Vacation Rental 101: Housekeeping

Astrid LindstromLeave a Comment

Vacation Rental Cleaning

Guests expect to enter an immaculate property, and if you’re new to vacation rental, their expectations may seem above and beyond the call. The most frequent types of complaints about vacation rentals have to do with cleanliness – particularly in the kitchen and the bathroom.

You need a cleaning service that’s able to provide not only a standard house cleaning, but a vacation rental cleaning – which involves quite a few more steps than your average cleaning job. To ensure your property never sees a cleanliness complaint, here’s what we recommend.

Why Cleaning a VR is Different

Most people have a very clear idea of what a clean house looks like. It’s how your home looks after you’ve spent Sunday scrubbing out the tub and making the beds. It’s how your home looks after your cleaning service has come and gone. No dust, a nice clean smell in the air, and freshly-vacuumed rugs.

That level of cleaning is just fine for the day-to-day use of your home, but vacation renters really do need you go above and beyond, particularly when it comes to sanitizing surfaces that may carry bacteria from previous guests.

Vacation rental cleaning is more in-depth on every level, and your housekeeping service will need to be aware of the elevated expectations.

For example: cleaning a vacation rental also includes cleaning the linens that were used by previous guests, checking to be sure the next guest has sufficient quantities of disposable items such as toilet paper or cleaning products, keeping an eye out for damage, and testing various items in the house to be sure they’re in working order.

Your housekeeping service, in other words, isn’t simply going to clean – they’re also going to be sure your home is guest-ready. They’ll be the ones who notice that you have only 7 glasses now, when you’re supposed to have 8. They’ll be the ones who notice that the countertops are looking a little worn and that you might want to consider replacing them.

And they’ll be the ones who you trust to keep the home clean to your – and your guests’ – standards.

If you provide your own cleaning, this won’t be a problem. But if you’re outsourcing your cleaning (as many of our owners prefer to do), you’ll want to have a very clear idea of what you need for a vacation rental cleaning – because it will differ from what you might need from a regular home cleaning.

DIY or Outsource?

If you live locally, you may be considering doing your own cleaning. This is a good time to ask yourself an honest question: do I feel up to deep-cleaning the entire property several times a week?

In high season, you might have “quick turns” where a guest checks out at 10 a.m. and the next guest checks in at 4 p.m. You’ll need to be available on that timeline to provide a vacation rental-quality cleaning, and if you can’t be, you need someone reliable who can.

If you’re not feeling up to that commitment, or simply aren’t living in the same city as your vacation rental, we’d recommend finding a cleaning service with experience in preparing vacation rentals.

Where Can I find a Good Cleaning Service?

A good housekeeping service is a vacation rental owner’s lifeline! They will be responsible for the presentation of your home to each and every guest, and serve as your “eyes and ears” for the day-to-day management of your property.

Finding a person you’re willing to entrust with that responsibility can be time-consuming, but it’s well worth taking the time to find that perfect partner.

Many vacation rental homeowners find their service providers by asking for referrals from other owners in their area. If your neighbors are vacation rental owners as well, chances are they might already have a cleaning service they know and trust.

If you’re unable to visit your vacation home anytime soon or you haven’t had time to get friendly with the neighbors, you can always hit up the listings and advertisements in your phone book, newspaper, or online directory as a starting point to research services in your area.

Whenever possible, look for housekeeping and cleaning service providers who are licensed, insured and bonded. When hiring individuals, ask for references from past employers, and be sure to call and speak to all references before making a hiring decision. We do this when we vet potential partners for our Evolve Partner Network, and those references have proven invaluable in finding a good housekeeping service.

What Questions Should You Ask?

When interviewing, you’ll want to ask the following questions:

Have you cleaned vacation rentals before?

Ideally, your housekeeping or cleaning service will have cleaned a vacation rental before, but you can always explain what additional services you’ll need them to perform if they haven’t. Lack of experience with vacation rentals isn’t a deal breaker – but the way they respond to the question could be.

If they say “Oh, it’s just like cleaning a house someone’s living in,” consider that a red flag. You want someone who understands they’ll need to add a few skills to their repertoire to give you what you need, and is willing to learn from you what’s necessary.

You’re looking for a response more like, “I haven’t, actually. What would the difference be?” Or, possibly, “I haven’t, but I know it’s different from a regular cleaning. What additional services would you need?”

What are your rates for a regular scheduled cleaning for a vacation rental? What about a quick turn? What about a last-minute emergency?

Most of the time, you’ll be able to tell your cleaning service well ahead of time when you’ll need their services. Their quote for this type of cleaning will be the base rate you can expect to pay regularly.

