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Go Big Or Go Home

I recently stumbled upon this discussion on the HomeAway Community Forum, and felt incensed that such ideas were actually accepted practices in the vacation rental community.

The topic at hand was an owner who received negative feedback from a guest, stating:

“The only downside in our eyes was the day of departure procedure.  We were asked to strip our beds, start a load of laundry, start the dishwasher, and take out all of the trash.  That was in addition to the cleaning fee.  It was a bit annoying to end a relaxing vacation doing the chores we had to do once we got home.”

This reminded me of a time I stayed at a vacation rental and the owner had a laundry list (no pun intended) of things for us to do before departure just like the guest above…

To say that I was offended at these requests is an understatement.

I mean seriously: we were paying $450 per night to stay at this bay front home.

He was running a business and we were his paying customers.

And now we were being asked to do favors to make his job easier? To save him some money or time or effort?

This discussion represents a bigger problem in my eyes…

Do you run your business like a lemonade stand or a juice factory?

There simply is no in-between.

Let me rephrase that: there is no in-between when it comes to successful rentals in this industry moving forward.

If you want to operate a professional vacation rental, you simply cannot have it both ways:

You either run a business and treat every guest like the most spectacular VIP in the world.

Or you participate in a hobby and worry not about your income or revenue.

In this particular case, the owner should tack on the price of cleaning to the nightly rate. Either that or throw in a “cleaning fee” (which I still find annoying yet consider acceptable in the big scheme). Whichever you choose, if you are running a solid vacation rental business and hosting strangers in your home, a guest should NEVER be required to do ANYTHING other than enjoy his or her vacation experience. If you are simply renting to friends, that may be another story.

One surefire way that vacation rentals will get in hot water with mainstream travelers is these kinds of owners or managers who have not made the “Go Big Or Go Home” distinction.  Charging $450/night and then asking guests to do chores is precisely what I’m talking about.

Will you get it right? Or will you pay the price?

About the Author Matt Landau

Matt Landau is the Founder of the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog and the Inner Circle, two online resources dedicated to helping vacation rental owners and managers generate more bookings. Google+ | More Posts (230)

  • I completely agree with you on this Matt. Coming from the premier destination of Aspen this comes second nature. All guests are always treated like VIP. But no matter what market you’re in this is how it should be done. I tell the same things to my clients.

    What are your thoughts on giving some sort of direction to guests who stay and am not sure what to do when they leave? Because sometimes owners aren’t clear to what the guest should or shouldn’t do.

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      Amen Tyler. I think it’s ultra hospitable to say, “when you leave, don’t worry we’ll clean up.” or “leave the keys on the counter.” I mean, that’s what I say when a friend stays at my apartment. It’s just kinda insinuated that they leave the place looking decent.

      Here’s a new quote from that forum discussion that I just can’t believe:

      “If you’re worried about what prospective guests will think….well….those who aren’t lazy will be fine with the review….those who are lazy will choose another place (and good for you!)”

      Lazy??? Does anyone else find this downright bizarre?

      • www.coloradocabinhome.com

        Yikes! My reviews (like my clients) are the most important part of my business…would love to see how/if the owner responded on the site to this review!

        • bluesinbrittany

          We include cleaning charge as part of the rent and I don’t expect beds to be stripped or even trash taken out but would consider clients leaving dirty plates or not switching on the dish washer to be impolite (or ignorant ) showing lack of respect for the property

      • Paulette

        I have found that “departure guidelines” avoid unpleasant experiences and the need to haggle with disrespectful guests who must live like pigs at home. 18 years ago a Thanksgiving holiday group left an unbelievable nightmare of a mess – beyond description. The clean up fee was $350 for a home that normally is $85. That cured me. We have had “DEPARTURE GUIDELINES” ever since.

        Every vacation rental property I’ve stayed in has “Departure Guidelines” which I very much appreciate. Guests who resent “stripping a bed” in a 4 bedroom home sleeping 8 @ $350/night need to spare themselves and get a hotel room with a king bed & Television for $350/nt or 4 King budget motel rooms @ $49/nt thus saving themselves $200 and no need to “strip the bed”.

        Besides saving time, “Stripping the bed” has a practical health issue, ensuring against a guest “making the bed” (which they’ve been known to do) leaving maid service to miss changing the bed. Starting a load of towels saves 45 minutes of housekeeping time thus saving guests an additional $20 to $30 that would normally be added onto their lodging fee.

  • Rosemary Kneipp

    From the outset, I decided to include the cleaning fee in the rental fee (not usually true in France) because I dislike the idea of cleaning the house when I leave myself. My experience is that guests always leave the house as tidy as they found it. If guests stay longer than a week, the house is cleaned and the linen and towels changed once a week as well.

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      Agreed Rosemary!

  • Bob

    Don’t agree Matt. We are not charging $450 a night and yes we do have a cleaning fee. We do not ask our customers to do a lot but just a few things before they leave. This has never been an issue in 11 years and we are full in all of our cabins 180-200 nights a year. Also I have found this to be true in EVERY rental we have ever stayed in (we do not stay in hotels). I don’t mind helping a bit before I leave because I know how long it takes one person to clean a 3 bedroom 2 bath home. If you do not have some guidelines guests treat your home like a pig sty and I for one do not want continued calls from our cleaners. So this may work for high end $450 a night luxury rentals but for the most of us it does not apply.

    • Jean McDonald

      Well said Bob. I totally agree with you.

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      Bob, I think it’s dangerous to rely on general goodwill. I’m pretty sure all of us are just like you in that we don’t mind helping. But if this industry is going to become bigger than hotels, resting on that lynchpin (that all travelers will be the same way) just isn’t structurally sound.

  • Lisa

    Matt- As a cabin rental owner and a person who’s rented a lot of places as well, I am a bit confused. I have learned a lot from you, so I really respect what you have to say. Are you saying that there shouldn’t be a check-out procedure for guests?

    Every place I have ever stayed has required that the beds are stripped, and the dishes done, as a minimum.

    I feel like I just showed up at a black tie dinner in blue jeans. 🙂

    What, specifically, is the best practice, in your opinion?

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      Lisa,

      I believe we are in the hospitality industry and if we choose to charge people to stay in our rental (i.e. if we choose to operate it as a business), then we do not have the right to ask for any favors, chores, errands, or tasks.

      Check-out procedures are one thing: please leave keys on counter, please don’t put food down the disposal, please lock doors from inside on your way out…etc. These are acceptable “conditions” of staying in someone’s home.

      Actual cleaning requests on the other hand — when you have committed yourself to accepting this stranger’s money on behalf of your own personal gain — are inappropriate.

      In the end, a vacation rental business is all about costs and benefits. Cleaning, taking out the trash, doing laundry: those are all costs. Generating income is the benefit.

      The moment you start dovetailing those two components, things get ugly.

  • Cindy Amato

    I totally see your point. But it still surprised me. I guess it’s all what you get used to. We usually rent in areas along the east coast (Outer Banks, Myrtle, etc) and there always seems to be something for us “to do” before we leave. We have always been asked to remove the trash, clean out the refrigerator, and in some cases start a load of laundry and start the dishwasher. I don’t even know what it would feel like to just leave! Ahhh, imagine that! How sweet. I guess we’re staying in the wrong places. (I’m not a VR manager, but I am a frequent vacation rental guest AND we hear about lots of guest stories from our own clients.)

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      Cindy,

      Just because you’re accustomed to doing these things (or like Bob below, if you “don’t mind” doing these things) doesn’t make it the right thing to do from a business standpoint. If this industry is going to progress, owners need to start thinking like true hospitality connoisseurs.

  • Alessandro Feliziani

    Always cool to read your articles Matt!

    I found several rentals who asked to “at least clean the dishes or there will be a 50 euro fan!”, we also did it sometimes at the beginning, but we quit after increasing the business indeed.

    We are aware this is not nice, and also, the following guest might find the dishes dirty if you trust the previous one.. so would be a double risk…

    I think, but can’t guarantee for all of them, that this “non written rule” to add the cleaning fee is because the rate-per-night shown in these big websites would be higher and loose competition. Other big sites add their own commission even on the cleaning fees if you include them in the rate, or also in the cleaning fee extranet proper section.

    Personally in Italy we have this cleaning fees issue, we’re talking about 35 euro fee spread on the stay, but when I went to US this summer and the least cleaning fee was 150 usd we kinda stopped worrying about this!!

    What do you think about commission on cleaning fees?

    Ciao!

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      Alessandro, I think it’s easiest/best to just include the cleaning fee in the price of the rental. When was the last time you stayed at a hotel that charged an additional “cleaning fee” upon departure? You’d be irate!

      I think we can learn form the hotel industry in this regard.

      • Alessandro Feliziani

        You’re right, learning from hotels is of course the best, even though we’re not hotels and renting apartments with services is much more difficult without a concierge.
        Thx!

        • www.coloradocabinhome.com

          No, in all cases, learning from hotels is not the best.

          • Alessandro Feliziani

            Well this is quite general, in this case I meant about services.

  • Matt Pauli

    Hi Matt – love your stuff, but I am not 100% on board with this reaction or expectation. I am renting my home, not a hotel room. If I were to stay at a friend’s house for a week or 10 days, I wouldn’t leave the trash pilled up on their floor, or dirty towels pilled up, etc. Most guests understand they are renting a home, and not a hotel room.

    We do not mandate our guests to clean up after themselves, but we do ask for their help. In addition to taking out their trash, or starting some laundry, we also ask for them to turn off the lights and air conditioning (electricity is very expensive on Maui).

    We don’t charge cleaning fees for stays of over 7 nights, and I give a complementary mid-stay clean for every 2 weeks a guest stays at our condo (this is great by the way, allows our cleaners to get in and “check” on the home and also makes their job easier on check out).

    • Alessandro Feliziani

      My 150 usd cleaning fee was right in Maui!! : )
      (and 250 usd tax..)

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      OK Matt, so humor me here: How would you feel if I were to stay in your rental and — in the same nature of friends asking friends for help — said “Can you do me a favor and cook our family dinners for us?” or “Can I ask something special: would you mind taking 10% off our stay each night since we’re nice?”

      The “favors” system — as much as I fundamentally love it — will just not work if this industry is going to mature.

      • Matt Pauli

        I agree if you want your VR to be a business, it needs to be treated as such. I do have people ask all the time if I can discount the rate because, “we are the cleanest people we know.” It certainly is a fine balance. I’ve stopped collecting security deposits too – those are too much of a “he said / she said” at departure, and I don’t add a cleaning fee if the condo is not cleaned up at departure.

        As you said, if you stayed at a friend’s house, you would leave it nice. All we ask of our guests, is that they treat our home, like they would like theirs treated.

        • loscuatrotulipanes

          But do you see what I’m getting at? If we tip toe that “fine balance,” there are bound to be problems. The industry needs standardization if it wants to truly explode.

          • www.coloradocabinhome.com

            There are vacation rentals, and there are 2nd homes that are vacation rentals. While there are many areas where both have the same standards, where both benefit from the same marketing strategies, there also are differences. I can tell you right now, ** without asking my guests to do a thing ** 99.5% of them wash the dirty dishes, and probably the same percentage of them bag the kitchen trash. I have to ask them *not* to strip the beds – easier to catch stains that need pre-treating if sheets are still on the bed, and I do the laundry in my own way. I ask them to throw used towels in the tub/shower – isn’t this like the hotels that are environmentally conscious who ask that dirty bathroom linens be put on the floor, so every single towel isn’t washed whether you used it or not? Anyway, my point being, I wouldn’t hesitate to leave dirty dishes on top of a desk or in a kitchenette of a hotel type rental. But someone’s home, rental or not? And remember, I don’t write this stuff out – most folks just have their own ‘code’ about being in what is obviously someone’s home. Having home like touches – spices, mustard, catsup, a few cans of Progresso soup, etc, let alone the interesting photographs, the book collections, the Martin guitar – sets its own tone. And in past 2 years I’ve probably had a dozen guests say this is the best VRBO they ever stayed at. If I’m creating my own niche market, then so be it.

          • Matt Pauli

            Standardization will be difficult though with 1,000s of CEOs and companies. I see the big guys (VRBO, FlipKey, etc) being able to push down a standardization. I know you are a proponent of your own website, and pulling the umbilical cord from the big listing sites – and I agree with that. How do you see the mom and pops being able to fight against them? I’m more than wiling to listen and help!

          • Matt Pauli

            I agree Mat. However I think that a standardization will be hard with 1,000s of MOM and Pop CEOs. I am not sure how we can fight the money and resources of VRBO, FlipKey. I know you are a proponent of cutting the umbilical cord and not relying on the big listings sites (and I agree with this). I’d be very interesting hearing thoughts about how to do this, and to even help. What can we do?

          • loscuatrotulipanes

            Yes but just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean we can’t make it happen. The core of this entire process starts with owners and managers treating their rentals like a business (not like a lemonade stand).

            As for the actual standardization process, I have some stuff in the works. Please stay tuned.

          • Kim B.

            I’d like to address the “standardization” issue, and the business vs. lemonade stand idea. The concept is chocolate and roses, but the reality is not so sweet. Each area and circumstance is different, and to make a clean sweep and state we should all button our suit coats and be businesslike doesn’t quite work.

            $400 per night for what? A one room apartment, or a 2400 square foot house? Most of the cleaners have a four hour turn around for a full sized house. Not an easy feat. In our area, requesting guests take out garbage, strip beds, start laundry and do dishes is standard to the local vacation home rental business.

            Also in our area, finding a single good cleaner is like gold. I would need an additional cleaner to accomplish your dream scenario which sharply increases cleaning costs, but that’s another story. Finding an additional cleaner, especially during the busy season, is debatable.

            Might it not be more realistic to suggest your dream scenario be simply something to attain in order to set our own rental apart from others, and thereby more marketable?

          • tokillamockingbirdfromtexas

            I used contracts from vacation rentals in my area and from vacation rentals across U.S to form my own. I am a researcher by nature…I researched every aspect of vacation rentals before deciding to do it.

            Seems pretty standardized….you just want to change the typical standard.

  • www.coloradocabinhome.com

    Hmmm, this got me thinking. I do tell guests that “if there are dirty items in the dishwasher, please run it on the heat/dry cycle before you leave.” And in a separate fact sheet “If You Bring Your Dog” I do ask them that if they used dog towels and sheets, to throw them in washer before they leave. Folks are so appreciative that I provide these things for their fur pals I’ve never had a negative reaction. The reason I do this, is on a same day turn around, it can be a challenge to get everything through the washer/dryer in a 6 hour time frame. All that said, I am astounded at how spotless some folks leave my cabin. Maybe I should specifically tell them *not* to clean? I do remember staying at a beautiful VRBO in Wisconsin where the owner’s instructions were, “Please leave the place as clean as you found it.” And there was a hefty deposit from which unspecified cleaning charges would be deducted. Fortunately as we were racing around cleaning before check out the owner showed up and told us ‘not to worry.’ So I think it is good to give folks some guidance…

  • Lianna

    This is very interesting. Every rental I’ve ever stayed in has required dishwasher started, one bed stripped, washer started, and trash out. One particular one in Santa Fe even required that we actually clean the bungalow. (Caveat: they didn’t charge a cleaning fee but would if you didn’t clean the house. As I remember we didn’t clean and were charged.)

    Given those experiences I just assumed it was common practice. I’m going to have to ponder on this one.

