How to respond to a bad review on Airbnb and Vrbo

The dos and don’ts for dealing with negative online reviews


You know the feeling. That sucker punch sensation when one of your vacation rental guests leaves you a negative review online. Whether it’s a fair assessment or not, it’s disheartening.

Want to know how the pros tackle bad reviews online? We chatted with Adrienne Digles, who manages the 29-person reputation management team at Vacasa. Her team audits and responds to reviews across the web, including on Airbnb, Vrbo, Yelp, Facebook, and Instagram—not to mention our own platform, During peak seasons (typically summer and the holidays), the number of reviews can range from 50,000 to 70,000 per month.

Here are her recommendations for how to handle those dreaded negative reviews. Plus, she offers real-life examples of what to say—and not say—in return.

Do recognize that mistakes happen

A bad review doesn’t mean your vacation rental won’t be a success. Approach negative ratings or reviews as an opportunity. View them as constructive feedback that will make your vacation home even better, Adrienne advises.

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Approach negative reviews as an opportunity. View them as constructive feedback that will make your vacation rental even better.

Don’t shoot off a quick reply

While it’s best to respond as soon as you can, mull it over for a few hours. First, this allows you to cool off so you’re not tempted to send out a rash response. Plus, you’ll need this time to look into the guest’s complaint, work on a solution, and write out a thoughtful response.

Do address all negative reviews

There’s a lot at stake here—appeasing the disgruntled guest and proving to future guests that you’ll have their back. “This is your chance to show that you take feedback to heart, inform future guests on the steps you took to rectify any issues, and prove that you are a proactive host who's responsive to your guests’ needs,” Adrienne explains.

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Don’t write generic replies

The more personal and specific you can be in your response, the better, Adrienne says. It shows that you both listened and understood why the guest was upset. Plus, it proves to potential guests that you’re a real person who empathizes with their experience.

Say this:
"We’re so sorry you were cold at night. Thank you for bringing that to our attention. We’ve added several spare blankets to each room so every guest is comfortable throughout the night."

Not this:
"We’re sorry for the issues during your stay and we will fix this for our next guests.”

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Do follow a consistent format in your responses

Start off by thanking the guest for their feedback and for helping you improve. Then, outline what you’ve done to fix the issues they mentioned.

Here’s a real-life Vacasa response to a bad review:

"Hi, thanks for providing feedback on your stay with us. We’re so sorry the hot tub stopped working during your stay. We know this was something you and your group really looked forward to using. We’re very disappointed that we weren’t able to repair the hot tub during your stay and would like to thank you for allowing us to compensate you for this. Since then, we’ve inspected and fixed the hot tub so future guests can enjoy it. We hope you’ll give us another chance to host you in the future so you can get the full experience of this beautiful home."

Don’t respond defensively

It’s natural to want to defend yourself, your service, and your vacation home when you receive a bad review. Especially if you disagree. But beware: “Defensive replies often end up increasing the negative impact of the review,” Adrienne points out. “Potential guests are much more likely to believe the guest's account of what happened. Worse, they may choose not to book your home if they think interacting with you would be a poor experience or that they will not be heard.”

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Defensive replies often end up increasing the negative impact of the review.

Do use gentle language when an explanation is necessary

If you’d like to note that you did everything you could for the guest, or that their claims are false, choose your words carefully. Stay clear of pointing fingers or being accusatory.

Say this:
“We wish we could have made your stay more comfortable. Next time, if something isn’t up to par, reach out to us during your trip so we can address it ASAP. We’re here any time to help you have the best stay possible."

Not this:
“You never told us that the shower was clogged and we tried to help you with the broken dishwasher, but you wouldn't let us in the home."

Don’t forget who’s reading your response

According to Adrienne, it’s unlikely that the disgruntled guest will see your response or be impacted by it. Instead, potential guests are the ones who are paying close attention to how you respond. “They’ll want to know what could possibly go wrong in your home,” she says. “Showing you are empathetic to their frustrations will assure them that you will be a host who’s great to work with if something does arise.”

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Do offer some sort of compensation for really bad guest experiences

If you determine a complaint wasn’t only justified, but also due to your own oversight, there are a few ways to make it up to upset guests. They usually save and budget for their vacation over several months, Adrienne explains. “It’s understandably disappointing to feel like they invested in something that went poorly.” One obvious option is monetary compensation. That acknowledges that your guests didn’t get what they paid for and gives them an opportunity to invest the funds towards a more enjoyable stay, she says.

Another possibility is offering guests a free night or a percentage off their next stay. If the guests are still in the middle of their stay, you could consider paying for a dinner out or buying event tickets they can enjoy while you’re in the home making any necessary repairs.

When you rent with Vacasa, we often have other vacation rentals nearby at our disposal if we need to move any guests to a new location.

Don’t hold off on fixing what needs fixing

Inspect your vacation home for any issues mentioned in the review. Then, make a plan to fix or address these issues. Vacasa's reputation management team forwards complaints to our local teams, who then discuss the issue with the homeowner and arrange for inspections or needed repairs (and we follow up with them afterward to confirm what was fixed).

