As hosts, we know that Airbnb is a ‘review game,’ and the cleanliness of your space plays a big role in scoring the highly coveted five-star review. Today’s guest is prepared to share several key strategies that will help Airbnb hosts keep their vacation rental spic and span.
Neel Parekh is the CEO and Founder of MaidThis, a tech-enabled turnover service for short-term rentals based in California. The company provides top-notch, reliable cleaning services for Airbnb hosts via an online scheduling system. MaidThis cleaners are experienced in the short-term rental space, and they are trained to complete an inspection and damage report as needed.
Listen as Neel explains how to find reliable cleaners, train your staff, and select towels and bedding for your Airbnb. Surprise and delight your guests by meeting their expectations for an immaculate place to stay – and earn another superior review!
How to find a reliable cleaning staff
Neel’s guidance for training your cleaner
The most important spaces in terms of cleanliness
Neel’s advice about choosing colors for bedding and towels
Neel’s suggestions re: laundry
Neel’s best tips for hosts
The MaidThis service
Discount Code: GPFYP
This episode is sponsored by Hostfully.com where you can create a custom digital guidebook for your guests!
Complete Transcript for Get Paid for Your Pad Episode 153
Welcome to Get Paid for your Pad, a show on Airbnb hosting with the best advice on how to maximize profits from your Airbnb listing, as well as real life experiences from Airbnb hosts all over the world. Welcome.
This episode is brought to you by Hostfully, a company that helps you make beautiful guidebooks for your listing. Especially for get Paid for your Pad listeners, get free two months of their premium version. For more details, visit Hostfully.com/pad
Jasper: Welcome—another episode of Get Paid For Your Pad. And today, I’m going to talk all about cleaning, and as everybody knows, this is a very important subject. It’s very important to have a very, very clean space when you’re hosting on Airbnb. And so, I found an expert who can teach us a lot about how to really optimize your space and clean it. Welcome, Neel Pereck, he is the CEO and founder of MaidThis, which is a cleaning and turnover service for Airbnb Hosts. So Neel, welcome to the show.
Neel: Thanks so much Jasper for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Jasper: How’s life? You’re in California, right?
Neel: Yeah, basic California, sunny California—so can’t complain. Getting into summer time, which means that we’re going to get pretty pretty busy with vacation rentals, as I’m sure you know. So just gearing up for that. How about yourself?
Jasper: Awesome, well, I am in St. Petersburg in Russia. It’s pretty cold, even though it’s May. I think it was still freezing last night, but you know, I’m hanging in there. It’s a beautiful city, so there’s a lot of fun things to do here.
Neel: And that’s the beauty of your life right? You could just pack up and move to California and come hang out in person with me if it does get cold over there, so I think you’re doing that right, Jasper.
Jasper: Yeah, I mean I will actually be doing that in the summer. I’ll definitely come down to California.
Jasper: Awesome, so we have a lot to discuss, as you know, cleaning is very important—I think the number one complaint from guests in the accommodation industry, whether it’s hotels, Airbnb, or any other sort of accommodation, that the place wasn’t a hundred percent clean. There’s a lot to cover. We came up with a bunch of discussion points that will be most valuable to talk about. So let’s go down the list and start with, how do you find a reliable cleaner?
Neel: That’s a good question. I think that’s probably the most important thing you can have for peace of mind. You need reliability more than anything. The way I always think when we’re trying to find our own cleaners is finding someone reliable with a good attitude who you can trust is better than finding a fantastic cleaner, because you can train cleaning, but you can’t train reliability. So having a reliable cleaner is probably the most key thing you could have for your unit. So cleaners in general, let’s say you’re trying to find the cheapest one and you go on Craigslist and you find a cleaner over there and you think, perfect, this is set. If that cleaner happens to flake one time, you’re going to be scrambling to try to find somebody else and that person might not be trained so finding a reliable cleaner again, I think, is one of the most key things you could do. If I was to give a recommendation to hosts on how to do that, I would recommend a couple things. 1. Shameless plugger, with a company like ours, which always has cleaners on hand and we cover for you. If you’re going to try and find a cleaner yourself, what you can do is go through the normal channels. Craigslist, post on job sights, Indeed.com. You can go on Yelp and find companies. I would first try out one cleaner and always have one cleaner and a back-up cleaner, in case one falls through, and both of them should be trained. How to find a reliable cleaner? I don’t think I would recommend anyone just leave the one. I would recommend everyone have at least one primary cleaner and a backup cleaner, both of which are trained on your unit.
