Remote Inspection for Vacation Rental Managers

 

In an ideal world, every vacation rental manager would inspect every single property after every single turnover.

We have partners who do this. It works wonders for them. They rarely get complaints. They almost never have to refund cleaning fees.

But it’s also a huge expense.

What if you could get all the great benefits of an after-turnover inspection – without the cost?

That’s what Properly’s new Remote Inspection service can do for you.

Learn More About Remote Inspection

Why Inspect After a Turnover At All?

Simply put: your cleaners are human beings, and human beings make mistakes.

Even the most professional cleaner can have an “off” day. It’s easy to forget tasks that aren’t immediately visible, such as:

  • Emptying and cleaning the refrigerator of the previous guest’s leftovers
  • Emptying and cleaning the dishwasher after it runs
  • Checking in dresser drawers and under furniture for left-behind items
  • Refilling soap and restocking amenities
  • Making sure promised amenities like hair dryers and ironing boards are in place
  • Checking to be sure electronics and lights are functioning correctly

The most commonly forgotten task is also the simplest one: making sure the entry method works. Most people slip into autopilot mode when they finish a job, so it’s easy to forget to leave the keys in the lockbox or to enter a new code on the keyless entry.

When mistakes like these happen, you’re certain to get a guest complaint. What you may not realize is that you’re also going to incur a costly penalty.

How Much Does It Cost to Fix a Guest Complaint?

Let’s say you have a property with an average booking of 4 nights at $150/night. The cleaning fee is $100 for the booking. You receive $700 for this booking, and you pay $75 of the cleaning fee to your cleaner, keeping $25 to cover ongoing costs like maintenance. We’ll disregard overhead such as salaries to keep our math simple.

You’ll earn $600 on this booking if there are no guest complaints and no issues that need to be resolved. 

What happens if your cleaner forgets to leave the keys in the lockbox?

If the guest arrives at 4:00 pm, you can probably fix this problem relatively quickly. Your cleaner isn’t done for the day yet, and she drops the keys off on her way home. Since it was her mistake, you might not even have to pay for the time it takes her to return the keys. You comp the guest $50 or buy them a gift certificate to make up for the inconvenience.

Now you’re not making $600 on this booking. You’re making $550. 

If the guest arrives at midnight, however, you’re going to have a much bigger – and more expensive – problem on your hands.

The guest can’t get into the property, and they can’t reach you or anyone else because it’s very late at night. The guest has to book a hotel room so that they won’t be sleeping on the streets. In the morning, they demand that you refund the first night’s stay (since they weren’t able to stay at the property) and that you pay for the cost of their hotel room.

You might be able to negotiate down from paying for both, but you’re very likely going to pay for at least the first night’s stay.

You’re going to be out $150-$400 – all because no one double-checked to be sure the guest could get into the property.

You’re no longer making $600 on this booking. You could be making as little as $200. 

Some complaints cost less, some cost more. Very few complaints cost less than $25 to resolve.

How Often Do Costly Complaints Occur?

Properly helps property managers ensure perfect turnovers every time, so we’ve had a lot of time to look at bookings before and after implementing measures to ensure no tasks are missed.

Using Properly as a tool to check off essential tasks, cleaners only forget critical issues 8% of the time. That’s a low number, but let’s use it as a best-case scenario.

If your property gets 35 bookings a year, that means 3 of those bookings are going to have a critical issue.

Let’s take another best-case scenario and assume that your issues only cost an average of $100 to resolve. Maybe you had two issues that only cost $25 each, and one costly issue like the above example that cost you $250. On average, your 3 issues cost you $100 apiece.

$300 for one property isn’t so bad. That’s about $8.50 per booking. Losing $8.50 per booking isn’t going to break the bank.

But that’s assuming your costs begin and end with the real cost of fixing the issue.

And in an industry that lives and dies with online reviews, that’s never the case.

What’s the Cost of a Negative Review?

Negative reviews can plummet your earning potential on any property. This is especially true if you aren’t able to get a 5-star review that immediately follows the negative one.

Best-case scenario: you’ll lose out on at least one booking you would otherwise have gotten that year.

Worst-case scenario: we’ve seen vacation rental managers have to pull properties entirely because they never recovered from the 1-star review that pulled their ranking down to page 22 on the listing sites.

Negative reviews, in other words, don’t just lose you bookings – though they definitely do that.

They can also cost you clients.

Guests often have high expectations for the property’s preparedness, so negative reviews are hard to avoid. If they find so much as a single mistake, they’re primed to look for others.

The only way to avoid negative reviews is to ensure that your guests never spot a mistake.

We’re not suggesting that your cleaners can become perfect automatons who never make a mistake. Even with great tools like the Properly app, mistakes will happen. Your cleaners are only human.

The trick isn’t in avoiding mistakes. It’s in making sure your guests never see them. 

Eliminate the Cost of Human Error

We work with a handful of large vacation rental managers who aren’t willing to risk their guests finding costly mistakes. To make sure everything is ready for the guest’s arrival, they have someone on their team perform a post-turnover inspection after every cleaning.

Most vacation rental managers can’t afford that. Which means they’ll keep paying to resolve their mistakes rather than prevent them.

We know how valuable post-turnover inspections can be. So we invented a service that delivers the same result – at a fraction of the cost.

Properly’s Remote Inspection double-checks all your essential turnover tasks in real time

If you’re already using Properly, you know that our app offers the option to have your cleaner take a verification photo of any task.

Our team of professionals compares those photos to a list of criteria you select to be absolutely certain that everything is in place.

If your cleaner forgets to check that the hair dryer is in place or the keys are in the lockbox, we’ll ping them while they’re still at the property – so they can fix the problem before they leave.

No more calling someone out to fix the problem. No more costly complaints when guests arrive to trash cans that weren’t emptied or hair in the shower drain.

Just the absolute certainty that every task has been checked – and double-checked – before the guest arrives.

Oh, and if the guest complains about an unclean property? You’ve got the photos to prove that complaint isn’t founded.

Remote Inspection doesn’t just have your cleaner’s back – it has yours. 

Learn More About Remote Inspection

You’ll never eliminate human error altogether. But with Remote Inspection, the problem gets fixed long before check-in time arrives. And the guest? Well, mistakes they never knew about won’t hurt them.

Those mistakes won’t hurt your business, either. Not anymore.

Remote Inspection for Vacation Rental Managers

In an ideal world, every vacation rental manager would inspect every single property after every single turnover.

We have partners who do this. It works wonders for them. They rarely get complaints. They almost never have to refund cleaning fees.

But it’s also a huge expense.

What if you could get all the great benefits of an after-turnover inspection – without the cost?

That’s what Properly’s new Remote Inspection service can do for you.

Learn More About Remote Inspection

Why Inspect After a Turnover At All?

Simply put: your cleaners are human beings, and human beings make mistakes.

Even the most professional cleaner can have an “off” day. It’s easy to forget tasks that aren’t immediately visible, such as:

  • Emptying and cleaning the refrigerator of the previous guest’s leftovers
  • Emptying and cleaning the dishwasher after it runs
  • Checking in dresser drawers and under furniture for left-behind items
  • Refilling soap and restocking amenities
  • Making sure promised amenities like hair dryers and ironing boards are in place
  • Checking to be sure electronics and lights are functioning correctly

The most commonly forgotten task is also the simplest one: making sure the entry method works. Most people slip into autopilot mode when they finish a job, so it’s easy to forget to leave the keys in the lockbox or to enter a new code on the keyless entry.

When mistakes like these happen, you’re certain to get a guest complaint. What you may not realize is that you’re also going to incur a costly penalty.

How Much Does It Cost to Fix a Guest Complaint?

Let’s say you have a property with an average booking of 4 nights at $150/night. The cleaning fee is $100 for the booking. You receive $700 for this booking, and you pay $75 of the cleaning fee to your cleaner, keeping $25 to cover ongoing costs like maintenance. We’ll disregard overhead such as salaries to keep our math simple.

You’ll earn $600 on this booking if there are no guest complaints and no issues that need to be resolved. 

What happens if your cleaner forgets to leave the keys in the lockbox?

If the guest arrives at 4:00 pm, you can probably fix this problem relatively quickly. Your cleaner isn’t done for the day yet, and she drops the keys off on her way home. Since it was her mistake, you might not even have to pay for the time it takes her to return the keys. You comp the guest $50 or buy them a gift certificate to make up for the inconvenience.

Now you’re not making $600 on this booking. You’re making $550. 

If the guest arrives at midnight, however, you’re going to have a much bigger – and more expensive – problem on your hands.

The guest can’t get into the property, and they can’t reach you or anyone else because it’s very late at night. The guest has to book a hotel room so that they won’t be sleeping on the streets. In the morning, they demand that you refund the first night’s stay (since they weren’t able to stay at the property) and that you pay for the cost of their hotel room.

You might be able to negotiate down from paying for both, but you’re very likely going to pay for at least the first night’s stay.

You’re going to be out $150-$400 – all because no one double-checked to be sure the guest could get into the property.

You’re no longer making $600 on this booking. You could be making as little as $200. 

Some complaints cost less, some cost more. Very few complaints cost less than $25 to resolve.

How Often Do Costly Complaints Occur?

Properly helps property managers ensure perfect turnovers every time, so we’ve had a lot of time to look at bookings before and after implementing measures to ensure no tasks are missed.

Using Properly as a tool to check off essential tasks, cleaners only forget critical issues 8% of the time. That’s a low number, but let’s use it as a best-case scenario.

If your property gets 35 bookings a year, that means 3 of those bookings are going to have a critical issue.

Let’s take another best-case scenario and assume that your issues only cost an average of $100 to resolve. Maybe you had two issues that only cost $25 each, and one costly issue like the above example that cost you $250. On average, your 3 issues cost you $100 apiece.

$300 for one property isn’t so bad. That’s about $8.50 per booking. Losing $8.50 per booking isn’t going to break the bank.

But that’s assuming your costs begin and end with the real cost of fixing the issue.

And in an industry that lives and dies with online reviews, that’s never the case.

What’s the Cost of a Negative Review?

Negative reviews can plummet your earning potential on any property. This is especially true if you aren’t able to get a 5-star review that immediately follows the negative one.

Best-case scenario: you’ll lose out on at least one booking you would otherwise have gotten that year.

Worst-case scenario: we’ve seen vacation rental managers have to pull properties entirely because they never recovered from the 1-star review that pulled their ranking down to page 22 on the listing sites.

Negative reviews, in other words, don’t just lose you bookings – though they definitely do that.

They can also cost you clients.