    As one poster said, ” I have learned a lot from you, so I really respect what you have to say.” And I’ve never had anyone complain. I don’t ask them to sweep or clean the dishes but I do ask to start the dishwasher and start a load of laundry. Mainly to give the cleaning lady a head start. Our washer takes a while and if we have back to back check ins the laundry won’t be done in time. Hummmmm…. I’ll be following this thread closely.

    Thanks as always, Matt!

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      Here’s my golden rule: treat guests the way you want them to treat you.

      If you ask guests to do favors, expect them to ask you to do favors as well.

      In my humble opinion, the simplest and cleanest and most professional way to handle this is as I have mentioned above.

  • Guest

    perhaps this is a cultural difference, but in my experience several countries (France, Norway, ALL over the UK & here in the Caribbean) a vacation rental is called “self-catering accommodation” and a guest is expected to leave the property in the same general condition it was when they arrived. This is laid out politely in the rental agreement under the security deposit, in every place I’ve stayed and also in my own now that I have VRs of my own. I certainly don’t want (or suggest) that they strip the beds or sweep but since we live in the tropics creepy crawlies can quickly become an issue so I do ask that the dishes are washed & garbage in bins. I do also ask nicely that any furniture they move should be moved back in the same general area – much of it is heavy teak and I cannot move it on my own!

    • Jean McDonald

      Hi Kitty
      I agree with your comment and we have the same policy to leave the property as it was found.

  • Julia

    Funny thing is I read the post in the forum yesterday and was astonished by the post and the comments that followed. 100% times 100 agree with your take on the situation. It’s our goal to treat every guest in our VR as we would treat them in our personal home. Guests are not expected to do anything, but leave the cottage in the same condition as found. Frankly, I don’t want the guests doing laundry. The housekeeper has a procedure she follows and doesn’t like guests disrupting it. Most guests on their own place laundry in the basket and take out the garbage. We don’t have a dishwasher and it’s rare that any dishes are left dirty. Occassionaly a coffee cup might be in the sink. We have wonderful guests and we’re building our return guest ratio. I’m still learning the vetting process to match guests to the property. Families traveling with teens are the toughest. I have learned to put the good bedding and decorative pillows away when teens visit. It ends up on the floor anyway! LOL Our VR is a business and I work everyday to improve upon successful practices. Thanks Matt for keeping things in perspective and NO you aren’t crazy!

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      High five Julia!

  • loscuatrotulipanes

    Cavel you hit the nail on the head.

  • Kitty at MoonFish

    perhaps this is a cultural difference, but in my experience several countries (France, Norway, ALL over the UK & here in the Caribbean) a vacation rental is called “self-catering accommodation” and a guest is expected to leave the property in the same general condition it was when they arrived. This is laid out politely in the rental agreement under the security deposit, in every place I’ve stayed and also in my own now that I have VRs of my own. I certainly don’t want (or suggest) that they strip the beds or sweep but since we live in the tropics creepy crawlies can quickly become an issue so I do ask that the dishes are washed & garbage in bins. I do also ask nicely that any furniture they move should be moved back in the same general area – much of it is heavy teak and I cannot move it on my own!

  • Margaret

    I don’t charge anywhere near $450 a night, my area is much closer to $100-$150 a night depending on season. I have tried including the cleaning in the rate and found my rates had to be high than other area homes. A cleaning fee is common in the are of my VR. We have a 3 bedroom condo, often we rent to couples who use only the master and we found that many guest remake the bed before leaving so we now ask that they place the bedding that was used in the laundry room so that we know if the beds were slept in. We also ask that dishes be put into the dishwasher and the garbage be taken out. Some guest do these things, some don’t, but it is common practice in our area and has never been a problem. I have stayed in vacation rentals in the area for many years before I owned my properties and these things were always requested. I never had a problem with it. We do supply many amenities that are not supplied by others in our area such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, paper towels, dish detergent, laundry detergent etc.
    I have followed a lot of your advise but on this one I think it appears you are in a different market than I am but keep the advise coming we are always looking to improve.

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      Respect.

  • Trudy in Nawlins’

    So glad you mentioned this….. I tell my guests to “Do Nothing” “we will take care of everything”
    I did stay at another vacation rental that had a long “check out list” We were all scurrying around trying to get everything done on the list – I was not happy!!
    I think, considering the cost of one night – they should not have to do anything.
    Think about it….. If you stay in a hotel – do you have to strip the beds? or do laundry or trash.
    We treat all our guests as VIPs!!!

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      Well put Trudy. Worst case scenario, include your additional costs (the cost of sending someone in to remove bedding or the cost of sending someone to take out the trash) into your room rate. Yes this may mean you have to charge $10 more per night. But if you guys are like me, any kind of hidden add-ons are downright annoying.

  • Bob Blum

    Matt…. I think there is a fine line between a vacation “home” rental and hotel or vacation “destination” accommodation. As Tyler suggests… the cliental that he appeals to expects to be able to leave the accommodation like I might leave a hotel room… because i know there maids roaming the hallway ready to clean my room when I depart. Dirty towel on the floor, bed unmade, room service dishes on the coffee table…etc. I will always leave a small tip expressing my appreciation for not having to do all the things I would ordinarily do at home. This is the expectation and the “norm”… I think?

    However, a persons vacation “home” even if professionally managed is a bit different as it has personal effects, is generally much larger, accommodates more people and generally speaking a different set of “norms”….. I think? As a vacation “home” owner and even as a property manager we ask that the simple things be done… like strip the beds, start the dishwasher and remove the trash from the property. A “to do” list tastefully done is part of the departure process and is 95% of the time adhered to and appreciated by the cleaning crew who generally has only 4 hours (if that) to clean a large, multi bedroom home that may take an extra 2-3 hours to prepare for the next guests.

    I do see your point that our “goal” as managers of properties or of our own vacation rental home should really be professional and run it like a business. However, in many ways it is still a “home” and I would want others to treat it like they would their own…. and leave it the way they found it (or better) in order to express appreciation for sharing their accommodations…. even at $450/night.

    There are other ways that we can excel at being professional and business like when it comes to dealing with reservations, payments, correspndance

    • Matt Pauli

      Well said Bob!

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      Bob, here are the two very similar but different themes I believe you (and several other commenters) have accidentally rolled into one:

      1) Asking guests to be respectful of your house
      2) Asking guests to do work on their vacation

      Each of the requests mentioned on this comment thread can be very easily thrown into one category or the other. Never both. The first category is acceptable. The second category is not.

      • Nick Marshall

        Matt, that is a false dichotomy. Being respectful of a house means looking after it. Houses do not look after themselves but require a modest amount of daily work to do that. Ask any woman on vacation! Only a man could suggest that a vacation is a work free zone. I would love to know what world exists in which there is no work involved. Do you cook your guests meals?

      • tokillamockingbirdfromtexas

        Matt.

        With all due respect, that is part of renting a vacation rental. People doing this type of rental should be aware of this. I put MUCH thought into this when I began renting my home as a vacation rental. I wish I could be a full service bed and breakfast without the bed and breakfast rental price. I do not run a resort or a luxury hotel. We are not asking them to pull out the gloves and scour the bathrooms, mop, make the beds for the next guests etc.
        To keep prices where they are at in the vacation home rental business and to keep the flow of out going guests and incoming guests we require they put a little effort when they leave to begin 3 things.

        If I build additional cleaning fees into the rental price I would:
        1. Not have as many bookings
        2. Have even more mess to clean up with same amount of time between guests
        3. Not have enough time between each guests.

        • Matt (Himself)

          Can you tell me how much you charge per night?

          • tokillamockingbirdfromtexas

            Sure.

            I just turned my long term rental into a vacation rental. It is located in a modest residential area in Spokane, WA. I set my prices according to homes similar to mine in the area. $169/night during summer months. $150/night during fall/winter.

            I am considering changing my cleaning fee either by raising it to pay extra time needed for housekeeper to strip bedding or building cleaning fee into rental price (but I know from extensive retail experience that people compare base prices first and that will make my home look like it’s over priced) or using similar model I found on a blog where they broke down the fees by number of guests.

            My last guests did not follow the check out at all. House was not trashed by any means, but they left windows opened and heat blasting, moved living room furniture around without putting as they had found it, had dirty glasses and mugs in every room, left sheets on bed and towels in bathroom.

            None of those things are major to me other than my housekeeper charged me 2 additional hours to do the above. The cleaning fee includes 3 hours…she said it took her 5 hours to complete because she had to start the laundry (she stipulated guests needed to begin first load of white bathroom towels) and strip beds, move the living room chair a few inches and place glasses in dishwasher.

            Any recommendations on how to stay competitively priced and not force guests to do all the extras, afford extra utilities for guests who blast heat and leave windows open and pay for housekeeper who cleans the two level home very well?

          • Matt (Himself)

            Can you give me an idea of how much hotels are charging in the area?

          • tokillamockingbirdfromtexas

            Basic decent hotel $86. Nice, upscale hotels $126-$150

          • Matt (Himself)

            OK so your unique selling point IS indeed value (as in, families could either book your rental or 4 hotel rooms). In cases like these, guests might be willing to do the check-out tasks in exchange for the money they save. I would just be very careful/savvy about marketing that tradeoff.

          • tokillamockingbirdfromtexas

            Thank you for taking the time to go through this.

            Spokane is a very tough market…so I try setting myself apart by having new modern furniture and creating a nice relaxing atmosphere. Very good point on marketing the tradeoff.

          • Matt (Himself)

            Yes I think it’s unfair to say that EVERY rental is competing with hotels or EVERY rental needs to be run like a B&B. This is true about LOTS of rentals because of their price point (if, for instance, you were charging $600/night). But for those rentals (like yours) that are actually offering an entirely different product (basically, a self-catering alternative), I think the requests — as long as they are very clearly explained as ‘part of the reason for the low price’ — are perfectly kosher 🙂

        • Jenai Herod

          I have been cleaning exclusively for a mountain vacation home and only a year and half later I learned how littke I was being paid to do wmquite a lot of work fir an entire 2 bdrm 2 full bath house . Only 50 bucks. And given 2 hours to clean in order for me to do the absolute best job expected of me often took 3 hours and required quite a lot of work to be done quickly including removing garbage and dropping it off at the dump becsuse the home was so isolated there was. No way to get trash pickup service. The host did require the aforementioned To do list exactly as complained about in this article and only once in 18 months did anyone complain or fail to comply with the request and thankfully from a cleaning service standpoint I was grateful that they did when I realize how littke I was being paid to do what i now charge much more for doing a much larger home. But now that I am no longer cleaning for that rental I can say I appreciate very much when guests leave a home as nice as they found it minus the bedding and trash removal. .it made my job much easier and allowed me to complete my task in the expected time and shaved that extra unpaid hour off and allowed me to provide a clean fully stocked welcoming home that always recieved excellent reviews for cleanliness thankfully they decided to move to the property themselves so I now work for a rental home that understands the amount of work required to get those top rated reviews and repeat gusts booked. And appreciated the value of a cleaning service they can count on to do the job right never leave anything unsanitized and never a reason for a guest to say EWW GROSS which is important to anyone always when renting any type of vacation home motel room or bed and breakfast. I enjoy my work but I also enjoy being appreciated and paid what I’m worth because frankly it’s a lot of work to do in a short time and hopefully most home owners don’t under pay their help like in my case. Just thought I’d put my 2 cents in.

      • Claude Whitmyer

        When dealing with a second family home located in an idyllic vaction spot and being rented to carefully selected guests, we use what I think is a compromise between Matt’s two categories.

        We have good relationships with all our renters. Most of the same families have been renting for years.

        That said, we still charge a cleaning deposit, with the proviso that if they complete a short checklist prior to leaving, they can automatically get their whole cleaning deposit back.

        This avoids the challenge of raising the rent to cover cleaning costs, but allows them to ignore the todo list if they don’t mind not getting their deposit back.

        Still, most complete the tasks every time. When emergencies come up that prevent them from doing so, we usually return all or most of the deposit anyway, depending upon just how messed up the house is. That is part of how we’ve developed such long-standing loyalty and return rentals. That and being clear about expectations both verbally and in writing, but communicated with an emotional valence of family and friends. Yes, they are our customers. They have also become our summer friends.

        My impression, knowing most of these folks for several years, is that frugality rules the day and they involve the whole family in quickly completing the checklist as a regular part of their departure. Some of them report a genuine feeling of satisfaction and contribution.

        May not work for all circumstances (remember, I said we’ve known these people for years), but it works for us and may be worth a try for others.

  • MB

    I’m so glad you wrote this post, Matt! Our family has been asked to do some or most of the same chores FREQUENTLY at the VR’s we rented and although I have not left bad reviews, I should have. It’s only by leaving negative reviews that this nasty practice might be abandoned! Thanks.

    • Matt Owen

      Its a business and should be run as a business. I am not going to book a place on holiday and then be expected to work, whole idea of a vacation is to relax not work. I think if you cant provide a cleaning company or any staff don’t expect to run a successful vacation rental business. Not the views of Kigo.net, Matt Owen’s views.

      P.S. I am a potential guest.

    • Boogernuts

      Hi MB,
      Do you own or run a vacation rental, and if yes, locally or at a distance?
      Exactly how much more would you be wiling to pay for this level of service when you rent a home?

      I’m just curious, because the equivalent of a second clean plus three extra nights accommodations is what it would cost to provide it (at a minimum). Given a choice between doing a load of laundry and taking out the trash to the bin one last time or paying an extra $600, which would you prefer?

      I’m just curious…

      When I rent a car as opposed to hire a taxi, I put gas in it myself, I clean the windshield, and if I don’t want to get dinged extra, I return it full. Renting an asset for self catered use means doing some of the work necessary to use the asset. There is nothing wrong with this.

      This is all about expectations. Guest’s don’t expect hotel services at a vacation rental. If you do, that is your issue, and not something that should cause you to leave a negative review.

      If guests truly left a vacation rental the way they found it, then every bit of laundry would be done, the house would be cleaned and spotless with all of the beds made, dishes cleaned and put away, and it would be ready for the next guest, just like when they arrived. But we know that’s not going to happen.

      So where do you draw the line? Is it being inhospitable to ask the guest to turn down the air conditioner before they leave? Or is asking them to close and lock the door behind them too much to ask now too?

      How much are you prepared to pay for that level of service?

  • Lucie Nolette

    I agree with you Matt, we are in the hospitality business and I am not expecting my guests to do the cleaning and any washing. So all is included in my cleaning fee and very easy to do if you train the cleaning services the right way. The only thing I ask my guests to do is take out their trash out that is it.
    Lucie – Phoenix Vacation Condos

  • Jean McDonald

    Our guests are obliged to take out the rubbish and use the recycling facility. Most have the decency to at least load and switch on the dishwasher before they leave. After all it is what they have used. We do not request and not many guests do remove the bed linen and towels.

  • loscuatrotulipanes

    In my opinion, that 10-hour clean is the cost of doing business. If I were you, I would give them a gift in return for getting the dishwasher started.

    • Darik Eaton

      Matt,

      What you didn’t touch on is what to do about our guests. We have two options, 1) Have our guests have certain things that they do to expedite cleaning 2) Guests can’t check in before 4pm EVER, and might even have a delay in checking in if its like the scenario above. As a rule our guests don’t mind doing those little things as we are very flexible, as flexible as we can be with their check in. So in that way we give a gift of flexibility before they even arrive.

      The only way that is possible if managing more than a handful of properties is to do relatively minor things such as putting soap in the dishwasher and starting it with their breakfast dishes in it.

