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Ep 7. Snag 5 Star Reviews with Setups that WOW Guests!

Short Summary

In our interview with Sabrina Afuhaamago, we are discussing how to Snag 5 Star Reviews with Setups that will WOW your Guests!


Do you want to know how to WOW your guests at your short-term rental?

Investing in a great guest experience can make a huge difference in your guest’s stay. Not only will it provide your guests with an unforgettable stay, but it will also help to ensure that your Airbnb is a success.

Our guest today, Sabrina Afuhaamago gives us a glimpse into her approach to setting up an STR. She goes over everything from researching the area, talking to locals, and making sure that your home is properly labeled and stocked with amenities.

Sabrina is a listing manager at Five Star B&B, an STR management and consulting firm. She is responsible for many tasks, including vetting prospective clients, coordinating with property owners, and managing daily logistics. But one of her most important responsibilities is setting up STRs.

“Be as nosy as possible when you get into a new space.”

In this episode, you will learn the following:

  1. Why exploring local attractions is important

  2. Sabrina’s number one tip for giving your guest the best experience

  3. The reason your Airbnb should have board games

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When you subscribe you'll receive access to the resources from this episode: 5 Star Bnb's Favorite Guest Experience Books, Games, & More!



00:04 Tracie Welcome to The STR Insiders Podcast. We share tips for achieving your STR goals, AHA Moments, funny stories, and all the latest gossip of this #STRLife. Listen in as we keep it real and maybe a little sassy, celebrate successes and own all the mistakes we've made along the way. Whether you're new to real estate investing, new to short term rentals, or a seasoned pro, there's something here for you. Jacquie is an STR property manager who consults with individuals looking to grow their own property management firm. Tracy owns STR consulting and media firm that provides education to investors who want to learn all about STR investing. For more information, please visit welcome to episode seven of The STR Insiders Podcast. Today we're talking to Sabrina from Five Star Bnb on how to set up your listing to WOW guests and earn five star reviews.

01:07 Jacquie Sabrina is my listing manager at Five Star Bnb, which is an STR management and consulting firm which manages millions of dollars in booking revenue annually. She vets prospective clients. She coordinates with property owners. She manages daily logistics. One of the things that she does at Five Star Bnb is she solely manages the STR setups. It's so hard for me to describe what Sabrina does, to be honest, because she does everything. She fills in all the gaps. She really is superhuman, like…

01:44 Sabrina I’ve become a Jack of all trades.

01:46 Tracie What parts of your background do you think really contribute to your ability to handle all the stuff Jacquie throws at you?

01:54 Sabrina I owe a lot of thanks to my parents, specifically. My dad was in the army for 26 years, so I grew up an army brat. My mom also spent some time in the army as well. I feel like she was superhuman. She would juggle, like, raising kids and PTA stuff and frg stuff, and she was all over the place. Watching her, I feel, really helped me learn how to manage people and manage my time.

02:18 Jacquie Being a product of the military, balanced with her Polynesian background, really helps her manage the island time thing. She's only a couple of minutes late most of the time.

02:30 Tracie I know when I met you guys, Jacquie still owns the chocolate company, and then you transitioned over into her management company. But take me back to the beginning.

02:41 Sabrina I met her right as I graduated high school, so 18 and looking for a job. I remember submitting my very very sad resume. It literally had one part time summer job and then volunteer work, and I was like, there's no way.

02:57 Jacquie It was the perfect resume. And you know why? Because she had no experience. She built a very detailed one-page resume about her personality and her hobbies and the things she does in her free time. She built a case for herself on this one page, whereas people who don't have any experience, they'll walk in her job and say, well, I don't have anything to put on my resume. She never even used that as an excuse. She made it happen. I remember looking at this resume and looking at Allen and said, I have a good feeling about her. I think she's going to be with us for a long time.

03:33 Sabrina This July will be nine years.

03:36 All Nine years.

03:39 Tracie What are your duties really now as a listing manager, like you said earlier at Jack of All Trade. What are you supposed to be responsible for?

03:49 Sabrina I help manage the admin team and then the contractors, like the cleaners and handyman. Another big portion of my job is just daily logistics and talking to property owners and clients. And then I'm exclusively in charge of set up

04:01 Tracie Is that because that's the thing that you like the most?

04:05 Sabrina It is probably my favorite thing about my job is Airbnb set up. That's the most fun.

