How much do you spend on maintenance vs just adjust price downwards?

How much do you spend on maintenance vs just adjust price downwards?

My property is about 40-50 years old, we bought it 8 years ago, it was in some disrepair. We have continually every year spend big sums on essential maintenance issues (think 40 acre farm, 6 bedroom house, old pool). We carefully prioritise on essential and safety related items, and anything superficial, we tend to down prioritise especially if we have unexpected emergencies (like a major roof leak last year). Over the 8 years we also have successfully maintained super host/4.9 average whilst navigating that careful balance of maintenance spend vs pricing appropriately.

 

It's not new inside, we market as "lived in"/shabby chic and have kept the same rate for 8 years despite increasing costs.

 

Had 2 guests comment recently privately (thankfully) about it looking "tired" and basically gave me a 4 star rating, shock horror for me. I asked for more details, some were valid and I accepted that (eg I had to replace a perfectedly clean, sound 10 year old fridge because the crisper drawer had a big crack and i couldn't replace for spare parts). Other complaints re uncomfortable couches, parquetry floor scratches etc.

 

I did explain to the guest that there were many maintenance improvements done in the last 12 months but it's stuff they might not notice like a new roof, new guttering, new pool liner, new pumps, refurbished water tank. I asked, if I had lowered the price more, and therefore expectations be lower, would that have given me 5 stars? Didn't really get a useful answer. 

 

I'll be clear, nothing inside is new except new Bosch dryer, washer, new Sony TV and now Electrolux fridge. But everything is safe and works well. Our value rating is 4.9/5 usually as well as we do provide a very large country food hamper as part of the stay.

 

But it got me thinking. So all the experienced hosts out there with big, complex, older properties to maintain, what is your strategy? As your property gets older, do you start to drop your prices, or manage guest expectations better (I'm starting to do that now), just maintain your rate and do your best to balance your spend between essential and the non essential (like a new couch, or new chairs, new floors)? But spending on non essential can't all be done in one hit either - have to prioritise. I've also got ideas on a games room which does require some major fitout conversion.

 

So what do you focus on? Essential spend decisions are easy. Have to be done. But non essential is harder, but it seems to be the ones guests notice the most and judge you on, no matter if you position your property as "not new/lived in".

 

It would be very easy decision (not hip pocket) to completely update the interiors/kitchen/bathroom/furniture to be modern but I would never get a return on that charging what i currently do, and would put me in a higher price bracket that would get less bookings. I currently sit in a sweet spot of a relatively affordable multigenerational family holiday home on a farm with a pool on a hill (with amazing views).

 

Besides, don't have the income to splash out and completely renovate. Note we aren't in this for the money, the rental income just helps offset the bills as we love the property!

 

BTW not complaining at all, just feel like we are at a crossroads here. Advice people? What would you focus on to avoid looking "tired" knowing the constraints of budget vs return vs what you charge?

15 Replies 15
Jutta169
Level 2
HKI, Finland

Hi Mary,

 

As non-american, here is my insight, which may be very also very impactful. Some non-american guests might be puzzled why the rating was such an issue, since they gave a good rating (4). They sincerely might not understand what was the matter and why are you upset.

 

Some background: For me as an European, when we rate things from 1 to 5, number 4 means it was good/great/I'm satisfied (there is really nothing wrong for us in 4, it's the standard great), 5 is I'm over the moon/ everything exceeded my expectations, 3 meaning neutral and actually 2 I'm dissatisfied and 1 I'm very dissatisfied. However I know the American understanding of the rating 1-5 is a bit different. Anything below five means there is something wrong, and 5 is that everything was great.

 

So I would advice you to explain the meaning of the american rating system (which airbnb follows) to the guests, so they understand anything below 5 means something was (terribly) wrong and 5 means meeting the expectations. This helps them to rate according the airbnb expectations. Tell also that if your avarage rating is getting low, you are being suspended.

 

Hope this helps 🙂

Good point! I should follow the ebay seller model, whereby sellers remind you to rate them and if you do anything but top marks, please talk to them first! Perhaps a link on the rating system in airbnb would help, because as you state, too many 4-star ratings is the kiss of death - you lose super host etc.

 

I thought I'd post a wrap up of where I landed after all the wonderful advice. And I asked a few friends what they would replace on the cheap (keeping under $300 so we can expense it).

So I've decided to hold the price, and update a few things as follows:

- hand fix/sand parquetry floor bad spots only and restained/varnished. hasn't come up to bad as a result. just guessed the stain colour.

- replaced the kitchen handles with something more modern

-repainting the 'colour feature walls' back to a base cream of acrylic paint i already had

- replaced all  heavy mismatched wooden 12 dining chairs with new chairs which are good quality. makes a huge difference for a small investment.amazing what solid quality you can buy now compared 10 years ago!

