Finding a dependable cleaning crew for your Airbnb can be a difficult task. When you find a good cleaner, you then need to coordinate turnovers – making sure both the host and cleaning crew are on the same schedule. Thank goodness we stumbled upon the free app, TurnoverBnB.
Hosts must show appreciation to their cleaners, whenever possible. After all, being stuck without a cleaning crew, when your vacation rental is two time zones away, could put your operation out of commission and force cancelations. Using the app will be appreciated by your cleaning crew – take it from me!
Becoming a Vacation Rental Owner
A little background about me: I started up a blog called Abandoned Cubicle roughly three years ago. After a few decades of churning through Corporate America, I was ready to leave it behind. Real estate became my golden ticket, and the opportunities to buy rentals after the housing crash of 2008 were abundant.
I wound up purchasing four long-term rentals for over four years. I was (and still am) learning the ropes about being a landlord and property manager. Having been a landlord for 6 years now, the worst problem I’ve had to deal with has been letting in locked-out tenants. (Knock on wood!!)
I never really had ambitions to take on a short-term Airbnb-style hospitality business. But, the rental market dynamics were changing quickly. You simply couldn’t find good deals in our market any more. Modest, but solid starter homes that were going for $150,000 were spiking up to $175,000 or higher.
Sure, a few lower-price homes popped up now and then, but they all needed serious rehab. And dropping a lot of coin up-front on a rental property isn’t a smart investment move unless it’s a deep discount or auction property taken on the super-cheap…
Airbnb Has Proven a Profitable Side Gig
So, in 2017 while visiting my parents in northern Michigan, we wound up putting an offer in on a cute upper-level condo. We figured this place, if any, would make a fine vacation rental. Northern Michigan, especially along the Lake Michigan shoreline, is a beautiful getaway during the summer months.
The condo needed some cosmetic TLC and it took a couple of long weekend trips to replace the flooring, and the fixtures and set up all of the furnishings. It was exhausting work. But also rewarding. I headed off to the airport that January day feeling good about the potential this condo had. Even in wintertime, we’d see a handful of guests looking for a ski weekend getaway.
It’s important to note that I did my homework and ran the numbers in Excel before making an offer on this unit. Our long-term rentals clear roughly $500 in net income each month, and I wanted our vacation rental to do as well, or better than that baseline.
If for no other reason than I knew the vacation rental would require more intense management than the highly passive long-term ones.
Here we are, about a year-and-a-half into being hosts, and the experiment is proving successful. Summer months bring in tremendous revenues, but even the winter ski season and fall have been lucrative. What’s our secret? We have an amazingly CLEAN space. The reviews tell no tales – our guests always recognize the cleanliness of the condo.
Cleaning Services Hosts Can Depend On
A host simply cannot be successful in a competitive market, if his or her place is a dump or even just a little unkempt. Luckily, my parents live in the same complex as our condo. They used their network to round up a few candidates and I ended up hiring my first cleaner the last weekend of set up, that frigid January.
Things were going pretty well with her. Never a missed cleaning and never a complaint from guests. I felt I’d hit the jackpot since this was such a crucial part of the business: The turnover. Every single time a new guest arrives, the place has to SHINE. Clean sheets, clean towels, shower curtains, dusted, swept, cleaned out the fridge, etc., etc. Every. Single. Time.
Sadly, my new cleaning friend decided she’d become too busy with this job on top of her others, and she quit cleaning altogether, right before high season was about to begin in late May. D’oh!
Top ways to find cleaning crews:
- Craigslist ad
- Word of mouth
- Outreach to friendly competitors in your area for referrals
- Check listings in TurnoverBnB
- Use Handy.com
Handy is worth a look as they provide cleaning crews at a reasonable cost. They perform background checks, have rigid standards, and use experienced cleaners. If your rental is located in a larger market, Handy may be an option to consider.
Finding a reliable cleaning person is essential. Get references from locals or simply ask other hosts in the area who they use. You’ll want your cleaning person to be able to manage same-day turnovers. So it’s best if he or she works with a partner, in case of illness or other conflicts.
Since we live in a different time zone from our vacation rental, our cleaners must get in and assess for any damages or theft before the next guest. This is very rare, but I have had lights left on, the front door left unlocked, and dirty dishes left piled in the sink.
In one instance, a guest decided to help herself to an entire bulk pack of makeup remover wipes. We know to leave out a handful at a time per guest.
How to Retain Good Cleaners
Compensation is important. Cleaning crews should make a living wage. The beauty of vacation rentals is that the guest is ultimately the source of payment for your cleaning person.
This is a fee you add to your listing. We charge our guests $89 for cleaning fees. All of this money is simply passed on to our cleaner after the cleaning is performed. It’s a fairly high amount for such a small unit, but I’d rather compensate well and keep a good crew dedicated than be cheap and hope the place is being cared for.
Be sure you wait until your cleaning crew performs a walk-through, before leaving a guest review! With one of our first guests, I jumped the gun and was given a 5-star review, before my cleaning person informed me of the lights being left on, wipes swiped, and the electric fireplace being left running.
You can still give good reviews, and include comments and feedback for guests to help future hosts.
Just like all guests aren’t equal, neither is the cleaning that ensues after each stay. Sometimes it takes my cleaner two hours, and other times three. Not a big deal. We simply make an agreement that every single cleaning is $89 and it’ll average out.
A lot of vacation rental owners pay by the hour, but you have to trust the cleaner is tracking hours honestly. It’s just a lot easier to agree on a flat rate I’ve found. With the higher flat rate, we also agreed that it’s up to her to help me maintain a 5-star “Cleanliness” category. Regression to four stars could mean less pay or termination.
It’s simply the price you have to pay to make sure your place is ready for a steady stream of guests. Cleanliness is something you can’t afford to go cheap on. I’d rather pay a bit more, and offer an incentive than get reviews that mention sticky floors, hairs in the tub, or soap scum on the shower walls. It’s non-negotiable.
My cleaning crew is also on task to keep track of cleaning and toiletry supplies. Simple things like toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, soap, and whatnot get used up fast as you churn through guests.
TurnoverBnB does a nice job of integrating both Airbnb and VRBO calendars. My cleaning lady can accept turnovers and mark them complete as she goes.
Free Apps to the Rescue!
Good thing for me, this first cleaning gal connected me with a friend of hers who cleaned a lot of area houses during the summer months. We’ve been fast friends ever since. Around this time I also stumbled upon this free service, which has made it incredibly easier to manage cleaning job scheduling.
(The app also has an excellent feature that lists available cleaners in your area. I haven’t had to use this feature yet. Knock on wood…)
Now a SuperHost with several 5-star reviews, I can give a ton of credit to my cleaner and tools like TurnoverBnB which spares me countless precious minutes keeping my cleaner up to date on bookings. I simply get an email after each turnover, letting me know the place is ready to go.
Here’s the bottom line: You can find a wonderful vacation rental investment opportunity, and you can set up all the right tools to manage the place. But you need to show your cleaning crew appreciation regularly, especially if you don’t live near your rental.
I’ve given our cleaner a couple of raises already, and occasionally send spot bonuses of $50. I’ll still hear about the occasional “misery days”, where she and her crew are backed up during the seriously busy summer season. But somehow, she gets the job done without fail, and I couldn’t be happier.
Make sure you communicate often with your cleaner and be a good listener when there’s a problem. TurnoverBnB makes the process of managing cleaning a lot easier, but you mustn’t forget the personal side of the equation. Be good to your crew!
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