      Darik Eaton
      Seattle Oasis Vacation Rentals
      http://www.SeattleOasisVacations.com

      • loscuatrotulipanes

        The fact that a rental takes X hours to clean should not be our guests’ problem. In the name of true hospitality, if it’s really impossible to squeeze new guests in before Xpm, then we must schedule a day of cleaning in between tight guests (that is, we forgo income in the name of quality standards). This may be a total stretch for some vacation rental owners to embrace, but in terms of sound business practices, it’s the only way to go.

        “Managers do things right. Owners do the right thing.”

        • Darik Eaton

          Should and reality are two different things. What you are missing out on is that it is their problem. It is their problem as in our location guests often arrive to the airport, use public transit or taxi to our location, have their bags in tow and have no place to storage luggage as its a self serving condo building. It is their problem as they next guest has been traveling all day and just want their kid to be able to take a nap. And them having to wait till 4pm or 6pm if our guests didn’t help us get a head start is in the name of hospitality that we do it. How is it not their problem? It may not be the guests who just departed’s problem, but it was their problem upon check in. It allows us to be hospitable to that many more people. We have 65-80 turns per property per year. By adding a cleaning day after we would limit our ability to be hospitable to possibly 15 or more guests a year if you aggregate that out on an annual basis.

          Or even worse, where is that line drawn. Lets say you know normally on average a cleaning takes 3 hours. To be on the safe side you allow 5 hours, and do have an incoming guest. A guest does trash the property or leave it in a state that it does take you even more than 5 hours. Because of that the next incoming guest is inconvenienced. By taking your logic to the nth degree if that happens even once, in the name of hospitality we should always allow an entire day to turn a unit. Just in case that extra time is needed so that a guest wouldn’t be inconvenienced.

          So you propose that to be the ultimate hospitable host I should allow an entire day to turn a unit, just in case a guest does decide to not be the usual respectful guest, or one that is willing, out of their love and appreciation of our hospitality to do a couple things that in total might take them 30 minutes, or less if the group works as a team and delegates between multiple guests (our units sleep upto 8) but ultimately could save us hours on cleaning time?

          That is where you loose me. While it may be less than ideal, the truth is that the guest is impacted by such a policy in when they might be able to use the unit to begin with which in the end could add more than enough enjoyment for them to be willing to pay it forward to the next guest so that they may be able to do the same.

          Darik Eaton
          Seattle Oasis Vacation Rentals
          http://www.SeattleOasisVacations.com

          • loscuatrotulipanes

            In my opinion, a paying guest should be responsible for one thing: arriving and enjoying their vacation.

            The moment you start making additional things their “problem” is the moment when hospitality loses course.

          • Darik Eaton

            You said it right here, arriving and enjoying their vacation. If they can’t arrive and enjoy their vacation when they would like because their plane touches down at noon, and they have a kid that typically naps at 2 but we can’t provide the unit until 4 because we didn’t want to have our guests (which is a key word. guest vs customers. Guests will do what they can to be low impact typically. Clients, or customers don’t care) do anything before they leave then ultimately the guest is who looses.

            I think your theory can be sound, but in practice it is not applicable to the VR industry. Hotels seldom operate at 100% occupancy. So a guest (customer more appropriate for a hotel) can come in at noon and typically check into a room somewhere, and then the cleaning crew can work on all the check outs and pretty much every guest can have the least amount of inconvenience as possible. But with vacation rentals there are no alternative units. Each property is unique.

            Ultimately it is for the guests benefit that the things we ask, and we do frame it as an ask vs a requirement, the things we do. It is because we want to serve, and allow our guests time to check in early, check out late, and all of the above that we ask for certain things to be done. It allows the most enjoyment for everyone, at the least amount of cost. And in that way the guest wins every time.

            In this same theory, a guest should be able to check out when they please and check in when the please if we truly want to maximize our hospitality. As we truly want them to make the very most of their time with us in our location. Something has to give. The theory breaks down when it hits the reality of a fixed inventory/asset. One guest group can’t check out late at 2 and have a guest check in at 2 and have the unit clean and ready. Its all a balancing act. My argument is that the balancing act is most masterfully performed when guests do certain limited things that ultimately someone else may have done before their stay so that they can have the maximum time benefit in the property. I can either ask guest to check out at 10 am vs 11am, or have more guests not have their property available to then unitl 5pm by asking no one to touch a thing except my cleaning crew. But by doing that, ultimately many more hours of enjoyment are gained by the couple minor things that are asked that help expedite cleanings so the next guests can get started on their stay and start making their memories.

            Darik Eaton
            Seattle Oasis Vacation Rentals
            http://www.SeattleOasisVacations.com

          • Daniela

            Matt, I saw this sentence on a vacation rental i stayed and i couldn’t agree more with it:”We want you to enjoy your stay to the full, so we will take care of all your needs during your stay with us!”

            I therefore agree with you!If the cleaning fee is charged, and called cleaning fee, why do the owners ask guests to clean before departure on top of it??Aren’t they charging already for a cleaning?

            If I was a costumer I would think:” I pay you and I have to be your “friend” and do cleaning to “help” you???How would you be my “friend” and “help” me as well? Will you offer me one night free of charge? As a friend??”
            I would never, ever ask my costumers to clean anything(not even a coffee cup) on my home .
            I offer my guests a private home, with all extras you may imagine like shampoo ,soap ,a welcome pack with
            olive oil, salt, some pasta, cereals, a bottle of water, etc.I offer all my guests the possibility of making reservations for them on museums , restaurants, theaters, etc! To have the entrances on the hands avoids hours of waiting on long lines…they love
            it!!!And I do not live on the same city my home is:
            I just do it online, there is a printer on the apartment, so I can send all by email to my costumers and they can print entrances and …done!!No extra charges for it…just wonderful reviews and happy costumers! And off course, I am making a lots of money renting my home!

            There is no check out list on my apartment, but if I ever do one, it will say: It is not allow to clean anything to leave our apartment: you have still a few hour of vacation: enjoy it until the last minute because maybe, you will have to wait one entire year to enjoy some days without clean anythingJ We will be here to receive you and to clean for you !!

          • loscuatrotulipanes

            LOVE THIS!

      • loscuatrotulipanes

        Why don’t you buy an additional set of sheets or dishes so that you can just swap out the old with the new in record time?

        • Darik Eaton

          We have 3 sets of sheets per property, and 2.5 times the towels that are needed per property already. Our kitchens are not just dishes and silverware. Our average kitchen has 183 items with a value of $1500 as we truly give our guests a at home experience. Once again where do you draw the line? With 8-15 properties being cleaned per day, I would need an entire box truck to allocate for the entire kitchen supplies for each and every product. And due to the sheer number of items, I would be shocked if taking inventory of what is dirty vs what is not, pulling needed items from inventory, bringing new items in, dirty items out, would all and all be slower than cleaning the items in place when dealing with condos in a high rise with the end result of cleanings being slower, and hurting overall morale of cleaning staff for dealing with such items. Morale and motivation being key for delivering ultimately the desired product, a perfectly clean space every single time.

          Then a commercial laundry facility would be needed for all of the laundry, and then a commercial kitchen with multiple dishwashers to handle the multiple homes worth of dishes, pots, pans, etc. Let alone the loss that would be caused in the transport of all the glassware in the process.

          Like I mentioned above we can’t, and it is dangerous to compare ourselves to the hotel industry that has other modes of income. We do not want to follow the hotel and airport industry where we nickel and dime for services that should be provided for free (parking, internet, etc) and we typically don’t have restaurant, bar, and minibar income to draw from as well.

          Next do you want us to offer turn down service every night, clean the rooms every day like a hotel as well? That isn’t who we are as an industry. Like many others have mentioned we are a self-catering industry. A campground expects you to pack-in-pack-out and that is, to a certain extent still in the hospitality arena. Especially with different classes of camping now available from Airstreams, to yurts.

          The key is rather communication so guests know what to expect, and are happy to participate in the experience so they are able to take advantage of the advantages of the type of hospitality we provide. 85% of first time vacation rental travelers (which was 35% of vacation renters last year) said they will look for a vacation rental first over a hotel next time they travel. People like the advantages of what we offer. As such 70% of those polled as mentioned didn’t mind starting the dishwasher. That is our target audience. Knowing your audience and going after them as guests, and repeat guests are the key.

          When guests want the turn down service, the bell hop, the room service, the full service spa (without leaving the property), etc when I have them on the phone I carefully explain what we offer is different and if that is what is important to them during this trip, maybe what we have isn’t right for them.

          We can’t please everyone. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur in the hospitality space (or any industry) you need to know your target customer. Guests choose vacation rentals due to having the comforts of home and having more space. The overwhelming majority of guests understand with that comes some of the responsibilities of home as well and are fine with that trade off. We need as an industry target those travelers/trips and we will continue to grow.

          Darik Eaton
          Seattle Oasis Vacation Rentals
          http://www.SeattleOasisVacations.com

        • Bridget

          What do you mean an extra set of dishes?? And the housekeeper is supposed to tote all these breakables in his/her vehicle? I get what you’re saying about not asking for cleaning to be done. But to carry around plates, glasses, wine glasses, coffee mugs, silverware, bowls, etc. is absurd.
          I think the issue here is a lot of owners do not provide hospitality in the same manner a hotel/restaurant would. When staying in a hotel if you want a wake up call at 6 a.m. it’s done. You forgot you’re room key, no problem…someone will be right there. If you need some toothpaste…again no problem….here is complimentary tube.
          I feel like a vacation rental is somewhere in between the self-catering and hospitality biz. If I rent a U-Haul, I will be charged if they have to clean all my trash out of the back and I didn’t fill it up with gas. Yes, I paid to rent it but that doesn’t mean I can leave it in whatever condition and spill stuff all over the place.
          I personally do not ask guests to do laundry or strip beds because I want to be able to find stains. I had a 4 hr. turn around window but recently I had to change check in time till later due to a few guests. Now, I have 5 hrs. Luckily, the couple of times it took me even longer than that, no one was checking in. I’m one of those who is caught in between. I can pay someone to help me clean “just in case” the guests were slobs. It’s not like a housekeeper is going to be on call, so I would have to commit to the extra expense even if the majority of the time, that person was not needed.
          A few weeks ago it took me 8 hrs. to clean the place because another vrbo owner and his family decided to put back dirty dishes into the cabinets. Everything was also put back in such disorder, I had to take everything back out of the cabinets and reorganize. The dishwasher was full and I had to rewash those dishes too because they had been sitting in there for days and weren’t rinsed. I think those dishes were from the first couple nights and they decided not to run it until that morning. The entire kitchen counters were also covered in every dish cloth available with all of the dishes they washed that morning. Who knows how many days worth had accumulated. The pancake maker was put back greasy and disgusting….I could go on and on. They also did not clean the grill. And these people were not even charged a cleaning fee on the condition that grill and appliances were left clean. Now I charge a cleaning fee for everyone.
          I don’t ask guests to take out the trash because I don’t want to waste a new bag when cleaning. I take it out when I’m done. What I do ask is if they use the outdoor grill, microwave, and oven, then they need to leave it clean. Also, patio furniture needs to be put back as it is too heavy for one person and scrapes against the deck if you drag it.
          I do understand both sides though. I can def. see where it would be viewed as tacky to ask someone to do chores before they leave.

  • Pat

    Well, Matt, you asked – I do disagree with the all-or-nothing clean/don’t clean policy. It’s not that black & white. In our market, it is quite typical across like VRs that no cleaning fee is charged but guests are supplied with a short but inclusive check out list that we are very upfront about in our rental agreement. Guests are aware of our “self-catering” policy before they commit to a booking. We have been operating for 4 years now & this year will be our highest in terms of both income & an increase in off season bookings. We have the highest number of 5 star reviews for our locale & have many repeat guests. Have we lost some potential guests because of our policy? I’m sure we have. Are we happy with the policy we have? As of now, yes, we are. I certainly will keep watch on my business and change our policy if we determine it can be improved. For those guest who wish to relax, refresh and renew their spirits at a comfy, cozy beach destination, please visit us at http://www.theheronsview.com

    If you prefer not to do any check out chores, that of course is one’s choice and I wish everyone well in their vacation getaways.

    The VR market is a big one and there’s room for all.

    Best, Pat

  • Chereen

    I, too, find this forum extremely beneficial. I am appreciate all the input on this
    topic. I am also torn on how I feel but I come from a different perspective.

    I have spent the past 5 years fighting for fair and reasonable short term rental regulations in Austin, Tx and the Highland Lakes area. Many of our successes came from the determination that we are residential use and not commercial use.

    I offer short term leases on residential homes. I do not run small hotels in residential neighborhoods. I am torn on the idea that we have to become a commercial enterprise and model the hotel industry to be successful or at our best. I think there is something very personal about sharing our homes that will never be commercial. I am just not sure if a cleaning checklist is a major pivot point for a traveler when choosing a home vs a hotel room. I want to make sure I am not offering a commercial service in a residential area. This would not be a compatible use.

    With this said, I am a huge supporter of great customer service. I treat my family, friends and renters like VIPs because this makes me happy (and successful). I think this is a Best Practice for life.

    Like Matt, I think each of us should do our best to raise the standards for our guests, owners and managers to improve our brand in the tourism industry. We need guests to prefer a vacation homes over hotel rooms. I think this forum is an invaluable tool to bring us together towards this common goal. Thanks Matt and all contributors!

  • CityLifeSuites VictoriaBC

    Our Vacation Rentals are all described very clearly as “self-catering”. That is to say, when you rent from us you look after your own needs. There is no cleaning or maid service, and guests are expected to do their own laundry (which is why we supply in-suite washer/dryers, they are expected to prepare their own meals (which is why we provide full kitchens and cooking utensils) and, basically they are encouraged to treat our properties as their “home away from homw”. Part of that is our expectation that they will leave the property in a “reasonable state of cleanliness”. They do pay a cleaning fee, but we do not expect them to leave the property in a filthy mess, and we make this clear to them. We are NOT a hotel, and there is, in my opinion, a huge difference between the two industries. If people want to be catered to, then they should stay in a hotel, if they want the benefits of a self-catering vacation rental, then they should “follow the rules of the game” and ensure that the property is left in, essentially, the same condition as when they checked-in. Having said all that, we still give each property a thorough “deep clean” after guests leave, however we’re not going to take the hit of doubling our cleaning costs because disrepectful and uncaring guests leave the property looking like a pig sty.

    • Mrs Ryan

      I totally agree with you we have a self catering town house in Vilamoura we use an agent to make beds up and do surface clean. We come over 3 times a year to deep clean everything is pulled out cupboards drawers etc you know what i mean…however I want to put a little sign up saying “if you use it please clean it throughly Thankyou” do you think this would afend guests.. We have arrived to find the cooker in a terrible state cutlery put away dirty and a jug put back in the cupboard with excess milk in the bottom. I have yet to catch up with our agent to find out exactly what is expected of them..anyone any ideas of something short but to the point about at least leaving the kitchen in the same state as they found it bearing in mind our guests are mainly Portuguese. Thanks

  • Eleni

    Dear Matt and fellow colleagues,
    my humble opinion about what I have read so far is that everything is faced so professionally!? But renting out your home is more personal, and I think this is what my guests have really loved so far – this personal touch- and given me all 5 star reviews with not one exeption. After all, this is what makes us different from impersonal hotels… I think it is all a matter of education and how one is brought up. I never ask my guests to do anything, but they all take the trash out and wash the dishes before they leave !!!! I greatly thank them for leaving the house in such a good condition before they go and they feel very proud. Is it the fact that when they arrive it is impeccably clean? Is it because I treat them like friends and take good care of them ( I am always here to help and offer solutions or answer every question)? I do not know…What I know is that respecting someone else’s place, even if it is a VR, is a sign of civilisation and thoughtfulness towards others and this always pays back.
    Of course, once in a blue moon, there is an exeption, but this is so rare, I do not mind and I do not say anything – I just form an opinion not so favourable for this kind of guests, and of course I will not accept them again in my VR.
    Best Regards from Athens, Greece
    Eleni

    • Vic

      Renting a vacation home vs renting a hotel room is quite different.

