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THIRDHOME, Vacation Home Exchange

Home Exchanges: How can I get a 5-star review?

September 12, 2017 • By THIRDHOME

THIRDHOME analyzed over 300,000 words from member property reviews to determine the recipe for the 5-star review


Longtime members most likely know the feeling; that sense of pride when your property has been given the 5-star review, it’s almost intoxicating. It speaks to your style, decor, hospitality, and adds vital context to your own perception of that second home. It’s a validation in many ways and a shout of approval from your peers. Longtime members have probably also felt slighted by impetuous 4-star reviews with little suggestion for improvement- the kind that leaves you thinking, “Where did I go wrong?”

New members, on the other hand, may not have a firm grasp on the features that make for a 5-star review. It was a question of interest to the THIRDHOME team as well.

“What are the ingredients for a 5-star review?” we would ask, staring longingly into a database filled with thousands of rows of member feedback.

By analyzing 4,000+ rows of 5-star reviews left since March of 2010 and ending in July 2017 we were able to arrive at some semblance of an answer. Some words may not surprise you, but others may change the way you think about your property.

300,000+ words were run through textual analysis to determine frequency. Stop words (common words: the, about, it) were filtered out. Only lexical items are included. Frequencies range from 0.05% to 0.25%. 

Here are the Top 20 Words found in 5-star THIRDHOME property reviews:

20. Activities

5-star review

Many reviews revolve around the activities that the guest participated in during their trip. Having access to unique local activities is a must for a top review. Some of the most popular are skiing, fishing, tennis and boating.

19. Stunning

5-star review

Everyone wants a stunning and photogenic property. If you’re lucky, you have a beautiful view from your second home. But if the vistas leave something to be desired, maybe focus on the exterior design of the house itself. Guests want to be blown away as soon as they see the property.

18. Accommodating

5-star review

Top reviews usually talk about the accommodations of the host. Was the host friendly? Was he/she helpful and knowledgeable of the area and property? As a host, go above and beyond to make sure that guests make the most of their time at your property. That extra human touch will definitely be remembered by your guest. You can learn more about being an outstanding host here. 

17. Beaches

5-star review

This one is tough to control. Obviously, you can’t lift your property up from Montana and bring it to the coast. But water assets always draw higher praise as a rule. If you’re near a beach, fantastic. If not, focus on a local lake or river asset that might have some recreational use for your guest.

16. Gorgeous

5-star review

Do your best to show off your home’s personal style and aesthetic. Landscaping is especially important. Feature flora on your property that guests might not be familiar with, and that compliments the style of the property. Gorgeous natural assets are a great accent to any home and will make a lot of distance towards that 5-star review.

15. Bedrooms

5-star review

Let’s face it, there’s certainly a positive correlation between guest experience and number of bedrooms. We all value privacy in our stays, and the more room the better. There’s probably a point of diminishing returns (think the Biltmore Estate), but as a general rule more is better. The quality of bedroom is also huge.  En-suite bathrooms, bedroom views, Jacuzzis and other in-room amenities add a certain distinction to your property. Make sure that your guests wake up each morning in a bedroom that screams pure satisfaction. They will surely thank you.

14. RITZ

5-star review

We’re proud to be partnered with the Ritz-Carlton Destination Club™. With a name that’s synonymous with high-quality customer service, it’s easy to see why the name would be featured frequently in reviews. As an individual property owner, you should strive to be the Ritz-Carlton Destination Club™ of your neighborhood. Aspiring to their gold standards of service will make you a shoo-in for a 5-star review.

13. Decorated

5-star review

Designer, Juan Montoya, once said that a room, “-should never allow the eye to settle in one place. It should smile at you and create fantasy.” Your second-home is a new canvas for your interior design and decor. Your decor should be uninhibitedly creative and unapologetically you. When you project that sense of self into your property, guests are sure to respond. Think about what the decor in your second home communicates. Does it smile back at you?

