Since submitting this article, COVID-19 has surfaced and ravaged the globe, the economy and this industry. Now, more than ever, it is the property managers ultimate and ethical responsibility to ensure every workspace and rental home is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. It may actually be time to bring in the blow torches, folks. Not really…but maybe? COVID-19 has a surface life of up to 17 days. This is a daunting new discovery and one that must be taken seriously in your workplace and rental inventory, to reduce the spread of this virus and to provide a safe and virus-free environment. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that deep cleans, or additional deep cleans if the home has been occupied since the initial clean, must be completed prior to the arrival of returning guests.
With travel being severely limited – or not allowed at all – now is the time to prepare for the return of your guests. Now is the time to thoroughly clean and disinfect your workspaces. The simple act of cleaning may not be enough, according to the CDC & EPA, here are some key term differences to keep in mind:
Cleaning removes germs and dirt from surfaces. You can use soap and water to clean surfaces. This doesn’t always kill germs, but removing them lowers their numbers. It’s suggested to clean surfaces before you disinfect them.
Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces. Disinfectant chemicals are stronger than soap but do not necessarily clean visibly dirty surfaces or remove germs. Killing germs lowers the risk of infection. To properly disinfect, products need to remain on a surface for a specific amount of time — usually 3 to 5 minutes.
Sanitizing also kills germs, but disinfecting kill more of them. Some products are capable of doing both, but disinfecting requires a bit more work. Still, sanitizers effectively lower the risk of infection.
You may be asking, well who is going to pay for all of this amidst economic uncertainty? That is a valid question. Owners may be less likely to agree to cover the cost of additional cleanings. Here are some suggestions for lightening the burden.
CDC Guidelines – share CDC guidelines on disinfecting a home (as the CDC recommends we all behave as if we are infected/carriers, so should we in respect to the homes we care for).
Keep it in-house where possible – Enlist salaried staff who may have a lightened load due to the pandemic. Ensure they have the right equipment and the proper PPE (personal protective equipment).
Offer a payment plan – Consider allowing a payment plan for owners who are concerned about costs with pending economic uncertainty.
Update your PMA (if you haven’t already done so) – Experts agree, this virus will come in waves. Until a vaccine is available, we should expect the resurfacing of COVID-19. It would be wise to include mandatory deep cleans as part of your Pandemic strategy.
Ethical responsibility – this one should be a no-brainer. COVID-19 should be treated as a major extenuating circumstance. Everyone has a role to play in staunching the spread of this virus, a deep clean (or additional deep clean) is an important process and should be the bare minimum process offered for all returning guests.
Guests will expect it! – Now, more than ever, guests are going to expect and require knowledge of a properly cleaned and sanitized home prior to their return or booking. Promote your efforts! Enlist marketing to capture your staff cleaning and disinfecting. Educate them on the differences between cleaning, disinfecting, sanitizing (it may help them in their own homes). Show off your efforts and get them excited about returning once this all clears.
Keeping COVID-19 at bay is a responsibility for every one of us. Now is the time to prepare. The uncertainty is legitimate, but consider a realistic timeline once this all clears. You will have guests who will require time to get their lives back in order before they even consider taking their trip. You will have guests who are distressed by being cooped up they will need their respite away from their homes. No one can predict these things for sure, but you can count on your guests expecting a white-glove, maybe even test kit in hand approach to renting with you once this all clears.
This article can easily be filled with dozens—no, hundreds—of reasons why the deep clean is important, and we can outline every facet of what should be touched during said deep clean. However, in 2020, it’s time to take a different approach to this crucial aspect of professional property care. The deep clean is not simply ensuring every nook and cranny is touched, disinfected, scraped, magic erased, laundered, power washed, blowtorched, and Febreezed on an annual/bi-annual/quarterly basis; it is quite literally the heart and soul of professional property care.
OK, so blowtorches aren’t necessary, but are you paying attention yet?
This single event is checking the pulse of your business. Yes, really.
The Gunk Is Real
It is not reasonable or realistic to expect absolute perfection from your staff on a changeover clean. A changeover or turnover clean focuses on disinfecting the kitchen, bathrooms, floors, linens, and surface areas. It is helpful to toss in a weekly rotation of deep cleaning tasks, such as dusting ceiling fans, baseboards, knickknacks and décor, and AC vents, but we simply don’t have enough time, manpower, or resources to justify a full deep clean every week.