Do turn to a vacation rental manager well-versed in guest relations

Responding to negative guest reviews requires both sensitivity and savvy. At Vacasa, our reputation management team not only takes care of the tricky phrasing, but we understand what works and what doesn’t in a review response, Adrienne says. “We’re also happy to take an owner’s sentiments and work to communicate their thoughts in the most powerful and generous way possible.”

Even better, vacation rental management companies—like Vacasa—have streamlined how to take useful feedback from reviews and leverage them to implement improvements. “If something needs fixing, our ground staff is there to do it. If a listing has to be more specific, our copywriters are on it.”

“All homeowners have to do is sit back while their bookings increase and their guest satisfaction gets better and better.”

Even bad reviews can be golden opportunities. How you respond to negative comments and feedback online can either hinder or encourage future bookings. Follow these expert tips to win back disgruntled guests, while showing future guests your home is worth booking.

Want help getting more glowing guest reviews? Let’s chat about all the ways we keep guests happy throughout their stay.

Vacation rental reviews FAQ

While you can post public replies to Airbnb reviews (within 30 days of when the guest left the review), Airbnb doesn’t allow you to remove them. However, they would consider taking down reviews that you report for violating their review policy. These include reviews that:

  • include profanity, name calling, or assumptions about a person’s personality or character
  • mention a person’s religious, social, or political views
  • are based on circumstances out of anyone’s control, such as weather
  • are based on non-Airbnb services, such as restaurants, airlines, or rideshares

Vacation rental guests tend to leave negative reviews when their expectations aren’t met, whether that pertains to decor, cleanliness, or customer service. We’ve found that guests are typically dissatisfied and driven to leave a bad review in these common situations:

  • The home isn’t clean. Today, guests equate cleanliness with being safe and germ-free. That’s why it’s more vital than ever for your home to be immaculate by the time guests arrive. At Vacasa, our professional housekeepers thoroughly clean after every stay.
  • The description and photos are misleading. Exaggerating your home’s appeal (such as claiming to be located in a quiet neighborhood, when in fact you’re next to an elementary school) or listing amenities that no longer work or are gone altogether—these are all fodder for leaving guests disappointed and wanting to express their dismay online.
  • The home didn’t provide the essentials. WiFi, toilet paper, hand soap, fluffy towels. These are all vacation rental necessities that guests expect at minimum—no matter how much (or little) they pay for their reservation. Don’t know what’s considered essential for your vacation home? Check out our ultimate inventory checklist for vacation rentals, which outlines what necessities (and generous extras) to provide guests in every room.

Yes. You should reply to every bad review a guest leaves for you. Responding to negative reviews has many benefits, says Adrienne Digles, who leads Vacasa’s reputation management team. “Mainly, responding personally and authentically shows that you’re paying close attention and care to your guests and their experience in your home,” she says. Seasoned travelers know that things can go wrong wherever you stay. But, a thoughtful host who tries to make things right can make all the difference.

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Vacasa offers property management and other real estate services directly through Vacasa LLC and through Vacasa LLC's licensed subsidiaries. Click here for more information about Vacasa's licensed real estate brokerage/property manager in your state. Vacasa’s licensed real estate brokerages/property managers include: Vacasa Alabama LLC; Vacasa Arizona LLC; Vacasa of Arkansas LLC; Vacasa Colorado LLC (Micah Victory); Vacasa Delaware LLC, 302-541-8999; Vacasa Florida LLC; Vacasa Illinois LLC 481.014072, Micah Victory Managing Broker Lic# 471.021837; Vacasa Louisiana LLC, Dana MacCord, Principal Broker, ph 504.252.0155 (Licensed in LA); Vacasa Michigan LLC, 602-330-9934; Vacasa Missouri LLC, Vicki Lyn Brown, Designated Broker; Vacasa Nevada LLC; Vacasa New Hampshire LLC,45 NH-25, Meredith, NH 03253, Susan Scanlon, Broker of Record; Vacasa Minnesota, Broker: Micah Victory, license #40877637; Vacasa New Mexico LLC, 503-345-9399; Vacasa New York LLC, 888-433-0068, Susan Scanlon, Real Estate Broker; Vacasa North Carolina LLC; Vacasa Oregon LLC; Vacasa Pennsylvania LLC; Vacation Palm Springs Real Estate, Inc., California DRE #01523013, Mark Graham, California DRE #00700720; Vacasa Real Estate LLC (licensed in Texas, Debra Brock, Designated Broker); Vacasa Real Estate LLC (licensed in Washington, Robert Brush, Designated Broker); Vacasa Seasonals Inc., California DRE #02160171, Lisa Renee Stevens, California DRE #01485234; Vacasa South Carolina LLC; Vacasa South Dakota LLC; Vacasa Tennessee LLC; Vacasa Vacation Rentals of Hawaii LLC, 69-201 Waikoloa Beach Dr. Ste. #2F17, Waikoloa, HI 96738; Vacasa Vacation Rentals of Montana LLC, Terah M. Young, Licensed Property Manager; Vacasa Virginia LLC; Vacasa Wisconsin LLC; Vacasa Wyoming LLC. In Canada, this advertisement is provided by Vacasa Canada ULC, CPBC lic. number 75826, 172 Asher Rd. V1X 3H6 Kelowna, BC.