      The advantages of hotel rentals are with being catered to. The disadvantages are the very high cost of having to dish out high dollar amounts for breakfast, lunch, dinner, cocktails, laundry etc. Compound that for parties of six or more & the vacations become very expensive indeed and not as personal a group experience.

      The advantages of home rentals are that parties of six or more can have a home experience and not pay any more for meals, drinks etc. than if they were in their own homes. The disadvantages are not being catered to as with a hotel room. Therefore the disadvantage of some cleaning must be done to prevent home rental rates from being higher than they are. Owners of rental homes will stop renting if they are losing out financially by paying extra out of pocket cleaning fees to make renting their homes “not worth the trouble”.

      So make your choice about what type of rental is better for you, and stop whining after you make your informed decision, knowing the advantages and disadvantages of each.

  • VacationMamma

    Matt, can’t support you on this one. We are not a hotel, with maids cleaning 15 rooms a day. We are a cottage, home, etc. where the experience & mess is unlike hotels. If it is left in poor condition, there is no other room to send guests to while the cleaning is finished. Perhaps in countries where labor is cheap & plentiful your model works, but not where I’ve owned & managed in US. I’m not trying to convince guests to choose a vr over hotel; I want guests who actually want a vr experience. We are a niche NOT a commodity. If I build cleaning into my rates, how can I accommodate shorter stays? I do offer an express check out option for extra $. Very few opt for it.

    The EU has it right – self catering… Not a hotel but cheaper & better like HomeAway pushes

    • Deb Mullins

      Very well put VacationMamma

  • doug coates

    Homeaway has been telling us for years that one of our primary goals is to take away business from the hotel/resort industries. Many “industry experts” concur.

    With that in mind, your comments make a lot of sense. But I think we have to be really really careful about how far we go in trying to emulate traditional lodging businesses. We could lose some things that are unique and special about vacation rentals in the process.

    Vacation rentals have traditionally been more like a “home away from home” and less like a hotel. There is a reason they are referred to as “self catering” in Europe. And some guests LIKE the fact that they are more than just a passive visitor. Cooking and a reasonable bit of home care makes it more homey. I can tell from experience that SOME of my guests like this aspect of their VR experience. I remember the guest last year who was clearly enjoying retrieving my garbage cans that were blowing across the village during one of our stronger Pacific storms.

    In some markets, where turnaround times between bookings are 3 to 4 hours and cleaning staff options are very limited, having the guest load the dishwasher and start a load of laundry makes a huge difference in amount of time the cleaners have to spend at the property, and how early you can allow the next guest to check in. Early check-in benefits the guest.

    Having a guest do a few things to expedite the cleaning process also means lower cleaning costs for the guest.

    The fact is that in traditional lodging industry options, every hotel/resort aspires to be like every other, only better, cheaper, more exclusive, etc.

    In the VR industry we have a wide variety of motivations for what we do, and an even wider variety of ways of doing it. One management style is not going to fit all players. The VR owner that rents occasionally to supplement the carrying costs of a house is usually running a very different operation than the VR owner that is renting luxury digs at maximum capacity.

    With all that in mind, I think your comments are very valuable. If we are charging high cleaning fees or pitching luxury accommodations, we shouldn’t be asking the guests to get their hands dirty. If we are pitching “homeyness” or offering free or low cost cleaning options, its not so bad to ask the guest to help out.

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      I like your clarification Doug: what do you think the purpose of a vacation rental should be?

      • doug coates

        I don’t think there is One purpose.

        Owners rent
        – some to supplement income, others to make a profit
        – as a hobby, to meet people, to share a place they love, etc.
        – as a way to hold onto a home that has been in the family for generations.
        – as a way of funding non-profit ventures
        – as a way of keeping a house occupied that they don’t live at full time
        – etc.

        Guests rent
        – to have more room, cooking facilities
        – to have privacy
        – because they don’t like hotels
        – because there are no decent hotels in the area
        – to support a cause
        – to be close to family & friends at another location
        – etc.

        We could all add to the list above. My point was that the diversity of motivations on the parts of both the owners and teh guest should not be lost in the name of competing with hotels or intelligent marketing.

        Doug

        • loscuatrotulipanes

          On a big scale, my theory is that if these motivations that you mention are not ironed out, then the rental industry will stay forever fragmented.

          I think the common denominator of the owner perspective is to generate income. The common denominator of the guests is to have a nice vacation. Rolled into one cute and convenient little ball, that’s what this industry is all about.

          • MB

            I think, as I read these comments from owners, that there is little perspective with respect to the guests’ perspective. I have stayed in at least 15 VRBO’s over the years and I would never go so far as to leave a bad review because of being asked to clean up. However, I am resentful and REMEMBER the VRBO’s where I was NOT ASKED to do this. Owners, remember you are only ASSUMING your guests aren’t bothered by this. How can you be so sure that they will rent from you again and again? I cannot think of a single time in our stays where we (and our co-renters as well) have not felt bitter about this. We DO NOT make a mess and are respectful, and so why do we have to clean up too? The rentals that have not required this of us have gotten REPEAT bookings. I love Matt’s idea of just “Enjoy your stay. We’ll do the cleaning up.”

          • loscuatrotulipanes

            Really well said MB!

          • DK

            HUH? – Your comments don’t make sense. “However, I am resentful and REMEMBER the VRBO’s where I was NOT ASKED to do this.” You’re resentful when not asked to clean up?

            My Take: Every time we’ve been at a VRBO we were expected to do the dishes strip the bed and at least separate trash from recycling. Didn’t seem unreasonable at all to us. We are the people though that go the extra mile. The first time we stayed at a VRBO the owner emailed me to thank us for how awesome the place looked when we left, like she was surprised it wasn’t a mess. We have a trash and recycling can in the kitchen and ask that they use them appropriately and take them out to the large cans when they leave. We ask them to pull the sheets back on the beds they slept in so we know what beds were used. We ask them to do their dishes, we don’t have a dishwasher. I would never ask them to start a load of laundry (personally I think that’s the proverbial line) I want myself or my housekeeper to control that anyway. We’ve only been at this since August 2013, maybe down the road it could be different but so far we’ve gotten all great reviews and no complaints and actually already have our first repeat booking. Matt’s main points in most everything is that it’s the owner/mgr. that makes the biggest difference. It’s just like any other “sales” position, people tend to buy from people they like.

          • MB

            Clarification: we are resentful when we are asked to clean the place upon leaving. It especially vexing for my husband, who has so little vacation time in a year.

          • tokillamockingbirdfromtexas

            Maybe a Bed & Breakfast or a resort is more suitable to your needs and expectations.

          • Michele Anderson

            I just got back from staying at a vacation condo, and I don’t think the problem (at least for me) is cleaning up after myself and keeping the place nice and neat. The problem I had was having to start a wash–either the sheets or towels. We didn’t have much time the day of departure, so I washed all the bathroom towels including the beach towels the night before, and dried them and put them away. Had to leave a hand towel out for morning–almost was going to dry my face etc. with paper towels. I was kind of irked that it took time away since it was my last night, but oh well. The thing I don’t like is that I don’t think it’s very sanitary having the guests do the general washing. Not every one washes the same. The washing machine was small and the owner said to use only half amount of soap. I washed in hot water, but who knows if the towels I was using were actually washed with hot water and enough soap. It really comes down to having the towels and sheets sanitary, the rest of it isn’t that big a thing for me.

          • tokillamockingbirdfromtexas

            I completely get where you are coming from. Truly. I have owned businesses since I was 24 years old…many, many years so I know how to come up with viable solutions to fit my needs as an owner and needs of my customers.

            In this matter, however, I have found no other viable solution to be able to get all that needs to be done in an entire two level home in 3-4 between guests without having the guests quickly throw their dirty towels in washing machine and turn on…place their breakfast dishes in dishwasher and turn on…and remove sheets from beds. We’ve tried eliminating the last one but there simply is not enough time when housekeeper also has to completely clean the bathrooms and kitchen plus mop and vaccuum etc. This is both, a time and a money issue.

            What viable solutions do you have for the vacation home rental owners to eliminate your bitterness?

          • I think I would figure things out somehow with my cleaning crew so I didn’t have to ask too much of guests. Doing the dishes is completely reasonable, but stripping the beds is too much like being a maid.

            I understand your problem though. I am commenting from the mindset of a guest, not an owner. It’s a pretty universal complaint among guests, so there has to be a solution out there.

            Good luck and many bookings ahead!

          • tokillamockingbirdfromtexas

            Thank you for your response.

            Again, I understand what you are saying but this is a business and a personal one at at that.

            With all due respect, ‘figure something out with cleaning crew’ is not a solution. I was taught not to complain if I cannot be part of the solution 🙂

            I have a crew of one. One very efficient lady who cleans remarkably well. This is a time issue more than anything else.

            I will continue to ponder on the sheet issue…though I’ve looked at it from every logistical angle.

          • How about incentivizing guests to do the extra things, like take off a bit of the cleaning if they do the extra things. Now you have me brainstorming…..

          • tokillamockingbirdfromtexas

            Now that is a thought…

            I will definitely consider that option. If you happen to think of any others please let me know.

            Thanks.

          • Sure! Glad to help. 🙂

          • Vacation Rental Guru

            It’s probably not cost but as you rightly point out time. Give them more time in the rental if they do those basics things, if they don’t want to then they have to leave earlier. Simples!

          • Would having back-up sheet sets be helpful? If I lived closer to our rentals, I would be able to bring the used sheets home and launder at my convenience for the next turn around. Would your housekeeper be willing to do that?

          • tokillamockingbirdfromtexas

            I have at least 2 sets for each bed. I am looking into having the housekeeper drop off at a laundry service instead.

          • Deb Mullins

            We are pondering Tenants bringing their own sheets or paying $20.00 extra for sheets per bed. The time issue is still there but if they knew they had to wash sheets start them first. Our cleaning crew consist of only 2 and some weeks they have more than one vacation property to clean.

          • Melissa Davis-Sedillo

            The solution is one that we as a maintenance/ cleaning team with 7 houses we handle, with with five star reviews is simple. We have convinced our owners that 3 sets of linens, for the beds and extra sets of towels save ALot of time and effort.remove dirty linens make beds etc. Clean linens fold and bag with identifiers

          • Denise Botsolis

            It helps I think, if the renters understand the differences between renting from a home and a hotel, and the responsibilities they have to both businesses. If you stay in a time share, or other type of condo unit you are expected to strip the beds, load the dishwasher and start it, and bring the trash out. That is because there is a lot more work required for the clean up crew who only has a number of hours to get the place ready for the next customers. You are also required to remove all food items and put the furnishings back to where they belong.

            Hotels generally have only one room, and a bed or two, and there is no kitchen our outdoor spaces involved so the parameters of what is required to get it back in order once you leave are much different.

            The tenants we get always ask to get in early, and stay late. However, I think the problem comes from them not understanding that it takes a lot of time to clean the entire inside of the house, including making beds, washing/folding towels, etc. and doing all the outside work, including lawn, beach care and trash, etc.

            If tenants understand the differences between renting a hotel vs. an entire house, and the reasons for them, then I think the entire process will go much smoother for them and there are no hard feelings for them.

          • Vacation Rental Guru

            Why can’t you make more time by increasing the gap between rents? I think a good way of selling this would be by increasing the time the guest can stay in your home IF they clean up after themselves. Those that want to leave dirty towles on the floor could be asked to leave earlier. It’s about selling the benefit not the chore.

          • Denise Botsolis

            Sounds good in theory, but many people simply don’t clean up properly after themselves. What do you do in this case? Then it becomes a case of you against the tenant and it can get ugly. To boot, the next tenants are going to complain that the work wasn’t done as stated, and that they had to clean up the mess and you then run the risk of having a bad review posted. I don’t think it is worth the risk unless you know the people who are renting, and how they leave the house.

          • Andy

            Most vacation rentals are handled by a property management /cleaning service. I am a vacation home cleaner. They check out they do not have to wash anything it’s taking to a lining company. They usually leave the towels in a pile and no they don’t have to strip the bed. They run the dishes usually not a big deal if not ran. Get there belongings and leave. It’s the cleaner job to sweep mop clean bathrooms. Change all lining beds are striped and remade all beds with fresh sheets and pillowcases that are washed by a lining company. The floors vacuumed and the place dusted. So if it’s left nasty it does take longer to clean. .

          • Deb Mullins

            I would say that most Vacation Rentals have a window of 3-4 hours. Check out time at 11:00 gives the tenant plenty of time to pack and clean up. (Unless they were total slobs all week) Check in at 3:00 gives the tenant time to settle in and start there vacation. I personally wouldn’t want to start my vacation any later. Everyone that rents our Vacation Rentals know that they have to clean before they leave or we will keep their $500 damage deposit. That they get back after we inspect the home after they leave.

          • sam

            Laundry seems to be the main issue with getting a rental clean in a short amount of time. If I had a vacation rental like yours, instead of asking guests to strip the beds and start laundry, I would invest in double the amount of bedding and towels so that you can quickly swap them out instead of having to wait on everything to wash. Wash the dirty ones at your house, or if you have a reliable and trustworthy cleaning service you can have them wash the laundry at their house. This might not work for every rental but could be a good solution to some.

          • Deb Esling

            We’ve had rentals ourselves in past, and now we help to inspect and manage my Dad’s rental. We have always done what you suggest — have a flip set of bedding and bath towels. We grab the dirties and take them home to wash in an industrial washer. We don’t have a flip set of beach towels, but we’ve found that if we start out by leaving them folded up on the washer, most renters will wash them and return them to that spot. We don’t ask, but most usually do it. And we leave a small supply of laundry soap in case they want to help out!

          • Jessica

            Mercedes, I’m so happy to see you’ve commented on this as I follow your blog and read the email updated posts religiously. However, wanted to get your thoughts on one of the above comments about the difference being vacation rentals have kitchens & significant increases in cleaning time requires if guests don’t clean up after themselves (in the kitchen). How do you feel about the request of clean dishes or starting the dishwasher, throwing away perishables/food, and leaving the kitchen in a clean state before checking out?

          • Hi Jessica,

            Thanks for the shout out. 🙂 With regard to your question, I think it’s perfectly fair to ask guests to clean up after themselves in the kitchen – load the dishwasher, throw out old food, etc. However, I don’t think it’s ok for owners to expect guests to mop, vacuum, or do any chore that a hospitality cleaning staff normally would do. For example, in one vacation rental in which we stayed last summer, the management company’s check-out instructions included “washing out all kitchen trash cans.” That’s just not ok. And although the house was otherwise lovely, we have no desire to stay there again. In the end, putting ourselves in the shoes of respectable guests will more easily allow us to set reasonable check out expectations. Hope that helps!

          • I think you are very focused on your own situation in this case. The conditions are very different for a full-time VR catering to well-off clients, located in a low-wage area (you?) to someone letting our their holiday house to the middle market closeby (i.e. with the same wage levels).