Guests often have high expectations for the property’s preparedness, so negative reviews are hard to avoid. If they find so much as a single mistake, they’re primed to look for others.

The only way to avoid negative reviews is to ensure that your guests never spot a mistake.

We’re not suggesting that your cleaners can become perfect automatons who never make a mistake. Even with great tools like the Properly app, mistakes will happen. Your cleaners are only human.

The trick isn’t in avoiding mistakes. It’s in making sure your guests never see them. 

Eliminate the Cost of Human Error

We work with a handful of large vacation rental managers who aren’t willing to risk their guests finding costly mistakes. To make sure everything is ready for the guest’s arrival, they have someone on their team perform a post-turnover inspection after every cleaning.

Most vacation rental managers can’t afford that. Which means they’ll keep paying to resolve their mistakes rather than prevent them.

We know how valuable post-turnover inspections can be. So we invented a service that delivers the same result – at a fraction of the cost.

Properly’s Remote Inspection double-checks all your essential turnover tasks in real time

If you’re already using Properly, you know that our app offers the option to have your cleaner take a verification photo of any task.

Our team of professionals compares those photos to a list of criteria you select to be absolutely certain that everything is in place.

If your cleaner forgets to check that the hair dryer is in place or the keys are in the lockbox, we’ll ping them while they’re still at the property – so they can fix the problem before they leave.

No more calling someone out to fix the problem. No more costly complaints when guests arrive to trash cans that weren’t emptied or hair in the shower drain.

Just the absolute certainty that every task has been checked – and double-checked – before the guest arrives.

Oh, and if the guest complains about an unclean property? You’ve got the photos to prove that complaint isn’t founded.

Remote Inspection doesn’t just have your cleaner’s back – it has yours. 

Learn More About Remote Inspection

You’ll never eliminate human error altogether. But with Remote Inspection, the problem gets fixed long before check-in time arrives. And the guest? Well, mistakes they never knew about won’t hurt them.

Those mistakes won’t hurt your business, either. Not anymore.

Properly Now Integrates With Streamline

properly streamline integration

Streamline is an all-in one vacation rental management software suite designed to make managing simpler than ever before. Streamline does everything you expect from your PMS – revenue maximization, channel management, and a CRM – but goes the extra mile with trust accounting, conversion-focused website design, smart autoresponder emails, and more.

We’re proud to partner with Streamline on this integration. Streamline does everything possible to bring in new bookings and ensure every penny counts in your business. Properly works to make sure every one of those bookings goes perfectly – every time. By giving you “eyes on the ground,” Properly ensures that all those new bookings end with happy guests and 5-star reviews.

How to Connect Streamline to Properly

Before you begin, contact Streamline by phone at 888.590.1946 or on their website to ask for your token key and token secret. Just ask the Streamline customer service rep for the credentials you need for the Properly integration.

Once you have your credentials, log in to your Properly account. Select your profile’s pop-up menu and select Connected Accounts. Then locate Streamline and click Connect.

You’ll be redirected to the screen you see below. Enter the credentials Streamline provided.

You’ll be prompted to import your properties from Streamline to Properly. Once you grant permission, your listings will begin to appear in the Properly web app. Depending on the number of listings, this may take some time.

Want to know more about how Properly helps you save stress and earn more revenue by ensuring perfect turnovers every time? Schedule a demo and we’ll show you how it works!

Vacation Rental Cleaning: How to Avoid Scope Creep

 

Vacation rental managers know just how essential good cleaners are in this business. Your relationship with your cleaner can be the key to avoiding bad reviews and ensuring repeat customers.

Cleaners generally report good relationships with the vacation rental managers they work for, but there is a nagging problem that can keep a great cleaner from making you their #1 client: scope creep.

Scope creep is a project management term that refers to unforeseen add-on requests after the project has already begun. Cleaners often hear “Oh, and could you just … ?” or “Would you mind stopping by the store for … ?”

Most cleaners are happy to go the extra mile for a good client, but if they see a lot of this type of add-on request early in the relationship, they’re going to think you’re the kind of client who will ask for 3 hours of work for 2 hours of pay. 

Thankfully, it’s easy to keep your jobs within the original scope with advance planning and clear communication. Here’s how to make sure your cleaners  know exactly what you need from them so you can have a great relationship for years to come.

Give a Heads-Up on Time-Specific Tasks 

Scope creep often happens simply because the cleaner wasn’t aware that some tasks need to be performed at the beginning of the job. Some tasks require the cleaner to do a little work at the start and the end of the job, with a lag time in between.

Laundry is the most obvious example, and most vacation rental cleaners know to start the laundry at the beginning of the job and change the laundry to the dryer the minute the washer buzzes.

But there are quite a few other jobs of this type, and many vacation rental managers don’t think to let their cleaners know about them.

A few examples:

  • Checking for damage. If you want your cleaner to report any damage at the property to you right away (so you’ll have time to fix the problem before the guest arrives), you’ll need to ask them to do a walk-through first thing.
  • Running the dishwasher. If you want the dishwasher emptied before the cleaner leaves, they’ll need to start their clean by looking for any dirty dishes and running the dishwasher.
  • Airing out the property. If you know the property tends to collect smells or that the cleaning products you prefer can linger, ask your cleaner to open the windows at the start of the clean.

You may also want your cleaner to check on the supplies you’ve stocked, look for any thank-you note from a guest, or collect the garbage/recycling first thing so it’s on the curb in time for trash collection.

Create a Restocking Schedule 

The most common reason for task scope creep isn’t that the property manager wants a room cleaned that wasn’t on the list originally, or a deep clean when they originally asked for a turnover clean.

The biggest problem is that the supplies the cleaner needed to do a professional job weren’t available.

The property manager might ask that the cleaner stock 4 rolls of toilet paper under the sink, for example, but if there isn’t enough toilet paper in the storage closet, the manager will usually ask the cleaner to grab some from the store.

Even if the property manager is conscientious enough to pay for the cleaner’s time, that’s time the cleaner didn’t factor into their original schedule. When a two-hour cleaning becomes a two-and-a-half hour cleaning because of an additional errand, the cleaner might be late to their next job.

Worse case scenario? The cleaner simply doesn’t have time to perform the “add on” task. Which means you’ll be low on stock for that guest.

As a property manager, you know you’ll need to restock certain items regularly, but you may not have restocking built into your turnover schedule. Instead of waiting until you’ve run out of supplies, ask one of your service providers to do a “restock” on a regular schedule, or ask your cleaner to factor in time to restock supplies when they provide you with a quote.

Cleaners report they don’t mind making restocks part of their job – they just need to know about it up front.

Handling Bigger-Than-Usual Messes

Your last guests left behind a huge mess. It’s going to take way more time to get the house ready for the next guest than anticipated.

This is a situation you can’t anticipate ahead of time, so the scope creep isn’t your doing. Cleaners do understand this, but it’s still stressful for them to have to worry about how to handle a job that’s going to take much more time than originally agreed.

If you clearly communicate in advance that you have a plan for how to handle this kind of unanticipated scope creep, however, your cleaner will be reassured.

When you first hire your new vacation rental cleaner, explain that occasionally guests leave vacation rentals in bad shape and that in those cases, the cleaning job might be more in-depth.

Then explain exactly what you need from them and how they will be compensated for the extra time.

For example, if you’re using Properly, you’ll want photos of the mess throughout the property so that you can bill the guest for the additional cleaning cost. Ask your cleaner to take photos of the mess beforehand and give you their best estimate of the amount of time it will take to clean the property.

Then let them know what rate you’ll be paying them for the additional labor.

Putting in that advance work means that the next time your cleaner encounters a bigger-than-usual mess, they won’t worry that they’re going to be doing extra work and debating about pay. They know you’ve anticipated the problem and that there’s a process to follow so that the property still gets cleaned.

 

When you work with a new cleaner, you want to start off with a great relationship so that you can hold on to the cleaners whose work you love. These steps make it much easier for your vacation rental cleaners to see you as a fair and considerate partner, ensuring you’ll be working with the best of the best throughout your career in vacation rental management.

Properly makes it easy for you to communicate all of the steps of each job to your cleaner in advance. You can create a checklist library full of the kinds of jobs you need regularly – like restocking! – and easily add those checklists to any job. You can send that job to your cleaners or to our marketplace of vetted professionals to get exactly the cleaner you need for the job. Click here to learn more

When to Reject a Last-Minute Vacation Rental Booking

You’ve been having a hard time filling out your vacation rental’s calendar for the mid-season, and you’ve just received an inquiry from a guest interested in booking for a full week.

There’s only one problem: they’re hoping to arrive tomorrow.

Should you accept the booking? Last-minute vacation rental bookings are notorious red flags, but there are plenty of good reasons why a great guest might have to book with very little notice. You don’t want to turn down a good booking without reason, but you also don’t want to leave the door open to fraud or troublesome guests. 

Here’s what vacation rental managers and owners should consider when last-minute guests come calling.

Do They Have a History?

Airbnb has always had the option for owners to review guests after their stay. HomeAway began to prompt owners to review their guests in 2016, but unfortunately the effort doesn’t seem to have taken hold. You may also have a history for this guest in your own business records.

If the traveler has a history of being a conscientious and courteous guest in the past, it’s a reasonable assumption that they’re unlikely to deviate from their previous habits just to cause trouble in this last-minute booking. Rave reviews from previous stays indicate that the last-minute booking isn’t a red flag.

Without a history, you’ll want to dive a little deeper.

Are They Communicative?

Take a look at the message they sent when they made the booking. If they didn’t send a message or the message is very brief, send a follow-up requesting a quick call due to the last-minute notice.

Reasonable guests will be happy to hop on the phone for a moment or two to chat about their plans for the stay. They know they’re staying in someone else’s property, and they’d probably want the reassurance themselves.

If a guest resists, argues, or becomes belligerent at this small request, it’s a safe assumption that you don’t want to host them. They may not be intent on fraud or property damage, but they’re definitely going to be a guest of the more difficult variety.

Match the Credit Card Info

Make sure the name on the reservation matches the name on the credit card. This is the big one: if you see a different name on the credit card, particularly if the last name is different than the guest’s last name, you might be looking at credit card theft.

There can be an innocent explanation – after all, spouses use each other’s credit cards all the time, and not everyone chooses to change their last name in marriage – but if you see a mismatch on the card, call and request further identification.

If the last name matches but the first name doesn’t, you might be looking at an underage renter who has been given (or borrowed) their parent’s credit card. Young renters, particularly those using their parents’ funds, are not likely to be easy guests.