For example, a home that sleeps 12 people with a 16-week rental season will host about 200 people. A vacation home is lived in (much) harder than a residential home. Of those 200 people, how many do you believe will take the time on their vacation to thoroughly wipe down the blender after they have splattered it while making margaritas? How many will take the time to remove every crumb from the utensil drawer they were just noshing over? And what about the crumbs from the pizza they just sliced that fell into the burner pans and beyond? Do you realize that most people don’t even know you can lift up the range cooktop and clean under it?
Honestly, the gunk is real. As vacation providers and memory makers, can we even be mad about this?
The answer is no, we want them to come gunk up these homes because that gunk is money in the bank for us and our owners. That gunk is employment for someone; that gunk helps the economy. We just don’t have time to deal with it on turnover.
Checking the Pulse
While the deep clean gives us a chance to “de-gunk,” or clean to perfection, it also gives us a chance to check the pulse of many facets of the business—and it begins in the home.
Inspect the property thoroughly for those nice-to-have upgrades, the strongly encouraged upgrades, and the critical upgrades.
Use this time as a great opportunity to plan a replacement schedule with your owner, as well as any necessary renovation plans. Having a minimum standard policy in place for your rental program holds the owner accountable for any necessary upgrades.
Upsell preventative maintenance plans, preventative pest service (especially in your fur-friendly properties), fall or spring maintenance tune-ups, upholstery and carpet cleaning, power washing windows and decks, and, of course, the deep clean.
This process calls for effort across multiple departments and offers the critical opportunity for relationship building with your owners. It is not a good idea to have your owners deep clean the property themselves, so if it isn’t in your PMA yet, put it in there today. It is beyond embarrassing having to criticize the owners’ hard work, and it isn’t any less embarrassing on their end. Just remove that uncomfortable exchange and keep your deep cleans in-house.
The time for deep cleaning is circumstantial to your business and your local industry; however, it is necessary that this process is done, at the very least, on an annual basis.
Deep cleans also keep your staff employed during slow seasons, if this applies to your business. Planning a successful deep cleaning effort across your inventory of properties is quite the logistical feat. It is important to communicate with an owner prior to scheduling a deep clean. Completing a deep clean right before a construction crew enters the home and erases your efforts is not the perfect scenario. Ideally, a deep clean is performed just prior to or following the rental season. If a home is particularly well used, a mini-deep clean during the season is also necessary.
Pricing Deep Cleans
Pricing a deep clean can be tricky, and many factors must be considered.
How long should the deep clean take? The process is a strenuous and lengthy one. Expect a deep clean to take anywhere from a full day to a week, depending on the size of the property and how many days or weeks it was rented.
Are you paying your cleaners hourly or piece rate?
Will your cleaner be laundering linens on the property or bringing them back to an in-house facility? Will they be outsourced, or both in-house and outsourced? Even with an in-house laundry facility, bulky and specialty comforters that require dry cleaning will need to be sent to a dry cleaners, so you should factor in that cost, as well as the cost of extra trips to and from the dry cleaners. Or you can simply bill it directly to the owner.
What will your market bear? A property management company should expect to charge anywhere from one-and-a-half to five times the amount of a typical turnover cleaning fee. This approach may not result in a solid return on investment (ROI) if your cleaning fees are on the low end, so you may want to consider creating a formula to calculate an hourly fee.
For instance, if you charge $20 to clean a small apartment on changeover, even utilizing the five-times multiplier, then this would not result in a solid ROI, especially if your cleaner is earning an hourly wage. Even a small apartment can end up taking anywhere from five to eight (or more) hours to deep clean (including multiple trips to launder linens and comforters, especially if no on-site laundry facility is available). Pull out a calculator and crunch some numbers to ensure you can pay your cleaner a fair wage for a more laborious job, cover the cost of materials and/or tools used, launder linens, and turn a profit. You are running a business after all.
As more and more guests skip the check-in office and head straight to the property, the cleanliness and appearance of the property are the first impressions those guests have of your company. The first impression is critical and sets the tone for the rest of their stay. It is no secret that a sparkly clean and well-cared-for property is quite simply how a professional property manager stays in business. Guest expectations are at an all-time high, as are your guests’ options for leaving reviews and sharing their experiences in an ever-connected world. Thus, the deep clean should be handled as mission critical.