            In Europe, it seems normal to do most of the things mentioned, and virtually all our guests either leave the DW running or have even emptied it. So, there is a standard, it is you who should conform :-p

            Having said that, we do not have a checklist – we just state that the rental includes “normal end cleaning”, mostly for us to have a comeback if anyone felt like redecoration with ketchup or similar.

            Perhaps the generally longer vacations (and lower levels of service) makes it easier to accept. In France it is obviously standard.

            On a related note, Ryanair’s reputation for being mean (as I say, “cheap in more than one sense of the word”) has not damaged their busimess with holiday makers. How does that got with your theory?

            Best regards

            Martin

  • loscuatrotulipanes

    Mike,
    Regardless of diversity, can you think of ANY other example in the hospitality industry where a customer is required to do ANYTHING outside of simply enjoy the product service?

    • tokillamockingbirdfromtexas

      I guess, using your logic, I should charge my guests by the room instead of the entire home.

      That’s just silly.

  • Tom Campbell

    Our Poconos rental homes (we have 2 going on 3 right now) are zoned residential, so we must be very careful NOT to come across too much like a hotel. Yet still, our $100 cleaning fee allows guests to walk out of the house with the same carefree feeling they would have checking out from a hotel – leave the beds unmade, throw towels in the tubs, don’t bother with vacuuming or trash – we’ll take care of all of that. But there is one exception to the hotel experience:

    Food.

    Unlike a hotel, a vacation rental home includes a kitchen. A kitchen where guests cook for themselves, and as such, we expect them to clean up for themselves as well. In fact, in some locals, this is one of the differentiators between a Vacation Rental Home, and a Bed and Breakfast (which has big zoning consequences). We are not supplying any food delivery or clean up services.

    And so, our check-out checklist is light on sleeping cleanup requirements (as many have noted here, we actually prefer stripping beds and washing towels ourselves, as it lets us inspect them and establish quality control), but we require guests to wash their dishes or at least leave them in the running dishwasher when they leave. We require them to clean up food spills. We require them to throw away unopened food (we give unopened non-perishable left-behind food to pantries).

    Besides the legal clarification of Vacation Rental Home, there is another, perhaps bigger benefit to having guests take responsibility for their kitchen-related activities: Consistency. While we still go through everything in the kitchen after they leave – cleaning every surface, checking all the pots and pans for grease, etc, – having the guest take responsibility for their food-related use of the home reduces variability in the time and resources required to re-set the house. Stripping beds, washing tubs, and replacing linens becomes very repeatable – regardless of how badly a guest “used” the bed, it still takes a consistent amount of time to strip and remake it. Same with a bathtub or bathroom floor.
    But kitchens?!? Hooo boy. A counter full of greasy dishes and pans can add hours to a cleaning cycle. Hands and knees scrubbing of a floor coated in sticky kool-aid adds at least another half hour (usually has to be done twice, once when first entering and again before leaving).

    Having guests take responsibility of their kitchen and food-related use of the house is not asking too much. We’re renting a home, not running a restaurant.

  • Diane Blanford

    Matt – interesting subject – I do have a check-out list and although I agree with the premise and have already reviewed it to remove the “start a load of laundry” item as well as a few other kitchen items, I am going to leave in remove unused food, take out trash, run dishwasher and strip beds – I have to agree with some of the posts that indicate it is a time issue but I but it is giving me something to think about….. wonder if my cleaners will even notice? Also even though I have walked into homes to check them after I rental, I have never dinged anyone for not stripping beds or doing any of the items on a checklist but also have never had any complaints about a checklist – maybe it is time to add this as a review question to see how guests respond –

  • Maura

    We have no problem asking our guests to:
    separate recycles from garbage when in the house
    separate plastic/glass/tin recycles in our shed
    take garbage out to curb Mon nights
    put all furniture including lawn furniture back where they found it
    remove all food from cabinets and fridge on departure
    do their dishes and put them away
    clean grill if they used it
    start a load of laundry for the housekeeper at end of stay
    pay a cleaning fee plus extra if they don’t do the above

    The guests are all happy, they get a gorgeous home in immaculate condition, they have a great time and come back, rates are kept down, house stays fully booked, our housekeepers don’t quit and we can manage the house from a distance.

    No one has complained, and almost ALL are very respectful of our detailed list of To Do’s, many going even further than expected. We’ve had guests go so far as to venture into the woods to retrieve our garbage cans stolen by a hungry bear.

    In return we provide as many things as we can to make their stay easier…condiments, tin foil and saran wrap, dish and washing machine soaps, napkins, spices, games, bikes, kayaks, etc.

    So we’re happy, they’re happy, the housekeeper (most important in my book – can’t do this without her!) is happy, it’s all good.

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      Maura, out of curiosity, would feel comfortable going one tiny step further and asking guests to clean the bathrooms (toilet/shower/sink)? If not, can you explain where you draw the line in terms of what’s appropriate to request and what is the responsibility of your cleaning team?

  • Lianna

    Like I said that I would do earlier today, I’ve been pondering this all day. So I decided to do a Zipinion/Poll. I asked “Do you expect to start the dishwasher, start a load of laundry and take out the trash upon check out at a vacation rental home.”

    Stats:
    70% said they expect to do this. Some said it was common courtesy.
    22% said they would be offended if were asked to do these things. Most of these people cite the fact they are paying a cleaning fee already.
    8% – Well, these folks I guess didn’t speak english? One response was: “no i won’t allow because its disturbed our mind.”

    I have started to rethink my “Checkout List” after reading the comments. For now I think the trash should be taken outside. If they put the dishes in the dw why not start it? (still working on that one) And would be nice and courteous of them if they turned the a/c-heat to a non-electriciy sucking temp. And turn off the lights.

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      LOVE THIS!

  • Darik Eaton

    Matt,

    Like I have mentioned before you typically sing to the choir as far as I’m concerned. However you are off due to some basic differences in the business model of hotels vs vacation rentals as accommodations. On key that your missing is how the majority of hotels make a profit. It is not on the nightly rent. It is on everything else. Its the charging for parking, for internet, the minibar, the restaurant/bar off of the hotel lobby, etc. Its these ancillary income streams that actually make a hotel profitable (which actually is seldom profitable on a cashflow standpoint only on a depreciation standpoint). Why is it that hotels typically don’t have kitchens? Its because it would hurt the ultimate bottom line of the hotel as the restaurant and bar would get less business.

    Hotels typically barely cover their operating cost off of nightly rent. Vacation rentals the nightly rent and the cleaning fee are typically the only sources of revenue. If they are lucky they may get kickbacks from car rentals, tour operators, etc (as you have mentioned in your blogs).

    So if you are suggesting that we copy hotels in their approach to cleaning and to learn from them, should we also charge for internet, parking, hotel minibar, etc? I know your answer to this….its no.

    I am for standardization to a point. However it is dangerous. Part of the appeal of vacation rentals is the uniqueness. A hotel runs into an issue where room 3208 is a pig sty from a disrespectful guest that left it more dirty than usual, no big deal the inbound guest can stay in 3209 and not know the difference as its exactly the same. Every one of all of your followers properties is unique and has a unique value proposition.

  • chris pallett

    electric downtown vibe VRBO470579
    Hi Matt, mixed feelings on this one. New this spring to this rental business, and have been very pleased with results, both in rental occupancy, and the raft of 5 star reviews.

    My home is spotless when first occupied, and I have no written or verbal comments to guests, other than maybe to turn on the dishwasher when leaving. Almost always, used towels and bedding are either neatly folded in the tub, or the bed is just left pulled up, but not made.

    The conditions of my $400.00 security and keys deposit (that guests pay upon arrival), are clearly defined in my correspondence with renters, that this amount will be returned with the suite left in good condition, and the keys left in the suite upon departure. I have yet to find this being abused by my guests, with a rare guest leaving the odd bit of mess, but in general treating the suite as if their own. I do not charge a cleaning fee, as I feel the all-inclusive rate I charge is adequate to cover the 3 hours of cleaning necessary before each guest arrives.

    I would want to be able to stay in other vacation rentals with the same kind of attitude as mine, and would take exception with a demand list of work to do before leaving…often on an early flight with a departure from the suite when still dark outside.
    Chris Pallett

  • Deb Wood

    Matt,

    You sound like a guest instead of a vacation home owner or property manager!

    You SHOCKED me on this view!!

    New Reader!

    • MB

      Thinking like a guest is what you all need to be doing! We guests don’t like it! Many of you are only thinking of the “owners convenience factor.”

  • Rex Brown

    I pretty much agree with you Matt, but in some places there will be regional and cultural differences.

    We are on the Great Ocean Road in Australia and provide a walk-in/walk-out experience, no request for cleaning chores. I guess there is an expectation that guests will leave the home as if it were their own home and it generally works well.

    About 90% of my guests treat my homes with respect, and occasionally it is hard to know if they actually used the house! Around 5% will leave a few things messy. Only about 2% will leave a big mess – these I just put on a watch list and I politely won’t have them back.

    Guests will usually do their dishes or run the dishwasher without being asked. We are not running a kindergarten after all.

    There is no way I’d ask folks to strip beds. Our cleaners always have the clean linen ready to swiftly make the beds. The old linen is collected and accounted for in a few minutes. The quality control is immediate and right every time, linen is laundered off-site.

    In our conditions we reserve the right to charge for exceptional cleaning but have applied it only a couple of times in many years of rentals. It is really there as a deterrent for the thoughtless few. We also have no security deposit, we have an agreement to charge their card for extras. Again, a deterrent and rarely used.

    We build the cleaning and all other costs into the charge, and with labour costs high ($35/hr) it can cost over $180 to clean and launder for a $500 two day booking, so it is a business with a careful balance between costs and price. The local expectation is for no add-on fees. If an owner added a cleaning fee, they would lose business.

    If I were in a low labour cost location, it would be absolutely crazy to ask any guests to do any cleaning at all.

    Having said all that, in some remote areas of our state there are fairly basic cabins in the hills that don’t charge much, maybe $100 a night and guests are happy to bring their own linen and do most of the clean in return for a low cost holiday. It is a bargain that works fairly well for both parties, but it is not my market.

    I find there is a big cultural difference when travelling in the USA and have to adjust to expect all kinds of add-ons. In restaurants there is a quoted price of the meal, but by the time the various taxes and card charge and tipping is added, the price can nearly double. Initially it drives me crazy but after a while, I adjust my expectations and it becomes normal. So I can see why some guests in the USA think it acceptable to pay all the add-ons, like cleaning, credit card fees, internet fees, optional insurance, big bonds, etc. If guests book on lowest base price and everyone has add-on fees, it would be hard to break out of the cultural norm. I’d be tempted to use a single total price as a marketing difference – ‘No extra charges!’, but I don’t know the market.

    Like you Matt, I think the industry is better to move to a single price, no chores model. It may take some painful marketing effort to get there.

  • Sandra

    My vacation rental is a modest 2 bed 2 bath condo. Folks are asked to take out the trash and load the dishwasher/turn it on because it helps control insect pests found in a USA southern beach environment. Nothing else, all other cleaning is provided in cost of rental.

  • Richard Craft

    …now I will admit, that I have a label machine…and I’m not afraid to use it….mostly so guests don’t have to have a training session in how to use the light switch panel…but I stayed a place a few years ago that sounds like your example.

    I swear…every room had an 8.5″x11″ sheet of hand written instructions on what to do in every stinkin’ room.

    And then the check-out list…OMG…all that was missing was “re-shingle the roof”.

    On a positive note, I am happy report that as this industry matures, I’m seeing less and less of this stuff…and more and more guests who “know the drill”.

  • Boogernuts

    Matt,

    Sorry buddy. You’re nuts on this one. You sound like someone trying to run a boutique hotel, not a vacation rental. Let me ask you a question. How close are you to your vacation rental? Not 4000 km away? Hmmm. I guess you don’t have much perspective on a large number of owners then. Many of your recent entries, blogs and posts demonstrate this. The things you talk about are impossible for owners who operate a property at a distance.

    Now, to deal with this specific issue. The bottom line is time and economics and most importantly – what do the guests want? The house needs to be turned over in six hours, and the cleaners may have two or even three homes to turn over in six hours flat. How do you do that with all of the linens that need to be washed for a house that accommodates 8 people if you don’t have a load or two done by the guests? It isn’t possible. So you ask (not require) them to do a load to help the cleaners out. Really, it is not a big deal. They are doing other laundry during their stay, linens and/or their own, so it is not like it is outside of the norm, or what they are prepared to do anyway.

    You want to suggest that if time doesn’t afford doing the turnover then you should just book out the night after departure to allow more time for the clean? A huge portion of our rentals are Saturday to Saturday. So if we can’t put a new guest in the house that same day, the next one may not arrive until the following Saturday. Are you suggesting that we should simply leave every other week vacant just to accommodate your desire to have owners play ‘Mr. Rourk’ and do anything possible to make a guest smile? Completely unreasonable, and not what a vacation rental is all about anyway. Guests book them in order to save some money and get much more than they would in a hotel. That is not gonna happen if you want to treat them like they are staying in a hotel. They’re not staying in a hotel, and didn’t want to in the first place.

    Standardization? What? Where the %^&&* did that come from? That is NOT where vacation rentals are at or going. In fact, just the opposite. If you want standardization, go book one of two hundred identical rooms at one of 200 identical hotels in any chain you want to chose. You have said it yourself! Personalization, and personalized service are keys to providing value in vacation rentals, so why should anyone give a damn about standardization in the vacation rental industry? That is why HomeAway is doing so much damage to the industry. They make it so much harder to differentiate oneself from the competition by forcing all vacation rentals to present themselves in the same way, which ultimately just leaves the guest shopping based on price. Why should they do otherwise? They all look the same anyway.

    Standardization is NOT the way to success in vacation rentals.

    Your example of staying at a friends or with a relative and being asked to help do the laundry is ridiculous. If a friend or relative stays with me, I can do their laundry in the midst of doing my own. I don’t have to turn my house over to
    accommodate someone else arriving in six hours flat based only on the
    friend’s schedule, and I don’t have to hire and pay someone else to come
    in to do it.

    What you suggest is completely wrong, impractical, expensive, would drive costs in a direction that guests DON’T want, and out of touch. You have let your own personal preferences get in the way of focusing on the most important issue; what the guest wants! And the guest doesn’t want to pay twice as much in order to accomplish what you suggest.

    Finally, involving the guest just a little in caring for the property builds relationships between the owner and the guest, by focusing them on communicating and working together to provide an exceptional accommodations experience, which includes exceptional value. If you want some faceless relationship where the guest can just do anything and leave anything because “the maid will get it”, and then just leave the key on the table before they go, you are in the wrong business.

    Please stick to advice about vacation rentals. Boutique hotels where the owner meets and greets the guests and acts as their personal concierge are a different business. Experiencing different local things, and even different owners if at a distance, is part of the joy of renting a vacation home. Standardization? Nyet!!