Jasper: Awesome. You know, you’re talking about training them. What does that mean, exactly?
Neel: Yeah, it’s a good question. So vacation rental cleaning is a lot different from regular residential cleaning. Most cleaners you’re going to find are going to be trained in regular residential cleaning, going into a normal house where a family lives and just sprucing it up and getting it ready for the family. That’s the more traditional way. And Jasper, I’m sure you’ve seen a bit of a shift in the last couple of years in what customers’ expectations are in vacation rentals. Before it was, hey you walk into someone’s home and you know it’s not going to be perfect, but it’s kind of okay and over the last couple of years, we have at least seen, guests are expecting hotel standard cleaning. So you want someone that’s going to keep that hotel standard and keep and eye out for things. So when you train them, it’d be on specifically making sure certain things are detailed how you want, making sure that there is no food in the fridge, the dishes are put away, pretty much training them to think as if it’s a hotel, not just cleaning somebody’s home. I think the shift in the mindset is something you’re going to train the most, because, to be honest, most cleaners you’re going to find are just very used to cleaning regular homes. So you can’t just throw them in there and say, clean it, because they need to keep an eye out for damages and low supplies and problems, and be a little bit more on the critical thinking side.
Jasper: I think that’s a really important point. I remember when I had started hosting on Airbnb, my cleaning lady who I had known for a long time, who had been cleaning my house even when I was living there, she works in hotels, right, so she’s used to that hotel standard. But even then, I would still get some small complaints every now and again, and it really kin of surprised me a little bit, how picky people are as a guest, when it comes to cleaning. But then again, at the same time, I know that when I’m staying somewhere and I’m not the cleanest person in the world, to be honest. But when I’m staying somewhere, I also really appreciate it when it’s like really really clean, it’s just because because you know, to be honest, you don’t really want to visualize somebody else using the same space, like even the shortest like a couple of hours ago or the day before, especially when it comes to the bathroom, or you know, like the bed. So I think it’s pretty hard, actually, to never get any complaints about cleaning. Even one little hair in the bed, everything can be spotless and one little hair could completely ruin the experience and get you complaints, so I totally agree that you know, you have to be very very disciplined about the cleaning. You have to train your personnel very very well and make them aware. Maybe even have them stay at somebody else’s Airbnb. Just do something to really make them aware and have them understand like what you’re dealing with. I think that’s a great point.
Neel: And just one thing on that, is, just for the audience, is realize that it’s humans doing it. As much as I would personally love for there to never be a mistake, for the cleaners to catch every single piece of hair. The fact is it’s just not going to happen. There’s going to be times where there’s some small miss and you just kind of have to live with it, right. So I think also for hosts, just being a little open minded, training them as much as you can, but realize, that hey, things aren’t always going to work our. That’s just kind of the nature of human error and cleaning, really, especially as you get into really filthy Airbnb situations, as I’m sure we’ve all had.
Jasper: So, I think that when it comes to cleaning, there are certain areas that are more important than others, right. I think the toilets, the bathrooms, and the bedrooms. I think those are probably the most important ones. I think, maybe, the kitchen as well. But I mean, if the toilet isn’t completely clean, people get very upset about that. Let’s talk a little bit about those areas. What do you think is important to keep in mind when it comes to those areas?