04:11 Jacquie That's what she thinks. I prefer like the daily logistical type things and the problem solving. All the things that you do to set up a rental for success. I'm so glad that I don't have to do it all.

04:22 Tracie Tell me about your approach to setting up a new property. In a perfect world, when the property is ready to list, what's your process?

04:34 Sabrina My very first step is to go be as nosy as possible when I get into a new space.

04:39 Tracie Cool.

04:39 Sabrina So it's opening every cabinet, every drawer. I just like to take a good look around. I go through with property walkthrough and ultimate checklist just to see what needs to be communicated to guests, like what needs to be deep clean, what's going to be an issue, what needs to be repaired, all sorts of things. Or oh, there's this stone. Does it need special cleaner? Or this wood, is it real wood, fake wood? Does it need a special cleaner? Does this couch need a special stain proofing or anything like that to identify all those things? I feel like one of the main things we do in this initial walk through is idiot proofing as much as possible.

05:19 Tracie Well, I think that comes with the job, right? The less likely someone is to damage or break or hurt themselves even worse, the better for all of us.

05:29 Jacquie I think that's a big piece of guest functionality of an Airbnb and identifying the problems that could come up and the things that need to be communicated ahead of time to both cleaners and guests.

05:41 Tracie If you could only do one thing from your setup process, what thing would it be?

05:47 Sabrina Oh, man. I mean, there's so much to enjoy with Airbnb set up. My favorite thing I think is the house manual. It's just such a great resource for cleaners and admin, especially when they haven't been there. With the house manual, my absolute favorite thing is writing about local attractions and local restaurants, because you always get that question, like, what's the best thing to do? Like, where do I need to eat? Where do I need to go? When you live there, it's super easy, but when you don't, kind of time consuming, but it's also a lot of fun, for sure. I think our number one tip is just talk to as many locals as possible and see what they like and where they like to go.

06:22 Jacquie What did you do here in Myrtle Beach? Who did you talk to?

06:26 Sabrina Oh, gosh, the first person I talked to and I got here asking was my lift driver.

06:30 Jacquie What did he recommend?

06:32 Tracie That's smart.

06:33 Sabrina He actually told me about this really cool website. It's like Myrtle Beach live. He's like, yeah, if you go on there, they'll tell you all of the live events happening all over the city. This is my third time here and I've never heard of it. Any time we go out anywhere, we like to ask people who are working or like waitresses or anything like that, because they all have such great recommendations and just having this resource with all these recommendations is also super helpful to the admin.

06:58 Tracie I call it market research. Going to one of my remote projects and going to a different restaurant. Every single meal I eat, I try to eat at a different restaurant, and I take notes when I'm there when they're open, like great specials. Kind of what I think is their niche, the style of the place, so that I can put all that into the guest book. I don't typically use Lyft that much. I usually have a rental car. Your Lyft and Uber drivers are going to know everything that’s going on because that's a really great tip.

07:32 Jacquie Airbnb is trying to compete with hotels, like trying to be a concierge or being that local contact to kind of help guests and give them the best experience they can in the city.

07:45 Tracie Absolutely. Then, Jacquie, what if you could only do one thing for the setup process? What do you think is the most important?

07:55 Jacquie Oh, yeah, I'm always thinking about preventative management and getting into the mind of the guest and entering a space and thinking about what is going to come up. Recently we were in Florida at one of our clients new rentals. This rental is situated on a lake, and it is not a swimmable lake. It is a lake full of many alligators. We're like, well, why don't we ask the neighbors? We go and we introduce ourselves to the neighbors, and we ask the neighbors some questions. The neighbors were like, yeah, don't paddleboard. And watch out for the alligators during mating season, which is in September, I guess they get really lively during mating season.

08:36 Tracie I can't wait to see photos from September in this place.

08:42 Jacquie Sabrina moved the noise machine to the room closest to the lake just in case.

08:51 Tracie All right, so preventative communication. The gator mating season. Yeah, that's going to be a thing. So, for me, one of my favorite things, you came in and you labeled everything, and I was like, this is what it's supposed to be like. I miss it so much. When I travel to other units, I spend so much time flipping the same light switches every single time I come in and out of a room because I can't remember what turns on and what turns off or, like, searching through all the cabinets in a gigantic chef's kitchen. Light switches and cabinets and drawers and fun stuff like how to use the front door lock. My guess is that evolved out of being asked many times the door lock won't work. No, you just don't understand how to use it. Here we're going to stick the instructions to the lock. It's genius.

