How Much Should You Charge for Vacation Rental Cleaning?
A Complete Guide to Pricing a Clean for Property Managers and Cleaning Services
By Properly / Aug 2, 2018
Property managers and cleaning services getting started in the short-term rental industry often struggle with setting a price on vacation rental cleaning. It’s not hard to see why – go on VRBO or Airbnb and you’ll see the fees for cleaning a vacation rental vary from as little as $15 per stay to $200 per stay.
Costs vary widely from location to location, too. Professional vacation rental cleaning services can charge as much as $350/clean in some locations, whereas a cleaning service working a mere 50 miles away might have a hard time charging $100. It depends on demand, the quality of clean required by the property’s guests, and the cost of living in a given area.
Further complicating the problem: vacation rental cleaning takes more time than cleaning a residential home. Cleaning services are often asked to launder linens, create beautiful staging, and restock amenities for short-term rentals. This extras add time and discretion to the services being purchased.
All these factors make it nearly impossible for a new cleaning service or property manager to easily determine the going rate for vacation rental cleaning services. We put together this guide to help you figure out the going rate in your area – no matter where you are in the world.
At First Glance
One of the reasons these numbers are so difficult to determine is that the most commonly cited place to check fees for vacation rental cleaning is on listing sites like VRBO and Airbnb. These numbers consistently show a range too wide to be useful. Here’s a spread of fees in Ashland, OR for similarly-sized properties priced between $155-$165:
With rates ranging from $50-$150, it’s quite the guessing game to determine a reasonable hourly rate from those numbers. In addition to the problem of variance, the fees above are not the fees exchanged between property managers and service providers.
They’re the numbers that owners or property managers set for the guest to pay, and they often have a little padding built in to cover the cost of replacement amenities or small repairs.
For example, if a cleaning service charges $25/hour, and cleaning a 3-bedroom property takes about 4 hours, the cleaning service will charge the property manager $100.
The property manager, in turn, might charge the owner $125 to cover the cost of keeping the cleaning calendar and finding an available cleaning service for each job.
And the owner might then decide to set the vacation rental cleaning fee on VRBO at $150. This builds in a little extra money that can go toward the cost of bathroom amenities and kitchen staples – or replacing the odd broken glass or missing fork.
How, then, should newcomers to the short-term rental industry look to set pricing?
Ask. Then Ask Some More.
The simplest way to determine rates in a major metro area like Los Angeles or Paris is to ask better-established businesses in your field. There are a couple of tricks to figuring out who to ask and how to ask, however:
For Property Managers
Most property managers are happy to share commonly-known information in their industry. If you’re a property manager at an event for property managers, you can breezily explain that you’re new to the game and one of the cleaning services you spoke to quoted you a $100 flat rate to clean a 2-bed, 2 bath property.
This opens up a conversation. Your fellow PM will have one of three reactions:
“Oh, wow, who are you working with? That’s a great rate.”
“That seems high. My service only charges $80 for a property of that size.”
“Seems about right.”
Whatever their reaction, you now know if your guess is accurate, too high, or too low.
You can also call and ask cleaning services for quotes. Be sure to get a range of prices for different property types; it will cost more to clean a 6-bedroom house than it would a 1-bedroom apartment. Be aware that professional services will want to see the property before landing on a precise quote, but they should be able to give you a ballpark estimate based on the property size.
Be sure to specify you are inquiring about the cost of a vacation rental cleaning, rather than the price to clean a residential home. You should also ask if this business has serviced short-term rentals in the past. If that business has no experience with vacation rental cleaning, their quote may not be accurate, as they may not be aware of the extra time and services needed for this type of clean.
The mistake most cleaning service providers make is seeking this information from a potential employer. In any price-setting negotiation, it’s not to the property manager’s advantage to disclose what they pay for the service. After all, you may be willing to work for a lower rate than they typically pay! They much prefer if you set the rate and they decide whether to accept or decline it.
Asking for rates directly from property managers who might employ you will involve a lot of trial and error, and might cost you some relationships that otherwise would have worked well.
Instead, try asking the cleaning service providers in your area what they charge. Ask friends in the industry if you have them, or ask service providers who work on the other side of town. “Hi, I’m starting a business in a non-competing area. I was wondering if I could ask your advice about setting rates in this city.”
Try asking for an informational interview with property managers. Explain that you’re starting a cleaning business and are gathering information on how to do it well. Include a question about rates among questions about what’s most important to them in a cleaning service, what are the biggest dealbreakers, and anything else you’d like to know before hanging out your shingle.
If all else fails, ask both services for information as a potential employer.
“Hi, I’m thinking of renting out my apartment as an Airbnb, and I was wondering what your rates are for cleaning a 2-bedroom short-term rental.”