Check the Personal Information

Look at the name on the reservation, and then take a look at the email address. Is it reasonable that this email address belongs to this name?

For example, it’s very unlikely that Sara Smith’s email address is dannyboy54@vmail.com. If you see a mismatch between the name on the reservation and the name on the email, you may be dealing with a fraud situation.

Since you’re calling to get a feel for this guest anyway, you’ll also want to check that the number they put on the reservation is the same number they used to speak with you. If they give you an alternative phone number to call them, or call you from a different number than the one they gave on the reservation, this booking is probably not above board.

Finally, check their home address. If the guest’s home address is in the same town (or very near) to the one they’re renting in, the chances they’re booking the property to host a party or another event is very high. You’ll definitely want to ask why they’re making that booking so close to home.

Is Last Minute Always Bad?

Not at all. Nearly everyone has realized at the eleventh hour that they forgot to make a reservation, and even more have had their travel plans change unexpectedly. You can get wonderful – and very grateful – guests who book the day before or the day of.

Simply put in the due diligence to make sure there aren’t any red flags before you accept that last-minute vacation rental booking.

How will you get your property turned over when the guest gives you less than a day’s notice? Properly makes it easy for you to source professional service providers in your area and send them detailed visual checklists to show exactly how you want the property prepared. Get great turnovers on a moment’s notice using Properly. Learn more or schedule a demo today.

Vacation Rental Damages: How to Make Sure You’re Covered

 

Vacation rentals get damaged. It’s simply a fact of this industry.

Often, it won’t even be the result of willful inconsideration on the guest’s part. They might stumble into a piece of furniture because they’re not familiar with the layout of the room, or drop a water glass because it’s a different size and shape from the ones they use at home.

You’ll also deal with guests who have catastrophic accidents or willfully cause a great deal of damage that far exceeds their deposit or the insurance coverage. 

While every professional includes a rental agreement that addresses damages, it can be difficult to get reimbursed if the guest claims the damage didn’t happen on their watch.

Which means every professional in this industry should have a plan for how to track when damage occurred, communicate to guests who have caused damage, and get reimbursed as quickly as possible.

Track Property Status in Advance 

One of the most important safeguards you can put in place is a system to track when the damage occurred. It’s not enough to know that scratch wasn’t on the floor when the guest arrived – you’ll need to be able to prove to the guest and possibly an insurance company that the scratch occurred during the guest’s stay in the property.

The simplest way to track when damage occurred is to take photos after every cleaning. That way, you’ll have a record of what the property looked like before the guest arrived and after they left.

You can even take pictures of the insides of your kitchen cabinets, bookshelves, closets, and any other areas where you’ve stocked items for guest use. At a glance, you’ll be able to see if any items are missing or damaged after a guest’s stay.

Without a system for tracking what condition the property was in when the guest arrived and its condition when they left, you’ll have a difficult time getting reimbursed for the damage. All the guest needs to do is claim the damage was there when they arrived. Prevent such arguments by keeping a record of the property’s condition before and after each stay.

Ask your cleaner to take pictures of each room when they arrive at the property, and a second set of pictures after they’ve finished cleaning. If you and your cleaners use an app like Properly, those pictures will be stored with all your other property information, and can be referenced anytime you need to check when damage occurred.

Train Your Cleaner on Noting Damage 

Be sure to communicate with your cleaner ahead of time that you’d like them to check for any damage before they start their cleaning. A quick walk-through of the property should show them any obvious damages before they begin, and it’s a good opportunity to take “before” pictures, as well.

The cleaner may find additional problems in the course of their cleaning. A couch cushion may have been turned over to hide a stain, for example, or a scrape on the wall may only come into view when the cleaner stages the property.

Ask the cleaner to stop cleaning when they encounter damage and take a photo. You want to be able to show that the damage occurred during the guest’s stay, rather than after the cleaning took place, and the best way to do that is to show the damage before you’ve turned over the property. 

If the damage is to a small part of a larger piece of the property (a scratch on the wood floor, a stained couch cushion), ask your cleaner to take both close-up photos of the damage and a wide shot that shows where the damage occurred in the house. If you need to make a case that the entire couch needed to be replaced after the cushion was damaged, it will be easier to do so if you can show the cushion was a central portion of the couch rather than an easily-replaced throw pillow.

Be Sure to Check Inventory 

Missing inventory should also fall under the category of “damage.” After all, you’ll need to replace the missing item just as surely as you would if the item were damaged or broken.

While some cleaners will happily count the plates and linens for you, it can be much easier to simply ask your cleaner to take photos of the interior of your cupboards, closets, and other storage areas after the cleaning has been completed. Don’t forget bookshelves and mantelpieces if you have knick-knacks, books, games, or other items for guest use on them.

Again, using Properly will save you a ton of time in checking inventory. Your cleaner can take a quick photo of the storage areas, and you’ll be able to see that photo side-by-side with the same storage area as it looked after the last cleaning. At a glance, you’ll be able to see there are only 7 plates in the cupboard, not the 8 there should be, or that the mantelpiece used to have two candlesticks on it that are now missing.

The reason the cleaner should take damage photos BEFORE the clean and inventory photos AFTER the clean is that the damage should be shown in context. Inventory is often only easily seen after the cleaning has taken place – in the example of the missing candlesticks, for example, the cleaner may well find that they’ve simply been moved to the dining room table, and will return them to correct spot during the clean.

Reach Out to the Guest

 

Some property managers use a deposit to cover damages during a guest’s stay, while others have the guests purchase short-term rental insurance that covers damage up to a certain amount. You may also have rules about being able to charge the guest’s credit card for exorbitant damages.

If you intend to retain a portion of their deposit or charge their card, you should reach out to the guest immediately as a courtesy.

Be friendly and professional, rather than accusatory. Guests who feel attacked by the accusation of causing damage are very likely to object, and that’s the last thing you want. Your contact should go something like this:

Hi, [Guest]. I hope you enjoyed your stay with us. I wanted to reach out and let you know that my cleaner reported some damage to the property when she went through after your stay. I’ve attached photos of the property before and after your stay for reference.

Accidents happen, and I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, but unfortunately we can’t cover the cost of repairs out of pocket. Per your rental agreement, we’ll be retaining a portion of your deposit to cover the cost. I’m working on getting the best price possible for a repair, and I’ll follow up shortly to let you know the final cost to repair the damage, and the remaining amount of the deposit that will be refunded to you.

Take a neutral tone and let them know you’re not accusing them of being a bad person or causing willful damage, but that they will need to cover the cost of repairs. If you can, include the cost of repair or replacement in that first contact, but if not, reach out promptly to let them know the cost of the repair that will be taken from their deposit, and that the remainder of their deposit is on its way back to them.

If you use an insurance company to cover your losses, there’s no need to reach out to the guest. Instead, send your before-and-after photos to the insurance company along with receipts for the cost of repair or replacement. They’ll handle reimbursement, and the guest doesn’t need to be troubled.

 

Be Firm on Pushback

Sometimes, the damage is so egregious that it’s plain the guest willfully caused damage to the property. In these cases, you can take a far sterner tone in your communication with them, but it’s best to keep your emotions out of it. While it can feel like a personal attack to see bad damage, you want the problem resolved, and the best way to do that is to make sure you behave professionally at every step.

Tell the guest the property was badly damaged and that per your rental agreement, you will be retaining the entire deposit and/or charging their card for the cost of repairs. Again, send photographs of the property before and after – this should prevent the guest from thinking they can get away with contesting they were the ones who caused the damage.

If the guest objects to paying for damages, politely but firmly tell them that they agreed to be charged for damage in their rental agreement, and that if they choose to contest it with the listing site or their credit card company, you will be able to show that the damage occurred during their stay.

Guests may threaten a bad review if you charge them. Conduct your communication in writing so that you can report the threat to the listing site in question. Listing sites will remove bad reviews that are retaliatory.

When Not to Charge 

Was the damage minor and clearly accidental? Was the guest otherwise easy to have in your property? It might be worth letting the damage slide. If the cost to replace or repair an item is less than $20 and the guest is one you’d be happy to host again, chalk it up to the cost of business. After all, if you accidentally dropped a plate in a rental property, wouldn’t you want the host to tell you it’s no big deal?

Be sure to protect your investment, but it’s okay to let the small stuff slide.

Want to track before-and-after photos for every property in an easy-to-use app? Properly lets you do that along with scheduling each clean, finding qualified cleaners, showing visual checklists to ensure every step is done perfectly, and much more. Set up a demo with our team to see everything Properly can do today

 

 

Properly Case Study: Kleenerly

The Stumbling Block

Kleenerly began with a bang: Ricardo and Annette had already sourced their first major client, a corporate rental company with over 80 properties in the immediate area. They dove in with enthusiasm, quickly sourcing and training their first “turnover specialists,” most of whom are still with the company today.

The feedback on Kleenerly’s service was exceptional, but “I felt like my entire day consisted of scheduling, talking to clients, communicating to the team members, letting them know about last-minute bookings, answering texts saying ‘I can’t find the address for this property,’” says Annette, “I was under the entire day, at least 7-10 hours a day.”

Part of the problem was simply that Ricardo and Annette couldn’t be everywhere at once. “There was no visibility for us,” says Ricardo. “Are they really at the property? Did they start the job, did they finish the job? We had to manually reach out to each person to check so we could be sure the property was ready for the guest to arrive.”

While the founders of many new companies work around the clock when they first get started, Annette and Ricardo knew this wouldn’t be sustainable as they grew. And they were growing rapidly – it only took a few months to go from their first client of 80 properties to multiple clients totaling about 125 properties. They started looking around for scalable solutions.

The Game-Changer

The Kleenerly cofounders tried out quite a few different apps and platforms before deciding on their winner. “We quickly realized Properly was the perfect fit for our very specific needs and expectations.” Ease of onboarding, visual checklists that made it possible for any of Kleenerly’s turnover specialists to see exactly what was needed in each property, and real-time feedback were just a few of the reasons Ricardo and Annette credit Properly with a great deal of their success.

“It only takes me like 2 hours to schedule on Properly,” Annette says – a pretty impressive number, considering the duo now manage turnovers for 300 properties. “Thinking back to two years ago, I was scheduling for my entire workday if not more, and we had fewer properties then!”

That newly freed-up time has huge benefits for the business: “Properly won us 6-7 hours a day where we could look at everything from a birds-eye perspective,” says Ricardo. “It gave us the time we didn’t have before to figure out better processes, focus on big-picture goals, and grow into new markets.”

