Reviews are not enough.
We have terrific reviews from guests, hundreds of them between all of the homes – Don’t base your decision on them. Don’t choose a home based on anyone else's reviews either. In the hotel business, the guest experience is extremely personal. One guest dream room is a nightmare for another. I suggest a direct phone call with the property manager or the owner. Air BNB discourages this; they are wrong. From an owner/manager perspective, this is ideal for me.
I can tell if the customer is right for a home or not, and if not, lead them to the home that is better. Communication, in advance of booking, is crucial to satisfaction upon arrival. Having a corporation in between an owner/manager and a customer is a barrier to success. For the guests, this phone call will allow them to ask critical questions about the property and get honest answers back.
Texting and emailing eliminate inflection and tone. The call is key.
Here are some samples of questions travelers should ask to help them better understand the property and the management of it before they arrive:
1. Is someone available if we have an issue? How long is the typical response time? Can we contact you directly? - This will tell you a lot about how the home is cared for and how you will be cared for as guests.
2. Is everything on the property working right now? – If something is wrong, its probably been wrong for a while and won't be fixed before you arrive. Deferred maintenance results in adjacent failures I can assure you.
3. If we arrive late, will someone meet us? For me, when people ask this, I can give them the comfort that I am there for them 24 hours a day if needed
4. How often is the pool cleaned? - If it is less then weekly, you know your dealing with a casual program.
5. Do you own or manage any other properties and if so, are you licensed for business? Knowing this will differentiate between the casual operation and a professional company. Technically, anyone taking bookings and collecting money, especially advanced deposits should be a licensed Virgin Islands Realtor.
Overall, especially on St John, you will probably be taken care of either way. St Johnians have pride in our island and want you to have a great trip. However, professionally managed and cared for properties can provide a far better experience, while still offering you the extensive benefits of staying in a Vacation Home rather than in a hotel. On St John, people had been renting vacation homes professionally for more than 30 years before AIR BNB came along. Take the time to find out who your hosts are and how they care for a place before putting down a deposit.