09:47 Jacquie So genius. Sabrina goes crazy with that label maker, too.

09:51 Tracie I really need to know the one you're using because I don't know how you make them really pretty. They look really clean and professional and heavy duty.

09:59 Jacquie I'm recently loving she's been doing the white labels on dark cabinets and dark surfaces, and it just looks so good. It's so clean. What label maker is that, Sabrina?

10:11 Sabrina I think it's Dynamo from Amazon.

10:14 Jacquie We'll add it to the resource links. Yeah. Make sure you subscribe to the website and then you get access to all the special resources.

10:22 Sabrina The first aid kit and the fire extinguisher stickers. When you favorite.

10:28 Jacquie She orders these stickers online, and they just look so good on cabinets and stuff, and they're just for marking. This is where the recycle bin, it's in this cabinet. This is where the trash is in this cabinet. And they're just symbols instead of words. And so effective.

10:43 Tracie Definitely the fire extinguisher and the first aid. When somebody needs those things, especially, they need to find them quickly. You guys do an amazing job labeling things in a way where it's super clear and helpful, but not like there are signs all over the place. What amenities do you think really contribute to higher rates?

11:02 Sabrina I think hot tub is probably the most popular. There are some people that will reach out and message me and they're like, I absolutely love this unit. It's perfect. There's only one thing I don't see hot tub as our hot tub. They're just, like, hoping you magically say yes.

11:16 Tracie We just didn't advertise it.

11:19 Sabrina Yeah, it happens all the time. Honestly.

11:23 Jacquie Why wouldn't you advertise a hot tub?

11:25 Sabrina Yeah. Saunas are also super popular, especially in the colder months and just amazing outdoor spaces. People love those. It's just a great place to be with your family or your friends when you're visiting.

11:38 Jacquie For me, it's anything that's clickable right. I think that's what beautiful outdoor spaces do is they generate clicks on your listing, which of course, are going to increase your nightly rates. I saw a listing recently in a Facebook group. The outside of this house was so obnoxiously painted, like, bright red and purple. The inside of the house, I mean, it was such bright colors and they had amazing amenities to a really great rental for gamers and pool tables and games and all that. I was like, this whole thing is going to do so well because when you see this obnoxiously bright colored house, you can't help but click it and look at it, right?

12:16 Tracie Don't encourage that, Jacquie. It's terrible. I think I know the listing you're talking about. It looks like somebody dumped a Lego box out and those are how they chose the exterior.

12:26 Jacquie It's going to do so well because so many people are going to click it. When you get all that interaction on your page, you climb up the feed and your rates go up, and it's like you can't help but look away, but then you're looking through all the photos and then you're actually like, this actually looks fun. Creating very attractive clickable spaces, whether it's an outdoor space or indoor space. Of course, outdoor spaces, people want to click on more and it's really going to contribute to higher rates.

12:54 Tracie I agree. Begrudgingly, but I agree. I feel sorry for the neighbors. I mean, the outside of that house is hideous, but it is going to stand out.

13:04 Jacquie I think generally, the fact that it's just so many poppy, bright colors and it just piques people's curiosity and you're getting those clicks, you're climbing the feed. Yeah.

13:16 Tracie Well, I mean, he definitely knows who his target client is for sure. No question. We all know who he's targeting. Kudos to having that clarity and just committing 110%.

13:32 Sabrina I would not want to be his cleaner.

13:35 Jacquie Good luck keeping a cleaner.

13:38 Tracie Yeah. Maybe there were some missteps that he made in choosing some of the amenities or some of the strategy there.

13:48 Jacquie What are some common set up mistakes that you see from our clients, Sabrina?

13:53 Sabrina People trying to shove as many guests into space as possible. That comes up so often. Even when we talk about it. Like before setup, we're just like, this is what we recommend. Another thing is just faces that feel like they're lacking. They built this really beautiful space, but then they're lacking in some of the amenities that make it a destination. Board games in the living room or if it's near the ocean, like beach toys and beach chairs.

14:21 Jacquie Yeah, a lot of Airbnb’s, they're just a space. Right. Sabrina and I are always talking about how do we make this a destination, because making it a destination, guests are going to pay more because they're truly going to hang out in the space and enjoy it. Sometimes we show up in the space, feel bare, and we're like, we need to create an experience here. Sabrina has suggestions always on what people can do to create a better experience and to spend so little money on these little things that go such a long way for guests. It's really worth it.

