Shampoo & Booze 28: To Hire A Cleaner? That Is The Airbnb Question.

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This is an age old debate that's been happening in our house since we started thinking about doing an Airbnb. Would we clean it every time, or would we hire someone? How would that work? How much would they charge? Would they clean as obsessively as we would? These are questions we keep asking ourselves still.

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  1. Not all people are as price sensitive as you are. If you hire a cleaner, pass the charge onto the guests. My thought is if they can afford a vacation, they should be able to afford the cleaning fee.

    Even if I were close to my condo, I wouldn't clean it myself. I spent many years cleaning for my grandparents and then working as a hotel chambermaid. I paid for college by cleaning toilets and sweeping sand piles off of carpet. It cured me of ever wanting to clean again.

    Every time I go to my condo. It takes a while to figure out where everything has been put, especially in the kitchen. I have a cleaning service so it's never the same person that cleans. The quality of the cleaning is so-so. There always seems to be dust on the mantel and on top of the fridge, but the bathrooms look great.

    I'm considering switching to an independent cleaning company, but I would then need to provide 2 complete sets of linens and towels. There isn't really enough room in the condo to store an entire extra set of linens/duvet covers for 6 beds, plus towels for 3 bathrooms and pool towels for 8-10 people.

    1. You may be correct.
      However, on VRBO we did a test and added a $65 cleaning fee. We have had very few bookings so far this year. Maybe 4? Usually I'd expect 10-15 bookings from families booking their summer vacations. Of course I have no idea if the high cleaning fee is an issue, but its something I'm watching.

  2. Hi Ryanne and Jay, Thank you for your podcast! We also have an airbnb property and do the cleaning ourselves. Tomorrow, we have a group checking out at noon and another couple checking in at 3:00 in the afternoon. My husband, who is self-employed (and approved these guests coming in tomorrow late last night) is cleaning during the three-hour window. I will pray that our five-star rating remains! This is the first time for him to clean! Check out our airbnb listing "Hermitage Hills: Andrew Jackson" in Montgomery, Michigan. We've copied some ideas and words from you both: thank you! Warm regards, Marisa

    1. we know that 3 hour window well! glad we're not the only ones who like to do Noon check out. let us know how it went.

    2. checking out your place now. wow it's 4 bedrooms, how is your husband cleaning this place by himself in 3 hours??

    3. I'm reporting back that my husband, Nick, cleaned our airbnb by himself in the three-hour window! I cleaned last Thursday for our guests coming in Friday. They departed this morning with a load of towels in the dryer and sheets in the washer. They were super clean! Nick didn't dust when he cleaned today, nor did our weekend guests use the fourth bedroom. I told him he's going to have to solo clean more often! :) Thanks for checking! Marisa

  3. Just finished listening to your podcast about the cleaning services debate and thought I'd give you my 2 cents:)

    I have my own cleaning business and currently have 10 regular clients. I've been doing this as my sole source of income for the last 4 years. (Private homes - not rentals)

    If I were in your shoes there are a few things I'd do -

    1) Hire a person, just one person
    - getting someone to learn your house takes time (I usually say 4-6 visits). If you go with a service you are likely to end up with different people in and out of your place, and even if it's the same person/people they are less likely to go the extra mile because they are not personally vested in the work - it's just a job.

    2) Put together a portfolio of your house and include pictures. Especially in areas where there are more items that need "rehomed". (The kitchen and bathroom, inside cabinets)

    3) Keep a dialogue going. Once you find someone that you believe you can work well with, make sure you let them know the results you are aiming for. For the first few cleanings make sure you have time built in to go over any details (and let them know that you are particular because you want to provide guests with a stellar experience - nobody likes dealing with the entitled clients:))

    4) Pay well to attract a great cleaner. I won't clean for less than $20 per hour - which is low enough that I have plenty of work but high enough that I don't hate my work! If you can find a way to set a flat rate it's better for everyone. If you have a large group renting or a family that stays a full week (situations where there would be more work to get the house clean) pay a flat rate for a full house deep clean. Set up a different rate for shorter stays where you believe it would only require a quick once-over.

    5) Be flexible. Given the nature of your rental, you will need to find someone that is flexible with their time. I do this work because of the flexibility it gives me to be with my kids. If some one is sick, I can cancel - and if they cancel due to sickness, vacation, or any reason really - it's fine.

    I found you about a year ago thru your eBay podcast and I'm sure you'd have no trouble finding someone that you'd enjoy working with. You treat people like people and that will serve you well:)

    Good luck!

    1. This is great info. I agree that it's important we find an individual to clean the house so they get to know how we like it.

      We certainly don't mind paying well for good service. Only way to do it.

  4. I'm sure your sick of hearing this but with regards to hiring a cleaner it depends if you could earn more money doing something else in those 2-3 hours that it takes you clean the house.

    Could ryanne list more than $75 dollars worth of items on ebay? Could Jay take more than $75 worth of pictures?

    The issue seems to be one of trust that they won't do as good a job as you guys. Although a valid concern its definitely one i feel could be resolved either by creating an faq sheet for the the cleaner or if they don't do the job you want finding someone who will.

    If you flip the house 3 times a week that is 12 hours minimum of you collective time gone. YOur experise could be used elsewhere either listing on ebay or finishing your new house

    1. great question. we are mulling this over. this is the equation we use for rehabbing houses too. should i do it myself? can i hire a skilled person to do it for me while i make money elsewhere? those are the ultimate numbers that need doing.

  5. Hi Ryanne & Jay:

    I've got 4 vacation rental properties in Oregon and have been using the Airbnb platform since 2009. I honestly couldn't do this business without my cleaners. It's like any other business in that you do the part that only you can do, and engage other professionals to do those things that are not your forte. I've never been a good cleaner and my cleaning ladies have taught me a TON.

    That's not to say that I'm not picky about how my homes look, and I'm especially anal about the beds. I want them made a certain way, 'x' many of pillows on them, and the pillows and throws arranged 'just so'.

    I send my calendar to my cleaning ladies (our homes are in 3 different areas) with the names of our guests. They personalize a welcome note to each guest, and know ahead of time when they will need to do the cleans. One lady lives next door to our home and sees everything that happens in our neighborhood. Another lives in the small beach town, and has chosen to clean only my 2 homes there. The last lady lives down the street and understands that her cleaning time frame is between noon and 4 and has accommodated her schedule. With a 2 day minimum, these people can be super busy, as you know. It's worked really well for all of us.

    I charge guests the cleaning fee, plus a little more to cover the hot tub fees and some of the taxes. I end up a little bit short, but I don't mind that for now. I expect that Airbnb will continue to get their 'tax act' together in the more rural parts of our world sometime soon. At any rate, I pass the money through to the cleaners and service people. It works extremely well, and allows me to do those things I'm more interested in - managing the reservations, keeping my Facebook and meetup groups as well as my own website and podcast going.

    If you have multiple housecleaners, there is an app by some folks I met not long ago which is specifically for cleaning teams - - that you might want to check out.

    I love how transparent and open you are about what you are doing, and enjoy your weekly podcast! Take care,

    Debi Hertert

    1. Thanks for the detailed info. It's true that we're just learning as we go. Helpful to hear how other more experienced owners are dealing with their rentals.

      We have several names of local cleaners that we're going to call to interview and get a cost estimate. Baby steps.

      Just curious:
      --How much do you charge for a cleaning fee?
      --How much do you pay your cleaners?
      --How did you find each of your cleaners since it sounds like its not their primary business?