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Airbnb hosts are making guests work and paying for cleaning

Opinions expressed by entrepreneurial contributors are their own.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

This as-is article is based on a conversation Michelle Bursonan owner 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 was emotional for our family – my dad really wanted to pass the house down to me and thought it would be weird to sell it.

3 years ago, we turned my parents’ old house into an Airbnb

Income from rentals allows us to maintain it. It has been a perfect situation.

Michelle Burson

Courtesy of Michelle Barson

But in late 2020, we had problems like mold in the shower and someone put a joint on the property. Cleanliness was reflected in our review. We spoke with our property manager and he explained that due to COVID-19, the cleaning professionals had to take extra cleaning measures and did not have enough time to address those issues.

As the host, we have the power to determine the price of the cleaning fee

The cleaning fee is an additional cost on top of the nightly rate to cover the cost of cleaning the house. Therefore, we have decided to increase our cleaning fee from $151 to $300.

We had to do this because the cleanliness issues stemmed from the size of the house, and a cleaning professional simply couldn’t clean the 4,000-plus-square-foot house in the few hours they were given in the morning and between guests. The newcomers were arriving later that afternoon.

When we increased our cleaning fees, we doubled the number of cleaning professionals

It helped with cleanliness, but then we lost bookings due to high cleaning fees. We had people reach out saying they were interested, but they wanted us to do something about the cleaning fee, so we had to find a balance between the two.

Michelle Burson's Airbnb

Courtesy of Michelle Barson

We did some investigating and realized that the house needed extensive cleaning after a large group of eight or more. As an experiment, we reduced the maximum number of guests from eight to six This solved the extensive cleaning required for large groups and allowed us to lower the cleaning fee to $150.

When we reduced our cleaning fees to their original price, we increased our nightly rent

To offset any unexpected cleaning costs, we have increased the rate to $70 per night. Raising property prices and lowering peak capacity brings in more respectable types of guests. When we allowed more than 10 people in the low-cost houses, they were often groups of young people looking to party.

In hindsight, we should have raised the price and reduced the maximum capacity from the start, after our tests it became clear that more guests meant more problems. Now, we’ve increased the rate by another $75 and we’ve only seen our bookings drop by roughly 10%.

We ask our guests to do 2 things before they leave

This helps keep costs down and maintain the property’s excellent condition for future guests.

First, we ask guests to move trash cans to a gated area on the side of the property prior to their departure due to bears. Bears frequent the area and love leftovers. If the house is empty for a few days after the guests leave, the bears take note and help themselves to a feast of garbage.

Michelle Burson's Airbnb

Courtesy of Michelle Barson

Second, we request that guests make some arrangements to assist the cleaning professionals who come after their departure, which helps keep our cleaning costs down. For example, we request that guests place all linens and towels on the bathroom floor and bag and dispose of all trash in trash cans.

These changes have helped us attract more quality bookings

I’ve found I’d rather have fewer guests at a higher rate. The financial results are going to be the same, and the house will be in much better shape.

Axel Springer, Insider Inc. An investor in its parent company, Airbnb.

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