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      I read and respect all comments. And here, I think we’ll agree to disagree 🙂

  • Nick Marshall

    I agree with the previous comment. We do not charge a cleaning fee – that is built into the price. We are not a hotel and we are not trying to compete with hotels which provide all sorts of services that are reflected in their price. We provide a 3-4 bedroom fully equipped home for around the same price as a hotel room. It may be argued that hotels, motels, resorts, apartments and holiday homes are all competing with each other for the provision of accommodation. While I am mindful of what these other sectors do provide, the only group I am actively in competition with is other holiday home providers.
    Of course we send the cleaners in after every rental and we budget for about 4 hours on a 4 bedroom home. We therefore expect that our guests use the dishwasher and put things away in the kitchen. I also offer them the choice of cleaning the BBQ or having it done for them at cost which will come out of the bond. As the previous writer puts it, we expect guests to follow the rules and leave the house more or less as they found it. The only way we can maintain a house, a garden and in many homes, a pool, at a cost that provides huge value to our customers is if our guests are prepared to provide some of the input. I don’t like to leave notices around our homes with loads of do’s and don’ts so we make it quite clear what is expected and why it is expected both before arrival and in the house information folder.

    Frankly though, I also think that it is plain good manners and respect for the owners to leave a house in a tidy state on departure. My own experience has been that the more you give out in terms of “wowing” your customers when they arrive and the useful and thoughtful things they discover during their stay, the more likely they are to reciprocate. On the other side of the coin, though, in my first two years running holiday homes, I did not have a cleaning/damages bond. Enough people used to leave the house in such a mess – things piled up in the sink, wet towels left everywhere (including outside), food smears over the soft furnishings and so on. Since instituting a bond about 10 years ago I have only twice made small deductions. So despite my overall faith in the goodness of human beings, a small amount of “gentle persuasion” is also required!

    I just cannot agree with Matt on this. As far as I know he runs apartments which are not the same as houses when it comes to costs and maintenance. While I fully respect the way he does things, he is quite wrong to suggest that others who do things in the way I have outlined are not successful.

  • Tiffany Golling

    I manage two very successful vacation rentals, and I definitely have a check-out instructions list for my guests. Nothing extreme- not even for them to do laundry. Simply to remove trash, items from the fridge, pile sheets and used towels, and to put back any furniture that has been moved, in other words, leave the place ready for my house keepers to come in and get the house ready and beautiful for the next group. I think it is completely reasonable. And yes, I do charge a cleaning fee. Charging a cleaning fee allows me to offer extremely competitive prices ($250/night for a stunning 3 bedroom house in the Hollywood Hills that sleeps up to 10- you can’t beat that!), and I truly believe that if I combined my cleaning fee into the nightly rate, I would not book my house full through the slow season. Matt, I usually always agree with your points, but not this one. If people want to be catered to, then they stay in a hotel. A vacation rental is for those who want to feel at home, and doing chores at home is completely normal!

  • 2VRowner

    Interesting discussion. At first I felt you were way off base due to the fact that you are running more of a hotel or B&B, whereas many of us are renting by the week or month, not nightly. However, there have been some good points made.

    I’m guilty of “load and start the d/w”, “empty all trashes”, “strip used beds and leave linens on them”, “start one load of towels” and “close windows and lock doors.” If people have been staying a week, I hope they have been routinely doing these chores anyway. I believe gathering up trash and stripping the beds helps people notice things they might otherwise leave behind, which save my time, cost and effort of returning.

    I copied these “departure” items from a large VR company in our area. They manage 150+ properties, so I guess this is the standard here.

    I’ve been a guest many times in VRs and have never felt overwhelmed by these types of simple requests. I’d like to have guests who don’t feel simple tasks are too much to expect. Have excellent reviews on two rental properties and no trouble renting, so will probably simplify the list some, but leave things as they are for now.

  • Trish

    Love your ideas, writings and encouragement, Matt, but I’m not totally on board with the “one size fits all” idea of no check out list, cleaning, etc. As many have stated, some of us are in areas where getting someone to clean our place is a challenge. Our place is in the mountains in a forested area with lots of wildlife, but not many people. That’s why people choose to stay at our home. It is outfitted with everything anyone could want while they stay there and we are happy to supply them things they don’t have. We’re on the side of a mountain and a gravel road is what leads to our home. People WANT an off-the-grid experience at our place, but with the luxury of wifi, nice down comforters, gas grill, patio heater, waterfalls, etc. etc. When they ask about renting our place, they get a detailed “Here’s our story” info page with photos of elk in the yard, wild turkey, foxes, deer, etc. And they also find out that because our cleaning crew drives in 4WD vehicles from the closest town to our mountain, we ask that they pull bedding and put in the laundry room and run dishes through the dishwasher and put garbage in the garbage cans in the garage. For an extra hour’s worth of cleaning, ($50 in our remote area and the minimum that the cleaners charge), they can let us know if they want to have the cleaning crew do those items. In 7 years, we’ve had ONE guest ask for that option just because they had to be at the airport at o’dark-thirty that morning for departure. Our place is always full, and most of our return guests book for next year’s stay as they leave from this year’s trip. To my way of thinking, they don’t return to a place where they have a bad experience or feel that their stay is ruined by doing something that takes maybe 1/2 hour total on their last day. They love our place because it’s affordable, it’s a rare experience for city dwellers, and the house is beautifully maintained, landscaped and equipped.
    We’ve also got a place we rent on the island of Roatan, and the scenario is completely different. The cleaning crew walks to the condo, they charge MUCH less per hour and as a result, we included EVERYTHING in our rental price. No cleaning fee, no tax, etc. But both of our places are very different, the labor market and convenience factors differ greatly, and we cater to totally different types of folks. I doubt that we will ever get ‘cross over’ guests because those who want to rent a condo on the beach in Roatan probably are not the type who want to spend a week listening to wolves and snowshowing or skiing in the back country of Idaho.

  • Laurie Gaines

    I have to respectfully disagree with your stance on this. We have rented for YEARS and have always asked guests to strip the beds, start a load of towels IF THEY HAVE TIME, take their trash off the island with them and leave the house neat and tidy. I always clarify that our cleaning crew is coming in after they leave and anything they can do to help our crew helps ALL our guests. For example, our check-in time used to be 4PM….by asking our guests to leave the home neat and tidy, we have reduced our cleaning time and now can allow ALL guests to check in at 2pm…two more hours on the beach! (We do NOT charge a cleaning fee because I believe that people will leave the house in a much greater state of disarray if they feel they have “already paid extra to clean it”.) Because we are a “private home” and not a hotel room or “rental unit”, I don’t think it is unreasonable to ask people to treat our home as they would their own….we have had tons of repeat guests and all positive reviews and no one has ever complained that we ask them to “work” on their vacation. Perhaps it depends on how it is handled….I don’t threaten, I ask very nicely! If someone is so offended by being asked to do basic housekeeping, I don’t think they will ever be comfortable with a vacation home rental….they are the guests who should stay in a hotel so they can leave their wet towels on the floor for a maid to pick up! IMHO…

  • loscuatrotulipanes

    Casa Esquina,
    Copying the hotel industry is NOT the name of the game. Of course, in such a developed industry, there are lots that we can learn from (like how to be professionally hospitable or how to streamline processes). But the point of vacation rentals is that they are NOT hotels: they are an entirely different product and they are in an amazing position to capitalize on the shortcomings of hotels: as vacation rental owners and managers, we should embrace this fact.

  • Live Downtown SA

    Go Big or Go Home. Why the dichotomy? And why the push for standardization? Personally I love “lemonade stands” and “mom and pop” businesses. Aren’t they fun? Bigger is not necessarily better.

    Quotes from Matt … “The industry needs standardization if it wants to truly explode.” “I think it’s dangerous to rely on general goodwill. I’m pretty sure all of us are just like you in that we don’t mind helping. But if this [vacation rental] industry is going to become bigger than hotels, resting on that lynchpin (that all travelers will be the same way) just isn’t structurally sound.”

    Hmmm …

    Why does the vacation rental industry need to be “bigger than hotels” ? Clearly, hotels should continue on doing what they do, as lots of people love staying in hotels. By contrast, some travelers are independent and want a quirky fun experience where they get to “live like a local” and do their own thing.

    Matt, in my opinion, your words are akin to telling an indie record label that they need to sell out and start booking acts like Justin Bieber and so they can play with the big boys. Excuse me, but no thank you. Some people WANT the vacation rental industry to stay small and “fragmented” (another of your words) … because we want to be punk rock and do things differently from the mainstream. The fact that each vacation rental is different and special … this is what some travelers (like me) LOVE. We don’t want the vacation rental industry to be become standardized.

    Some travelers ENJOY the self-catering features of a vacation rental where you have a kitchen where you can go grocery shopping and do your own cooking, and guess what … doing your own cooking MEANS cleaning up after yourself, washing your own dishes, pots and pans, etc. I think we all learned as children … if you want to play, there are 3 steps …. take out your toys, play, and then put the toys away. The same thing applies to cooking in a kitchen.

    Matt, you have said that it’s not ethical for vacation rental operators to ask paying guests to do “favors” like washing their down dirty dishes, etc. But I would like to ask you … is it ETHICAL for the guest to think that he or she can make a big mess in the kitchen and then NOT CLEAN IT UP??? Whether or not the person is on vacation, that should change nothing about his or her own ethics, I would think.

    In a hotel, things are different, because you typically are not supplied with a kitchen sink with a garbage disposal, sponges, dish soap, dishwasher, etc [things that one typically DOES have in a vacation rental], and you can’t cook in the first place; but if you do have dirty dishes from room service or take-out in a hotel room, there is NO PLACE in the room for the guest to clean those items, even if he wanted to. In a hotel, you have no option to clean up after yourself, but in a vacation rental, certainly the guest does have that ability. And ethically, as the person who made the mess, don’t you think the guest is obligated to clean it up?

    You have asked, “out of curiosity, would feel comfortable going one tiny step further and asking guests to clean the bathrooms (toilet/shower/sink)?” I’d like to turn this around on you and say, “Matt, where DO you draw the line? If you’re volunteering to clean the guest’s dirty dishes, do you also volunteer to wipe their butts? After all, the guest is on vacation! They shouldn’t be required to lift a finger!” (Literally! HA HA.)

    LOL.

    More seriously about where to draw the line … I think there’s a big difference between the things that just gradually get dirty as the days wear on … you know, the baseboards get dusty, the bathtub becomes a bit grimier day by day, the floor needs sweeping and mopping (not because of a big spill), windows need cleaning, etc …

    vs. the things that are MESSES that are immediately visible when they happen… like a cereal box breaks open and spills its contents out all over the floor, or the kitchen has food spills because you just cooked a meal, etc. The “immediate messes,” I believe, are the guest’s responsibility to clean up. Not doing so would be like taking out your toys to play and refusing to put them away … just because you’re “on vacation.” Whoop-de-doo. If the guest doesn’t want to “work” on vacation, why is he grocery shopping and cooking and all of that? That’s work, too! DUH. It’s not right for the guest to say he’s willing to do the work to cook meals, and then suddenly become lazy when it’s time to clean up afterwards.

    With regards to laundry: in my opinion, the only laundry the guest should worry about is their own clothes. For the linens, it’s easy for the owner to have extra clean sets of sheets, towels, bath mats, bath robes, etc, which can be switched out very quickly for the same-day turnover. This helps to preserve the host’s investment in high quality linens, too, because this way the linens can be laundered according to the host’s specifications.

    • Deb Mullins

      I really enjoyed what you wrote it was very much to the point. Thank you

  • Mary Ann Everitt-Gutchigian

    We use a cleaning security fee. We have had to use only 2 times in 6 years. The fee is $300. They pick up the house fairly well. I don’t expect the house to be pristine, but I don’t expect the house trashed either. The cleaning crew comes between rentals no matter what. They rent sheets or bring their own to handle the laundry issue, I sleep 16, I can’t wash and change them in the window of time between change over anyway.

  • Pingback: Vacation Rental Housekeeping is Insanely Difficult! Smart Home Control Can Help. | PointCentral()

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  • Cynthia Baker

    Matt Landau – you sound like a REAL SPOILED BRAT = regardless of whether you were born and raised that way or not. Have you any tack and consideration for others? I’m only assuming your mate is your unpaid slave as well…oh never-mind. I suggest you get your PH checked.

  • tokillamockingbirdfromtexas

    The ONLY reason I require guests to start the first load of towels, strip beds and make sure breakfast dishes are in dishwasher and turned on is the fact that this is a home…not a commercial hotel which has commercial washing machines and entire staff. I have one housekeeper and one set of washer and dryer. She has to make sure the entire two level home is completely spotless and make sure all the furniture is intact, all kitchen utensils, plates, glasses are still accounted for, all sheets are laundered, dried, folded and put away with new fresh linens on each of the beds plus any fold out beds needed for the next guests arriving in only a few short hours. They also have to completely clean each bathroom and the kitchen sink.

    Vacation rental housekeepers are working on an entire house…not just a row of single rooms.

    Those choosing to rent a vacation home rather than a hotel, bed and breakfast or luxury home should be aware that this is the norm and for logical reason. The prices are great in comparison to any of the above options, especially when a group of 6, 8 or more are staying in one house. Most guests are completely fine with this arrangement.

  • MamaBeah

    I solved this cleaning problem by having an in-house Housekeeper who goes in daily to do general cleaning. After the guests leave (the day they leave) my Housekeeper is already there assisting the client get ready to leave, starting the cleaning process and presenting the client with a parting gift like cookies or chocolates. Sure, that is an extra cost but it is added into the daily fee of using the VR and the clients love her. She has always gotten great tips and 80% are repeat customers. Maybe you might consider this as one option?

  • Matt (Himself)

    Unfortunately, some owners seem to lose sight of the fact that guests are just
    that: guests. Last year we went to a house in the north of Scotland that was
    perfect in every way – apart from the 13‑point list of bossy orders.

    1: Strip the beds and bring linen and towels down to the back door.

    2: Clean baths, basins and loos.

    3: Wipe out the fridge, match the pots and pans with their lids.

    8: Empty various bins into other bins.

    12: Tidy the garden, retile the scullery, paint the eaves, drain and clean the
    septic tank with a toothbrush.

    Pretty good article about this subject: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/self-catering-holidays/9538692/Why-do-holiday-cottages-have-so-many-rules.html

  • Ina Pickle

    I found this page in a fit of pique after having a vacation stifled by exactly this kind of oppressive nonsense. There were literally post it notes taped up everywhere that said “Do x, and you will be charged $100.” “Do not do Y, and you will be charged $100.” The owner left their stuff out all over – and were very proud of their decorating prowess and how this is not a cookie cutter rental. If any of it moved? Kaching. Literally, if you failed to recharge something – or rewind a video – kaching. We left things in pristine condition – I’m quite accustomed to the usual broom clean, beds and towels stripped and gathered, dishes done, dishwasher empty.

    I got a snide email from the rental company charging me $15 for a “stained towel” from my deposit, and saying how “very distressing” they find it to have to charge from people’s deposits. Well then. Let me tell you how distressing it is to spend a whole vacation feeling extremely unwelcome, and then get charged after the fact when you can’t verify anything with an implication that you were less than perfect “guests.”

    So, despite the fact that the location was good and the family otherwise could have gone back there, we will definitely not. We’re model renters. We want to relax a bit instead of being treated to a litany of constant harassment. But what I found most interesting, from a business and marketing point of view, is how expensive that $15 charge could be for that rental – or property manager – in a world where word of mouth is so easily disseminated. I generally only take to the airwaves to praise people, and just figure their practices will bite them without my help. I don’t think I’m the norm in that regard. I wondered why people would set things up like this when it would be so much easier to include it in the rental rate and not have to treat people like unsupervised teenagers in a store in the mall.

    • Matt Landau

      WOW! Great comment Ina! I agree with every word! Kaching!

