Christmas Travel During COVID & Flu Season- Is Your Airbnb Clean Enough?

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By Jonathan Wicks 

Jonathan Wicks, Founder of Well & Good Property Services, advises on shopping smart and thinking clean when looking for a vacation home for holiday travel

The holidays are upon us, which means many things: eating, shopping, and, of course, travel. This holiday season is also celebrated under the still-looming shadow of COVID, not to mention the winter flu season. When people set out to travel across the United States to visit family and friends, they will be looking for clean and comfortable short-term rentals in which to stay. They will also expect those vacation homes to be appropriately sanitized to keep them safe. 

With short-term rentals (STRs) gaining in popularity over the past decade, the industry has experienced some issues with regulation. Currently, there is very little in the way of standardization for cleanliness and maintenance of short-term rental homes, like those offered through sites like Airbnb or VRBO. This means that travelers may not know what they’re walking into when they open that vacation rental door. 

Short Staff and Corners Cut 

COVID has affected everything, and staffing shortages have been an issue every industry has grappled with nationwide. The staffing shortages in cleaning and property services have created a perfect storm of cut corners and unhappy tenants.

Because property managers are desperate for help, cleans are being completed by teams who have little to no process and less than adequate resources and supplies. Teams who are not well-trained or following a standard procedure are cleaning “room by room,” often creating a mix of clean and dirty throughout the property. 

The bad reviews are sure to follow when turning over properties to the next tenant in less-than-stellar condition. Bad press, in turn, negatively affects the bottom line of property managers and property owners. 

Red Flags 

What cleanliness “red flags” should vacationers look for when walking into a property for the first time? 

The number one indicator that a home isn’t as clean as a vacationer may hope is the laundry. Often, vacation homes are “flipped” from one stay to the next very quickly. The chances that all of the linens in a home were washed in hot water in a small amount of time are rather slim, especially when the manpower and supplies needed to complete a job are lacking. In an ideal situation, the linens from a vacation home should be laundered off-site using commercial machines after every stay. 

Another red flag is one that travelers may not be privy to, but property managers certainly can be. Does your cleaning crew show up without the necessary supplies? Some cleaning crews will show up, hoping the house has the cleaning supplies they will need to complete the job already there. When that isn’t the case, corners are cut. 

When travelers enter a vacation home for the first time, they should check doorknobs and the area around handles. If there is dirt, makeup, or the area is generally unclean, that indicates the home may not have been as thoroughly cleaned as it should have been. 

Another red flag is dirty vents and register covers. If dust and debris are visible in vents and register covers, this indicates that the property owner may not have maintained the ventilation system properly. Proper, clean ventilation is crucial during COVID. 

 Potential renters should ask questions about the cleaning process and what products are being used to clean a home. Education and diligence in renting can help vacationers assure a stay in a clean and safe environment. 

Standardization is Key 

There is a solution even with shortages in staffing and supply chain issues with cleaning products. Standardization of the cleaning and maintenance process is crucial. With process standardization and professionalism, property managers can expect to scale their businesses even in this tough economy. As the industry grows, its ability to scale sustainably will be primarily impacted not by the booking company themselves but by servicing and maintaining the properties in a professional manner.

What we’ve done with Well & Good Property Services is create the first “step-by-step” guide to fully servicing a short-term rental property. We start with the basics (removing trash and used linens) creating a “blank slate” for thorough cleaning. In addition, we supply our teams with everything they need to properly complete the job. Fresh, commercially laundered linens, professional-grade cleaning supplies, and hotel-grade consumables, such as soaps and paper products, all come standard with our service. 

As travel ramps up around the holiday season, property managers and owners will want to offer the best in quality to the bevy of travelers. Assuring quality all starts with standardizing the cleaning process. Standardization allows maintenance teams to work through each job, knowing it’s done every time correctly. It gives property owners peace of mind, and renters can rest easy knowing that they are placing their heads on a clean pillow at night.

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