Ultimate Guide to Outsourcing Vacation Rental Cleaning

Jun 03 2021
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What’s in this article?

An immaculately clean vacation rental means glowing reviews, higher guest satisfaction, and more bookings. But as your business grows, DIY cleaning becomes less and less feasible. You’re probably at the stage where you want to focus on growth and scaling your business, rather than scrubbing bathrooms and changing sheets. This is where outsourcing your vacation rentals’ cleaning to professionals becomes tempting.

Why you should outsource your vacation rental cleaning

A professional vacation rental cleaning service might seem pointless when you consider yourself perfectly capable of doing it yourself. But there’s a problem with DIY cleaning. Actually there are three:

1. Growing guest expectations

We’ll mention the dreaded 5-letter 2-number word once and move on. COVID-19 has placed hygiene high up the priority list for guests. Data shows that Airbnb guests are actively seeking out cleaner properties as a consequence of the pandemic. No wonder the cleaning industry is predicted to grow 10% by 2026. The thing is, even if your property was empty for 48 hours, if it’s not immaculate then guest concerns about COVID-19 may still linger. That’s not great for reviews.

2. You might be good at cleaning, but you’re not a pro

Proper vacation rental cleaning is more than a question of a quick mop and hoover. Consider that 1 in 4 people admit to not cleaning everything properly when they do clean their own homes. Getting trained professionals to take care of your vacation rental cleaning means a higher level of service for your guests.

3. What’s your time worth?

Odds are, you’re looking into outsourcing cleaning because you want to free up that time for other things. A good property cleaning takes at least 1-2 hours. Multiply that by the number of check-outs your company turns over in a week and that’s a lot of potentially productive time down the toilette (insert cleaning pun). Why not reclaim some of that time and focus on optimizing your marketing strategy, make your listings bulletproof, or crunch your analytics to find weak spots in your business?

So those are the three main themes outsourcing touches on for most vacation rental hosts and managers. Now here are the immediate tangible benefits of outsourcing to professionals:

  • You’re guaranteed a level of service that only comes with experience and training. Most vacation rental cleaning services implement Standard Operating Procedures to ensure impeccable levels of cleanliness.
  • The cleaners will bring all the necessary cleaning supplies—although you may need to supply some of the larger pieces of equipment.
  • Having a team of people to do the job is quicker. It also offers a safety net in the event that someone isn’t available. What happens if you’re sick the day of check-out?
  • Most cleaning companies are insured so any accidental breakages will be covered.

Some vacation rental managers fear that outsourcing cleaning means surrendering control over hygiene and cleanliness. But new property management software (we’ll look at those later on) allows you to automate processes and save time while simultaneously overseeing your vacation rental cleaning remotely, making sure it meets your standards.

Building the right team: regular vs. vacation rental cleaners

You may already have someone who cleans your own property. Why not ask them if they could extend their services to your rental properties? Well, for one thing, there’s a significant difference between domestic cleaners and professional vacation rental cleaners.

Firstly, the job itself is different. As well as doing all the necessary cleaning, vacation rental cleaners will also:

  • Sanitize surfaces and high-frequency touch points.
  • Take a stock inventory in all rooms and replace supplies when necessary.
  • Inspect the property for damage and check whether house rules have been broken.
  • Report missing items in a timely manner.
  • Deep clean upholstery and carpets a couple of times a year.
  • Provide additional services such as laundry, staging, and creating guest welcome baskets.

That said, hiring regular domestic cleaners has some advantages. You can build up a relationship with an individual rather than a team that’s always changing. You may find the service is more personalized too. We’re not saying a regular house cleaner can’t do the job. However, vacation rental hosts and manager that live in major cities and who have the option of hiring niche cleaners should consider that first.

Hiring a team of cleaners means the job gets done faster. You can use that to your advantage. For example, you can upsell late check-out to the guest. You can thus monetize that gap between check-out and the next check-in since the team of vacation rental cleaners will always get the job done faster than a single house cleaner. Then there’s the concept of strength in numbers. Vacation rental cleaners are usually part of a team. If one person is unavailable, there will always be backups to take care of things. What’s more, some domestic cleaners may not have the same insurance policies and legal status as a licensed and bonded company.

Quick recap on the pros and cons of hiring cleaning services

Pros of hiring professional cleaners Cons of hiring professional cleaners
  • In peak season, when turnover times are short, and with last-minute bookings, you may find DIY cleaning overwhelming. Outsourcing fixes that.
  • Save time and energy that you can instead dedicate to other aspects of your vacation rental management business.
  • The best cleaning services will clean to a very high standard—most likely better than you could do yourself.
  • Professional cleaners can provide an annual deep clean to ensure your property remains in good condition.
  • If your property is small and you only manage one or two, the time saved by outsourcing cleaning may be minimal and not worth the added expense.
  • Finding, screening, and interviewing companies takes time and research. Onboarding takes energy too.
  • DIY cleaning means you can be totally confident that the cleaning meets your personal standards.