And grow they did. With Properly’s integrations with major PMS, it was easy for Kleenerly to add new clients – and locations – to its roster. “Our second large PM had 25 units and were using Guesty,” Ricardo says. “With one click on Properly, it was a perfect integration. All we had to do was duplicate our standard cleaning checklist in the app to all properties and customize it with the exact expectations for each unit.”

The last major change for Kleenerly’s cofounders was getting visibility on their properties. “At 11:30 am, we go through all the scheduled turnover cleanings from that day,” says Ricardo. “With Properly, we can see if the turnover specialist has started or not, and if they haven’t, we can reach out to them to see what the problem is. But we don’t have to manually reach out to every one of our 50 people in 3 different cities to check in with them, which is what we had to do before.”

The Unexpected Bonus

While Kleenerly’s cofounders anticipated that Properly would help them with scheduling, logistics and easier onboarding, the duo were surprised and pleased to find the app also helped their company expand and improve.

“Properly helped us with hiring and keeping great team members,” Ricardo explains. “We constantly got the feedback that the app made us look very professional and well-established, which is one of the reasons our team members felt comfortable joining a startup. It’s usually never that easy when you compete against big chain hotels for the same talent.”

Properly’s easy-to-use platform made it possible for Kleenerly’s turnover specialists to keep their workloads organized and themselves sane in a hectic industry. Ricardo and Annette feel that’s one of the reasons they’ve enjoyed exceptional retention in an industry notorious for frequent turnover.

The Partnership

“Obviously this is a very labor-intense and physical, hands-on, boots-on-the-ground kind of business,” Ricardo says. “It’s absolutely imperative to simplify and automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks. After trying different apps and platforms, we quickly realized that Properly was a perfect fit for our very specific needs and expectations.”

Using Properly has freed up the cofounders’ time so they can focus on how to make improvements to their business model. At 80 properties, Kleenerly was spending 7-10 hours a day managing logistics; now with 3 times as many properties, Kleenerly is spending only 2 hours a day on those same tasks – thanks to Properly.

“Saving so much time, we could focus on things like hiring and training, our handbook, making the turnover process better in general. We’re creating more and more videos as well – onboarding videos for clients, onboarding for new turnover specialists to give them an idea of what an average day looks like,” says Annette. “We have a lot more time for training because we have the foundation more or less automated.”

Which means the Kleenerly team still has time to do something no one else in the industry does: inspect every single property after it’s been cleaned. “We did that before Properly,” Annette says. “But even though we have more clients, we still do it for 98% of our turnovers.” Kleenerly’s cofounders are clear: Properly makes it possible to keep their standard so high, even as they scale.

5 Ways to Effectively Advertise Your Vacation Rentals

You know that when your guests stay in your properties, they have an exceptional experience. But how can you convince them that your vacation rentals are better managed, equipped, and furnished than any others on the market? It all comes down to how you advertise.

Your guests have no way of knowing in advance whether a property has more to offer than an attractive appearance in photos online. They’re either making an entirely blind choice, or going with the vacation rental with advertising that gives them a strong impression they can trust the person who hosts this property.

Earn their trust with these 5 simple improvements to your vacation rental advertising.

1. Catch Their Eye with a Strong Headline

If you’re using Google Ads or Facebook Ads, you’ll want to be sure your advertisement stands out among the others lined up next to you. If your property will appear in a list of results on HomeAway or Airbnb, you’re trying to make your listing more appealing than all the others.

Either way, your headline will be your biggest asset.

Strong headlines give guests a compelling reason to choose your property over any other. Every person browsing online would like to find what they’re looking for as quickly as possible, and travelers looking for accommodation are no exception. Make it easy for them to decide your advertisement is extremely likely to be what they’re looking for.

On a listing site like HomeAway or Airbnb, you can stand out by telling them standout amenities or features of the property. Most headlines look something like this:

Cozy Cottage in the Adirondacks Close to Everything!

Here’s the problem: this guest is already searching in the Adirondacks, so this description tells the guest something they already knew about the property. It can’t be “close to everything” and the guest doesn’t know which “everything” the description refers to – downtown? The ski resort?

A better headline might be: “2BD Cottage Just 10 Mins to McCauley & Old Forge.” If you think your guests will be more interested in a property’s amenities than its prime location, you can highlight those instead: “2BD Cottage w/ Wood-Burning Fireplace & Hot Tub.”

If you’re advertising online, give them a reason why checking out your website is far better than going directly to a listing site. “Why Browse 1,000s of Listings? Find Your Perfect Rental.” Or if you’re likely to be up against other vacation rentals in the area for a certain search type, highlight why your service and amenities are better than your competition’s.

2. Use Your Description Wisely

Your description should immediately tell your guests what kind of stay to expect in your property. That description should start with a succinct summary of all its best features. Features include not only the prime amenities, but the type of property, the feel of the space, and the service you’re able to provide.

“This cozy cottage offers all the charm of a rustic retreat without sacrificing convenience or ease. When you step in, you’ll find the fireplace laid out with a fire ready to light, and the beds piled high with blankets to keep you nice and warm on snowy nights. After a long day of skiing at nearby Mt. McCauley, you’ll love coming home to this property to whip up a hot meal in the fully-equipped kitchen, or sink into a bath in the huge clawfoot tub.”

You’re explaining to the guest that this property will provide the perfect complement to the enjoyable activities in this destination. The description above, for example, is designed to make a guest feel excited about renting this property for a ski retreat. All the words that evoke warmth and comfort are just what they’d want after spending a day out in the cold, so this property immediately sounds like just the ticket.

If you have a beach property, highlight coming home to a cool, relaxing property with the breeze blowing in. If you have a city property, highlight either a quiet retreat or being in the midst of the city’s high life.

Once you’ve established the overall feel of the property, use the bulk of your description to walk your guests through each room of the property and explain what they’ll find there.

For example, when you’re describing the kitchen, you can detail what “fully-equipped” really means – plenty of guests have been disappointed to find that the kitchen only has one pot, one pan, and a plastic stirring spoon, so telling them what tools they’ll actually have in your kitchen will help them make an immediate decision.

You should also make sure your guests know what size bed they can expect to find in each bedroom, and what amenities are included in each. This helps your guests start plotting immediately who will go in which room, which means they’re already imagining themselves in your property!

3. Explain Your Process and Services

Guests worry about staying in vacation rentals because the experience is often wildly different from one property to the next. What will they do if they can’t get into the property when they arrive? What if the host won’t answer their calls when the pipes burst?

You can help them trust that their experience of your property will be great by including a description of your services in the property’s description itself on a listing site, or in a link on your website that leads directly to a page where you detail your approach to management.

Be sure to include:

  • Your Entry Process. How will they gain access to the property? What will you do if the access method doesn’t work (i.e., the code doesn’t work or the key is missing)? What do you do to make sure the entry method is set up correctly before they arrive?
  • Your Question-Answering Process. Guests often have simple questions that they’d like answered as soon as possible. What’s your method for fielding these questions? How quickly can they expect a response, and between what hours of the day?
  • Your Emergency Process. If something goes seriously wrong, such as a power outage or pipes bursting, how will your guests get in touch with you in the middle of the night? What will you do to fix the problem, and how quickly will it be resolved?
  • Your Inspection Process. It can be very reassuring for guests to know that you take precautions against emergencies. For example, letting them know that you perform a pre-winter maintenance check on the HVAC system lets them know they’re not likely to experience issues with the heat.

Remember that the biggest impediment for your guests is trust. When they know you’ve already thought through how to answer their questions and address any issues that arise, they’ll feel safe putting their trust in you. You’ll have shown them that their vacation matters to you, and that you’ve taken steps to ensure it goes smoothly.

4. Highlight Your Thoughtful Touches

You might have family-friendly amenities in your vacation rentals, or perhaps you’ve decided to stock all of your kitchens with staples like flour, sugar, oil, and spices. You might provide soap and shampoo in your vacation rentals, or have folding drying racks available to hang wet snow gear.

Whatever the special touches you provide for your guests, be sure to highlight them in your advertising. Don’t wait to delight your guests – excite them with the thoughtful touches ahead of time!

Include pictures of your thoughtful amenities in your vacation rental advertisements on listing sites and your own website. A wide shot of the whole bathroom lets them know what the bathroom looks like; including a close-up of the toiletries tells them this is a regular feature of the property.

Similarly, if you offer family-friendly amenities, take pictures of the room with those amenities in them and without, so that guests with and without children can see that they’re an optional add-on.

Don’t forget to call out these special touches in your description, too! Your guests will trust you to provide an exceptional stay when they see how much thought you’ve put into these extra touches. Be sure to tell them why you provide these extras, too – this will increase your trust factor.

For example, “This property includes drying racks” is accurate, but doesn’t increase trust. “We’ve provided drying racks to make it easier to dry out your snow gear overnight,” tells the guest that you’re providing this amenity to make their stay more enjoyable.

5. Tell Them Your Vacation Rental Philosophy

You may not know you have one, but you definitely do. You use the entry system you do for a reason; you provide the amenities you provide for a reason. You believe that the way you manage a property is a good one, and there are reasons you think that.

Tell your guests what those reasons are.

Ultimately, we make all of our decisions based on a gut feeling. You can help your guests have a good gut feeling about renting from you vs. anyone else because of your philosophy. Another property might seem nicer in photos – but they’re going to rent your property because they can see it’s managed by someone who clearly cares a lot about what they do.

Tie everything you can tell them about what makes your properties unique to this philosophy. Why do you provide family-friendly amenities and sleds for the kids to enjoy in the snow? Maybe it’s because you know your family always has more fun when the kids are happy. Why do you answer questions within 30 minutes no matter what? Maybe it’s because your philosophy is that hosts should be attentive to their guests’ needs.

If you work with a team in your vacation rental management business, you probably tell them about your philosophy all the time. You tell them why their work matters. You tell them what experience you want to provide for your guests. It’s time to share that philosophy beyond your team so your guests know how much you care.

Explaining why you do what you do lets your guest know that there’s a real person behind this property – and that this person sounds like someone they’d like to entrust their vacation to.

How do you make sure each of your vacation rentals lives up to what you’ve advertised – every time? Properly makes it possible to see each room is prepared to your exacting standards in real time, so you can feel confident promising your guests their stay will be perfect. Click here to talk to our team about how Properly could work for you.

 

Grow Your Vacation Rental Business with Family-Friendly Amenities

Vacation rental managers and hosts may be surprised to learn just how big the family travel opportunity is. Family travel in the US is a lucrative and growing segment of the overall travel category, taking over 10 million vacations per year and spending $150 billion annually.

