How to Manage Housekeepers and Keep a Spotless Vacation Rental

Experienced vacation rental owners across the country can confirm that it doesn’t matter how beautiful, well-located, or trendy your home appears—if you don’t know how to manage housekeepers and keep a spotless rental, then travelers will be less likely to book your home.

Data backs that up as well. In 2015, a survey released from household cleaning product company Calcium, Lime & Rust (CLR) showed that 86% of participants valued cleanliness above all other amenities when looking for a hotel or vacation rental.

With cleanliness at the top of a renters mind, owners should invest in quality housekeeping. Finding a reliable housekeeper can be time-consuming and tedious, especially if you manage a rental remotely. Vacation rental owner Tracey Lee manages two Dallas rentals remotely in California and said because of the distance, using a professional cleaning company is integral for her success.

“Finding a good cleaning team was the hardest part of the short term rental business puzzle for me to solve,” Lee said. “But since listing on Airbnb in September 2018 I have attained an overall rating of 5-stars for cleanliness, with a total of 97 reviews.”

Continue reading to learn how to manage housekeepers and keep a spotless rental year-round.


Your home should be as clean as a hotel

Sheryl Milligan, manager of Handmaid Cleaning in Walla Walla, Washington, says vacation rental guests expect the highest level of cleanliness. Handmaid Cleaning offers turnover services to anywhere between 10 and 20 vacation rentals in the Walla Walla area, and sees that most guests who choose a vacation rental do so for a more “homey” feel—but still expect a home to be as clean as a hotel.  

“At our company, we can’t stress enough the importance of perfect service every time on vacation rentals,” she said. “If we fail to provide 5-star service, it reflects poorly on us and on the property owner.”

The guests, for example, might leave that owner a bad review for something they trusted the cleaning company to do. “To avoid any issues, we always send our most senior technicians to do the cleaning,” she said. “We have a list of cleaning tasks as well as any specific set up requests—like leaving a bottle of wine out or leaving certain lights on—they must check off before leaving, and we send our quality control person or property manager to double check everything before the guests check in.”

Lee said that on top of regular housekeeping, she has her vacation rentals deep-cleaned every 3 months. “My guests consistently comment that the rentals are ‘sparkling clean’ or ‘hotel clean’, which makes me think that their expectations are being exceeded,” she said. “My cleaning team follows a checklist to insure that the listing is cleaned and staged consistently the same way every time.”

Don’t forget about pest control, according to Lee. “Nothing says ‘not clean’ like a roach,” she said. “I have my listings sprayed every quarter for general pests.” Additionally, Lee stays at her own vacation rentals every now and then to see things from her guests perspective.


How to find your housekeeper

Like many vacation rental owners, Lee tried to use the internet to find her housekeeper. “Not being local to the area where my vacation rental is located, I began my search for a cleaning company with a Google search,” she said.

But none of the results matched her requirements; some were too expensive, others didn’t have the manpower needed for a quick turnover. Eventually she found her local cleaning team by staying at a clean Airbnb near her vacation rentals and finding out, through word of mouth, who cleaned the rental.

The internet can be helpful sometimes, though, and is worth perusing. Alberto Navarrete, the General Manager of Emily’s Maids in Dallas, Texas, recommends vacation rental owners look at big review platforms, such as Yelp. “The best platforms are the biggest ones because you will have more opinions and more options,” he said.

Additionally, vacation rental owners can get recommendations from their property managers, who have more experience with cleaning companies in the area. Rental owners can also hire property management companies to manage their homes and handle all of their housekeeping needs. TurnKey Vacation Rentals, for example, takes care of contracting cleaners and restocking amenities for its homeowners for a small fee.


How to choose your housekeeper

After you’ve figured out where to look for a housekeeper, you have to choose the best one for your needs.

Milligan recommends that vacation rental owners choose a licensed, reputable cleaning service, instead of an individually owned business with just one or two full-time employees. “Although they may be more costly than a local gal without a licensed business, the benefits alone will help them sleep easier at night,” Milligan said.  

Licensed professional cleaning services should thoroughly background check their employees, have multiple staff members so there is never a concern that “sickness or personal issues” will delay the cleaning, and are insured in case anything happens, Milligan said.

As you begin your search, identify what special needs your vacation rental calls for and ask cleaning companies if they can fulfill those requests. Navarette said vacation rentals are often different from regular house cleanings because owners require additional touches and tasks, such as setting up a fruit basket with a welcoming note attached to bottle of wine or checking if any light bulbs are out. Make sure your cleaning company can tackle those vacation rental-related tasks, on top of keeping your rental sparkling clean.

Lee recommends vacation rental owners ensure their contract with their housekeeper addresses their availability—whether they can accommodate late checkouts or early check-ins—as well as insurance, cleaning products used, and potential amenity restocking fees.

She says accountability and reliability are additional important traits a good housekeeping company should have. “For example, my cleaning team was pivotal in helping me get my listing up and running after it was trashed by a guest who checked in on Christmas Day and threw a party that resulted in a lot of broken furniture and messy spills,” Lee said.


Use high-quality cleaning products

Vacation rental owners should look for housekeeping companies that use high quality cleaning supplies, according to Navarrete. “A bad quality cleaning product could end up losing your money,” he said. “Picture it this way—imagine a bad soap that cost half of a good soap but only works a third as well as the premium one. You can end up losing a ton of money if you don’t check what you are buying.”

Navarrete defines a quality cleaning product as one that’s “reusable or covers a lot of ground for less money.” He said Emily’s Maids always test paper towels versus microfiber towels, for example, and finds the reusability of the cloth always ends up as the better product than even the thickest paper towels.

Lee said she often gets requests from guests to use “scent-free” cleaning products. “More guests are sharing that they have allergies to ‘chemical scents’ and want to be assured prior to booking that I can accommodate their request for ‘scent free’ cleaning products,” she said.  

Her cleaning team uses Puracy cleaning products and wool dryer balls instead of fabric softener / scented dryer sheets to limit scents.

“I want my linen and towels to smell fresh and clean, not ‘fragrant’,” she said.


How to know your housekeeper is doing a good job

Because a single negative review can hurt a business, vacation rental owners don’t want to find out that their housekeeper isn’t meeting expectations by seeing a bad review about their home’s cleanliness; solve the problem before it ever becomes a real one.

When you first hire a new cleaning company, create a checklist for your housekeeper and go over it with them—so you know that they understand your needs and expectations clearly. Don’t be afraid to also arrange a trial period and have them clean your home before you have any paying guests stay so you can review their work.

To ensure a housekeeper is meeting standards once you’ve decided they’re a good fit, vacation rental owners can ask cleaning companies to send photos of their rental after a cleaning is complete. This won’t necessarily show crumbs on the table tops or dust under the bed, however, so an in-person inspection is always best.

For remote rental owners or owners with a busy schedule, in-person inspections may not be realistic. These rental owners should consider hiring a property manager who can consistently check that your rental is clean after a housekeeper leaves and before a guest arrives. TurnKey, for example, has a strict cleaning protocol that it requires its housekeepers follow. It provides cleaning companies with checklists to follow, does photo comparisons to ensure the home is staged correctly, and has a property manager walkthrough the rental before guests arrive.   

Rental owners will find more success in their market and better reviews online if they ensure their rental homes are as clean—if not cleaner—than hotels, by hiring a quality housekeeping company that goes above and beyond cleaning.

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