Neel: Yeah, that’s a fantastic question. I think you nailed the top three points, literally in order. The bathroom is number one because the last thing you want to see is someone else’s hair on the toilet or hair in the shower. It just kind of sets the wrong impression. That’s literally the last thing you want to see as a guest. So having the bathroom pristine is going to be number one. What we have found to make the best first impression is having the beds very professionally made. We do something called military tuck, which is essentially a hotel standard bed making, where you tuck in the corners, making the bed seem very crisp. What I see happening is people will, the guests will walk in and they check out the bed first, you know, you’re excited and go check out the bedrooms, and if the bed is made very nicely and there’s no hair on anything and it’s tucked in nicely, it kind of sets the impression for the entire place. They kind of think, well, if the beds made nicely, well everything is going to be good. Because of that, what kind of happens, and maybe this is me talking a little too much psychologically, but I think it’s a bit more of a confirmation bias. As long as they see the bed of bathroom more pristine, then maybe they’ll tend to overlook some other small flaws. But if those two things aren’t done properly to begin with, they’re going to start going around and starting to notice everything that’s missed in the place.
Jasper: And one little detail that I learned about a while ago that I thought was really interesting is, you know, when you have those little toilet bowls, using like those little stickers, that you put on the toilet roll to indicate that the roll hasn’t been used yet. I thought that was a very nice little detail to create that first impression. Because I mean if you walk into the toilet and you see that, that also probably sets really good expectations, right?
Neel: Yeah, that’s such a good idea. Our cleaners do like a folding thing, but I think stickers are even better, to be honest. We have one lady, which is pretty funny, who loves Origami, which is a little strange, but when she does the toilet roll folding, she makes it very intricate. We’ve gotten comments about how much guests love something like that around the toilet paper. So it is interesting you mention that too.
Jasper: Yeah this reminds me of some of the hotels that I’ve stayed in in Asia. I think in Asia, in particular, they’re very good about these type of little details. They can fold towels and do swans. They can create all sorts of like animals and figures, with towels, but also with other stuff and they have a really nice eye for detail out there. Have you ever had such an experience?
Neel: Yeah it always is nice when you walk into a place. It’s a pleasant surprise. All you want to do as a host is surprise and delight. The little little things you can do, especially with cleaning, can change the opinion of the entire stay of the guest and one of those things like you mentioned is doing something as simple as detail on the toilet paper. That can set the impression completely. I think we’ve both been in situations like that where you walk into a hotel and you see something cool like that and it just sets the tone for the entire stay.
Jasper: What about the smell of the place? I know that one hotel that I used to stay in was my favourite hotel for a while. It’s called the Shern Roulaugh hotel. It’s a hotel chain in Asia. One of the reasons I really like this hotel was when you walked into the lobby of this hotel, there’s always this like really nice, fresh smell. It’s very distinct and subtle smell, it’s not very strong. Every time I walk into this hotel, it brings that association back. I know there’s people who talk about smells or like there’s different devices you can put into your room that every minute or so, it’ll push out this little odor.
Neel: Usually, cleaners just have an air freshener. Right before they leave, they just do one little spray in the middle of the living room and that’s kind of it. I love the idea that you just mentioned of just automatic dispensers. I think maybe that’s something I should recommend to most hosts to do. It’s probably the easiest thing to do so you don’t rely on someone else remembering to keep the place fresh. You just always do it. And it’s super cheap, right, a buck or two bucks pretty much to have that and it pretty much sets the tone. Yeah, but I like that idea a lot. We do just a smaller freshener, but to be honest, having a constant freshener is probably going to set the tone the best.
Jasper: Another really important aspect of a clean space, I think, is you know, you mentioned the bed. The bed should be made really well. What about the color of the sheets?
