One of the difficult choices to make when managing a vacation rental is whether or not to charge a cleaning fee, refundable or not, over and above the rent. There really isn’t a right or wrong answer – but let’s discuss a few options and considerations to help you make a decision that’s right for you.
A general rule of thumb is that fairly high-end homes tend to include the cost of cleaning, although this is not always the case.
Charging a non-refundable cleaning fee
Pros: Obviously, charging a cleaning fee allows you to recoup a pretty expensive part of managing your home. Really good, dependable cleaning services on the Cape and Islands are in great demand during the busy summer weeks. As a result, they fill up their schedules quickly and are expensive.
And it’s not unusual to charge a cleaning fee these days, so your tenants shouldn’t be too surprised.
Also, your listing might be more likely to appear in a vacationer’s search with a lower price cap than if it were included in the rent.
Cons: Depending on how aggressive your rental pricing is already, you could risk losing bookings if the vacationers are unwilling to pay for the extra fee. The vacation rental market is very competitive, so take a look at comparable listings to make sure you are priced reasonably enough to allow for charging any extra fees. For assistance, see our blog post about pricing your home.
We find that some vacationers who have paid an extra cleaning fee feel that doing so releases them from having to lift a finger to clean at all before they leave – they’ve paid extra for cleaning, they’re going to get their money’s worth.
And since the substantial addition of the MA lodging tax, vacationers are especially sensitive to the mounting “add-on” costs of renting a home. (Thankfully at least, WeNeedaVacation does not charge vacationers a fee to use our site, making it easier for homeowners to charge one if they wish.)
What to charge
The amount to charge can vary between $100 and as much as $500+, depending on the size of the house. But the most common for an average size house is around $150-$250. What does your cleaning service charge for an average turnover cleaning?
Alternative (not recommended) options
Some homeowners opt to charge a refundable cleaning fee – if the house is left in an adequately clean condition, the fee is returned. This provides incentive for the tenants to leave the house clean, which is great. The problem is that the decision to return the funds is up to the homeowner, and this can lead to disputes about exactly how clean the house needed to be in order to allow for a full refund, or to justify only a partial return, or even none at all. The last thing you want to deal with is a dispute or a negative guest review.
In the past, some homeowners have offered their guests the choice: pay for cleaning, or clean the home themselves. Although this seems like a very fair and flexible arrangement, the fact is that this plan is fraught with problems and can end an otherwise wonderful vacation on a sour note if the homeowner feels that the vacationer didn’t leave the home as clean as expected. Again, just too many opportunities for disputes.
Including your cleaning costs in your rental price
Here are some subtle benefits to not charging extra for cleaning:
- First, it’s one more selling point for your rental. I don’t charge one, and I always feel like I clinch the deal when I assure my potential guests that, besides the tax, there are no additional costs at all.
- It’s also one less thing for either of us to deal with.
- And finally, providing a turn-key, thoroughly relaxing and enjoyable vacation for your guests, without any extra fees or responsibilities, is a big part of the homeowner’s ultimate goal: to have extremely happy guests who will love and take care of your home, write a lovely guest review when they leave, and return year after year.
Do you charge extra for cleaning? If so, has doing so ever created any problems with your tenants? Or do you think it has ever impacted a potential booking of your home?