Getting bookings to your vacation rental is often the easy part, but if you want to maintain your success or grow it, you will need to do more than publish a listing and leave a key under the mat. Your properties need to shine!
Guests have expectations you need to meet, and as the vacation rental industry grows, these expectations will only rise. How do you measure up to the competition, or better yet - surpass it?
Disarm even the most discerning guest when you prioritize cleanliness.
Put your best foot forward right from the start by establishing and following a detailed clean routine, striving to make every open door a "wow" moment. A fine-tuned cleaning routine with attention to detail is a sure-fire path to achieving the standard that will keep the masses praising, and confidently booking, your properties all year long.
But there’s a lot more that goes into vacation rental cleaning than an outsider might think. First, you have to find and hire a team of housekeepers and onboard them to ensure they will achieve your standards. The next task is more challenging: replicating that signature quality again and again while managing your entire property operations. On top of it all, you need to have a strategy around charging cleaning fees on channels and how best to collect them.
This may seem like a lot, but don’t worry! We’ll break down everything you need to know to ensure your properties are sparkling in no time!
Recruiting Your Cleaning Crew & Local Team
Depending on the size of your inventory, you may need one cleaner or a whole crew. Determine your needs based on the number of homes you manage, your average occupancy rate, and the timeframes of your check-in/check-out policies. When looking to hire, there are a number of online services to help you find the ideal candidate. Some are free to advertise on, while others charge a fee for listing.
Post your available opportunities on websites like Indeed, Craigslist, and ZipRecruiter to reach applicants in your area, and review applications as they come in to discover qualified applicants. You can also turn to your partners in the industry or the homeowners themselves, for direct referrals to trusted local cleaners. Always be sure to adhere to local hiring laws when employing new staff, and consider how your current insurance policies apply to employed or contracted cleaning staff.
Consider this thorough example of a great job listing for a vacation rental cleaner:
Housekeeping Cleaner for Vacation Rentals and Homes
Incentives for Excellence and Dependability! Perfect for professionals with cleaning experience!
REQUIREMENTS: Available during the summer season. Approximate hours 9:30-5:00 (check out 10AM - check in 4:30PM). Must be dependable and physically able to bend, kneel, stretch and lift at least 30 lbs. You will turn over properties efficiently and to our established standard.
Must have reliable transportation, driver’s license, smartphone with GPS and camera for communication purposes. Previous residential cleaning or housekeeping experience (1 year or more) is required. Previous hotel or vacation rental cleaning experience is highly desired!
EXPECTATIONS: Clean/turn over vacation homes/condos between 10AM - 4PM. Create a welcoming environment for guests and owners by ensuring homes are cared for and cleaned to standard. Make beds and set out towels for guests. Ensure entrance and patio/pool areas are free of debris. Replenish toiletries such as soaps and paper products. Notify management of any damages or issues to homes. Excellent verbal communication skills. Willingness to maintain confidentiality. Work must pass quality inspections.
COMPENSATION: Pay is per property/unit. You are in control - the more efficient you are, and the more properties you can clean - the more pay you will average each hour ($xx - $xx/hr). These are independent contracted jobs/1099 positions.
We will text/email for a phone interview, and if qualified, set up a time to meet and sign paperwork, which is required to begin working.
We look forward to you joining our team!
If you're more comfortable working with an established cleaning service, there are a growing number of options to consider in that sector, as well. Companies like Properly offer cleaning services to expanded areas. You can even schedule and customize all of your cleans directly within their user-friendly apps.
Establishing standards for cleaning
Good, bad, or otherwise - guests know exactly what to expect when booking with brands on both ends of the spectrum, from Hilton and Hyatt, to Motel 6 and TravelLodge. You are a brand as well, whether you manage one home or 1,000, and that brand should carry a standard, too! What can your guests always expect, without fail, when they book a stay with you?
If you want to guarantee the crispest linens and sparkling silver - say so, and commit to it. Your guidelines should address regular, and seasonal or periodic, procedures.
