It’s every vacation rental property manager’s nightmare: A guest walks into your rental, only to find it hasn’t been cleaned. They’re instantly ready to leave a terrible review and are calling to complain.
But it gets worse. You forgot to schedule the turnover altogether. Your only option is to spam any cleaner you can find with hastily-typed WhatsApps, as there’s no backup team in place.
There’s no escaping it. Your vacation rental business has grown faster than you can manage manually, and the vacation rental staffing challenges have become overwhelming. You need a new system.
You want reliable staff who show up and get access when needed. You want easy communication so you can get in touch whenever you need. And you want automated processes that handle scheduling, checklists, and more.
Good news: This is all possible. But we know it can be stressful and time-consuming to figure out, especially when you’ve got a business to run.
That’s why we asked Amy Plummer from vacation rental cleaning specialists, Turno, for her expert advice on how to tackle the toughest vacation rental staffing challenges.
- Outline the eight major challenges you’re likely to face when it comes to vacation rental staffing.
- Offer our recommended solutions to each challenge, plus Amy’s top tips, so you can address these challenges fast.
We also explain how vacation rental automation technology software streamlines each process so you can improve performance and reduce your workload, even as you scale your operations.
Challenge 1: Hiring good cleaners you can trust
Finding a cleaner who’s available is one thing, but finding a good cleaner who’s reliable, trustworthy, and fast is another.
It’s hard to find a trustworthy company or team you can rely on, that will meet your standards, and do so within tight time constraints—especially if you manage multiple vacation rentals remotely.
Solution: Use a vetted marketplace
We recommend finding a go-to source of credible, reliable cleaners. Using our property management platform Hostfully for cleaning automation gives you complimentary access to Turno’s marketplace, which makes it easier to find excellent staff.
As Amy says: “The Turno Marketplace application process is rigorous. Our Marketplace cleaners are independent contractors in the STR market. They understand the local nuances, including pricing, guest expectations, and turnover processes. They have references, the right business license, insurance or bonding, and have to pass background checks.”
Note, we talk more about relationship-building with your staff in our final challenge and tip.
Challenge 2: Finding cleaners who understand STRs
Cleaning for paying guests at short notice is quite a different task from cleaning a domestic home, Amy explains. You need to find a team that understands short-term rentals (STRs), can prepare for a strict deadline, and knows just how spotless the space has to be.
Not only do they need to clean, but they also need to replace linens and towels and check amenities and supplies. They also need to have the correct business license and insurance.
Solution: Find specialist cleaners
Working with cleaners who specialize—or have extensive experience in—cleaning for STRs is essential to successful cleaning operations. Rather than asking domestic or commercial cleaners to change their processes to fit your needs, find a team that understands the job from the start.
Integrating a vacation rental software tool and marketplace like Turno with your property management platform (PMP) will help because its cleaners understand the job right from the start.
“Short-term rental cleaners are not traditional residential cleaners,” says Amy. “STR cleaners bring a different and specific skill set and approach to turnovers, and will ensure the work needed is what actually gets done in the time allowed.”
Challenge 3: Scheduling staff (including for last-minute changes)
Scheduling staff at the best of times can feel like spinning plates, but when you get a last-minute check-in or late check-out, the problem increases tenfold.
Last-minute bookings are great for squeezing in extra revenue and accepting them can make your vacation rental stand out, but they can cause chaos for turnarounds. You need to ensure your cleaners know they’re needed and that they do a good job fast, so the property is clean before the next guest arrives.
But many providers need 24 hours’ notice for any changes and are unable to secure good cleaners at the last minute.
Solution: Sync scheduling with booking
The best way to address this is to connect your booking calendar with a scheduling platform. This automatically schedules cleaning as soon as a new stay is confirmed, so there’s almost no risk of a property accidentally getting missed off the
A PMP like Hostfully integrates with scheduling tools and syncs with your calendars. For example, Turno can gather reservation data from your various channels, including vacation rental market OTAs like Airbnb and Vrbo, as well as your direct booking calendar, and schedule a cleaning automatically, so no stay gets overlooked.
Amy’s top tip? “Have back-ups!” she says.
“PMs can assign multiple people to each property, so they can have Primary cleaners and Backup cleaners. If the Primary cleaners can’t handle a last-minute clean for any reason, then the Backup cleaners are notified. The first Backup cleaner to accept is scheduled for the job and the PM’s schedule is updated to show the change as well.”
Challenge 4: Ensuring consistency and the highest standards
Your cleaners need to do a fantastic job every single time. After all, just one below-par clean is enough to prompt a negative review and can hurt your future bookings and OTA ratings.
Solution: Prepare and share digital checklists
The best way to ensure consistency is to have a clear process and provide cleaning and vacation rental maintenance checklists your staff must follow, step-by-step, every time.
As Amy says: “Tell and show your cleaners exactly what you want to be done, how you want it staged, what it should look like when completed. If the checklists are mandatory (this is an optional feature on Turno), then the cleaner must verify each task before they can close the job and get paid.”
You can also prepare different checklists depending on the job and also include photos to show exactly what you want.
- A check-out turnaround for a new guest, including bathroom cleaning, new linens and towels, and topping up toiletries, toilet paper, kitchen roll, and coffee beans
- A maintenance update, including checking light bulbs, shower heads, radiators, and other equipment that needs regular but not daily maintenance
- Quarterly cleaning for less-frequent but important tasks, like deep carpet, curtain, and oven cleaning; a hot tub jet refresh; checking for wear and tear in furniture; or holes in sheets
- Cleaning supplies to ensure cleaners always have what they need, including a check of washing fluid, enough trash bags, and the state of brushes or mops
Using different checklists also helps make it clear who does what.
