If that’s not you up in the dryer, it may as well be me. Us hosts have to figure out cleaning whether we want to or not. Thomas + I personally use a maid that we met through Craigslist, but you may prefer a service, or even to do it yourself. Read on for some great advice on how to not eat all the cleaning costs yourself by charging a fair cleaning fee to your guests.
As a Airbnb host, cleaning before guests arrive is part of your job. When is it appropriate to charge a cleaning fee? How much should you charge? These are questions every host should know the answer to, and to simplify that process, we have three quick and dirty tips to help guide you.
Understand How Airbnb Cleaning Fees Work
A certain amount of cleaning is normal, and this is why Airbnb accounts for clean-up costs in what your guest will be charged. However, you get to set the exact cost of your cleaning fee, as it can vary wildly based on type of property. A spacious 3-bedroom 2-bathroom home with a pool will invariably cost more to clean than a loft or efficiency. The ability to decide your own cleaning fee is a wonderful convenience for hosts, but can also be an intimidating business decision. We’re here to help!
All cleaning fees are one-time fees rather than a nightly charge. However, they are figured into the price of your listing preview when potential guests first view it on the Airbnb website. So a very high cleaning fee may make your listing appear much more expensive than it is in reality, because the standard display on Airbnb’s site is for a 1-night stay. For instance, if you have a $100/night rental with a $50 cleaning fee, the first thing potential guests see as a “Total” will be $150. Only if they click on your listing and manually change the number of nights will that fee be “spread out” over the number of days they stay. Sticking with this example, a 5 night stay would cost $110/night. But remember, a guest will not see that immediately.
Be conscious of how your listing preview appears to guests browsing Airbnb. If your cleaning fee is substantially higher (say, over 50% of your nightly stay cost), it might mislead inexperienced guests into believing that your rental fee is much higher than it really is and dissuade them from looking at your full listing altogether. Using the example above, a $75 fee could make your $100/night rental appear to cost $175. Simply being aware of the way your cleaning fee affects the display of your listing can help you assess a number that will cover your costs without scaring off potential guests.
As for the service fee, be aware that Airbnb takes 3% of your cleaning fee. Keep this in mind while calculating what you plan to charge. If you make a special offer for a particular guest, which is an “all-inclusive” price for a particular guest’s stay, be aware that your cleaning fee will not automatically be included. Instead, you must calculate the price of cleaning into the special offer total.
Cleaning fees should be fair to you AND your guests.
While it may be tempting to charge more to err on the side of caution when calculating your fee, doing so may scare off potential guests before they even fully view your listing. You may worry about getting an unruly or particularly messy guest–however, the cleaning fee is not the way to address such guests through Airbnb. The simplest way to think of the two is this: cleaning fees are for ordinary circumstances, and damage fees are for extraordinary circumstances. If you are extremely concerned about “worst case scenario” guests, please consult our article on Airbnb safety to learn more about how to screen your potential guests.
Know What Cleaning Your Rental Actually Costs
Cleaning fees should reflect the actual cost of routine, ordinary clean-up. As alluded to above, many things affect this cost: the size of the property, type of accommodation, special amenities and features. When you start considering the costs, it may be helpful to make a list of the actual things that will need to be cleaned every time, as well as other considerations specific to your property. A “one-size-fits-most” list might look a little like this:
Follow Airbnb recommendations regarding cleaning, including giving bathrooms and kitchens a little bit of extra elbow grease.
- Count the rooms in your home and note which supplies you will need to clean each of them.
- Take an inventory of which cleaning supplies you have on hand and what you will need to buy. Be realistic about the costs, and begin building a “clean-up kit” for use after every guest. This will save time as well as money.
- Take a cue from professional maid services come up with an honest approximate cost-per-room.
- Remember the laundry! Towels, linens, and other fresh amenities such as robes will need to be cleaned.
- Don’t confuse cleaning fees with amenities that should be calculated into the per-night value of your rental. Count only items that need to be cleaned.
- Consider how much time the cleaning process will take you. Your time has value too.
Use the above guidelines like a flexible checklist to approximate the real-world cost of cleaning your rental after an average, reasonable person has stayed there. Assume your guests will be generally courteous enough to clean up after themselves. Think about how often your rental is being used. Can the cleaning fee be “spread out” between multiple guests to recover your overhead on supplies and labor quickly? Some hosts with very large properties, multiple properties, or frequently-used rentals may find investing in a maid service or paying an informal “cleaning helper” may be the best investment for maintaining rentals to the highest standard of cleanliness.
Remember that you can adjust your cleaning fee if you think it is too high or too low. Some trial and error is to be expected and perfectly normal! Be honest with yourself about what is cleaning and what is simply being a good host. You may find some things don’t have an exact cost, or that they are tasks you would take care of after having guests that are not directly related to cleaning. For instance, if you provide an assortment of free coffee and tea, you will inevitably have to replace it before your next guest comes. While you may choose to do this during the clean-up process, is it necessarily something you want to charge for? Yes, these little things cost money, but they are also just a part of good customer service. Ultimately, these small moral judgments are personal decisions, but remember that generosity now can mean a repeat guest later. Good customer service karma in the Airbnb universe is an invaluable asset that you can’t buy.
Off grid Solar PV engineer, Airbnb Superhost, sewn product design + manufacturing, writer, motivational speaker
Currently writing the book: "How to be a Rockstar Airbnb Host (+ make money like one too!)"
Power couple René + Thomas (husband) met as neighbors and fell in love while renovating a vintage Airstream.After three years of making serious income with Airbnb, they help other hosts bank with their vacation rentals.
Co-Founder Agave Ranch Austin BnB
CEO Indie Solar. Solar PV canopies. http://TexasIndieSolar.com
CEO + Partner: René Geneva Design.
Eco Fashion design and fair trade manufacturing:
Major Accomplishments: Fulbright Hays Grant, US Embassy in Austria; Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, Austin Designer of the Year
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