Ask 10 businesses, and you’ll have a range of rates. Deduct 15% from the rates the property managers set (as they usually include a small markup to the owner) and you should have a good idea of what to charge.
What If There’s No One To Ask?
If you work in a smaller area, you may not have as much information to draw from. You’re more likely to be the direct competition of other companies in the area, and they’re unlikely to want to share information with you.
If you find you’re unable to get information directly from your colleagues in the industry, check out the properties that are available for short-term rental in your area on VRBO. (Skip Airbnb, as a large percentage of Airbnb owners service their own properties. This means their rates will be either very low or nonexistent, which isn’t useful to you.)
Check out as many properties as possible and categorize them by property type, size, and difficulty to clean. Eliminate any major outliers – if a fee seems astronomically high or low compared to the list you’ve made, skip that property and move on to the next one. Get an average cleaning rate for each major category of property by adding the cleaning fees for 10 such properties and dividing that figure by 10.
For example, if the vacation rental cleaning fees are:
You would add all of those numbers together for $910, and divide by 10: $91.
Now deduct 30% from that figure, which is about the average markup once owners and property managers have added some wiggle room into their pricing. For this area, you’re looking at a fee of about $60 to clean a property. If you think this particular property type would take 3 hours to clean, you can confidently set a rate of $20/hour. If you think it will take 4 hours, then $15/hour is likelier a better rate.
This isn’t to say that cleaners can’t charge outside of this figure, or that property managers shouldn’t expect to pay more for quality or less for their own in-house service. In the example above, you can guess that cleaners who service these properties are getting paid anywhere from $11.50/hour ($50 minus 30% divided by 3 hours) to $35/hour ($150 minus 30% divided by 3 hours).
If you’re just starting out, though, you’re looking to discover the average vacation rental cleaning rate, and this system will work well for that goal.
What If There Are No (Or Very Few) Other Properties?
In a remote area, pricing gets even more complicated to determine. There are few other property managers, cleaning services, or properties on VRBO or Airbnb to look to for comparison.
You will also have additional costs you wouldn’t have if you operated in a larger area: transport time and gas mileage.
In a city, a cleaning service would not charge for the time it takes to drive 15 minutes to the property they will service next, or for the gas mileage for a vehicle that only had to drive a few miles.
In a remote area, however, it might take an hour to drive to the property, which means the cleaning service needs to be compensated for a considerable time investment and half a tank of gas.
What properties are available to view on rental sites will tend to vary pretty wildly in their cleaning fees for remote areas. This is because these properties are often cleaned by the owner themselves, a friend, or a close neighbor, which makes it possible to keep rates low or nonexistent. It’s hard to determine a fair rate for a professional clean when you’re looking at cleaning fees set by an owner or an amateur.
It’s often best to start with the average vacation rental cleaning rate for the entire country, and adjust from there if you find that your clients or service providers consider your fees exceptionally low or high. In the United States, the average rate for house cleaning is $20-$25/hour, and the UK averages £18-£22/hour.
Price your time to get to the location at half of that cost, and do a quick Google search for typical mileage costs in your country. Add those costs into your calculations, and you should have a reasonable starting point for the cost of a professional clean in a difficult-to-service area.
As an example, let’s say a property in the United States is 40 miles away from the cleaning service’s location. It will take an hour to drive each way, and 3 hours to clean. Your calculations are:
$20 hourly cleaning rate x 3 hours cleaning time = $60
40 miles x 50 cents a mile = $20
$10 hourly driving rate x 2 hours driving time = $20
Add those costs together, and the price for this clean is $100.
Though the calculations above are help determine an hourly rate, usually vacation rental cleaning is priced at a flat rate per property. It’s good for you to know what the hourly rate is, however, because guests occasionally leave a property in such a mess that additional cleaning is necessary.
Extra cleaning isn’t a cost the owner or the property manager should bear. Guests who leave a huge mess at a property should be charged for the additional hours of labor required to clean it. (That said, it is sometimes difficult to get these costs back from the guest, and the occasional extra hour of cleaning should be factored into the cost of running a short-term rental business.)
In either case, the cleaning service should always be paid for the additional hours worked. If a property has been thoroughly trashed, the cleaning service should provide photo evidence of the property’s state to the manager or the property owner, and give an estimate of additional time required to bring the property back up to a guest-ready state of cleanliness.
This is why knowing the hourly rate is important, even though most of the time a cleaner will charge a flat fee per property. Both cleaners and property managers should know what it will cost for an additional hour or two (or four) of cleaning when necessary.
You’ll always be able to price confidently, knowing whether the rates you’re offering are above average, below average, or right on the money.
Properly makes pairing property managers with professional cleaning services easy – set pricing, schedule a clean, and assign a visual checklist to be sure new service providers know exactly what you need. Learn more about Properly here.