Industry, Investing, Short Term

Understanding Cleaning Costs in the Short-Term Rental Market

November 4, 2022 – 5 minute read – by Don Binkley

It’s straightforward. Guests come and go then the property gets cleaned and ready for the next stay right? Why would this be a pricey exercise? It’s just cleaning! stop there let’s take a moment to demystify all things cleaning costs when it comes to managing a short-term rental.

There are many costly operational components associated with renting properties for short stays. Turnover cleaning costs are a major one of these. But unlike other expenses (such as electricity, water, white goods, etc.). Few property owners or guests understand why short-term rental cleaning is so expensive. Let’s look at some of the contributing factors and hidden costs most people don’t think about.

Shortage Of Workers

Here in Sydney (and around the world), the current labour shortage is a real problem with direct impacts. This has been felt by all industries, especially service industries such as cleaning/housekeeping. There are simply fewer people available to work.

Alongside this, most workers are based in cities. Short-term rentals are often in remote holiday areas now there are even fewer workers available in these locations. Over the past decade, Australians have relied far more than people realise on backpackers and international students to perform this type of work. COVID-19 closed the borders and severely restricted travel. 

Many workers that were here in Australia fled home & our sunburnt island has had some strong negative international press on our strict restrictions. Hence, the Australian brand for these types of workers has been damaged and luring them back is taking longer than anticipated. To compound this problem there have been restrictions on immigration & visa costs are expensive and processing backlog.

The current labour shortage is a real problem with direct impacts on the Short-Term rental market.

The Attractiveness of Cleaning as a Job or Profession

With fewer people available, workers can now choose between many options when considering work. Cleaning is rarely at the top of the list as it is physically taxing, repetitive, and inconsistent. There are also significant investments required, including a car and the purchase of specialised equipment and products.

Short-term rental cleaning is also highly demanding, with fast turnaround times and elevated expectations. The bulk of cleaning takes place between 10 am and 2 pm each day & this can often be at short notice. A cleaner must be available during this time, regardless if there is a scheduled cleaning required. In addition, one person can often only complete one clean per day. This means an additional source of income is required as a supplement to ensure the equivalent of full-time wages.

As a result of all the above, we need to pay people more to motivate and retain them to work. We are now paying cleaners and housekeepers trade rates which is appropriate as it is manual labour involving chemical handling. If you watch an experienced cleaner vs. a newbie, you will immediately notice the difference. With cleaning, there is a clear process for getting the work done both properly and efficiently.

Cleaning is rarely at the top of the list of attractive jobs as it is physically taxing, repetitive, and inconsistent.

Cost of Labour & Lack of Regularity

It’s simply a matter of supply and demand. A smaller pool of workers has directly influenced the hourly rates for short-term rental cleaning. Workers calculate the cost to complete the job and factor this into proposed rates. Contributing factors include travel time (which is significant in cities), increasing petrol prices and the cost of cleaning products. We’ve seen significant increases in prices across the board this year. Sometimes this has been upward of 40%!

On top of this, cleaners are often contractors, which means they are not eligible for sick leave or holiday pay. There is no additional pay for public holidays or weekend work.

There is no regularity in short-term rental cleaning. Some weeks there are too many jobs and others there are not enough. Sometimes all the cleans are needed for the weekend & sometimes it is one a day throughout the week. The lack of regularity extends not only to the number of jobs but also to their location and timing. Cleaners are expected to travel to multiple locations within a day, and these locations or properties differ each week. Understandably, this is not an appealing scenario for many as most people like routine and regularity as well as fixed days off etc.

All these factors above contribute to the real cost of completing the job.

Specialised Cleaning

Short-term rental cleaning is paid at a higher rate than other types of cleaning (i.e. regular residential, strata or commercial cleaning). This is due to the higher level of skill and standards required. This is cleaning plus housekeeping, not just manual labour or a quick surface cleaning. 

There are additional cleaning requirements with a deep clean required following every guest stay to ensure that a property is immaculate before the next guest checks in. This could include oven cleaning, BBQ cleaning, taking out and cleaning the bins, stain removal etc. All time-intensive tasks require special skills and products.

Short-term rental cleaning is paid at a higher rate than other types of cleaning, Due to higher level of skill & standards.

