I ask my Airbnb guests to do chores and pay a cleaning fee — here's why
- Michelle Burson is the owner of a 4,000-square-foot Airbnb in Brookings, Oregon.
- Burson's experimented with upping cleaning and rental fees, and she's had more luck with the latter.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Michelle Burson, owner of an Airbnb in Brookings, Oregon. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I live between Orange County, California, and Gilbert, Arizona, and my family's Airbnb property in Oregon was my parents' home. When my dad passed away, we didn't want to sell the house because it's sentimental for our family — my dad really wanted to pass the house onto me, and it felt like it would be weird to sell it.
3 years ago, we turned my parents' old home into an Airbnb
The income from rentals allows us to maintain it. It's been a perfect situation.
But in late 2020, we were having issues like mold in the shower, and someone left a joint on the property. The cleanliness was reflected in our reviews. We talked to our property manager, and he explained that because of COVID-19, cleaning professionals had to take extra cleaning measures, and there was just not enough time to address those issues.
As a host, we have the ability to set the price of our cleaning fee
The cleaning fee is an extra cost on top of the nightly rate to address the cleaning costs for the home. So, we decided to up our cleaning fee from $151 to $300.
We had to do this because the cleanliness issues stemmed from the size of the house, and one cleaning professional simply couldn't clean the entire more than 4,000-square-foot home in the few hours they were given between guests leaving in the morning and new ones arriving later that afternoon.
When we upped our cleaning fees, we doubled the number of cleaning professionals
That helped with cleanliness, but then we lost bookings because of the high cleaning fees. We had people reaching out that they were interested, but they wanted us to do something about the cleaning fees, so we had to find a balance between the two.
We did some investigating and realized that the house required extensive cleaning after large groups of eight or more. As an experiment, we reduced the maximum number of guests from eight to six. This solved for the extensive cleaning required for large groups and allowed us to reduce the cleaning fee back down to $150.
When we reduced our cleaning fees to their original price, we upped our nightly rates
To offset any unforeseen cleaning costs, we raised rates by $70 per night. Raising the price of the property and lowering the maximum capacity also brought in a more respectful type of guest. When we allowed more than 10 people in the home at a low price, they were often young groups of folks looking to party.
In hindsight, we should have raised the price and lowered the maximum capacity from the beginning, after our experiment it was clear that more guests meant more problems. Now, we've raised the rates another $75, and we've only seen our bookings drop roughly 10%.
We ask our guests to do 2 chores before they leave
This helps keep costs down and maintain the excellent condition of the property for future guests.
First, we ask guests to move the trash cans into a gated area on the side of the property before their departure because of bears. Bears frequent the area and love leftovers. If the home is vacant for a few days after guests depart, the bears take note and help themselves to a feast in the trash.
Second, we ask that guests take some measures to help out the cleaning professionals who come in after their departure, which also helps us keep our cleaning costs down. For example, we ask that guests place all linens and towels on the floor of the bathroom and bag all trash and dispose of it in the trash cans.
These changes have helped us to attract more quality bookings
I've found I'd rather have fewer guests at a higher rate. The monetary outcome is going to be the same, and the house will be in a lot better condition.
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