Neel: Good question, so, I do have strong opinions about this. I didn’t think before I started this company, that I would ever have strong opinions about colors of sheets, but I do have strong opinions about this. White sheets look the best, but you’re probably going to spend the most money because they’re going to get stained the most and be ruined the most. It’s just generally how it happens, but they do look the best. I prefer somewhat of a, not dark color, but something which can potentially hide longer term stains, so often times I’ll tell people to get light gray sheets and especially light gray towels. Towels, I don’t know what it is, but it seems that every time we walk into a place, which often times has girls in it, they use the towels to take off their makeup. And if you have white towels, it’s going to completely ruin it, versus if you have slightly colored towels, you can actually get most of it out and still salvage the towel. So I would actually advise against whit towels unless you’re okay with paying more because you’re going to probably have to replace it more. But it does look better, so there’s pros and cons. What are your thoughts about that?
Jasper: Well, I definitely think that white linen is the best because hen you walk into a room and you see white linen that’s clean, then you know for sure that it’s clean. If it’s a darker color, it might look clean, but people are aware that you can hide things with darker colors. It’s an interesting topic because I think that white linens are probably the best choice, but at the same time, like you said, you’re probably going to spend more money on washing and replacing them. However, white things, you can wash at really high temperatures so that’s good, but then at the same time, I think when you wash something at a really hot temperature, it also damages the fabric, so you’re going to have to replace it sooner than otherwise. So I don’t really have a definitive answer. It depends a bit on the situation too, like if you’re renting out the place for $400 bucks a night, then you’re making the money to invest in good linens and to spend a little bit more money on washing them, where if you rent out the spare room for like $50 bucks a night or something, it just takes out too big a chunk of your income.
Neel: Yeah, I 100% agree. I think all the high-end places are using all white linens and that’s probably what I would recommend if you have a bigger-end place, you’re probably making enough money per night to do that anyways, so totally depends on the appetite to buy linens.
You’ve heard me talk about Hostfully a lot over the past few months. I love sending my beautiful Hostfully guidebook over to my guests, as it makes me look very professional. I also love including screenshots of my guidebook in my actual Airbnb listing. This helps me stand out to the crowd. Well, now I’m thrilled to announce that I’m a sponsor of the Hostfully host program. Twice a month, Hostfully selects a host and features them on their top-rank blog. This is great promotion for your listing and a cool way to share you favourite local spots with a large audience. What’s even cooler is that each Hostfully host gets a free set of organic sheets from the Clean Bedroom. And now that I’m a sponsor, you’ll also be featured in my newsletter, my social media feeds, and you’ll get free access to my video course on how to be a great host. For more details and how to apply, visit Hostfully.com/hostfullyhost.
Jasper: Let’s move onto the next topic. So what are some of the biggest pitfalls with cleaning and scheduling? What are some of the things, especially with people just starting out with Airbnb, I mean, you know, this is one of the questions that comes up the most is, how do you manage your listing, how do you find a good cleaner, and how do you make sure your place is being turned over well? What are some of the things that people should look out for?
Neel: Sure, so, let’s think here, there are so many ways to answer that question. I think the main answer would go back to what we talked about initially Jasper, which is finding reliable cleaners. If you find a reliable cleaner and a backup cleaner and you’ve trained them properly from the beginning, I think that would set the tone and solve 90% of the problems because they’re going to be on the lookout for any issues, and as long as you train them on how to think, most of your issues are going to be solved. This next tip here, which is, to be honest, probably more for the befit of the cleaners, but it helps out with the cleaners a lot. I see a lot of beginner hosts put a ton of towels out, a ton of linens out, and I’m sure you know guests are going to use every single thing you put out. They’re going to use everything. So at least in our rent, from the cleaners point of view, if the cleaner gets to a unit and the guests used everything, it takes them forever just to do laundry, and they end up missing a lot of other things, which they should have spent extra time doing. So my rule of thumb to everyone is two towels for bed, one towel for twin, and lock away any extra linen, and that’s pretty much it. I think for us, laundry by far, is the biggest problem. If there’s too much laundry, it makes the rest of the cleaning worse because the cleaner’s worried about laundry and there’s a certain time to do it before the next guest checks in. They can’t do the small little touches like we talked about which are so important. In my point of view, too much laundry often causes a lot of problems. I wouldn’t say that’s the biggest pitfall. The biggest pitfall is just finding any cleaner and thinking they can do vacation rental cleaning, when it’s very different. And secondary, would be, hey, help the cleaner out, tell them to not put too much linen out.