  • I really think that it has to be first class. Guests should not be asked to clean or make the beds the day of their check out.

  • Roberta

    I have been managing vacation rental homes in beautiful Naples, FL for 15 years. Many of my homes are booked bank to back, meaning one guest leaves at 10 am, next arrives by 4 pm the same day. We do ask that departing guests strip the beds, start a load of laundry if time permits, run the dishwasher. This is so that we can clean, make beds, do laundry, clean the lanai, wash endless sliding glass doors, sanitize bathrooms, shine stainless kitchen appliances, clean ovens, make sure dishes & cutlery are clean, organize linen closets & do any small repairs within the time allotted to get the house ready. It is a big job! Many of my homes are four bedrooms with 3 baths.

    I am venturing into a cleaning service strictly for vacation rentals, offering the highest standard of service for Naples, FL vacation home rental owners after hearing horror stories from owners for years. I hope that our requests do not insult anyone…..we want everyone to have a fabulous time. Paying it forward a little bit insures that the cleaners will have time to really clean the house & make it as perfect as it was when the prior guest arrived. We want it to be a wow! Experience for every guest.

    I have never had a guest complain about departure requests and we have many, many repeat clients.
    ,

  • tokillamockingbirdfromtexas

    I agree…IF you have a luxury VR and able to charge a premium nightly rate.
    I do not and, as Matt and I have discussed previously, my VR must stay competitive in a lower market. I do have a check out list with striping sheets and starting the first load of bath towels. I have repeated reviews on how immaculate the home is..”white glove clean” and that is possible by having my guests begin some things so my housekeeper can ensure everything is completed to my very high standards, which she does. Time does not allow for her to do it all. No one minds as they would prefer to have spotless instead of bare minimum.
    That said, if/when I have a $400 +/night VR I will hire enough staff to do it all!

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  • dje3

    Having a cleaning business, the problem is not you. It is the tens of frankly trashy customers per year that create havoc with maintenance and cleaning. We just did 3 units on the same Saturday that took over 50% more time than allotted. In our units we only ask that the guests run all the dishes in the dish washer and leave the doors locked. I think that is reasonable.

    Even though the microwave has a food cover, no one uses it, spaghetti sauce splattered all over must be cleaned and sterilized between guests! Spilled drinks in the freezer must be thawed, cleaned and sterilized. Spilled milk in the refer requires us to take all the drawers out and take them apart to clean and sterilize. If people are PIGS then it costs everyone time and money.

    You are supposed to check in at say, 5PM on Saturday. What happens of ALL my units are trashed one Saturday? how will you feel if I am 3 hours late giving you your unit because all the guests were pigs? The flip side, I can’t schedule full day or work on Saturday, because if I take that “extra unit” that i should be able to do and can’t finish on time, You would be PISSED and demand YOUR first night free and the owner would want the money from me. That is more than I make on cleaning by far.

    Remember that EVERY Saturday there is a turn over of guests. Every unit in an entire beach community is being cleaned and made ready in a few hours. When guests throw empty beer bottles under the bed ( do other nasty things with the bed), leave dirty dishes in the dishwasher and not run it….well it all takes time to make ready the turnover.

    The average cleaning time for a 2BR rental that we work on is well over 2 man-hours, provided we bust ass. If we get trashy tenants it can become 3 or 4 man hours or more in an instant. Who do you think should pay for that? The tenant that gets it and helps out a little or the tenant that builds a sand castle on the bed room carpet?

    If they ask you to clean the bedsheets, that is CRAZY. I want a PRO to do that and make sure that they are sterile and tucked properly. IF they ask you to clean the fireplace, find a different owner. If they ask you to do anything that isn’t common sense then don’t rent from them and tell them WHY. You don’t work for them. Clean your dishes like a rational human being. Don’t leave wet towels on the bedspread. Be sane and adult. Tell the kinds of owners that ask too much to find another guest. Tell them that YOU DONT WORK FOR THEM. I agree with that.

  • No doubt your article is very interested and have a lot of basic difficulties that owners suffer from but some of the owner that are professional chase the troubles and do solve it as soon as possible because of to get more site visitors. They take care of their vacation homes as their home visitors wants. One of the solution is to solve basic problems that you can easily solve means make sure your appliances useful, looking forward the home interior and exterior amenities.
    The visitors satisfaction does matter ……. Owners need to identify ownership as a professional services provider that’s all..

  • Sarah Bratcher

    I have been renting (and have also rented) through VRBO and Homeaway my properties in the Italian Riviera for over 15 years. I take great pride and passion each time I greet guests and show them into my “self catering” properties some of which have been published in fine home magazines in Italy and France. I always try to go to the extra effort to spend time with guests on arrival day offering them a glass of wine, a nice welcoming basket and sharing my local knowledge about the area. I personally feel like the home rental business is not just about making the extra buck but it is about a cultural exchange and generally I believe that the type of clientele differs to the typical hotel guest in that they are searching for a more authentic experience.
    Although these rentals are a source of income, I am handing over to guests a very large value which I have worked very hard on in order to make it the perfect sanctuary for guests during their stay and therefor I expect to be taken care of and not left like a pig sty even if the guests are paying a cleaning fee. I feel like what it comes down to is just basic mutual respect. Changeovers on Saturdays would be impossible considering the property sizes if people were to leave the house a total mess. I mean….would you leave a friends house a pig sty? I try to establish relations with my guests so that I don’t even need to enforce the rules…it sort of comes naturally!!! As a tenant I do believe that more homeowners should take more passion into what they are doing. I have stayed at some rentals which looked amazing in the pictures but were filthy when we arrived and have heard many horror stories from guests who have been terrified to ever rent again due to unprofessional homeowners who they never even met during their stay. I am not saying that owners have to always be there but being greeted by someone makes a huge difference in how people treat your home later. whether it’s a keyholder or the owner, someone with a smile and some local knowledge makes most people feel a lot more comfortable during their stay and things always go smoother!!!

  • Geraldine

    Hi,

    I have just completed a 14 day stay at a private holiday rental. Accommodation description states cleaning/towels/linen/maid service: bed linen and towels are provided and changed on a weekly basis. Cleaning is weekly. I have never stayed in a holiday rental before on departure i did not clean the apartment as no cleaning products available and not detailed to do so. The management emaiedl to voice there dissatisfaction with how i left the apartment. Nothing was broken or stained. I apologised as it was not my intention to disrespect the property. What are the guidelines

  • Cleaning Guru

    I own a cleaning company that caters to the nightly rental industry. I agree with you completely. The only thing we want the guest to do is start the dishwasher. The owners ask them to dispose of their trash, which is fine but we would do it. We DONT want them to strip the beds. Its easier for us to do it ourselves as guests will wad up everything in a ball that we have to sort through and when they do this, they wrinkle up the bedding. We would rather see the sheets on the bed so we can pre-treat the spots before sending them out to launder. We DONT want them to start a load of laundry because the load could sit in the washer too long before we get to it and then it stinks and we might have to launder it twice to get it back to normal. Besides, we take all the laundry out and if there is a wet load in the washer, it makes it harder to cart. Owners……..another tip…….. get one color of sheets per size. (ie: white for king, tan for queen, yellow for twin, beige for full, printed for the spare – colors that coordinate and can be laundered together.). This saves us more time than your guests trying to clean the house before they leave!

    • Cleaning Guru, what great advice! Do you hire your cleaning crew or do you do it yourselves? And how many VRs do you own?

  • Cleaning Guru

    I just read a few more replies and wonder what cleaning companies these poor owners have to deal with and then on the other hand, why they don’t want to pay a few more bucks to make their guests happy? Wouldn’t you pay an extra $20 for a good review? Really? I should send you our VRBO reviews. Sparkling!!!
    I own a cleaning company AND a nightly rental so I see it personally from both perspectives.
    1. We are the most expensive cleaning company in the area and the busiest.
    2. We are a company, fully insured – not an individual housekeeper. If one of our cleaners quits in the middle of season or doesn’t show up, we have back up.
    3. The guest pays the cleaning fee and none of them have ever questioned the price.
    4. If the owner thinks the cleaning fee is too steep, they don’t advertise all of it and they pay a little of it out of their pocket. Smart business.
    5. Why don’t owners see that the cleaning of their homes are the key to their great reviews? Pay for a good clean! Its not eating up that much of your profit or you might need to review your business plan!
    6. We mandate a deep clean every year before season or the first clean is more expensive. During the slow times, I forgo my profit to keep my cleaners on staff and busy so the owner gets a great price. Take advantage of the great deal! Come season, the price goes back up!
    Some more tips for the owners……..
    1. Get rid of the fake plants. They catch dust and they aren’t cleaned except during deep clean times. They make the house look dirty and smell dusty.
    2. The least amount of “stuff” (décor) you have in your house, the “cleaner” it looks. Clutter translates to dirty………even if its clean.
    3. You can fix clean. Stop worrying about dirty and things not being in place. We tell our owners to stay out until the house cleaning has been completed. If they saw the homes before we cleaned, they never rent again. Once they see the home after its cleaned and it looks like no one has been there, they’re fine.
    4. Inspect your homes after the cleaning. Smell the towels and sheets. If your cleaner is cleaning them in house, they may not be getting them dry enough before they set them out and they could mildew before your guest gets there. Invest in a second set of sheets and towels and have the laundry go out. Your clean goes faster and your linens and towels will smell fresher.
    5. Maintain your home! Once it starts getting dated or run down, the guests won’t take care of it as much and it will always look dirty and have an odor. Clean your cushion covers on your furniture, your carpets, your fabrics at least once a quarter! Reserve a day just for cleaning!!
    6. Get a wireless thermostat. For a few hundred bucks, its well worth it. Guests leave doors and windows wide open. You can’t control that. But you can control the thermostat!
    A million more tips……..another day. Find a good cleaning company and let your guests pay for it!

  • Cleaning Guru

    One more thought as I read further……….about how to get a large house clean with 1 cleaner in 4 hours……… Do you think you’re being a little unrealistic?

    Or maybe you should hire 2 housekeepers and get it done in half the time. If its that important to you to get them out quicker, pay them each a little more money and then you don’t have an issue. (i.e. instead of paying one housekeeper $30 for 4 hours work, pay 2 housekeepers $25 and have them out in 2 hours. If you don’t think your guests would cover that cleaning fee, then maybe you should cover the few bucks extra. Charge the guest $30 and you pay $20. Charge your next guest an early check-in fee of $30 and you’re $10 ahead!

    The houses I cater to all have the same check-out / check-in times of 10:00 departure and 4:00 arrival. None of the guests complain about those hours, but I’m hearing you’re getting a lot of complaints about guests having to clean before they leave. If they didn’t have to get up so early to clean, maybe they wouldn’t mind an earlier departure time?

    Early check-ins are nice, but not necessary. Provide a place for them to leave their things if they arrive early. Maybe provide an extra refrigerator in a garage where they can unload groceries and go back into town, sightseeing, or to the lake until the cleaner finishes? Maybe put up a changing room for those early arrivals that just want to change into a bathing suit or ski gear to head out before the cleaning crew is ready? Or, Maybe you should adjust your times between guests to give your ever-so-important housecleaner time to do the job right?

    One of my cleaners can clean a 10 bed / 5 Ba / 3 level home with hot tub, stage it and stock it, completely drain, clean and refill the hot tub all in 5 hours. That leaves 1 hour to spare ………just in case it needs extra attention. Sometimes they do one load of laundry in house ……..sometimes more if it isn’t a quick turn-around, but we really discourage that. All of our owners are required to have 2 sets of towels and sheets so we can turn the house quickly. Laundry is a big time waster. Cleaners have to go up and down stairs to change loads, fold, etc… If the guests start a load and it starts to mildew before the cleaner gets to it, its even worse.

    Our guests don’t do anything except take out the trash and start the dishwasher. The dishwasher helps, but isn’t a problem if we have to start it as we’re there long enough. The problem comes if the dishwasher doesn’t work. Maintenance is key.

    The things that help save time for us the most is the color-coding of the sheets so our cleaners don’t waste time trying to figure out what size for what bed. NO NO NO matching of colors to rooms. HUGE TIME WASTER! Towels should be able to go in any bathroom. Too much décor…….HUGE TIME WASTER. Bunk Beds…..UGH! We charge double for those.

    If your cleaners are taking too long, its probably their process that needs fixing and possibly the products they are using. As often as your homes are being cleaned, it should just be a quick spray and wipe process. The right products will clean, sanitize and shine in nothing flat, but it isn’t vinegar and water and the ever -so-dangerous Clorox. Send them to me. I’ll train them. We get raving reviews from our customers guests about how clean our houses are and our cleaners are fast. Maybe I should write an article on the best processes for housecleaning?

  • Jessica Lynn

    I completely understand the reasoning for stripping of the beds and starting towels and dishes. This may seem like a large request however, it’s just asking to respect their home and leave it in the condition as when they arrived. This request benefits the renters as well, as it gives the cleaners the time needed to turn the home in a proper amount of time, taking care of all its needs and being sure it’s ready for the guest timely arrival, this also gives the renters the opportunity to be sure none of their items are being left within the beds.

  • michael hog

    We want to work with you to hire the work and come enjoy your vacation with your family a lift

  • michael hog

    this is very useful artical Thanks for sharing information.

  • michael hog

    A wonderful, spacious and large balcony with 24 hour wifi connection are the unique attributes of this vacation home. The location of this rental home is very awesome and few minute away from historic places. The vacation apartment is located on a very luxury and safe community with private concierge. It has high standard amenities that you will need during your holidays. You can find many homes for rent in California from vacation home rent property. You will surely love it and will come again and again.

  • Coole Cleaners

    I own a cleaning business and in order for the owners to provide linens to the tenants, it is impossible to clean a unit in a 2 hour time frame if there is 4-5 loads of laundry to wash. It is a time issue only. The only option is to not provide linens and then you would have to carry them, dirty them, and either clean them there or take your dirty linens home and still wash them. I know it is not fun doing laundry or any chores while on vacation, but if you are looking for something that takes care of all the linens for you….you may want to up your budget.

  • Susan Roebuck

    Hello, I just want to say I disagree with the author of the article above and agree with the comment just below. It’s well-written and resonates with the actual task of keeping a VR house clean and ready for guests.

    I read a couple more comments and feel compelled to say that no one in this business should ever forget the importance of the cleaner. If you have a good cleaner, trust her and don’t get sarcastic when she says a clean took extra time when the guests treated the home like a hotel for spoiled rich people. This attitude in guests (which thankfully is rare) CAN add an hour or two to the clean. We cleaners have standards and we need the place to be at a certain high level of cleanliness or it just isn’t done and we can’t leave. And we have a good eye. When it takes extra time, we can’t give you the full list of all we did or we would be using the cleaning time to make the list. Bottom line is, if you have a good cleaner then let her do her job. Also, it should be more commonly known amongst people who are not vacation rental cleaners that many VR cleaners have a “relationship” with the houses they clean. The cleaner is responsible for only a few houses, and they are her places that she visits over and over. She spends time in these places, soaks up the ambiance, maybe listens to music or the sounds of the waves, and it’s a nice space to be in. The house has its quirks and personality, and there is a fondness that develops. This is a very nice thing–as a VR owner you should be aware of this. This is what causes the cleaner to keep the baseboards spotless, notice the dog nose marks on the sliding glass door, be the one to haul away the recycling (because no one seems to do it,) and adjust the blinds before she leaves, so when the guests arrive the lighting will be delightful.

