I have hired a number of cleaners at my short-term rental property that I let out on Airbnb and other websites. I have had two successes and one big failure. Hopefully, these tips will help you hire awesome cleaners as that will save you time, make you money, and save you a whole bunch of stress!
The short answer to the question of how to hire Airbnb cleaners is:
- Make sure you “feel good” about them
- Listen to your instincts. Do you trust them?
- Desire is much more important than experience in a specific “cleaning job”.
- Everyone has to clean their house, so there is a big pool to reach from.
- Referrals are worth their weight in gold. This is the ideal solution.
- Make very clear that your payment structure is understood and agreed upfront.
- Make clear that you will check their work – especially to start with.
- Observe, observe, correct and observe.
With that in mind, let’s dig deeper into this subject and address some specific elements of how you hire a great cleaner, and what to look out for on the positive and negative front.
How to hire an awesome cleaner for your short-term let.
Firstly, consider this: one of your guests’ main criteria for whether or not your property is fantastic or not so fantastic is how clean it is. If they discover stained sheets; dirty crockery; or a fridge full of a former guest’s junk, you can be sure they will be unhappy, so make no mistake, cleaning is important. No, it’s actually very important.
But also consider this: depending on your length of stays, cleaning is also very expensive. One month it cost me 40% of my turnover, and after that, you’ll be lucky to have any profit left. So a balance needs to be struck, and this is why it’s so important to get it right.
Short-Term Let Cleaners do unique jobs.
If you think about it, a cleaner for your property has to be on-call whenever there is a check or check-out, therefore their time needs to be very flexible. This does limit the number of people in your talent pool as not everyone wants a job where the days / hours change regularly. But for some it’s ideal.
People who’ve worked well for me, tend to be mums who what to earn extra money: Most of the cleaning is in the middle of the day, so during their child’s school day, and usually they don’t want to work every day (it’s tough work) so it fits well within their schedule.
Also, by their very nature, mums tend to be good at cleaning and being efficient with their time. Young children take a lot of looking after and organization to do so. So do apartments.
Think carefully about professional cleaners.
Like any business, once you’ve been in it a while you learn the “tricks of the trade”. On the one hand, this means you are probably (but not definitely) going to find someone who knows how to clean; but on the other hand when people become experienced in any job, they learn how to maximize earnings, and minimize input. Now, of course, this is not a fair statement to make about every cleaner, but there are things to watch out for:
- Communication. If complaining starts early, this is a big red red-flag. Why? because it will escalate. I promise you. Some people complain; others make statements and find solutions. For example, one of the excellent cleaners I hired for my properties told me that the vacuum cleaner wasn’t picking up dirt properly. But she didn’t complain about it, she just stated it as a fact. She also suggested a good alternative that was much cheaper than other products on the market and told me that most vacuum cleaners are just marketed by the name, and in fact, the “Henry” was cheap but did an excellent job. You won’t be surprised to hear I purchased Henry! This is an example of great communication, which in someone else would have been a moan. You want good communicators, not moaners/complainers as this speaks a lot about their character.
- Working Hours. I am more than happy to pay a great cleaner fairly, and even above the market rate. However, I have experienced cleaners (and this is assuming you pay by the hour) who charge for the same amount of time, every-time, or if there for a longer clean the same greater amount (“It’s 3 hours today” [for example] or it’s “4 hours today”). Well how can it be? They will never be there for exactly the same period of time, and unless you’ve told them to round up to the nearest hour, this is not honest.
- Handling Feedback. There will inevitably be times when there is a problem, something has been forgotten, or there is a mistake of some sort. During these times, you need to work with someone who is open to the feedback, doesn’t take it personally and learns from it. I have had an experience with a father and daughter team who got terribly emotional every time there was a guest complaint. I had to fire them in the end due to one mistake, and the father yelled and complained to me about our “posh guests” but then ended up apologizing when he realized the standard of his daughter’s work. Everyone makes mistakes. Me as much as anyone else. They key is to make sure that you can work with someone who learns from it, takes it on board and moves on.
How to train your cleaner
Training is really part of the hiring process. Training enables you to see if the cleaner a) can follow your direction, and b) can use their own common sense.
My training process works like this:
- Show the cleaner the entire property. Explain what you want done in detail and give them a checklist for cleaning on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
- Ask them what they think is important. This is a great way to test their common sense. Having someone who can think for themselves is very important as you will not always be there to answer their questions at short notice.
- After their first clean, check their work. Don’t be at all afraid to point our what is not right. Don’t use the language of blame, just say “I prefer it to be like this”.
- Repeat this process 4-5 times. If They are getting things right after the 3-4th clean, you know that you have hired someone who can follow want you’ve asked them to do.
- After they have finished their first clean without you checking, go check things out before the guests arrive. They will still be things that need correcting. This is useful for the following reasons:
- You’ll be able to give them valuable feedback
- The cleaner will know that you are “on the ball”. In any business, if people sense you have lost interest, they will lose interest.
What to do with cleaners that don’t make the grade?
Well there is obviously only one solution. You can’t work with them. But as obvious as this seems, this can be a difficult decision to make. My father and daughter cleaning team insisted that they could not get the clean done in less than 3 hours, whereas the former cleaner usually got things done in under 2 hours. Unfortunately, as I was not there I fell for this. Needless to say, the quality of their work was not up-to-scratch and they had to go.
As hard as it might be, if the people can’t or won’t do the job as you require it to be done. You must lose them. Because finding someone who’s great will make a huge difference to your stress levels, guest experience, and profits.
What to do when you’ve found someone good.
You will know when you’ve found the right person.
They will be:
- Easy to communicate with
- Take pride in their work
- Ask good questions
- Make helpful suggestions
- Develop their own pattern to get them job done even better
In order to help develop this relationship, you should keep the following in mind:
- Treat them with politeness and respect at all times
- Respect their time. If there’s going to be an occasion that inconveniences them, tell them in advance,.
- Don’t overload them with messages.
- Use a work-flow system that’s helpful and easy for you both to follow. I use trello.com – It’s free and easy to use and has smartphone apps for all devices.
- When you get good reviews, take the opportunity to praise them and consider offering a small financial thank you ($10/£10 is enough).
Q: My cleaner has just resigned, what did I do wrong?
Probably nothing. People’s lives and circumstances change. I have many friends in this business, and the shelf-life of their cleaners is usually 1-3 years. Don’t take it personally if they want to move on. Wish them well.
Q: Should I use a cleaning company?
This entirely depends on: 1) Are there such companies in your area; 2) Can you afford to? or will this eat in to your budget too much?
As a general answer, I would say an individual rather than a company is the best choice.
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