Families with young children often seek a home-like experience when they travel. With 7 million families under the age of 4 in the US alone, this means there is an enormous market for vacation rentals catering to the needs of families with small children.

At BabyQuip, we deliver baby gear to families at vacation rentals every day. We asked our 15,000 customers in over 300 travel destinations what families are looking for when they consider vacation rentals.

Here are the 5 essential strategies we uncovered for any vacation rental manager or host looking to attract more families to your property.

1. Prioritize Sleep

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When babies take long daytime naps and sleep comfortably through the night, everyone gets to rest and recharge on a vacation. Well-rested families do more, play longer, get out and about more frequently and have more fun.

We’re also convinced that they write better reviews. A cranky, underslept parent is more likely to leave a critical review than a well-rested parent having a great vacation with their family.

What can you do to help your littlest guests nap well and sleep all night long?

  • Provide sleeping accommodation for children. Provide a crib, infant swings, or toddler beds, depending on the age of the children of your guests.
  • Suggest quiet bedrooms. Make recommendations in advance about the quietest bedrooms in your home. This way parents won’t set up a room for their toddler, only to realize the neighbor practices saxophone every day during afternoon nap time.
  • Install blackout shades. Adults like these too, but they can be essential for small children at naptime. Blackout shades keep a bedroom darker even during the day, making it easier for parents to keep their children on their usual nap routine.

Showing parents that you’ve thought of the needs of their children’s sleep schedules will make it much more likely that they’ll rent your property over any other.

2. Assure Parents on Safety Matters

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When we surveyed parents on their preferences for child-friendly accommodations were surprised to learn how important safety-related information is to them when they travel.

Our survey subjects included 250 parents with young children, and while we knew parents think about safety when it comes to products they rent – parents frequently use our service to rent safety gates, bed rails, cribs, and high chairs – we didn’t realize how many safety considerations parents make about the property itself.

Almost a third of parents would like information about the cleaning products used at their accommodation, and nearly three quarters want to be sure they can quickly and easily find nearby emergency rooms. You can make parents feel safer by providing optional safety equipment, and giving them more information about your property.

How can you make your property safer for families?

  • Provide full-size regulation cribs or other sleeping accommodation. Be sure to use an appropriate mattress type for the age of the child – some mattresses can be flipped, making it possible to use the same mattress for toddlers and infants.
  • Provide sheets for the crib, but do not include pillows, blankets, bumpers, or stuffed animals. All of these can pose safety hazards, and it’s best to allow the parents to make their own choices about what they feel comfortable putting in a crib.
  • Post information about nearby pharmacies and emergency rooms. Parents want to know where to find help if they need it while traveling. Seeing those numbers and addresses prominently posted will give them reassurance.
  • List the cleaning products used in your properties. Parents whose children have allergies or sensitive skin will be grateful to know which surfaces to keep the kids away from.
  • Offer safety gates and bed rails. If your property has stairs, safety gates can be a literal lifesaver. Help your guests get the safety equipment they need while traveling by making it available to them.

If you want to provide safety-related gear, but don’t want to have to clean it and store it between hosting guests with young children, or aren’t sure about baby gear regulations, BabyQuip can help you provide these amenities without the hassles.

3. Make Way for Routine

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Routines make parenting easier. Bedtime and dinnertime routines, as well as regular schedules for nap time and activity time, let children know what to expect and keep them calmer.

Vacations often send routines right out the window. Not only are the families likely to be doing lots of new activities, they’re not staying in their own home. This makes it hard to stick with routines like bathtime or storytime, which can upset children who need to be soothed after a long day of new experiences.

Vacation rentals that can accommodate bedtime and other routines make it easier for parents who are hoping to stay on schedule themselves.

How can you help families stick to their routines while staying at your rental?

  • Ask them. You’d be surprised at how few take the time to do this! Simply send a quick message saying “I see you’re traveling with your children. Is there anything we can offer to help with your usual bathtime or bedtime routine?”
  • Provide a few common routine items. Bathtime routine equipment includes an infant bathtub, a stopper for the regular-sized tub so that parents can run a few inches of water for a toddler, infant-safe soap, washcloths, and bath toys. Bedtime equipment might include a few books for children, a bedside lamp, a rocking chair, and dimmable lighting. And mealtime equipment might include the means to heat a bottle and child-safe plates and flatware.

You can also help parents rent bulkier baby gear that they find essential to their family’s bedtime routine, such as infant swings and rocking chairs.

4. Show Ways to Spread Out

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We’ve noticed that families staying at vacation rentals rent more gear than those staying at hotels. This is largely due to the fact that families enjoy spreading out at rentals – it’s one of the reasons they rent in the first place.

For families with children of varying ages, spreading out allows quiet time in one part of the house while a more boisterous playtime can take place in another area. If you want to attract more families to your property, show them ways they can make full use of the property with their children.

How can you help families use your full property?

  • Create special activity zones. Setting up a giant beanbag chair and good lighting in a little nook somewhere can might encourage kids to read or play games on their mobile device. A brightly colored kid-sized table with chairs can become the place will appeal to pre-school aged children.
  • Manage your backyard. Backyards that are fenced and free of debris will immediately appeal to parents who want a property where their children can safely play. Adding a play area or outdoor toys is a huge bonus.
  • Provide age-appropriate toys. Toys help keep children actively engaged and content, making vacation time easier and more peaceful. Parents will appreciate not needing to bring their whole toy chest on vacation with them.
  • Equip your guests for around-town explorations. Don’t forget to equip families with gear for exploring everything your city has to offer. Items like strollers, baby backpacks and even beach toys can keep families playing outside for hours.

If parents can immediately imagine their children enjoying themselves at your property, they’re more likely to choose to stay with you.

5. Tell Families You Can Accommodate Them

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You’ve added all these great amenities to your rental, but you need to let families know about the options available before they arrive. Not all of your guests will be families, after all, and a play area might not be appropriate for every guest you have.

How can you show families that you can accommodate their needs without suggesting that your property is only appropriate for families?

  • Show two photos of some rooms. The next time you set up your property for a family with children, take a photo of the bedroom set up with a crib or the living room with the addition of a play area. Showing both photos on your website or listing will let families know that the option is available, while assuring other guests that these set-ups aren’t a regular feature of the property.
  • Tell families about your family-friendly features in your description. In your website or online listing, add a headline that says “Family Amenities” or “Traveling with Children?” Under that section, list the available amenities and ask parents to reach out if they would like to use any of them.

Making sure your guests know that these amenities are an optional add-on, rather than a regular feature of the property, also means that you get lots of credit for providing them. Families appreciate all of these amenities even more when they realize you’re creating a special experience just for them.

Most of these items are easy to store in a closet or garage when not in use, and bigger equipment can easily be rented through a service like ours. BabyQuip delivers, sets up and picks up baby gear for your guests. We’re insured and always rent clean, quality gear, and we can save you the trouble of cleaning and story bulky baby gear.

With these tips, you can attract more families to your rental, and get positive and persuasive reviews from them after their stay.

This is a guest post from Trish McDermott, co-founder and family travel expert at the baby gear rental marketplace BabyQuip. If you have questions about the best baby gear to offer at your rental or want to know more about BabyQuip’s service, you can reach her at trish@babyquip.com. 

 

If you’re thinking of taking the excellent advice in this post to offer family-friendly staging for your vacation rental, you’ll need a way to clearly communicate what that setup should look like to your cleaning service. Use Properly to provide visual instructions that ensure your guests always arrive to house that’s been perfectly prepared to meet their needs. Learn more here, or set up a demo to see this feature in action

Vacation Rental Cleaning: Hourly or Flat Rate?

Recently, we wrote an article on how to determine the going rate for vacation rental cleaning in your area. Our post calculated an hourly rate, as our knowledge of global trends indicates that’s more common, but a few of our readers sent us this question:

How do you calculate a flat rate?

Several wanted to know how to calculate a flat rate based on the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and how much the flat rate should be adjusted for additional services such as laundry or restocking.

Does such an equation exist? Can you multiply x bedrooms by $20 and y bathrooms by $30? Would you need to change the parameters if the bedroom had more than z items of furniture or the bathroom had both a bidet and a toilet to sanitize?

While flat rates are common in some areas, the equation for calculating the flat rate usually comes directly from the number we’ve already established: the cost for an hour’s worth of cleaning in your area. Let’s look at how to create a flat rate from that information.

How Is the Flat Rate Established?

Let’s say you’re a vacation rental manager, and a cleaner tells you it will be a flat rate of $200 to clean a 4-bedroom, 2-bath property. Or let’s say you’re a cleaner, and a vacation rental manager offers you a flat rate of $80 to clean a 1-bedroom apartment while doing laundry turnover.

How did these two people calculate that flat rate? How did they decide that this cleaning was worth X amount of money?

Flat rates are generally determined by calculating how much time it should take to perform this particular clean, and multiplying that number of hours by the hourly rate.

If the cleaner knows that it typically takes about 4 hours to clean a house of that size, and $50/hour is standard in her area, then she thinks $200 is a fair flat rate.

Similarly, the vacation rental manager knows it takes about 2 hours to clean the 1-bedroom apartment while allowing time to finish folding the laundry when it’s done. She multiplies that 2 hours by her local hourly rate of $40 to arrive at a flat rate of $80.

If additional services were added to either job, the flat rate would go up, because it will take more time to clean the property. A flat rate is simply an hourly rate multiplied by the most likely number of hours the job will take.

So Why Use a Flat Rate at All?

A flat rate is protection for both the vacation rental manager and the cleaning service.

If the cleaner charges an hourly rate, and does an exceptionally efficient job of cleaning the property, she’ll get paid less for the job despite the quality of her work and the skill it takes to complete it so quickly.

On the other hand, if a cleaner accidentally forgets to transfer the linens from the washing machine to the dryer midway through the job, they’ll need to stay in the property an additional hour to wait for the dryer to finish drying the linens.

In this case, the flat rate protects the property manager from being charged extra if the job takes more time than it should.

Flat rates can be very popular for this reason. Cleaners who do their jobs efficiently and well will be able to get a higher hourly rate for their services. Vacation rental managers are assured that the cost of a clean for each property is constant, which helps them to budget and plan ahead.

Flat rates can be an excellent way of setting a price for a clean, but the flat rate always comes from an hourly rate multiplied by the number of hours the job is likely to take.

Without that calculation, a cleaner might accept a flat rate of $100 for a job that winds up taking five hours. That’s far too low a rate for the amount of time she invests in the job.