Tips for finding the best vacation rental cleaning service

Finding the right vacation rental cleaning service for your business can take some time. You want to be sure you’ve chosen the best people for the job.

6 steps to finding the right vacation rental cleaning service

  1. Begin by checking the licensed cleaning companies in your area. In this day and age, that means Google. Having a website and a Google listing is a sign that the company you’re about to hire is connected and comfortable with technology. That’s critical if you plan on turbocharging your outsourcing via automation software.
  2. Have a look at platforms and marketplaces that list vacation rental cleaning companies. These include:
    • HomeAdvisor, an online marketplace with over 100,000 service professionals, each pre-screened.
    • Yelp, a platform that connects you to a range of home service professionals, including cleaners.
    • TurnoverBnB, a marketplace that offers access to over 250,000 vacation rental cleaning professionals as well as the software to schedule and oversee cleaning tasks.
  3. Reach out to other Airbnb hosts in your area for recommendations.
  4. Ask in the social media groups you’re in for recommendations in your area. Odds are, someone has already done the legwork to find a company.
  5. After narrowing it down to a couple of companies, check the reviews online.
  6. Next, reach out and discuss the job, including the services they offer, the number of people in their team, and contingency plans in emergencies. Check if they are insured for on-the-job accidents and perhaps ask if they use eco-friendly cleaning products, given the recent boom in demand for natural cleaning products among consumers.
  7. Request a reference from a previous client as well as a quote for the services you’d like. Contact the reference and ask what the challenges have been.
  8. Finally, establish a vacation rental cleaning contract. This is crucial for ensuring consistent quality work. A contract also gives you an out if the outsourcing doesn’t live up to expectations.

Platforms vs. word of mouth

Finding a cleaning service on a platform Finding a cleaning service by word of mouth
  • The amount of choice will far exceed that of personal recommendations, allowing you to pick from a wider pool of people.
  • You can read reviews of each company to check whether they’re right for the job.
  • Some platforms, such as HomeAdvisor, pre-screen professionals so you know you can trust them.
  • Some marketplaces, such as TurnoverBnB, also offer software to help you to coordinate and automate cleaning processes.
  • Some marketplaces and platforms charge a commission. This can push prices up.
  • You may have more confidence in recommendations from friends and family than those of strangers.
  • Some platforms are free to join which means no barrier to entry and no guarantee of quality.

Things to look for in a great vacation rental cleaning service

    • Extensive experience – you want people with experience of cleaning vacation rental properties, not just cleaning residential or commercial properties. They should be familiar with the idea of a cleaning checklist. Even better if they have experience with Airbnb’s Enhanced Cleaning Protocol for COVID-19.
    • Reliable communication – the cleaning team should be able to understand your instructions and put them into action meticulously.
    • Attention to detail – this isn’t just a question of remembering all the nooks or crannies but also noticing if anything is missing or broken, as well as ensuring that all supplies have been restocked and nothing has been left in the refrigerator or dishwasher.
    • Tech-savvy – if you plan to automate your cleaning processes using vacation rental cleaning software, you need your cleaning team to be IT competent so they can use the apps effectively.
    • Flexibility – are they willing to come out last minute if necessary? How much notice do they require? Will they charge extra for emergency call-outs?

What you should expect to pay for cleaning services

Vacation rental cleaning costs vary depending on where you live, the nature of your properties, and the work involved. In smaller towns, prices are usually lower as the job isn’t in such high demand. Some cleaning services will charge by the hour. Others will set a fixed rate for the entire property.

Check out Home Advisor’s house cleaning cost calculator. On average, cleaning prices for the average US home are between $100 and $200 per visit. An apartment will cost between $100 or $150 while the cost for a one-off service like a deep clean is likely to be between $200 and $400. Factors that may affect cost include whether or not guests are allowed to bring pets as well as the number of people in the cleaning team.

Cheaper isn’t always better so treat any surprisingly low fees with suspicion. And remember that vacation rental cleaning fees are tax-deductible expenses.

Charging the guest vs. incorporating the cleaning fee

When it comes to cleaning fees, you have two options. You can charge guests a one-time and non-refundable fee to cover your cleaning expenses. Or you can incorporate these cleaning costs into your nightly rates.