Jasper: So to be clear, you recommend two towels per bed, per double bed, so that’s basically one towel per person, right?
Neel: Yep, exactly. Some hosts want to put it in the bathroom which is fine. We have found, we want the bed to look as nice as possible. We do a very tight tuck on the bed, two towels nicely placed on the bed, and like we mentioned, like we talked about before Jasper, the bed, if they look at that, and it’s the most pristine it’s going to set the tone for the entire stay, so we put the towels on the bed.
Jasper: Is this dependent on the length of the stay or do you always provide one towel per person?
Neel: We normally always provide one towel per person. I’ve had some hosts ask to leave the some out, which is fine, but usually that’d be on the host to decide how many they want to leave out, or they can let the guests know hey just to call them and they can drop off extra towels. But I suppose it does depend on the length of stay, we’re just more focused on setting it up for short-term guests.
Jasper: Right. I know I’ve gotten some feedback from guests in the past who were staying for a longer time, that they felt that one towel was a little, well, not a lot, basically. They wanted to have some more towels. So I typically look at the length of stay. If somebody is staying like a week or more, I would generally let them know where they can find more towels, and kind of let them use as many as they want. But definitely for a 1, 2, or 3 night stay, I’m definitely more strict with towels. It’s definitely true what you said, people use what you give them. I’m a very bad example of that. I actually just stayed at an Airbnb in Moscow. This lady, her closet was full of towel. There were so many towels. I actually noticed that every time I walked into the bathroom, I see this clean nice, folded towel and I could totally use the towel that I used the day before, but it just looked so nice that you can’t help but grab one. I was a little bit embarrassed when I left the place. I had only been there a week and I had used so many towels. And I felt a little bit sorry for the host. I was thinking.
Neel: And the cleaning lady. Our poor cleaning ladies have to deal with you Jasper.
Jasper: Yeah, I know, it’s terrible. I’ll try to better myself. But anyway, one of the things that I always recommend the host to do is to stay in our Airbnbs. You just learn so much from turning the experience upside down and being on the other side of the equation. It’s really interesting.
Neel: Yeah, yeah, I 100% agree that. You start to see things from the guest’s perspective. So it’s not like, oh why is the guest complaining about that? You’re kind of like okay I understand why the guest is thinking that way, and then you can be proactive and making sure that’s fixed in the unit.
Jasper: And then one topic we haven’t talked about yet is the re-stocking of supplies. Do you have any thing to comment on that?
Neel: So yeah, I do. So generally, we do re-stocking of supplies for all hosts and we put out a reasonable number of toilet paper and soap, whatever they need. What I usually advise our hosts to do is to keep it somewhere stored. If they can’t lock it, at least put it somewhere which is hard to find, so the guests don’t kind of get into the supply closet. You never want there to be the question mark of whether the guests are completely using and abusing the supply. Usually, store it somewhere safe. In the ideal case, store it somewhere you can lock it up. Let your cleaner know the code and then have them do re-stocking of supplies. I do know of some hosts who do the service of where they have the supplies in a nice little packet on the bed, waiting for the guest. You can totally do that and I think it sets a fantastic impression. I think it’s just more so of what you want to devote your money and resources to. If anything, at least lock up your supplies. Put it somewhere easy for the cleaner to get. Best case, at least lock it and make sure the guests can’t get into it.
Jasper: Awesome. Awesome advice. Yeah, I used to provide a lot of stuff for my guests when I was starting out. I went to a wholesale store and bought I don’t know, like hundreds of cans of coke and soda, water, and all sorts of stuff like chocolates and I just put it in the closet. And you know, a couple weeks later, my cleaning lady, she sent me a message. She said, hey, you know, we’re out of supplies. I was like, what? Haha, like I mean seriously. I had a large stock. You’ve got to be drinking a lot of soda to finish all that. I’m pretty sure. Some people took the liberty of taking some with them. I guess I didn’t communicate it well with my guests, that they weren’t supposed to do that.