It must also be noted that cleaners have no idea what they will be walking into when they arrive to turn over a property. A guest could have been there for several weeks without doing any cleaning themselves & then suddenly, the cleaners have a major job on their hands. They must allow for this when scheduling and quoting for jobs. There is a distinct lack of control over how the property will be left to them. It is very different to a domestic residential clean that occurs once or twice a week where a certain standard is maintained. Holiday rental cleaners are faced with the unknown each time they walk into a property.

In addition, there are housekeeping duties, storing, picking, packing linen (which is heavy), making beds, changing linen, and replacing amenities. The time taken to complete a short-term rental clean to the standards required is often underestimated due to the housekeeping duties required on top of an intensive clean. We estimate the work required to do a good job (which the guest demands as a price of entry) to be approximately 50% more than a regular weekly residential clean.

Lastly, the expectations of guests during and now post covid has increased massively. No longer is this just about a property is clean and tidy it has evolved into health and safety.

Additional Services

On top of the cleaning and housekeeping duties, there are additional regular services provided by short-term rental cleaners. They are responsible for signalling damage and items that have been left by the guest on the property, as well as taking photos and or videos of how the property was left and the job they have done.

The ongoing maintenance of the property is often noticed by short-term rental cleaners including changing light bulbs and cleaning external windows. These additional services ensure the condition of the property is maintained and property owners are kept informed.

On top of cleaning & housekeeping duties additional services eg. signalling damage or lost items.

Quality Assurance & Control

Property Providers take cleaning and housekeeping very seriously. Every rotation is personally checked and quantifiably scored by one of our property managers. Each time there is a clean this means that a member of our staff is leaving the office, travelling to the property, inspecting the property (often doing some touch-ups themselves) and completing our evaluation. 

We feel it is far better to get it right rather than having to go back and fix things up once guests arrive (which is just more time). We all know the saying. Time is money & as a business that has executed over 10,000 guest exit cleans, the investment is significant. Property Management is a tough gig. It is multi-faceted, especially with luxury properties with highly discerning guests and owners.

Linen & Storage

A hidden complexity in our business has always been linen. We use the same suppliers as the Hilton Hotel (who have put up their costs as well in relation to labour shortages and rising energy costs). Another major cost is the delivery, storage, picking, packing and shipping of the linen to the property. This is not like a standard hotel in which a housekeeper can just pop into the elevator and visit a room. This is a non-homogenous product in a non-central location which makes things far more complex than any rational person would assume. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes.

No Cash & Managing Risk

We are running a professional operation. It’s not like we can leave $100 bucks on the kitchen table for the cleaning of the property. We do not pay our housekeepers in cash. We need to be invoiced (as this is proper) and naturally, our cleaners have to pay tax and insurance too.

Lastly, to protect owners, guests, our staff and our business against the risks of this manual labour, there is significant compliance that we need to adhere to. This too takes time not to mention all the other hidden costs like never-ending recruitment and training, as well as our investment in a range of insurance policies.

Housekeepers are properly invoiced & insured to protect owners, guests & the business.

Overall Benefits

Guests compare their stay with the standard they receive in a hotel (in our case a 4-5-star hotel). The only way to provide this is by having skilled short-term rental cleaners. It’s the difference between a one-star and a five-star review (or having to pay compensation to a guest because it is not done right).   On top of this, the cleaners help ensure that your property remains in good condition, with regular cleaning and instant notification of any problems.

Reality Check

Over the last couple of years, I have heard owners say that it is easier to find a nanny, a roofer, or any other trade than it is to find a good reliable cleaner. In fact, in many cases, we have tried to collaborate with our owners to use their cleaners however when asked, “can we have their phone number”, we are often faced with the response, “no way…if they end up working with you, they may not come back”.

The bottom line is that we have invested incredible amounts of time over the past ten years trying to nail the operational demands around cleaning and housekeeping. Trust me when I say this is a tough and ongoing business challenge for all the reasons listed & more. Sometimes it can be the deciding factor of success or cataclysmic failure. It’s frustrating, as it seems so simple, but it’s not!

We have invested incredible amounts of time over the past ten years trying to nail the operational demands around cleaning and housekeeping.

Property Providers is Sydney’s most flexible residential rental agency.  Our core purpose is “To Help People Live Better” through providing long-term luxury leasing, super luxury holiday homes and executive rentals for extended stays.  If you are interested in listing your property please contact us on +612-9969-7599 or if you are looking for a tenant or guest who is looking for a handpicked home please visit our website or brief us here