14:55 Tracie I see. Someone will post their listing, and it's brand new, and I need your feedback, what's it missing. There's not, like, a single piece of art or a single plant in the entire space, and it just has this very sterile feel to it.

15:09 Jacquie Yeah.

15:10 Tracie So, yeah, those little touches that make it feel welcoming and like you want to hang out in the space, in my opinion. I think the little touches that really bring it all together are just as important, if not more important, because if you just buy furniture and put it in the space, no one books your place. Then it's worthless. You want to draw them in.

15:32 Jacquie If you're not feeling the warmth and the love through the space, the guests aren't, either. You can't just be like, I got to be as cheap as possible through this set up, and you have to really get into the mind of the guest, and am I comfortable here? Would I want to hang out here? And ask yourself those questions.

15:45 Tracie 100%.

15:48 Jacquie Sabrina, do you remember that time we pulled the vintage weapons out of a closet?

15:52 Sabrina Oh, my God.

15:56 Jacquie Yeah.

15:57 Sabrina They just shoved it in a closet accessible for guests.

16:00 Tracie Speaking of shoving things in a closet, what's your biggest pet peeve?

16:05 Sabrina I absolutely hate drunk drawers. They're totally fine in your own home. When I get into unit, I usually am just like, why? Why is this here? If I'm lucky and I get to see the property owner, I like to put it all in a bag and be like, I think you left this here. I really don't want to sort through this. Some junk drawerss. I get in there, and it's like old homeowner documents and random batteries or light bulbs that don't work. Like door handles. Like, just random things. I can tell you, like, I don't know what to do with this, and just shove it in there, and I'll deal with it later. You don't deal with it before I get in.

16:44 Tracie You just bag it up and give it back to them. I like it.

16:49 Sabrina And I don't know if I'm allowed to mention it, but my all-time favorite smoke alarm, carbon monoxide alarm is the nest one because it's, like, a smart thing that can go to your phone, and it's great. If something happens, you have that record on your phone to be like, this is what actually happened. When the guest is saying one thing and it's not what it seems.

17:08 Jacquie They're one of my favorite things. I know. You know that one of my listings got suspended one time because the guest left a gas burner on and reported to Airbnb that we had a gas leak, and as soon as they reported it to us, were there within 20 minutes. We had this all documented through Airbnb messages, which was great. We called utilities, fire department, and they pretty much told us, yeah, the burner was left on Airbnb is like, we want documentation that it's been fixed, and the fire department won't give you documentation or utilities. Finally, were able to get somebody to write us something. It took us, like, four days while this listing shut down to get, like, documentation to show Airbnb. I would have loved to have a nest thermostat there that tracks all that and is able to show you all the levels. We could have just showed them a report.

18:07 Jacquie Plus you can connect to it remotely when something's happening, for sure if it's actually happening or not. I will always put those service stats and all of my personally owned Airbnb for sure.

18:21 Tracie Okay, noted. You've been talking about some crazy experiences. What are some of the fun things that you guys put into properties for guest experience?

18:33 Sabrina I think my favorite thing specifically is the quirky coffee book tables, especially when Airbnb’s have themes, because I love to help research and be like, oh, you're by the water. Let's do the seashell one. Or are there any specific to your state, your city? It's just so much fun to kind of research and look around to see what's available. When were at the Florida unit, the property owner had some really cool binoculars. We're just sitting here watching this lake and seeing all the birds, and we're just getting so excited and taking turns with the binoculars, which, by the way, we also saw through those binoculars a little tiny alligators sharing a log with a turtle. Probably one of my favorite things I've seen so far. We're like, man, what is this bird? We're trying to Google it and try and figure it out, and we're like, we should just get a book that's specific to Florida birds so people can use these binoculars and figure it out without having to Google and guess.

19:28 Sabrina We're also like, oh, can we find something about the alligators? Because there are alligators in the lake or the snakes or the bugs, because that's also a big thing in Florida, is the palmetto bugs, which is always fun to write about for guests.

19:42 Jacquie Yeah, I don't think we've ever gotten a cockroach complaint because of the signage, the palmetto bug signage that Sabrina has beautifully put together. It talks about how they're jokingly known as the Florida state bird and explains how normal they are and how they get inside and what you can do to prevent them. And again, all that preventative management. But, yeah, the coffee table books, it's like, have fun with it. Find some really funny, interesting, or weird books to put in your Airbnb for people to get a kick out of.