Which is why it’s essential, when setting a flat rate, to make a reasonable estimate of the number of hours a clean will take.

How Many Hours Will a Clean Take?

This question is, effectively, what most people are asking for when they think of setting a rate based on the number of bathrooms and bedrooms. More bedrooms and bathrooms means more time needed to perform a cleaning turnover for the whole property.

Bedrooms and bathrooms are only the beginning, however. Properties that have kitchens with lots of appliances like cappuccino makers will take more time to clean. Properties that have furniture with lots of little nooks and crannies will take more time. Properties where laundry turnover and restocking are required will take more time.

In other words? Calculating a fair price for a clean is far too complex an equation to be reduced to beds and baths.

If you already have experience with hospitality cleaning, you can probably make a reasonable guess on the hours it will take to clean a given property. If necessary, you can always adjust your quote for the next pass.

If you’re just getting started in this industry, however, you might have a difficult time guessing how long it will take to clean a property correctly.

Cleaners in this situation should start by getting a bit of experience with the amount of time it takes to clean a property to hospitality standards. There’s an easy place to start: your own home.

Start by getting the room tidied – the guests won’t be leaving behind piles of mail on the kitchen counter or a hamper full of dirty laundry in the bedroom. Once it’s more or less free of clutter, start a timer and clean to the standard expected from a vacation rental: every corner free of dust, every item picked up and wiped down, and the room staged to look attractive.

Do this for a bedroom, a bathroom, a family room, and a kitchen, and you’ll have a good notion of how long it will take you to clean each of those room types.

You’ll also have some information about what types of tasks take longer: furniture with carvings or details that need to be cleaned carefully, rooms with high ceilings or easily-stained carpeting, and surfaces holding a lot of items that need to picked up and cleaned individually.

With that information, you can probably make a very reasonable guess at how long it will take you to clean a given room when you’re shown pictures of a property.

Multiply by your hourly rate, and you’ll have a quote. Adjust up or down from there as you gain more experience.

For property managers, you have an easier way to get this information: ask. Call a handful of cleaning services and send them pictures of the property you’d like cleaned. Ask for an estimate. When they give you the estimate, ask about how many hours of cleaning that quote includes so that you can be sure to schedule enough time.

You now have a flat rate and a number of hours. Divide the flat rate by the number of hours, and you know approximately how much money this cleaner would like to be paid per hour.

After they give you a quote for the property itself, you can ask how much it would be to add on laundry service, restocking, or anything else you want to have a price for. They may have an a la carte rate for that service, or they may adjust their flat rate quote.

Either way, you now know what that additional service is worth to the cleaner, and therefore approximately how much time it will take.

You can repeat this process for a number of properties until you have a good idea of how to estimate the number of hours it would take to clean a given property. 

Why Not Skip Straight to the Flat Rate?

You could use all of the flat rates you’ve collected and average them out for your own flat rate on, say, a 4-bedroom property. You might then think you could use that flat rate for every property of the same size.

The problem with averaging flat rates is the same as before: some properties are easier to clean than others.

Which means your flat rate for that 4-bedroom may be too much for another property that’s easier to clean, and too little for a 4-bedroom that’s more difficult.

If you know how long it takes to clean the property and what hourly rate cleaners in your area expect, however, your flat rate should always be accurate. Calculating based on how difficult the property is to clean, rather than on its size, will give you a better quote every time.

Want to test out your flat rate for a given clean? Try the Properly Community Marketplace. Cleaners in your area can review the property’s photos and will accept your quote if they think it’s fair. It’s just one of the many ways using Properly makes managing vacation rentals easier. Click here to learn a few more.

Properly Announces $8.5M Series A Financing

SAN FRANCISCO, October 29, 2018 – Properly, Inc., a San Francisco-based company that provides a cleaning and quality management platform to Airbnb hosts and vacation rental managers, today announced a $8.5 million Series A led by Asset Management Ventures, with participation by AccorHotels and prominent travel investors.

Guest concerns around quality and consistency are a central challenge for the short-term and vacation rental industry.  According to industry expert and former PhoCusWright CEO Simon Lehmann, “unpredictable quality” is the single largest concern of travelers with the industry.  Properly’s management tools allow hospitality brands, property managers, and Airbnb hosts to ensure their quality standards are delivered for every guest.

“Home sharing and vacation rentals have grown three times faster than traditional hotels over the last decade, but mass market travelers have been slow to embrace the category because they don’t trust what they’re getting,” says Alex Nigg, CEO and founder of Properly. “If vacation rentals are to become a real alternative to hotels, the industry needs to set a standard.  Properly helps ensure that guests arrive to a safe, clean property – every time.”

Properly allows hospitality brands and property managers to set quality standards for their team, manage their operation, and confirm that work meets their expectations.  Photo-based checklists in Properly’s mobile app describe precisely how a task must be done; for example, cleaners see exactly how to stage a room or how to make a bed correctly.  Maintenance tasks, such as changing batteries on a smoke detector or fixing problems like furniture damaged by past guests, and other jobs are scheduled through Properly, ensuring these quality, health and safety requirements are fulfilled and documented.  And field staff document damage in the Properly app and take photos so property managers can inspect their work.

Properly is the perfect partner for branded collections – such as AccorHotel’s onefinestay – as the platform supports the management of stringent brand standards across hundreds of property managers or thousands of their service providers at a truly global scale.

Alongside its quality management tools, Properly provides hospitality brands, property managers and hosts with access to a global network of service providers, and over 10,000 service providers have already signed up.  The network offers local support, whether for brands that must inspect homes across dozens of markets, property managers staffing up for peak season, or an individual host that needs a cleaner to start listing her home.

“The home sharing and vacation rental industry is a massive, exciting market; just look at the level of investment and consumer interest in the space,” said Asset Management Ventures partner, Rich Simoni.  “Properly’s unique combination of quality management tools and a marketplace of service providers positions it to address the next wave of change – establishing brands and standards that attract and retain mass market travelers.”

Founded in 2014, Properly is currently used by over 20,000 property managers and hosts worldwide and is popular in North America, Australia, and Western Europe.  In addition to Asset Management Venture and AccorHotels, this funding round included a number of prominent investors and travel industry figures including Ev Williams, Simon Lehmann, Fabio Cannavale, Tobias Wann, and Tom Hale.

 

About Properly, Inc.   

San Francisco-based startup Properly, Inc., with offices and staff in Barcelona, Spain, Wellington, New Zealand, and Pune, India, is dedicated to professionalizing short-term rentals through web and mobile management tools and industry-wide standards. Properly is currently used by more than 65,000 listings worldwide. For more information, visit www.getproperly.com.

Contact details

For further questions, please contact:

Drew Patterson

drew@getproperly.com

+1-917-582-1114

How to Do a Thorough Vacation Rental Inspection

A vacation rental inspection is critical before you start marketing any new property. You need to visit the property, check that everything is working as it should, and know how to resolve any problems the guests have using appliances and electronics quickly.

A thorough vacation rental inspection will also ensure you have an accurate record of what the property looked like before you started to rent it out to guests. This will help you make accurate claims to an insurance company if any damage occurs while a guest is in residence. 

Here’s our handy guide to a thorough vacation rental inspection.

Check the Entry Method

Test out the entry method your guests will use and make sure it works correctly. Even if the owner offers to let you in with their key, use this inspection to try entering the property the way the guest will, whether it’s by using a keypad, a lockbox, or a handoff.

For keypads and lockboxes, make sure the codes work correctly and note any special quirks of the entry system that the guest will need to know. If the keypad takes a few seconds before the door registers the code and unlocks, for example, make sure your guests know that in the check-in instructions.

If the key is old or sticks in the lock, recommend to the owner that they have a new key made or new locks fitted. Entry issues are a huge problem for guests, and the issue will only get worse the more visitors you have. Be sure your entry method works correctly and will work reliably for guest after guest.

Turn On Every Switch and Faucet

Test every light switch in the house, room by room. Immediately, you should be able to see which rooms have light bulbs that need replacing. Be sure to check that all bulbs in all fixtures are working – an overhead fixture may work, for example, but if there are supposed to be two bulbs in the fixture and only one comes on, it’s not going to look very professional.

If you know the owner doesn’t frequently use the property, you might take advantage of the inspection to simply replace all of the light bulbs with new ones. If you use energy-efficient bulbs, you’ll not only help the owner save on energy bills, but you’ll also save some effort: you won’t have to replace them again for several years.

Check that all bulbs in all appliances match. Many bathroom vanities come with a row of light bulbs, for example, and it looks unprofessional to have some clear bulbs and some frosted ones. Swap them out for matching ones, and you’ll give your guests better light and enhance the property’s appeal.

Mark any switches that turn on outlets rather than overhead fixtures. Some outlets only work when a switch is turned on, and this can confuse guests and cause issues. You can notify your guests in any number of ways – a note in the guest book, a small sign next to the fixture – but be sure they realize that when the switch is off, a device plugged into that outlet will no longer charge.

Finally, turn on every faucet in the house. Be sure to check that the shower head doesn’t spray in all directions, and that the hot taps in the kitchen and bathroom actually produce hot water. Look under the sink for drips or leaks. If you find any, those will need to be repaired before your guests arrive!

Learn How to Use Every Appliance

Your vacation rental inspection should include checking to be sure all appliances function, which means you’ll need to know how they’re supposed to work. If you don’t know how to use the dishwasher, after all, you won’t be able to tell if it’s broken or simply on the wrong setting.

This gives you a great opportunity: while you’re checking to be sure all the appliances work, write down instructions for their use. That way, you’ll have a handy reference when guests are having trouble using the appliances, and you’ll be able to include instructions in the guest book.

This extra step can keep guests from thinking appliances are “broken” when they aren’t. With step-by-step instructions, they’ll probably be able to figure out unfamiliar appliances with minimal confusion.

You’ll need to know how to use the:

  • Oven and stovetop
  • Washer and/or dryer
  • Thermostat and/or air conditioner
  • Dishwasher
  • Microwave
  • Coffee maker and/or cappuccino machine
  • Hot tub

The oven and stovetop may seem straightforward, especially if they’re similar to the ones you have in every vacation rental and your own home. But guests visiting from another country may find them very confusing.

For example, most ovens in Europe use a number system to tell you how hot the oven is, with dial instructions that look like this: Lo / 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / Hi. In the United States, most ovens are marked with the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit: Warm / 200 / 250 / 300 / 350 / 400 / 450.

An American visiting a vacation rental you manage in Barcelona isn’t going to know how hot an oven set to the “3” setting is, and a citizen of the EU isn’t going to know whether 300 correlates to the “3” or the “4” setting on the stoves they’re used to.

