The Importance of an Annual “Deep Clean” for Vacation Rental Properties
By Stephen Craig, Pro Resort Housekeeping
I am often asked to explain why an annual deep cleaning of a rental property is critical to the success of a Vacation Rental Management (VRM) Company.
Many VRMs have excellent executive housekeepers and staff, but they have let homeowners persuade them to delay –or even forgo –an annual deep clean. Honestly, this is a critical error for both the company and the property owner.
Why Should Annual Cleans Be Required?
During the busy rental season, housekeeping is necessary and is done in a way that combines a reasonable level of quality with the necessity of expediency. Why is that?
- To do a deep clean after every checkout would be so time-consuming and would require so many staff members that no VRM would be able to recruit enough people, especially in tight labor markets.
- Even if a VRM wanted to perform a deep clean between stays, there isn’t enough time. Check out time is usually 10:00 AM, with a likely check-in time of 4:00 PM the same day or, in some cases, even sooner. Let me assure you, a unit not ready at 4:00 PM will do more to infuriate an arriving guest than anything. In actuality, many renters are sitting on the doorstep of the unit they booked well before 4:00 PM.
- Even if we could assemble the people to do all of this detailed cleaning, and if we had the time to get the cleaning completed by the check-in time, the cost would be prohibitive. Neither the homeowner nor the renter would agree to pay for the service. Many property owners balk at paying for a deep clean once per year, let alone after every departure.
Therefore, all vacation rental companies –every single one –sets standards. They have a process that cleans those items that are most important to the guest’s health and satisfaction and defers all of the other deeper cleaning tasks to a later date.
Between-Stay Cleaning and Deep Cleaning
There is a marked difference between the cleaning done between stays and the cleaning done during a “deep clean.”
For example, during a cleaning of a home between stays, the items that are crucial to the cleaning process include detailed cleaning of the bathrooms, floors, and kitchens.
Areas likely not to undergo cleaning after each stay include the areas behind heavy items of furniture, the floors under beds, sofa sleepers, couches, ceiling fans, hidden areas (especially those high up on the cathedral ceiling), windows, screens, cleaning behind kitchen appliances (refrigerator/stove), shelves inside all kitchen cabinets, and blind slats. These items should undergo a thorough cleaning between rental seasons, or the long-term accumulation of soil and abuse is something that one cannot evade with a regular checkout clean.
The deep clean should include an annual carpet extraction, upholstery cleaning, and cleaning of all windows and screens.
Homeowners should also be aware of the following:
- No company has exceptional housekeeping quality that doesn’t require at least one annual deep clean. I’ve not seen one yet!
- Many companies require two deep cleans each year.
- There is also a trend for the owner to pay for “mini-deeps” or “periodic cleaning” every six or seven renters so that the unit does not look worn and shabby by the end of the rental season.
I like to explain that it is no different than periodic oil changes in your car to “eliminate the filth in the primary operating system.” If you never change the oil in your vehicle, the performance will ultimately diminish.
The first thing guests look for in the fulfillment of the house is “whether it is clean.“ In every survey about a VRM’s performance ever taken by either a guest or homeowner, quality housekeeping is their number one concern.
To guarantee a professionally managed vacation rental experience, a VRM must require an annual deep clean in every home. In fact, it should raise a red flag to homeowners about the legitimacy of a VRM’s program if it is not part of the contract.
Don’t Let Owners Do Deep Cleaning
Not only should an annual deep clean be required per the Property Management Agreement, it should be done by the in-house staff and not by the homeowner.
Without a doubt, some homeowners can do an excellent deep clean, but that is extremely rare. Having the VRM’s professional in-house staff do the work also eliminates the need for a great deal of unnecessary, time-consuming communications with homeowners about authorization and scheduling.
It also prevents an embarrassing confrontation with the owner. Inspecting and evaluating the work of an owner to make sure all the cleaning is standard, and then having to point out how bad the work was done, doesn’t help in your relationship with the owner.
If you have the right staff, standards and processes in place and the housekeeping still isn’t being completed at the acceptable level, only the VRM is responsible.
Regarding deep cleans, in summary: Deep cleans must be done at least annually – no exceptions, and your in-house housekeeping staff should do the deep cleaning. If you allow the owner to do the deep cleaning, you either must have it inspected by your housekeeping manager in the presence of the proprietor. Or – if the owner does not wait for the inspection – your housekeeping team must have the authorization to make any needed corrections automatically and to bill the owner a flat rate per hour for doing so.