“Be clear about your expectations and about what your cleaners are or are not expected to do as part of a turnover,” says Amy. “For example, do they need to launder linens onsite or offsite? Do they need to do outdoor cleaning of the patio, grill, or hot tub? What about trash removal or restaging?”
As a guide, Amy adds, cleaners typically carry out daily or monthly tasks, whereas maintenance teams would usually check for monthly or quarterly repairs or updates.
Hostfully integrates with various cleaning scheduling tools, including Turno, Operto Teams, and Breezeway, which let you create different checklists and assign them to specific properties, so each cleaner always gets the right one for the job.
Cleaners and maintenance staff can also use the platform to upload checklist photos, so you can confirm they have done the job to standard, or see what needs updating.
Challenge 5: Effective communication
Not only do you need to let cleaners know when a new booking comes in, but you also want to send them any useful notes or checklists. You want to know they’ve seen the message, and taken action. You also need updates on how the
cleaning is going, and when it’s finished. That’s a lot to communicate over text!
Plus, random messages mean there’s no official paper trail relating to the job, and using separate platforms adds complexity. They require you to type messages manually and share personal details. You may also struggle to communicate with different cleaners if your usual crew isn’t available.
Solution: Use automated communication software
This is where integrated communication software, using a platform like Hostfully and Turno, comes in. It streamlines messaging overnight. You can also message cleaners via in-app chat, including photos, for direct and easy communication whenever you need them.
“Cleaners are the eyes and ears of the short-term rental industry,” explains Amy.
“They are often the only people to see a property in between stays, so they notice when items are missing, broken, or are becoming old and tired.
“Having an easy and visual way for them to document any issues helps PMs manage repairs but also provides documented proof if you need to charge the guest—for example, for a missing coffee maker, or stained carpeting.”
In-app communication also helps, says Amy, because “having everything documented in one place ensures the cleaning team has all the need-to-know property details at their fingertips”.
Challenge 6: Ensuring secure access
Coordinating access for cleaners and maintenance staff can get complicated, quickly. Handing out keys is impractical. Keys, cards, fobs, and key boxes can be lost, broken, or stolen. New cleaning teams won’t have their own keys or keycodes. To say access is a challenge is an understatement.
Solution: Set up connected smart locks
With smart locks, you can grant each person their own PIN code so they have personalized access, and you can see who’s coming and going, even remotely. Cleaners and maintenance staff can have their own codes, and you can ensure
they only activate once the guests have left. This means your staff can get access to the property, even at the last minute.
Challenge 7: Coordinating payment
Coordinating payments for cleaners can be a major challenge. You may make mistakes or accidentally pay late. Without a clearly communicated process in place, cleaners may ask to be paid in different ways (cash, cheque, bank, Venmo, PayPal…). This opens you up to security and tax risks, and slow payments.
Solution: Automate payments digitally
The best way to sidestep these common issues is to automate payments as much as possible, within the same platform that you used to schedule and communicate.
Cleaners will also know when and how to expect their pay, you know you’re sending accurate wages, and you can keep reliable records for tax purposes. Via Hostfully, Turno lets you pay via electronic transfer (ACH) or credit card.
“This helps optimize cash flow and manage funds from different accounts,” says Amy. “Keeping everything documented in one place and with detailed reporting options also creates a paper trail, which simplifies accounting and other payment requirements.”
Challenge 8: Building lasting staff partnerships
One of the biggest challenges when managing staff is building relationships with them. Staff who struggle to know what you expect, feel their time isn’t respected, don’t have reliable work, aren’t paid on time, and don’t have the tools they need, won’t come back. And without positive working relationships, you’ll struggle to meet your guests’ expectations.
Solution: Use consistent staff and processes
Using the same people consistently will help them to learn what you need over time. A loyal staff member could even drop off a thank you basket to guests the day before they check out, Amy suggests. This “unexpected nicety”, she says, creates a positive experience closer to the time that the guest will leave their review.
“PMs who work with their professionals with an attitude of partnership gain so much more than if they consider them ‘only as a cleaner’,” says Amy. “STR cleaners can truly make or break a guest’s first impression and experience.
“Partnering with those on-the-ground people offers you so much more peace of mind, knowing that the little details are taken care of.”
Solve your vacation rental staffing challenges with tech automation
Staffing challenges can bring your property management business to a standstill, causing logistical nightmares, unhappy customers, negative reviews, and a loss of revenue.
It can feel tough to find cleaners you trust, who understand STRs, and consistently do a good job. Scheduling staff, communicating with them, ensuring access, and coordinating payment can also be a major source of stress, especially for last-minute bookings.
That’s where digital automation technology steps in.
A property management system like Hostfully—which integrates with cleaning platforms like Turno, Operto Teams, and Breezeway—gives you access to a vetted marketplace of cleaners, with automated scheduling and communication. Digital smart locks take the stress of key handovers off your plate, while automated payments reduce errors and save you hours of time in manual admin.
All this makes it far easier to build lasting staff partnerships, so your team learns about your properties, is responsive and reliable, and meets your highest standards. So you never have to worry about a guest arriving at
a dirty property ever again.