A “quick turn” is when the service will need to arrive within a set window, usually between 10 am and 3 pm, which means the cleaner will need to schedule their day around you. That’s inconvenient for your cleaning service, which can mean an extra fee.

Last minute emergency rates are important, and this is a good time to ask if they can be available on an emergency basis. You’ll need them to be able to run out to help if there’s a mistake with the scheduling and the property wasn’t cleaned for the next guest, or if some catastrophe causes a mess during their stay (backed-up plumbing, for example). Be sure they’re ready and willing to help in a pinch!

Are you willing to look out for any damages or repairs?

Most of the time, your housekeeping service will be the one who notices when one of your 8 glasses is missing, or when a glass of wine was spilled on the carpet. You need someone who is able to report any damage back to you, and who can take a moment to snap a few pictures for insurance or reimbursement purposes.

How many people do you have on staff?

You’ll want more than one cleaner available to you. If this service only has one person, you’ll want to find an additional backup just in case that person is not available in an emergency situation. Most services have a few people on staff, but a one-person shop isn’t a deal breaker – it just means you’ll need to do a little more legwork to find a backup.

Can you guarantee these services will be taken care of in every clean?

Every rental will need some cleaning services above and beyond your usual vacuuming, sweeping, and dusting, including:

  • Sanitizing all the surfaces in the bathroom
  • Sanitizing the countertops and stovetops in the kitchen
  • Washing the linens
  • Making the beds
  • Hanging fresh towels
  • Emptying the fridge of leftover food and cleaning the interior
  • Putting away dishes from the dishwasher or drying rack
  • Putting fresh liners in trash cans
  • Pulling out the cushions on furniture to clean underneath

Ask specifically about these services and be sure your cleaner is prepared to include these jobs in their regular vacation rental cleaning fee.

You should also ask about a semi-annual deep clean, usually performed during your off season, which will keep your home looking bright and fresh year-round. A deep clean includes:

  • Washing curtains
  • Flipping mattresses
  • Washing mattress covers
  • Deep-cleaning rugs
  • Treating wood surfaces
  • Light repairs to paint
  • Steam-cleaning or conditioning furniture
  • Cleaning behind all appliances in the kitchen
  • Deep-cleaning the oven

It can include quite a few more items – ours does! – but this is a good time to perform basic maintenance on your home and ensure that it’s getting the upkeep it needs to cope with regular wear and tear.

Are you able to provide these additional services?

In addition to the core cleaning responsibilities, we always look for a housekeeping or cleaning service willing to:

  • Look for damage or missing items after every guest’s stay
  • Look for signs that guests have broken the house rules (cigarette butts = smoking, sheets on the couch = over occupancy, pet hair on the furniture = a dog)
  • Stock the home with consumables (See How to Stock Your Kitchen and Pantry)
  • Provide light maintenance like changing smoke detector batteries and burned-out light bulbs
  • Semi-annual deep cleans

Vacation rentals are typically kept to a high standard, and one of the biggest homeowner peeves that we hear is how much work goes into cleaning and preparing their spaces for guests. It can be tiring to prepare a property multiple times a week, so having a trustworthy and thorough support service is extremely valuable. Speaking of which:

What should a cleaning cost?

You may already have a baseline for how much a regular cleaning service costs, and the fees for a vacation rental cleaning may seem very high if you’re comparing to your usual cleaning rates! As you can see from this post, however, vacation rental cleanings require quite a bit more labor, and they’re priced accordingly.

You can get a good idea of a standard cleaning rate for your area by hopping on a listing site like VRBO and seeing what other properties in your area charge for a cleaning fee. It’ll vary from property to property, but if you look at 10 properties, you can take that average as a guideline.

Here’s the good news: your cleaning fee is paid for by the guest. It’s standard to charge a cleaning fee for vacation rentals, which means the costs of cleaning can be passed on to your traveler. You should still look for a good deal, as an exorbitantly high cleaning fee can turn travelers off of booking your property, but don’t blanch if it’s more than expected.

Did we forget something?

Have you had a different experience with handling the cleaning of your vacation rental? Any tips that make handling it yourself a breeze, or a cleaning service that provides something that goes above and beyond the call of duty? Tell us about it in the comments!

This post is part of Evolve’s Vacation Rental 101: The Expanded Ultimate Guide to Success series, where we discuss the ins and outs of vacation rental ownership for newcomers and experienced veterans alike.

To be sure you don’t miss a post, download the Ultimate Vacation Rental Success Guide below and we’ll send you an email notification every time we publish a new 101 article. Have questions or want to know how we make vacation rental ownership easy and profitable? Call our Homeowner Consultants at 877.818.1014 (press 2) or click here to learn more about Evolve.