12. Kids

5-star review

Your second home could be the backdrop for a summer full of childhood memories. Ensuring that those memories are positive ones depends on how family-friendly your property and location are. See if there are any places of interest for children in your area such as an aquarium, water park or beach. Considering the experience of junior members can go a long way towards ensuring a great guest experience.

11. Equipped

5-star review

In it’s most frequent context, equipped could usually be substituted for stocked. Most references are geared towards food and supplies that might be useful in relation to the property. Having a full pantry, cleaning supplies, toiletries and sundry items will make your property feel like an all-inclusive resort. These ready-to-go properties tend to have excellent ratings.

10. Relaxing

5-star review

Such a broad and ambiguous term- how are you supposed to make sure your guest is relaxed? You probably purchased your second-home partially because you thought it was relaxing. What aspects were relaxing to you; the pool, sauna, on-call masseuse or the beach? Be sure to communicate all the aspects that you found relaxing about your second home, and make sure your guest has full access to them.

9. Stayed

5-star review

Well, we should hope that your guests stayed! In all honesty, this word ranks high in frequency because most reviews begin with, “We stayed in X property.” If the phrase, “we shouldn’t have stayed” shows up in your review, you might be far from the coveted 5-stars.

8. Amenities

5-star review

People love household and external amenities that they can’t access back home. So make sure that your listed amenities are ready for use upon a guest’s arrival. This should be thought of in the same sense as the ready-to-go house. Make sure the pool is clean and that all electronic features work hassle-free. Provide detailed instruction to any amenities that prove to be complicated to newcomers.

7. Fabulous

5-star review

Fabulous…Gorgeous…Stunning. I’m sure you’re catching on to the pattern here. Make sure your property is as fabulous as it is gorgeous and stunning.

6. Spacious

5-star review

Guests love an open concept home. Space for entertaining, dining and socializing is imperative to any successful stay. If your space is limited within your second-home, explore options for creating outdoor spaces for congregating. Spacious bedrooms and added privacy are also mentioned frequently in conjunction with this word. Don’t cramp your guests or their style!

5. Location

5-star review

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! Is your home accessible to natural assets, scenic views, entertainment and shopping? Is there public transit available and is the neighborhood economically sustainable? These are all questions you must ask yourself when listing your property for exchange. Focus on the strengths of your property’s location, and communicate how your property’s location is desirable to guests. Guests will appreciate the frame-of-reference and will use it to maximize the value of their trip. Leave maps, visitor bureau brochures and other informative materials for guest use.

4. Condo

5-star review

The frequency of the word condo suggests a few things. One, that guests enjoy luxury condominiums just as much as they can enjoy standalone properties, and two, that guests have a great value for location. Highly rated condos tend to be in large metropolitan areas, and have immediate access to city amenities that more remote properties may not have.

3. Restaurants

5-star review

It is no surprise that most THIRDHOME members are huge foodies. Members want access to unique dishes, talented chefs and full-service gastronomic experiences. Your property can play to almost all of the sense except for taste. Make sure your guests leave with a taste of their adventure at one of your favorite local restaurants. Leave a list of your favorites along with the visitor information at your property.

2. Villa

5-star review

The condo may be popular in many contexts, but villa has a universal linguistic appeal. Once used to describe the country estates of Rome’s upper class, Villa now characterizes a number of home styles. They are generally very spacious, have gardens, water features, terraces, a gorgeous view and elegant furnishings. These properties tend to be in lower population density areas and offer luxury accommodations. Guests go nuts for a villa.

1. Enjoyed

 5-star review

Here’s the key to it all- enjoyment. Make sure your guests enjoy the property as much as you do, it’s as easy as that! With a bit of attention to detail, compassion, and hospitality you’re sure to get 5-star reviews every time you host. Because after all, enjoying yourself is what this club is all about, not stars. Although, the stars are nice.

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