Vacation Rental 101: Housekeeping

The Evolve Team
The Evolve Team
December 31, 2019

The number one cause of vacation rental guest complaints is cleanliness.

When guests pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to stay in your home, they expect it to be immaculate. If it hasn’t been cleaned before their arrival, they’re understandably going to be upset.

Fortunately, it’s an easy problem to avoid. You just need a quality housekeeping service that understands why cleaning to vacation rental standards is different than what’s required for a typical house cleaning.


A vacation rental cleaning goes above and beyond what you’d expect from a typical house cleaning. Your housekeeper needs to be ready to provide a higher level of service, and handle tasks like:

  • Cleaning the linens that were used by previous guests
  • Sanitizing surfaces after previous guests check out
  • Checking that the next guest has sufficient quantities of toilet paper and cleaning products
  • Keeping an eye out for damage
  • Checking for missing items and taking pictures of any damage
  • Testing various items in the house to be sure they work

In other words, your housekeeping service isn’t only cleaning. It’s also going to make your home guest-ready. Click here to see the full task list for a vacation rental cleaning.


The first decision you need to make about cleaning your vacation rental is whether you’re going to do the work yourself or hire a service to handle it for you.

Doing your own cleaning is an easy way to cut down on management costs and increase your income. But it only makes sense if you live locally and can afford to treat your vacation rental as a full-time job.

Even if doing it yourself seems like an attractive option, ask yourself an honest question: Can I commit to deep-cleaning the entire property more than once a week?

In high season, you might have “quick turns” where a guest checks out at 10 a.m. and the next guest checks in at 4 p.m. In that window, you’ll need to provide a thorough cleaning. If you can’t guarantee you’ll be ready and willing to do that, you need to hire someone who can.


Working with a cleaning service is a great alternative.

If you don’t want to handle the cleaning yourself or you don’t live near your rental property, it’s helpful to have a trusted housekeeper who will visit your home on a regular basis to keep things in great shape for guests.

A cleaning service can also keep an eye on the state of things and let you know if anything is looking worse for wear. If a remote control is missing or an item has been damaged since the guests checked out, you’ll know immediately and can take swift action.

As you’re weighing your options, keep in mind that some property managers won’t give you the choice at all.

While Evolve gives you the option to choose the right housekeeping set up for you, traditional property managers obligate you to work with their in-house cleaning company. This can be a great option if they work with a 5-star housekeeping service. But it’s less than ideal if their cleaners provide lackluster service or have high turnover of employees.

To protect yourself – and your guests – from a bad experience, ask for references before agreeing to use a housekeeping service or a property manager.


Cleaning fees vary based on location and property size. A studio apartment in Nashville costs $25 while a five-bedroom property in Park City goes for $250.

You can get a good idea of the fees in your area by browsing a listing site like Vrbo. Look at 10 properties to get an average of the cleaning fee other properties in your area charge. That’s what we did to get our averages above.

Generally speaking, you should expect to pay more than you would for a typical house cleaning.

The good news is that your guests typically pay the cleaning fee. It’s standard practice to pass along cleaning fees to the traveler as a line item in their booking total. They’re the ones using the property and benefiting from the service, after all.

Still, it pays to be price conscious as you’re vetting cleaning companies. An exorbitantly high fee can turn travelers away from booking your property.


Other owners in your area are valuable resources. Ask them to refer you to any cleaning services they’ve heard about or enjoyed working with in the past.

If you don’t know of any vacation rental hosts in your locale, you can get some good leads from newspapers or online listings and ads. Whenever possible, look for cleaning companies that are licensed, insured, and bonded.

It’s always a good idea to ask for references and give their former clients a call before making a hiring decision.

This is one of the steps we take when vet businesses for our Evolve Partner Network to make sure we’re working with the industry’s best on-the-ground service providers. We’ve found those references to be incredibly helpful in determining if a cleaning company can deliver the level of service we demand from the partners who work with our owners.


When you’re interviewing potential service providers, here are some questions to ask (and answers to listen for):

Have you cleaned vacation rentals before?

Ideally, the answer is ‘yes.’ That means the individual/service has cleaned a vacation rental before and knows how much more work it takes than a typical house cleaning.

If the answer is ‘no,’ don’t lose hope. You can easily explain what additional services you’ll need. The important thing is to find someone who is willing to hear you out and provide those additional services.

What are your rates for a scheduled vacation rental cleaning vs. a quick turn? What about last-minute emergencies?

The fee for regularly scheduled services will be the base rate you can expect to pay.

It’s also helpful to know if they charge an additional fee to schedule their day around you so they can accommodate quick turns (when a guest checks out at 10 a.m. and another one checks in at 3 p.m.) It’s not unusual for housekeepers to tack on a charge for this, so you need to be comfortable with their fees.

If your cleaning company can help in a pinch, say there was a scheduling mistake and your property wasn’t cleaned or the plumbing backs up and you need help fast, you’ve found a winner. Just make sure to find out how much it’ll set you back for this emergency service

How many people do you have on staff?

It’s best to have more than one cleaner available. This increases the likelihood that you’ll have help when you need it. It’s not necessarily a deal breaker if a service only has one person, but it’s a good idea to find a backup just in case that person is not available in an emergency.

Are you willing to provide additional services in every clean?

Confirm they can provide the scope of the services you’ll need beyond your usual vacuuming, sweeping, and dusting, including:

  • Sanitizing all the surfaces in the bathroom and kitchen
  • Washing and changing the linens
  • Hanging fresh towels
  • Emptying the fridge and cleaning the interior
  • Putting away dishes
  • Cleaning underneath and between furniture cushions
  • Looking for damage or missing items
  • Stocking the home with toilet paper, soap, etc.
  • Providing light maintenance (changing smoke detector batteries, light bulbs) when necessary

Download these checklists for a full look at the cleaning duties your housekeeper should provide.

Can they provide deep cleans?

Preferably, they’re open to doing a semi-annual deep clean to keep your home looking great year-round. Think of this like a spring clean you do twice a year instead of once, which includes things like:

  • Washing the curtains
  • Flipping the mattresses
  • Paint touch ups
  • Steam-cleaning or conditioning furniture
  • Cleaning all kitchen appliances

Download our Deep Cleaning Checklists for deep cleaning tasks that address regular wear and tear and keep vacation rentals in great shape.

Wash, rinse, and repeat

Once you get a great housekeeping system in place, you can focus on what really matters: creating a fantastic space for guests to stay.

Whether you’re rolling up your sleeves and doing the cleaning yourself, or hiring a rockstar cleaning team, remember that the goal is to deliver consistently clean accommodations. When you meet guests’ expectations for a tidy vacation rental, you don’t just avoid complaints. You make a great first impression that can turn into amazing reviews that keep your property booked.

This post is part of Evolve’s Vacation Rental 101: The Expanded Ultimate Guide to Success series, where we discuss the ins and outs of vacation rental ownership for newcomers and experienced veterans alike.

Looking for help as you get your vacation rental off the ground? Get the resources you need to make short-term rental easy and profitable. Learn more about how Evolve can help.

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