For all appliances, write down step-by-step instructions on their use and test them out yourself. Follow your instructions precisely, imagining this was the only information you had. Would you be able to use the appliances? If not, keep going until your instructions are as clear as you can make them.

Turn on All Electronics

Turning on the TVs is a start, but it’s only the beginning of a thorough vacation rental inspection. You want to be sure your guests can actually access all of the electronics you’ve promised they will be able to use. If you advertise that your properties come with cable, for example, be sure that each TV is connected to cable channels.

You should also check DVD players, stereos, and video game systems, if you’ve provided them.

Last but certainly not least: check the internet connection. Bring a smartphone or table into every room in the house and try playing a video on it while connected to the internet. Be sure the internet is functional in all rooms, and suggest purchasing a booster to the owner if it’s very faint in some of the rooms of the house.

Internet is essential for most travelers today, and can often be a huge problem for those who are traveling on business. Avoid bad reviews by being sure the internet will function as expected.

Finally: as with the appliances, this is a good time to write down step-by-step instructions on how to use all of the electronics. If you need to turn to a certain channel to use the DVD player, for example, make sure your guests know that and have simple instructions to follow.

Check All Safety Precautions

Look at all of the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to be sure they’re functional, and replace the batteries in all of them. Nothing will guarantee a bad review like a guest waking up in the middle of the night to an ongoing “beep” telling them to replace a battery!

Check to be sure there is a new fire extinguisher in the kitchen and by any outdoor cooking appliances like barbeques. It’s also good to provide a small first aid kit in the bathroom for basic supplies like bandages or burn ointment.

This is a short check, but a critical one. Every vacation rental inspection must include safety measures. 

Note All Damage

This will be by far the lengthiest portion of your vacation rental inspection, but it’s well worth it. You’ll want to note all the existing damage in the property and make recommendations to the owner if you think the damage needs to be remedied before your first check-in.

Pictures are your friend! It may help to write down any damage for easy reference by room, but for insurance purposes, photos will be extremely useful. Snap a quick photo of any damage. If the damage is on a large space like the floor or the wall, be sure to get enough of the surrounding room in the shot to make it clear where the damage is located.

  • Walls. Give the walls a visual inspection and note any scrapes, discoloration, or marks. If the paint job looks dingy or has many marks on it, you may want to recommend a repaint before your first guests arrive.
  • Fixtures. If any bathroom or kitchen fixtures have leaks, recommend to the owner that they be repaired before a guest arrives. Be sure to mark down any damage, such as cracks or discoloration, on the fixtures themselves.
  • Furniture. Check every piece of furniture from every angle, even those that are against the wall. Even damage minor enough that a guest wouldn’t notice should be marked down – you don’t want to accidentally accuse a guest of damage they didn’t cause.  
  • Floors. Floors often have so many small scratches that it’s pointless to try to catalogue all of them. It can be simpler to take pictures of every few feet of flooring so that you have a record of the difference between the mild scratch that was already there vs. the huge scrape that a guest left behind.
  • Appliances. Appliances often pick up a bit of wear and tear, so be sure to write down any scrapes or scratches that already exist. If an appliance is looking particularly run-down, you might recommend the owner consider replacing it.

You’re all done! Once you’ve finished this last part of your vacation rental inspection, you should be confident that guests will have a flawless stay in the property.

What happens if your cleaning service notices damage to the property while they’re performing the post-stay clean? With the Properly app, they can take a picture and notify you of the issue in real time – giving you lots of time to fix the issue before the next guest arrives. Learn more about Properly here

 

How to Build Your Vacation Rental Management Team

Vacation rental management businesses are seeing increased interest in their services as more and more people join the trend of renting out second homes or investment properties.

That’s good news for vacation rental managers, but it does present some challenges. Vacation rental managers who expand their inventory will need to do some equivalent expansion on their team.

You might have managed 10 properties with just 2 team members, but when your inventory goes up to 50 properties, you’re going to need a bigger team.

How do you find qualified team members for your growing business?

What Experience Should Your Candidates Have?

You already know to look for candidates with experience in the specific position you need. You probably won’t hire a website manager who doesn’t have experience managing websites, for example.

But should your team members have specific experience in this industry? You might wonder if you can help manage vacation rentals well if you don’t have experience managing vacation rentals. There’s just one problem:

If you’re looking for team members who specifically have experience managing vacation rentals, you’re quickly going to run out of qualified candidates.

The vacation rental industry has been booming lately, which means there are only so many people out there with prior experience managing them. That said, you can still find employees who have the necessary background to pick up on vacation rental management quickly.

You’re looking for team members who have:

Experience in the hospitality industry.

People with experience in hospitality will know the importance of staging, cleanliness, good customer service, and performing to the highest standard for each guest. They’ll need to learn what specific services vacation rental guests expect, but they’ll already understand why attention to detail is essential.

Experience in property management.

People with experience in property management will understand how to juggle responsibilities for a large number of properties at multiple locations. They’ll need to learn how to perform quicker turnovers than once a year, but they’ll already understand essentials like upkeep, inspections, and scheduling.

Experience in customer service.

People with experience in customer service know all about how to handle an irate customer, and emotions run high when a vacation rental doesn’t match a guest’s expectations. They’ll need to learn what is and is not reasonable for a guest to expect of a vacation rental, but they’ll be great at helping the guest feel their problem was heard and reaching a resolution that you, the owner, and the guest are comfortable with.

Experience running a vacation rental.

If your applicants have ever managed a single vacation rental, either as an owner or assistant to the owner, they’ll have some experience with the challenges unique to this industry. They’ll need to learn how to translate that knowledge to a scaled operation like yours, but they’ll know the core essentials of what guests are looking for.

If your applicants also have experience running their own vacation rental, this can be a huge bonus, since they’ll know what the day-to-day challenges are like.

What Personal Qualities Should Your Candidates Have?

You may need a different sort of person to handle your scheduling than you do to run the website, but there are some qualities that can only help make your vacation rental management business run smoothly.

Let’s think about the essentials of running a vacation rental management business. There are a lot of details to keep track of while managing vacation rentals. Your properties always need to be beautifully cleaned and presented. And you will undoubtedly come up with unusual requests and challenges every week.

Since these are the challenges of a successful vacation rental management business, what qualities should your employees have to meet them?

Attention to Detail

“Forgetting” to schedule a cleaning just isn’t an option in this industry! Even if your employee won’t be managing the calendar, you still want someone who cares about the little details in every aspect of your business. If your website has a design flaw, travelers might see it as a sign your vacation rentals aren’t professionally run.

You’re relying on your employees to help you track all the important details. Make sure they have that skill.

Ask your candidates for specific examples of how they keep track of the little details. It’s easy to say you’re detail-oriented, but every person with a truly organized mind has a method of keeping the details straight, whether it’s a notebook or a software program. Ask what your candidates use to keep track of the details, and why.

It doesn’t matter if your candidate prefers a different software program to track the details. You can always train them to use the same tools your team uses. What’s important is that they’ve thought about how to keep the details straight and have a strategy of their own for doing so.

Cool-Headed in the Face of Conflict

Tensions in a vacation rental management business can run high, and any one of your employees might have to field an irate phone call now and then. When a guest is seriously distressed, you don’t want to have to tell them to wait until your specifically-designated customer service person can help them – any of your employees should be able to help.

Ask your candidates for a specific example of how they handled a customer that was very upset with the service they received. Ask for an example where the customer was in the right, and one where the customer was in the wrong, and how they handled both.

These are important questions because your employees will deal with both types of guest in the vacation rental management business. Sometimes the guest is upset because the property was not cleaned, and sometimes the guest is upset because your rental isn’t as near to the lake as they thought it was, even though the address is right there on the listing.

Both of those situations need to be handled with a cool head and an eye to getting to a reasonable resolution, but they require different approaches. Make sure your team knows how to handle both.

Solution-Oriented

There are very few problems in the business of vacation rental management that can be resolved “when you get around to it.” Most problems need to be solved as soon as humanly possible, and while you will act as the final arbiter in how to resolve a problem, you’ll quickly get over-taxed if you personally have to come up with every solution.

You’re looking for team members who can bring a few potential solutions to the problem to you when they’re asking for guidance.

You want people who will say, “The guest says there’s a smell coming from the hot tub. I thought we could either offer to go over tomorrow to fix it while they’re at Disneyland, or send someone tonight to see if they could find the source of the problem.”

Now you’re choosing between two options, which is much less mentally taxing.

Ask your candidates for their solutions to specific problems you’ve had while managing vacation rentals, and what they would do to resolve them.

If their default answer is “I’d ask my manager,” you’re probably not going to get solutions from this candidate. If they say “Well, I might do X, or I might do Y, depending on the situation,” you’re looking at someone who can solve on the fly.

It’s up to you whether you let your employees decide on which solution to execute without your input for certain situations, but whether you like to be in the loop or prefer your employees to be more self-sufficient, you’re definitely going to want someone who never brings you a problem without a few potential solutions in mind.

What About Service Providers?

This article is specifically designed to help you find team members – people who can help you with your management duties. They’re also great qualities to look for in your service providers, but there’s actually an easier way to figure out if your service providers are qualified.

The Properly Community Marketplace is full of service providers who have already been vetted by other vacation rental managers in your area. This means you already know they’re accustomed to cleaning vacation rentals rather than residences, and they have the hospitality knowledge to deliver to that high standard.

If you’re looking for one-off assistance rather than a full-time team member, the Properly Community Marketplace is an exceptional resource.

If you are looking to add a team member to your crew full time, then the steps we’ve outlined above are great ways to find the right people to join your vacation rental management business.

Beyond the Properly Marketplace, the Properly app helps you schedule and manage far more efficiently, making it possible to handle more inventory with fewer team members. Check it out here.

Eliminate Costly Negative Guest Reviews with this $5 Investment

As property managers and hosts, you’re always looking for ways to keep your costs low.

But some amenities simply aren’t worth the cost to cut.

Guests expect certain amenities to be available in their accommodation, and often don’t even think to pick up these items at the grocery store when they’re stocking up for dinner. When they arrive and find that basic amenities aren’t available and they have to return to the store … they’re more than a little put out. 

It doesn’t matter if the property was spotless, the location sublime, and the beds a dream to sleep on. Leaving out these amenities inevitably leads to poor guest reviews.

And those bad guest reviews come with a cost: negative reviews can cost you bookings.

