBO checked with the guest to see that it was accurate.... Now I could be just paranoid, but it appears to me from these forum posts that HA/VRBO is following up with our guests anyway as to getting them to posts comments re: their stay, so I figured, what would prevent them from checking to see that the comment entered by owner was accurate?
Don't know if this is their procedure, but if it is, boy would that tick me off. Why would HA/VRBO tend to believe a guest more as opposed to the owner when it's a NEGATIVE comment, and still believe the guest more than the owner when it's a positive comment? Hmmmm.....
I also agree that if you see the writing on the wall, you just let the booking go. It is not worth the hassle and potential negative reveiw, loss of sleep and eveything else that goes with a hassle. I figure that once a potential renter starts arguing about the terms, we are certainly not going to meet their expectations and encourage them to find another place to stay. It just happened yesterday, when an overseas guest contacted us once again. He had contacted us several days ago and had inquired about a reservation for 3 or 4 people for a 7-night stay. No probem, except now he wants to increase the size of the party to 5, which we do not allow during the summer months. Geez...he won't give up, so there is no way that I can now meet his expectations.
But back to reviews...it is hard to believe that we have gone from what used to be a private agreement between a homeowner and renter to what we have now. Now we have to accept the fact that the aggreement can be shared with the whole world and all the dirty laundry aired in the open. I do like the idea of a non-disaparagment clause, but find it so hard to accept that it has come down to this because of sites like HA/VRBO and TA. I absolutely refuse to play the review game and will continue my stance of not soliciting reviews - no way, Jose! I will choose to go out of business before I start soliciting reviews. I personally do not use reviews when I travel - why would I care what a total stranger has to say???
So yesterday, we were also contacted by a renter that had to leave a day early during their stay, 'cause supposedly grandma died. We had already returned their security deposit in full and offered them a hefty discount on a future stay. So that was not enough and he now wants a refund since they cut their stay short by one day. Of couse he signed an agreement knowing full well that we do not refund "due to illness or any other reason". He also admitted that they were well aware of the situation with grandma, yet refused to take out trip cancellation insurance. So now it becomes my problem - bummer! But since we have NO positive reviews to counter a negative review, it leaves us with little choice.
We are WAY off topic here, but I just had to chime in witha thought!
It appears that HA and VRBO ( and all the other sites they've acquired recently) think they are on the same footing as Facebook. ( Facebook continues to make changes without customer input & as much as folks copmplain they never leave FB).
BIG difference: I help pay the bills of VRBO. Not so with Facebook.
Truly, corporate greed seems to be the norm these days. But HA should realize that none is too big to fail any longer.
We are fortunate to have a property which is not in a resort area which may attract undesirable people. All of our guests are first class folks who are mature, well mannered and well educated. Since we started on VRBO/HomeAway in Oct 2007, we have had over 140 guest reservations, Some are repeats for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, & 5th time.
I make a point of soliciting reviews. In fact, I speak to them about it while they are at the cottage, ask them again in a hand written thank you note, and ask a third time when I send a feedback form. Only about 1/3 of our guests leave an online review. We have about 44 now and all have been 5 stars except one who gave us 4 stars because there was dust on a ceiling fan and there were cobwebs behind the bookcase.
I have had guests tell me that they rented the cottage because of the number of positive comments. I know that I always read reviews when I am considering a place to stay. I think guest reviews give a truer picture of what the property is actually like rather than the owner's descriptions, which frequently "gild the lily."
In short, I think guest reviews are on of the most important marketing tools for a vacation property. If we get a review which is less than 5 stars, it tells us that we need to do a better job. The ceiling fans have been dusted and the cobwebs removed from behind the bookcase.