-bought 2 armchairs on FB marketplace (what a time sucker but fun!) to replace the uncomfy couch. will replace cushions with new colour patterns

-discovered upholstery steam cleaner investment that is fabulous for under $100 to restore remaining couches that have a few stains

-added a new outdoor eating area on an unused courtyard for the cost of 2 cans of spray paint (got some free outdoor metal chairs and already had an old outdoor table that got a repaint)

-will repaint the kitchen cupboards later in the year

total investment less than $500 but major difference!

 

@Mary1523 

It’s truly about whom you are leasing to.. 

 

There are folks who don’t read and don’t look much before booking and will get a surprise no matter what. 

 

I share this trick with everyone. Tell your picky guest the average nightly rate a hotel in your zip is. 

 

As a guest, I look and only look at the property’s neighborhood median house value.  You can’t get wrong with average housing prices…and that’s about it. interior decorations aren’t really that worth complaining to me. 

 

I guess it’s probably just me. i care about location and safety over anything else.

 

As long as i’m not getting killed or robbed or any felonial victimized or infested (literally bugged) or waked up midnight in an Airbnb, Airbnb fulfills my purpose of travel. 

 

Many of my guests complain “old appliances”, and i’m like, they are in pictures, new from 2021, why are you complaining if they are as described. you don’t have to book if they are not up to your standards.

 

When i’m a guest, the only thing i complain is the surprising stuff.  “paper thin walls”, “street noise”, can’t shut off windows…. i never complained things i already know. however, many guests aren’t . they complain about the already described things and have unreal expectations 

Top tip thankyou re avg night/avg house price in the area! Whilst we are a farm, it still applies...

And totally true, guests complain about surprising things...had a guest once who complained about noisy dryer, said it gave them migraines and couldnt sleep at night. it was noisy (had a sign on it saying so, so we asked guests to use it when it wasn't going to bother them)...but never mind it's a massive house, and you could mute the noise by shutting the laundry door....and it was middle of summer so why use a dryer anyways?!.. it was a week away from getting replaced which was even more funny, as we just replaced the washer and the dryer was out of stock...

 

@Mary1523 the exterior property is stunning… 

 

our property is 120 years old, the last thing we do it reduce the prices, we roll up our sleeves and get to work on  big impact items, which often have the most bang for the buck, but require a bit of labor…

 

~refresh your paint colors…this will instantly make an impact; fresh paint = clean 

~re caulk all the bathrooms

~bath grout~ is it clean, does it need to be power washed?

 ~knobs: update kitchen knobs; and one of the bathrooms…

~refresh the decorative pillow covers

 

then, I’d search for a huge rustic kitchen island on FB marketplace…:)!

 

you have a dream place, do not lower your prices, as you may not like the clients you attract…

Sally10
Level 8
Mill Valley, CA

Bravo @Alex1485 

Good for you! Your place sounds terrific, like your attitude.

Thank you!

 

Yes i've realised repaint needs to be done especially the older 'colour feature' walls as I get more feedback....

Bathroom grout/caulking already done - I'm fannatical about keeping that white, clean and free of mould

Knobs a bit tricky - we tried, but everything we replaced with had smaller screws so nothing was fitting, so put on the too hard basket until we can find some custom knobs with larger screw sizes...

When walls get painted (after Dulux online colour consultant gives me some advice), i'll change decorative cushions for sure - thanks for reminder!

 

Hi! Your setting is so lovely, and the care you take in it show.s…

 

It’s hard  to set aside $ for styling when you are working on foundational issues.. too bad about the knobs, always a challenge to retrofit …

 

Sounds like you have a good plan; if you are working with the Dulce online color consultant…maybe before you begin, book a n online designer appointment, see if they can give you some ideas as well, maybe they can assist you come up with a general style or have access to resources to find couches, etc…you can buy over time.  

@Alex1485 Thanks - much appreciate the advice and feedback! Definitely feel like we can finally pay attention to the inside (we've got away with it for 8 years whilst fixing all the big foundational stuff inside and out)

Mike-And-Jane0
Level 10
England, United Kingdom

@Mary1523 From your examples given I would concentrate on guest comfort. Good mattresses and good sofas and all will be fine. Facebook marketplace has great deals on second hand sofas.

Thank you. Couches are something i've considered so I'll  pump that up my priority list. Mattresses are new when installed 8 years ago and still in fine condition.

@Mary1523 If your budget doesn’t allow for new couches, or you can’t find any on FB marketplace; consider adding one or two oversized/soft  24x24 decorative pillows…

 

works like a charm on our 2 “vintage” mid century chairs; whose backs can be quite stiff…

Thank you @Alex1485  ! I actually pivoted to realising I could replace one of the problematic 2 seater couches with 2 arm chairs that are easier to find and easier to transport as well if second hand. Couches need extra pair of hands!

 

love the pivot- 2 chairs, such a better idea for many reasons…

 

Wish you the best of luck sourcing the paint, chairs & on the floor project…excited to see your updates :)!