The average vacation rental earns $217/night, so the cost of losing a single 3-night booking is $651. Is the cost of providing certain essential amenities really worth the negative reviews that could cost you over six hundred dollars?

Let’s check out the $5 investment in your properties that could eliminate a huge swath of the causes of negative complaints.

Provide More Than the Bare Minimum of T.P.

We recently heard from a guest who arrived for a magnificent ski vacation with 9 of his closest friends. They were only going to be there for the weekend, and they all drove in after work on Friday, which meant they arrived at 8 pm ravenous and ready to kick their feet up by the fire.

Most of the guests used the bathroom when they arrived after their long drive, and a few hours later, after dinner and drinks, one of the guests came out of the bathroom holding the now-empty toilet paper roll. “Guys? I think that was the only toilet paper in the house.”

A quick search revealed this was true. There was one single roll of toilet paper in a house with beds for 10 people.

It was, by then, 10 pm at night, and the grocery stores were closed. The friends drove around for an hour before finding a gas station that could sell them two rolls of individually-wrapped toilet paper to get them through the night, at an exorbitant price.

Those guests, to put it lightly, did not leave a good review.

This story isn’t uncommon. A surprising number of property managers are frugal about the stock of toilet paper, even though the cost savings are minimal compared to the catastrophic effect of a 1-star review on a vacation rental’s earning power.

The average person uses 57 sheets of toilet paper a day, and goes through about one roll of toilet paper a week. Stock one roll per person per week in your rental, and you should have happy guests who don’t need to resort to highly-priced gas station t.p. when they should be sleeping soundly in your vacation rental.

2 more rolls of toilet paper (on average – some stays have fewer guests, some more) at $0.75/roll is $1.50 to eliminate this complaint.

Give Your Guests An Effortless Bathing Experience

Some of your guests will bring their own soap and shampoo. Others won’t, expecting it to be provided for them in any accommodation.

One thing’s for sure, though: if they don’t have shampoo when they arrive and want a shower, they’re going to leave you a bad review.

Homeshares often provide a large bottle of shampoo and conditioner that each guest can use, but this isn’t an ideal solution for a professional vacation rental. It doesn’t look professional, and some guests feel it’s unsanitary.

Individually-sized toiletries are a great solution to this problem, but again, cost is a factor. Many property managers and owners do not feel that it’s worth while to invest in individually-sized toiletries.

But how much do those toiletries really cost?

Bathroom toiletries can be had very cheaply if you buy in bulk: here’s one website for bulk supplies that offers shampoo, conditioner, and body gel. They cost $71.50 for a case of 500 of each type, which is $0.86/stay if you provide two sets per stay.

If you manage more than 10 properties, buying in bulk is an easy decision. You can use up those toiletries in the space of a single year’s worth of bookings, and never hear a single guest complaint about the lack of bathroom amenities.

Buying a smaller array of sets is more costly, but not by much. Here’s a set of 200 bottles of shampoo on Amazon for about 20 cents a bottle, for example. Wherever you are in the world, you should be able to supply basic bath amenities for under $1.25 per stay.

Help Your Guests Keep the Kitchen Clean

A surprisingly common complaint on guest reviews is that the kitchen didn’t provide dish soap, sponges, or paper towels.

Why not? Some property managers think this is an unnecessary expense that guests will handle for themselves if they need it.

This is particularly true of the property has a dishwasher. Hosts think the guests will simply use the dishwasher, and won’t need to wash dishes by hand.

There are several problems with that approach. The first is that not all dishes can go into the dishwasher – you don’t want guests putting the non-stick pans in the dishwasher simply because they have no other means of cleaning them!

The second problem is that guests don’t want to wait 45 minutes for the dishwasher to run every time they need a clean fork. It’s a frustration and an annoyance, and will almost certainly lead to a bad review.

Thankfully, the cost to provide kitchen dish-cleaning supplies is minimal: 

Total cost per average stay: $1.06 for dish-cleaning supplies.

Naturally, you should provide dishwasher detergent too. Guests will be deeply annoyed if they have to pay for using the dishwasher that was advertised as an amenity. Throw in a few dishwasher pods at $0.16 apiece and your total cost is still about a buck-fifty.

There’s another reason to make it easy for your guests to clean their own dishes: if they don’t, your cleaner will have to.

Your cleaner might need an extra half-hour to tackle a mound of dirty dishes. If you pay your cleaner $30/hour, that’s a cost of $15 per stay. It’s clearly worth while to make sure your guests have the means to clean up after themselves.

Have a Washing Machine? Provide Liquid Detergent

Finally, let’s have a look at the laundry room. Not all vacation rentals have a laundry room, but those that do often don’t stock detergent.

Guests frequently search specifically for vacation rentals that have washing machines, particularly if they’re going to be traveling with babies or small children. They need to be able to throw a load in at the end of a long day of spills and vacation foodstuffs.

Discovering they’ll have to leave the house again to buy detergent is upsetting, but there’s a bigger reason why this amenity is important: you can’t really buy a small container of laundry detergent.

Guests will wind up shelling out money for a bottle of detergent that they’ll only use a fraction of during the course of their stay in your rental. Add in the inconvenience of yet another unanticipated shopping run, and that resentment can lead directly to a bad review.

Property managers have said that while most guests are reasonable, there are some who see a box of laundry pods as an invitation to stock up for their own laundry room at home.

Which is why liquid laundry detergent is a great offer. It’s easy to buy in large containers so your guests can use what they need, and it’s inexpensive: just about 10 cents a load.

If an average guest runs three loads of laundry, you just spent 30 cents to avoid a bad review.

Add It Up

Nickel-and-diming your guests over amenities that make their lives easier simply isn’t worth the cost to your vacation rental’s reviews. Add up everything we spent to provide these basic amenities, and you’ll find it’s just under $5.

Toilet paper: $1.50

Bathroom amenities: $1.25

Dish cleaning supplies: $1.54

Laundry detergent: $0.30

Total: $4.59

That gives you a little wiggle room for pricing variations in your area, but we’re confident you could beat our numbers with a little research. Even if you come in at our $5 benchmark, though, you’re paying $5/stay for an average of 30 bookings per property.

That’s a $150 annual investment to avoid that negative review that could cost you at least one $651 booking, if not more. Well worth it! 

The complaints we’ve listed above include a large percentage of those found in bad reviews, but the number one complaint guests give about vacation rentals is always cleanliness. Check out how Properly can help you ensure the perfect clean every time

 

How Can Vacation Rental Managers Earn Travelers’ Trust?  

Vacation rental companies are booming right now, and the demand for vacation rental managers is growing. That’s great news for many of you as you bring in more inventory for your vacation rental management business, but let’s look into the future just a bit:

Is the market for vacation rentals going to continue to grow? Or has it reached its peak?

Phocuswright reports that the percentage of travelers interested in sharing economy accommodations – which includes traditional vacation rentals – was down substantially this year. 41% of travelers expressed interest in 2017, but only 33% are interested in 2018.

The reason 67% of travelers want to stick with hotels instead of vacation rentals? For fully half of them, it’s because they don’t believe the quality of vacation rentals matches that of hotels.

That’s a trust issue. And it’s one that vacation rental managers and owners can fix.

Why Travelers Don’t Trust Vacation Rentals

At the moment, there’s no set standard or requirement to list your property on Airbnb or VRBO. There’s no standard anywhere you advertise a property, in fact. No individual property manager is working to adhere to a set of standards in the way that an independently-owned hotel can aspire to a 1-star rating with AAA.

Travelers know that the quality of the vacation rental’s customer service, amenities, and general appearance are entirely in the hands of the host. And they don’t trust reviews to give them an accurate idea of what to expect.

Nor should they. As we’ve detailed in our post advocating for vacation rental ratings, reviews are an insufficient way to determine the quality of a vacation rental. Reviews tell you that other guests have enjoyed staying in this vacation rental, but they can’t tell you whether those guests’ expectations match your own.

Travelers don’t like that vacation rentals leave them feeling uncertain. They know that when they arrive at a 3-star hotel, they’ll be met with freshly-laundered, matching linens, attractive if predictable decor, and all the amenities they’re accustomed to: a coffee maker, little bottles of soap and shampoo, an empty closet with hangers awaiting their clothes.

Will a vacation rental have all of these amenities? It’s hard to say. Listings usually include the availability of major amenities like stoves, washers and dryers, and air conditioning, but everything else is unpredictable. It depends on the host.

Which means travelers are left guessing about what will be provided and what they will need to provide for themselves. They don’t know if the service will be attentive to their needs or largely absent. They don’t know what kind of experience they’re signing up for.

So they go for the predictable. They go for a hotel.

What Can Vacation Rental Managers and Owners Do?

In the absence of an existing ratings body that can determine whether or not a property lives up to a 2-star or 3-star standard, vacation rental managers and owners should work to set their own standards and be sure their guests know in advance what those standards are.

In addition to listing all of your major amenities accurately, include a section on your listing that describes your personal standard for bringing a property to a “guest-ready” standard.

Major concerns your guests want to know about in advance include:

  • Ease of entry. Everyone has heard stories about guests locked out in the middle of the night, the host not answering the phone, Airbnb unable to help. Explain to your guests how you ensure they will be able to access the property and what policies you have in place in case the normal method of entry doesn’t work for any reason.
  • Kitchen amenities. Will there be salt and pepper? Butter and oil? A spice rack? A cheese grater? Guests are often kept guessing, and laying out exactly what you stock in each property’s kitchen will let them plan for what is and is not included.

  • Bathroom amenities. Will you provide soap and shampoo? Is it individually wrapped? How many towels are stocked, and what sizes are they? Are there any additional amenities like cotton swabs and a first-aid kit? Help your guests rest assured they won’t discover at 6 am that there’s no shampoo for their shower before the big meeting.

  • Cleanliness. A property can look great in photos, but smell of neglect when the guest arrives. Explain the thoroughness of your cleaning process and assure them that you have safeguards in place to ensure there are no errors in scheduling or performance that will lead to them arriving to an unclean property. (Like using Properly, for example!)

Show your guests that you’ve thought of their concerns in advance and that you uphold high standards across all of your properties. Each house may be different, but those standards remain the same.

And once they see your standards laid out in black and white, guests will be assured to note that your standards for a well-run vacation rental match their own.

That increase in trust will go a long way toward boosting the number of people willing to give vacation rentals a try for the first time.

Properly ensures that your cleaning service is delivering to your high standard every time. You can track the cleaning process in real time and receive verification photos as every room is finished, so when you tell your guest the property is ready for their arrival, you know for a fact it’s picture perfect. Click here to learn more.