Your brand standard sets the bar for what you consider acceptable...while still always aiming to over-achieve. But keep it realistic. Don't promise to slap up a fresh paint job between each stay when this is certainly not a task you can accomplish in the typical window of a couple hours between back-to-back guests.
Even if you're not seeing bookended bookings now, you have to prepare for the scenario and give your cleaners a reasonable task list to meet in the allotted time. In the interest of accountability and transparency, detail your standards clearly for your staff and your guests, including specific expectations for a presentable, rent-ready home.
If you have a clever gimmick that adds a special touch (i.e. Doubletree's famous cookies, or a complimentary gift basket at check-in), treat this as any other aspect of your clean and prep routine!
Example vacation rental cleaning checklist
To reinforce your standards and solidify your expectations, create a cleaning checklist outlining the tasks to be performed, and their frequency (between guests, seasonally, etc.). Here's an example of a checklist that you can use to get started. Add in any specifics that may apply to your property uniquely.
Download the MyVR Cleaning Checklist here!
Of course the best plans are all for naught without a system to implement them. If you manage just a few homes, this is surely easier to oversee than a collection of properties, but regardless of your property count, basic task organization remains essentially the same. Assign home cleanings logically, and with adequate time given the space and the size of your crew. Divide and conquer - across the inventory, and in each individual home.
When many homes are in play, try to keep your cleaners assigned to the same homes as familiarity can always be a benefit in maintaining the standard.
In addition, keep extended service projects and “spring cleans” in mind. locking off dates on your availability calendar to accommodate larger projects is sometimes necessary. Always assign a trusted representative(s) to serve as property inspector to assure your standards are met with each cleaning.
To keep everyone in real-time communication and on the same page, consider integrating a scheduling app that links all staff to the cleaning processes. Google has a basic task scheduler that can easily be incorporated with Gmail, Google Drive, and the entire suite of Google products.
Alternatively, MyVR’s Cleaners and Maintenance feature organizes and automates all of your housekeeping operations with capabilities that include: real-time progress updates from staff, assigning workers to specific cleanings, automatically scheduling jobs before and after every reservation, blocking off calendars for larger projects and more. MyVR’s native Cleaners and Maintenance offering will streamline your property operations from a single platform.
Cleaning fees explained
A cleaning fee is a one-time fee charged to guests to cover the cost of cleaning the rental at departure. While some vacation rental hosts do not charge a cleaning fee, it has become generally common to do so, and it is not unwise. Aside from keeping your costs at bay, the inclusion of a cleaning fee sends the message that you are taking the task seriously, and that you are committed to providing an exceptional product. Alternatively, some hosts choose to incorporate the cleaning fee into their nightly rental rate.
Your costs for cleaning will vary based on the size and specifics of your unit, and you should charge an amount that covers this cost. Some hosts will use this fee as a means to add to their rental income, and while this is sometimes a logical practice, make sure to research your competition to make sure you’re not pricing yourself out of the market!
A search of vacation rental listings in varied areas shows average cleaning fees of around $30 for a guest suite unit, $50 for a 2-bedroom condo, and upwards of $100 for 4+ bedroom pool homes. A quick look at comparable vacation rental properties in your market should give you adequate insight to set a competitive rate more specific to your area and property type.
One tip to keep in mind…higher cleaning rates are often known to encourage longer stays. If your flat-rate cleaning fee is $100 at departure, a guest staying one night will be increasing their “nightly rate” substantially, but a guest staying for a week will likely see your less than $15/night cleaning fee to be a bargain worth a mint in peace of mind!
It cannot be overstated that a clean property is one of the most crucial goals a homeowner can hope to maintain in the vacation rental industry. Based on a 2018 Consumer Travel Study by TurnKey, “cleanliness is the feature most likely to make or break a traveler’s vacation rental experience – over 40% ranked cleanliness as the most important feature when staying in a vacation rental”.
A clean property prompts glowing reviews - building your brand, boosting guest confidence, increasing your rental’s value, and building up your bookings! Chances are, if you look through the reviews of your competitors, you will notice that many negative reviews cited conditions that simply did not meet expectations.