13 Simple Ways Vacation Rental Reviews Can Help You Pick Great Rentals

13 Simple Ways Vacation Rental Reviews Can Help You Pick Great Rentals

How to Read Vacation Rental Reviews to Pick Great Rentals

Unless you are looking for a vacation rental in a remote area, there are hundreds, if not thousands to choose from. How can you use vacation rental reviews to help you pick the right rental?

Why should you read online vacation rental reviews?

Picking the wrong rental can be the kiss of death for your vacation. As you consider your choices, get input from as many sources as possible to help you narrow down the list.

Let’s face it, property listings and websites are written to entice guests to book. Owners and property managers, including well-meaning ones, love their properties and so can have biases.

Reviews can provide additional input that you otherwise might not get from listing sites.

People tend to trust input from others who have experienced the property firsthand.

That said, reviews can be faked to present an overly glowing impression. Likewise, a disgruntled renter or employee, or an Internet troll, could totally trash a property in a review, skewing the information in the opposite direction.

So what’s the best way to use reviews to pick vacation rentals?

Vacation Rental Review Sites

The main review sites for independent vacation rental reviews are Google, Facebook, and on-line travel agents (OTAs) such as Airbnb, VRBO, and TripAdvisor (FlipKey). Owners sometimes upload testimonials from their in-house guest books to their own website as well.

How to use vacation rental reviews: What online reviews can tell you about a vacation rental

1. Look at the star rating of the property.

Generally, the higher the score the better – but not always.

A few things to note …

The score is more reliable for properties with more reviews. For properties with few reviews, one bad or so-so review, deserved or not, can tank the property’s score. New properties will of course have fewer reviews.

5-stars doesn’t mean perfect. The review is only as good as the expectation of the reviewer. 5-star reviews tend to be achieved when reality matches or exceeds expectations.

5-star reviews do not necessarily mean luxury. 5-star experiences exist at all property levels, from budget to high-end.

2. How recent are the reviews?

The more recent the reviews, the better of course. Owners or management change. Things get damaged and amenities might be removed or discontinued.

If the reviews are old, ask why. Keep in mind that the COVID-19 pandemic essentially shut down travel for most of 2020 and even into 2021. Many places will have fewer recent reviews.

Find out if there have been any changes or improvements since the last review? If reviews mention construction, ask about the status as this could have been temporary.

3. Do the reviews seem credible?

Do the reviews seem like they were written by real people who are actually able to describe their experience at the property as opposed to friends and family writing something generic that could be representative of anywhere?

4. Are the reviews verified?

Anyone can leave a review on Google.

A less than 5-star review does not mean that the place is a “dump”. All it takes is for a few trolls who have never even stayed at the property to give a 1-star review on Google (which they actually allow!) to lower the star-rating.

Even if a property can prove that the person who left the review was never a guest at their location, Google will almost never remove the review. For this reason, you must read the actual Google reviews carefully before passing judgment.

Airbnb, Booking.com, VRBO and TripAdvisor only allow reviews from guests who have actually stayed at a given property.

5. Do the reviews mention how the photos reflect reality?

If the reviews suggest that the place is better than the pictures, that’s great, although the owners might be missing marketing opportunities with poor quality photos.

If the pictures look better than the property, that’s a problem because it could lead to disappointment.

Are there photos from actual travelers? (Google allows this.)

Do they jibe with the images that have been posted by the property? Again, consistency helps you know better what to expect.

6. How many reviews are available?

The more the reviews, the better. More reviews mean more opinions and points of view to use to shape your opinion or overall impression.

Few reviews could mean the property is new or maybe the owners have not prioritized asking their guests for reviews.

Also, most properties in fly-to destinations would hardly have had any bookings for 2020 due to CoVID19 travel restrictions.

7. Read positive reviews carefully.

The writer may gush over a great time but could also mention something that could use some improvement. For example, if a house sleeps 16 and someone says “Fantastic place but the dining table was small”, that would be a prompt to ask about additional seating if you are also traveling with a large group.

8. Are there certain trends or themes that are common in the reviews?

If many people are saying the same thing, positive or negative, it’s probably true. For example, if cleanliness is mentioned in most of the reviews, consider it a good sign, especially given the COVID-19 pandemic.

9. Are there any negative reviews?

It is not necessarily a red flag if there are negative reviews. You simply cannot please all the people all the time.

There are some people who just will not give 5-star reviews because they think there is “always room for improvement”.

If there are one or two negative reviews among a sea of positive ones, it could just be a fluke. And, even the best of us, can have a one-off. Again, look for consistency.

Do they seem like unfairly negative reviews? For example, do they focus on something beyond the property’s control or unrealistic guest expectations?

If there are scathing reviews, chances are high that they could be written by someone with an axe to grind. This is especially true if you see the same review on multiple sites.

10. What is the owner’s response to the negative review?

The owner’s response will help you get an idea of how he or she will respond to problems should they arise.

Professional owners see feedback as a gift and use that information to improve their properties.

11. Are there things mentioned in the reviews that would be bothersome to you?

For example, if you are a tennis buff and the reviews say the tennis court is crap, then ask about the tennis court to see if it has been resurfaced. If not, move on to another property. If you are sensitive to road noise, don’t book a property close to the road.

If a property isn’t child-friendly and you are traveling with other couples, it’s irrelevant. If they say only parking for 4 cars but you won’t be renting a car, why worry about that?

12. Are complaints in the review based on what the reviewer should have known before booking?

In this “book-it-now world”, many people confuse the vacation rental experience with a hotel stay and often do not actually take the time to read the information about the vacation rental that is available to them, including their rental agreements. Big mistake!

As a result, many people show up with expectations more appropriate for a hotel and not a vacation rental (such as a seemingly endless supply of sheets and towels).

Did the writer not do his or her research?

For example, is the reviewer complaining that the property is not beachfront when the listing clearly says it is a short walk from the beach?

Or, is the vacation rental a rustic eco-lodge in the middle of a forest yet the reviewer gave it a 1-star because there was no air conditioning or they were awakened by excessive sounds of nature.

You get the idea.

13. What’s your gut feeling when you read the reviews?

If you have a good feeling, great. If in your gut, you are uncomfortable or concerned, simply don’t book the place. There are too many properties to choose from to pick a place that you are not sold on.

So there you have it, 13 ways that vacation rental reviews can help you pick great vacation rentals. If you only take away one message from this article, remember this: The overarching themes in a property’s reviews will probably best represent what it is like to stay there.

Happy vacationing!

How to Read Vacation Rental Reviews to Pick Great Rentals

Can you think of any tips that we left out? Leave a comment. We will consider adding it when we next update the article.

Stay safe and Make it Jamaica soon!

‘Til next time.

Think and dream Jamaica!

Sherry, Darrell, and Darrian

Considering a visit to Jamaica with a group? Contact us today for more information about, Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa, our boutique 8-BR ocean view Jamaica villa rental experience in beautiful Discovery Bay, Jamaica. Perfect for multi-generational families and groups, retreats, and intimate destination weddings and vow renewals.

Visit our website: https://MakeItJamaica.com

Give us a call: 833-MAISOUI (624.7684) toll-free or 914.709.0457

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About the Author Sherry

Sherry & Darrell, owners of Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa in Discovery Bay, Jamaica, consider themselves unofficial ambassadors for Jamaica. They look forward to using their insider knowledge to help guests create priceless vacation memories. Feel free to say hi!

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About the Author Sherry

Sherry & Darrell, owners of Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa in Discovery Bay, Jamaica, consider themselves unofficial ambassadors for Jamaica. They look forward to using their insider knowledge to help guests create priceless vacation memories. Feel free to say hi!