    This is such an ancient thread…no one probably will ever read it. I felt compelled to write obviously…I found the discussion interesting. But the original reason I found my way to this site is because as a VR cleaner, I am seeking tax advice … it is difficult to find any content on this topic because the websites are not from a cleaner’s point of view! Wouldn’t it be nice to have a cleaner’s point of view in this mix?

    • Liz Dugger

      Well said. I like the personal point of view — and how you think ahead to make the ‘walk-in’ experience a delight. This is what people want … the feeling of home (away from home.)

  • Karen Cornwell

    Matt, as a vacation home rental cleaner, I agree the guest shouldn’t be required to do a huge list of clean ups. I personally prefer the guest leave sheets on the beds, but put towels in hampers. What I’ve come across is the fee your being charged isn’t the pay the cleaner receive. We supply the paper products, soaps, etc.

  • Cascades

    Screen your guests!! Get a damage deposit!! And YES VERY IMPORTANT ARE General Departure Procedures !!! Hello?? need to be given verbally along with the rental agreement and signed to agree to these or any other rules!! Respect for your home only happens with screening, and communication!! I have seen and experienced hell from situations that could of been prevented the smart way!! I Have a cleaning business and never liked the guest stripping off bedding period!! I want to know if I see blood on them, check for stains and tears and 90% of the time the guest will strip everything literally and throw it on the Floor!! Have the guest place dirty towels in a laundry or plastic bag!! Never in a tub, risk of water damage from accidental stupidity on the careless guest!! YES!! not turning off bath tub faucet completely!! , My husband and had it happen and all the towels were soaked with the tub halfway full. even the repeat guests may turn bad!! Idiot proof everything!! Check-Out Procedures are basic and posted on front of Refrigerator. Maybe 10 things. Checkout-11am, clear all dirty dishes from sink and countertops into dishwasher with detergent tab and start, Please Gather, Bag, and Remove all trash inside the cabin!! All furniture, and Games put back to their original location. Any small broken items, damages, and other issues Please leave a note for housekeeping to replace the item for the next guest!! So important!!Set Alarm upon Departureto be placed in outside trash container. up all trash up all trash inside and Remove all trash ido not leave any and remove any trash inside and placed in bear proof container outside. inside the cabin and remove Set Thermostat to 62 degrees/Auto, Turn off all lights, Appliances, etc. and lock all windows and doors at every departure leaving the cabin!! Guest is responsible for securing the cabin everytime they depart!! Mine is lengthy!! Trust me its not that bad and everything is provided anyway!! Cleaner, respected cabin home!!

  • Laurie

    Our vacation rental is actually budget range compared to the hotel. For example, a 2-star, 3-star hotel costs $269 a night. 5-star like Hyatt costs $499 per night for a standard room with two beds. Some rooms are ocean front, some maybe sideview of ocean. Our 4 bedroom house costs on the avg $450 per night. Our house is newly remodeled, all new furniture, less than 5 minute from the beach with peekaboo ocean view. Kitchen fully stocked, laundry with washer and dryer, a cute patio, decktop fully furnished with outdoors furtniture and a grill. Cable TV in everyroom. So basically essentially the same accommodation for a fraction of the price. Guests who choose houses like ours certainly take cost into consideration so I don’t think they should expect 5-star accommodation at less than 3-star price. We provide a very clean house with everything they need. Guests have to take that into consideration.

  • Michele Bergbauer

    As the owner of a vacation rental HOME, I can say that people, in the privacy provided by staying in a private home with private yard, will do things, & let their kids do things, that they would not do at their own home. I’ve heard them bouncing large balls and roller skating in the house. My property manager takes care of things, including checking in and out, but when I come at the end of the summer, I see that the kids must have been swinging on the doors, or slamming them alot, because one doorknob is completely broken and locked me IN 2 nights in a row, and 2 doors are hanging low on the hinges and dragging on the floor making gauges as they track along the floor- yet no one reported anything to the property manager. Though I provide SEVEN cutting boards arranged around the kitchen so as to be very obvious, people choose to cut directly on my counter, leaving deep scratches. Someone put out a cigarette on the wood of my dresser, though It clearly says on the lease, that there is no smoking in the house. On my combo kitchen/dining table, I suppose it is children (?) making permanent, starburst cross cuts into the table surface. The sofa and rug look like several plates of spaghetti were dumped on them & just left there. It costs me money & time to rent the rug shampooer to clean rugs & upholstery. Growing up in MY family, we ate at the TABLE, THEN watched TV. Very rarely, we were all allowed to use “TV trays” & eat in the living room, but were fully expected not to spill anything on rug, couch or armchair. If we did spill something, great rush & effort were made in trying to clean the mess up. The table we ate on was not used as a tool table, banging and scratching it up. Our desk or desks, or the wall next to them, were not written on with magic markers. We weren’t allowed to put marker or pencil lines on the nice bookcase in our living room. When we played board games or dolls, we did not usually play on the bed with shoes on, buckles and all, ripping up the bedspreads! I can just imagine the look of horror & disapproval my friend’s Mom’s would have on their faces if we left their bedspreads and walls next to the bed in shambles. Or…, if we had applied nail polish while sitting on the bedspread and left the stray nail polish marks on there without trying to clean it off! People put T- shirts or other materials over the lampshades, to make them look sexy or like a nightlight, thereby melting the lampshade. They prance out at the end of the week, leaving everything a lot or a little shabbier for the next paying tenant; sometimes we cannot restore it to it’s former condition. How does ruining other people’s property make one feel “Free” as a bird and on vacation? If you invite every friend you have (‘Hey, pahty ma house’) to my vacation rental property & have people sleeping in every nook and cranny, including extra tents in the yard with TVs etc, plugged into my outside plugs, how can I hope to recover the home from abuse before the next renter arrives? It is difficult scrubbing lipstick and orange soda stains off the rug. If you kill a bug on the wall at YOUR home, do you leave the smeared bug guts all over the wall? Surveying the ruins after a rental leaves me disheartened and wondering why I spend time making improvements for the comfort of my renters. I cannot afford to replace couch, rugs, and cookware each week!
    Mickey R.

  • DevBrown

    Are there any investors out there that have experience with investing in a waterfront Vacation Rental property in CA area? The budget is $1M towards purchase, closing costs, etc.

  • I have read most of this discussion and we have always asked to leave beds unmade, leave towels loosely hung up, start dishwasher, take out the trash and leave place reasonably clean. Our Matagorda Texas condos we roll the cleaning into the rent and our San Diego property we charge a $125 cleaning fee. Usually our San Diego property (house) is left cleaner then the Texas Condos were they don’t pay a cleaning fee. http://matagordadunes.com http://sandiegovacationgetaway.com/Home.html

    My new trial check out procedure:

    Leave beds unmade

    Used towels in shower or tub.

    Return any furniture that’s been moved to original spot.

    You have paid for cleaning so don’t worry about it. Maids will take care of food left as well.

    Have a good trip home or to your next destination.

    When you get home leave us a review and come visit us again.

    John & Kim

    That being said, if towels are left in a wet heap and housekeeping doesn’t get there same day will result in moldy towels. Dirty dishes & trash sitting attract bugs. I always push housekeeping to clean ASAP even if there is break in rental.

  • CjMaine

    I have agreed with the author’s point of view until we began renting last summer. We have a three bedroom home and can’t turn the home over to new guests in the time frame allowed. We give our renters a noon check–out and a 3:00 check–in (island ferry schedule). I can’t complete three loads of laundry in that time. Most Maine island homes don’t provide linens for this reason, but I’m loathe to ask people to carry one more thing with them. Asking guests to run one load before they leave seems like a fair exchange.

  • Liz Dugger

    You are so correct. Most people have no idea. Great information that is very realistic.

  • Annette Profit

    there is nothing wrong with guests taking out their trash, loading the dishwasher, starting a load of laundry. It is not to lighten someone’s cleaning load it is to show respect for the person’s property. Believe me it does not lighten the cleaner’s load! There is plenty of cleaning to do besides those 3 things and the time spent cleaning doesn’t shorten. I have been cleaning vacation rentals for the last 12 years and there are some people who figure they can trash a place and expect the cleaner to do double time because of it. Then there are the nice respectful people who do start these things and leave a tip or a gift, they are the people who appreciate nice things in life and a pleasant, clean rental to come to that the owner puts out a lot of money to maintain it. Until you are a cleaner or an owner then you won’t be walking in their shoes. Once you do the job or own the property you will know what we are talking about.

  • Annette Profit

    Most people who respect people’s property will want to know what to do before leaving.

    For Example here are some check out procedures that we use:

    Check out procedure

    Hope you and your family have had a great time. Check out is 11am.

    Check out procedure:

    If you have any dirty dishes, load them in the dishwasher and start it, housekeeper will unload the dishwasher

    If you have any colored towels put them in washer, start it, the housekeeper will put them in the dryer.

    Please do not put the whites in as the housekeeper bleaches them and if mixed with colors it will dull the whites.

    Take all garbage out to the large garbage container

    If you have left over food and drinks do not worry about it they are given it to the less fortunate.

    Leave the round gate fob, keys, and parking pass on the table

    In consideration of the housekeeper’s schedule and possibly new guests coming in the day of your departure, if you would like to extend your stay of past 11am or stay another day, you are to text, call or email the owner 24 hours in advance to ask if you are able to extend your stay. If you do not ask the owner and you decide to not leave by 11am, with the housekeeper scheduled there will be an inconvenience fee charged for not leaving by 11am as the housekeeper is prepared and scheduled to come by 11am to clean for the next guests arrival.

    That is all, have a safe journey home, and thank you for renting with me.

    • I think that’s all perfectly reasonable, Annette. As a guest, I would be fine with those check out instructions, especially because they are worded nicely.

      • Annette Profit

        thank you one Chic Retreat, I appreciate that

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  • annags

    If people don’t want to do a bit of cleaning at the end of their stay, then they should stay in a hotel. If I rent an AirBnB or a rental home myself, I know that I will have to do some tidying up before I leave.

    We have a second home on an island in Florida which we turned into a weekly rental. We have a dedicated cleaner and manager, plus we have our pool serviced two times per week where other places have it done just once per week. We charge a $150 cleaning fee, but it actually cost us $250 per week to have the house cleaned, the pool maintained and to have the trash/recycle bins moved to and from the curb on schedule. We charge between $175 to $395 per night, depending on the time of year. Since we have four bedrooms and can accommodate 10 guests, we are actually *cheaper* than any other hotel options. We are around the same price or less than other vacation homes.

    I don’t think it’s too much to ask the guests to try to have most of the dishes done, the fridge mostly cleaned out, to start one load of laundry such as towels (we don’t ask them to strip all the beds) and to clean the BBQ grill if they used it. (We supply all propane and charcoal.) We ask our guests to wash and dry all the beach towels but they don’t have to fold them or anything — this is because it can take 3 HOURS for the 20+ beach towels we leave for guests to dry.

    It takes our cleaner four to five hours to clean the house, do the laundry, remake beds, clean around the pool area, clean the toilets, take out the trash and so on. Even with our requests to tidy up, about 10% of guests leave the place a total wreck, with beer cans left all over the house, filthy barbecues, trashed bedrooms, etc. which means she has to call a *SECOND* cleaner at the last minute to come over which cost us another $50. (We make a note to never rent to that guest again.)

    If we allowed all guests to leave the home like that, it would mean we could never accommodate a check-out and check-in on the same day.

    About 90% of guests comply and I don’t think they mind. We have many return guests. We don’t charge when people break stuff like glasses or vases, or lose an item such as a beach toy or in one case, even permanently stained a set of sheets — all of which a hotel DEFINITELY would do.

    My brother and three friends stayed at a hotel for a bachelor party, apparently they left it very unkempt. They were charged a $125 *extra cleaning fee* and charged $20 per towel that was missing, and charged $8 per piece of missing silverware from room service (which they disputed). My sister-in-law was charged $75 by a Holiday Inn because her kids drew on a wall with crayons. So it is simply untrue that hotels will just accept rooms in any state of disorder.

    We run our home very business-like. We charge a simple $250 refundable damage deposit. We have not yet kept anyone’s deposit but that’s how we insure that the home is left in decent shape for us to turn it over for another guests. In fact, we are now considering charging a $25 fee if people don’t want to clean the grill, and just add on the other cleaner for two hours. Part of the reason for this is because guests get very, very upset if a grill doesn’t look like its almost brand-new when they check in, so it takes two solid hours to clean both of the grills which we leave for their use.

    I don’t think any of this is unreasonable.

  • cathie

    I’d love to have ‘less rules’ for guests regarding how they leave my house, but I’m completely frustrated on the issue of trash. The local council in which my holiday rental (and hundreds of others) is situated just introduced a new ‘initiative’ which involves all trash having to be separated into three groups (regular trash, recycling & food scraps/greenwaste), with regular trash now to be collected only fortnightly (instead of weekly). Apparently they expect people staying at holiday properties be so good at recycling and composting during their stay that they’ll generate half the waste (seriously!!!!). The ‘initiative’ is enforced – I’ve had bins left uncollected because guests have put the wrong rubbish in the wrong bins. My only alternative is to have a clear instructions asking (bordering on begging!) guests to sort their rubbish. This is NOT something I want to have to ask people on holiday to do (no matter how much I can appeal to their sense of environmental responsibility), but I have no alternative…

  • carpet lady honolulu

    Bottom line is if you, the customer, pay a cleaning fee then you should not have to do any cleaning. I would be infuriated. We just stayed at a rental and the owner post-poned our check in to 6p because he was complaining about a turnaround for cleaning a same day check-out, check-in. We were understanding but also, did not throw him a pity party one bit. We know running a rental is not a walk in the park. And we know what it is to clean. My husband owns a cleaning company (www.carpetcleanerhonolulu.com) So we’ve been a customer and on the other end. If you have a rental, you are providing a service. And that should not include your visitor having to clean!

  • Adriana Restrepo

    Hello everyone,
    My name is Adriana Restrepo. I am the proud owner of a cleaning business that I run with my two daughters in the Orlando, FL area. We have been in the cleaning business for 8 years. We currently have 20 residential clients and 4 vacation rentals that we have obtained solely by word of mouth and good reputation. Our clients trust and adore us and we have been with each one for no less than 5 years. We are interested in expanding on our vacation rentals and are in need of some advice. We want some insight on how we can better advertise and market our company. We would like to be able to efficiently acquire more vacation rentals directly with the property owners. After reading your complaints and concerns we are confident that we will be able to address these problems much more swiftly and effectively than our competitors. Please contact us via email at trfc19@yahoo.com. We can be your Saint Lizzie :)!

  • Flowerrose

    Just saw this so I’m a little late to the party. I have a vacation rental in North Padre, TX, I charge $525 a night and a $225 cleaning fee. I DO ask that the renters strip the beds and put all soiled towels and sheets by the laundry room, run the dishes, take out all their trash from the fridge and trash cans. I do not allow rentals the same day that other renters leave. It is too difficult and unfairly stressful to the cleaning people, in a 5/4.5 nothing can get cleaned that quickly. On the date of their departure, I allow my guests to stay no later than 1:00 p.m. I hire 2 individuals and pay them $25.00 per hour for 3 hours work each. With the excess they get paid to clean the balcony rails, windows and garage door. I have never been to a hotel cleaner than my house nor has anyone else. Because we do not allow back to back rentals, a family can arrive to our house as early as 11:00 a.m. So yes, I do charge a cleaning fee and renters don’t need to rent from me if they don’t want to pay it and I’m ok with that.