Advantages of charging the guest Disadvantages of charging the guest
  • Generally, the higher the nightly rate the less the guest will mind the extra cost. In this case, if your cost is %-wise much smaller than the average nightly cost, you might give the impression to the guest your property is competitively priced.
  • Cleaning fees discourage 1 or 2 night stays, which may help lower high turnover expenses (like welcome baskets).
  • Charging cleaning to the guest guarantees consistency when balancing your books. If you build it into your nightly rate and have a run of high turnover reservations, your expenses sneakily rise up.
  • Charging a cleaning fee pushes up your rates at the time of completing the reservation. This may lead guests to abandon finalizing the reservation.
  • If the guest is directly paying for the cleaning, there may be higher expectations at the moment of check-in.

One solution? Do both. Add a cleaning fee as a contribution to cleaning expenses and increase the nightly rate slightly to cover the extra. You’ll show the potential guest that you take cleaning seriously, but also avoid them jumping out of their seats during the last steps of completing the reservation.

Task automation for assigning vacation rental cleaning

A major trend over the last few years in the vacation rental industry is increased automation. Automating vacation rental management processes allows for greater efficiency and productivity, offering new revenue opportunities. Automating cleaning processes, in particular, is a great way to save time and coordinate cleaning tasks.

A property management platform like Hostfully’s is integrated with third-party cleaning management apps.

So what does this mean for your attempts at outsourcing cleaning for your vacation rentals? Two words. Less work. Here’s how it works:

  • You’ll set up your property management platform (PMP) which will facilitate the other processes of your business.
  • Sign up for one of the major cleaning automation apps. Check out our integration zone: Hostfully is integrated with the biggest names in the industry.
  • Once you’ve signed up for a cleaning app, set up your rules and conditions. In all the cleaning apps, you can assign which property gets what cleaner. The app creates a task, which is then sent out to the proper cleaner. This also means you can have multiple cleaners for various properties. But for starters, you’ll want to finish setting up your cleaning app.
  • Next, you want to make sure your cleaning app dispatches the work whenever there’s going to be check-out. The problem is that the cleaning app doesn’t have access to your calendar. This is where the integration between the PMP and the cleaning app comes in:
    • The PMP will intake the reservation data from Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com, or your direct booking site.
    • The PMP sends a message to the cleaning app that a reservation took place, was modified or canceled.
    • Having received the notification, the cleaning app looks at the rules you set up and assigns the work.

An alternative to cleaning apps

Most industry-leading PMPs (like Hostfully) have automation tools that rely on event or time-based triggers. For example, you create a rule that whenever there’s a new reservation (an event), the PMP does a specific action. Or three days before a reservation (time-based), the PMP does another type of action. This case study shows how a manager used built-in functions of the PMP to automatically assign cleaning tasks to individual cleaning contractors. It’s a cheaper and equally effective way to outsource vacation rental cleaning.

Apps to help you manage cleaners

A property management platform like Hostfully’s is integrated with various third-party apps, all designed to power up your vacation rental business and make life easier by streamlining your cleaning operations.

Our app integrations allow you to coordinate turnover and cleaning and ensure the job is done to the highest standards with minimum effort and hassle. Integrations include:

  • EZCare – automate your entire back-office operations, from cleaning and maintenance to inspections.
  • TurnoverBnB – find your dream cleaning company on the TurnoverBnB marketplace. Then use the software to schedule, pay, and oversee quality control.
  • Breezeway – level up your cleaning service by coordinating tasks, communicating with cleaners, and verifying their work with greater efficiency using Breezeway.
  • VR Scheduler – schedule tasks, track maintenance, and handle payroll.
  • Properly – a visual checklist app for sharing cleaning and turnover instructions.

Zapier: fluent in all the software languages

Hostfully is also integrated with automation tool Zapier, a service designed to enable different apps and software to communicate with each other. By allowing for connectivity without relying on custom coding, Zapier functions as a kind of translator—one which knows all the languages.

Use Zapier to ensure seamless integration between all the apps and software you use in your business. Tell Zapier how you want the apps to work together, creating triggers that automatically send information between the two. For example, get it to create a card in Trello when you tag a particular email in Gmail.

Zapier can transform your workflow as a vacation rental manager, automating any clunky manual (or legacy) processes leftover from your company’s early days. With over 400 integrations, you’ve got a lot of choice when it comes to connecting different apps or software. And the intuitive and highly visual user experience means that anyone can get to grips with it. Zapier can:

  • Keep track of your earnings in real-time.
  • Generate monthly owner reports.
  • Streamline incoming leads.
  • Centralize new contacts.

Most significantly, Zapier will allow you to assign cleaners automatically and effortlessly create workflows and checklists. As a new kid on the block, Zapier is evolving fast. Any integrations that aren’t yet available are likely to be in the near future so keep your eyes peeled.

Vacation rental cleaning for booming business

Outsourcing vacation rental cleaning is a smart move for any growing business. While outsourcing will save you a lot of time, don’t be afraid to go even more hands-off. Use software to do complete most of the repetitive tasks. It’ll save you even more time!