20:20 Tracie When I started working with you, it was definitely one of the things that was on the list that I needed to add. I thought it was such a smart idea and I had a lot of fun with it. I think I got like a cocktail. But it's like tequila mockingbird. All of the drinks are like literary puns. I have this other one which I don't know that the actual content is great, but it just cracks me up because the name of the book is What Would Skeletor Do?

20:52 Jacquie I love it.

20:56 Tracie I like your idea about the local side of it as well. Again, really customizing the property to where they're at and connecting to the local vibe and wildlife. You've got me thinking, like, I wonder if there's a cockroach, like kids book.

21:14 Jacquie Exactly. I know were looking at all sorts of cute alligator books for Florida. I think we did find a cute kids one, didn't we?

21:23 Sabrina I believe so. One of my favorite coffee table books. I haven't looked for every state, but it's like welcome to wherever. And I've seen the Colorado one. The Florida one I think New Mexico was one. I'm kind of hoping they have one for every state because I think that's just so amazing and cute. I think it's meant for kids, but it's also just super adorable for adults as well.

21:43 Tracie Very cool.

21:44 Jacquie Well, we got to talk about games. I've always been really big on board games. And not just any board game. Like a lot of Airbnb’s that provide board games. You show up and it's like Scrabble and Chest and that's not how you make your Airbnb fun. Guys, I'm just going to put that tip out there. Interesting, colorful, funny, weird board games that people have never seen before. Go a long way with guests. Don't be afraid to throw a few classics in there. But I love Taco cat. I love what's the burrito one, Tracy?

22:18 Tracie I don't know the name of it, but you literally throw a burrito at your opponent. I haven't played it. I've just seen it.

22:26 Jacquie Burrito toss of some sort.

22:31 Sabrina One of my favorites is you're going to get Monopoly because it's so classic and standard. I feel like you have to get theme ones. Like we like to get Colorado monopoly. Or there's so many different genres of it. Like get something fun, don't get something boring.

22:45 Jacquie Yeah, don't get the classic, I love the game. OK Boomer. It's hilarious.

22:52 Tracie I'm going to buy it for my mother.

22:55 Jacquie It's like trivia, which is hilarious. I also love there's like a Bob Frost game. And it's just such pretty packaging, too. I think it's really just like pictionary, but it's Bob Ross themed. Get the Bob Ross themed pictionary. Do not get regular pictionary. Have fun with it. Make it colorful. Make it fun. Yard games. Every Airbnb should have cornhole. People can just picture themselves doing it. It's so fun. It looks beautiful in photos.

23:27 Sabrina My favorite thing, too, with the cornhole is if, like, an artist or if you are an artist, like getting plain ones and decorating them. I think it was yours at your first unit, Jacquie. They're, like Colorado themed, aren't they?

23:38 Jacquie Because I had a cleaner who was an aspiring artist, and she painted I mean, I could not believe how stunning they were. She made them Colorado themed and painted them and it was so cool. I think there are some people who specifically just do that on Etsy. Too, where they'll hand paint corn holes and sell them and such a fun thing to add. At my current Airbnb’s, I don't know how this is going to work out. I don't know if I can recommend this, but I have hula hoops and I have a bunch of outdoor games that I can hang, and I am spray painting them with glow in the dark spray paint so that when guests come outside at night, they're going to see a bunch of glowing games on the fence.

24:21 Tracie I'm excited about this.

24:22 Jacquie I hope it's fun. I hope people think it's so cool. I don't know how the spray paint works. I read very mixed things about it. We're going to hope that it lasts and see how it goes. But it's a cool idea.

24:34 Tracie It will, or it'll need another touch up. Either way. All right, ladies. Well, this has been fun. Thank you for getting together with me.

24:42 Tracie For Myrtle Beach and for everyone listening. Jacquie and Sabrina created a shopping list that includes all the things we talked about today, so make sure you're subscribed to the website so that you can access the VIP resources.

24:56 Jacquie If you enjoyed this episode, we'd be so grateful if you rated and reviewed it. Also subscribe, subscribe for more insider knowledge. We can help you get the edge in the STR world. You can find additional resources for your STR journey as well as our social media handles at


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