Neel: Yeah and I guess let’s think abut it this way. How often have we taken a soap when we’re staying at hotel rooms? I’ve definitely done that and I’m sure all of us have. Maybe the guests just think it’s a hotel and they take everything with them.
Neel: Guilty, haha.
Jasper: Is there anything else you wanted to share, with regards to cleaning? Is there anything we’ve missed?
Neel: Any pearls of wisdom—let me think. I think the overall thing I would probably want to tell everyone. Vacation rentals is a review game. The best reviews get the business. It’s so competitive that you need to have your reviews pristine. Sometimes people try to save money by skimping on the cleaning fee and trying to find someone cheap for cleaning. In the long wrong, I found it’ll lose you money because there’s other people who have fantastic reviews who are just going to take your spots on Airbnb and on these other vacation rental websites, so don’t skimp on cleaning. Think about it a lot and make sure it’s set up properly from the beginning, because that’s going to be one of the most defining factors of your reviews, which is the whole game here. So always have primaries and back ups. Make sure you’re never in a rut or hey, use a company like ours and it’s always taken care of.
Jasper: Great advice, great advice. I definitely always recommend the same thing. Don’t economize on cleaning. It’s a short-term gain, a long-term loss, you know. It’s winning the battle, losing the war kind of thing.
Jasper: Great advice. So, where is your company, where is MaidThis? Where is it located? Which areas do you serve?
Neel: Sure, so we’re in California right now so we do Los Angeles, Orange County, which is about an hour south of Los Angeles, and San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area right now. Mostly California, but eventually we plan to expand to different cities around the U.S. but for now we are California-based.
Jasper: Awesome. And what kind of pricing system do you have? What does it cost if somebody wants to hire your cleaners?
Neel: Yes. The cool part is we are complete flat-rate, so you can just put that as a cleaning fee to your guests. You don’t have to worry about hourly or things like that. So flat-rate based on the size of your home. Laundry is included. We will just give you the quote based on your volume. That’s pretty much it. We just try to just keep it as simple as possible. After every cleaning, sorry after every guest stay, you just book a cleaning with us, we have all of your notes. We try and send you the same cleaners every time. So yeah, pretty much, trying to make it as simple as possible.
Jasper: Awesome. And for those in California who are interested, how can they find you?
Neel: Yeah, thanks for asking. So you can just type in MaidThis into Google. You can also just email me directly. That’s Neel, N-E-E-L, at MaidThis.com. For the listeners, even if you have any questions, and you’re not even in California, you just kind of want to pick my brain, I love hearing from you guys so feel free to shoot me an email and I can help you guys out.
Jasper: Awesome. And do you have any discounts, coupons that you can provide?
Neel: You know, just for you Jasper, because you’re asking, we will provide discount codes for all of your listeners. The discount code, will be posted, I think, in your show notes, but it will pretty much just be the abbreviation of Get Paid For Your Paid. So we’ll go to put that in your show notes and your listeners will get a discount code off their first cleaning with us.
Jasper: Awesome. Very cool. So the code is GPFYP, an abbreviation of Get Paid For Your Pad. Awesome, well Neel, thank you so much for joining today. I think it’s been a very informative and valuable discussion. So, you know, great to have you on the show. Good luck with your company, and who knows, maybe we will chat again in the future.
Neel: Yeah, maybe I’ll meet you in Russia and we’ll do some Airbnbing out there.
Jasper: Yeah, sounds good. All right, thanks a lot. And for listeners, thanks for listening. I hope you found this episode useful. And next week, we’ll be back, and also on Thursday, there will be the news episode where I’ll be discussing the latest in the world of Airbnb. So that’s it for now. See you next time.