How to ensure consistent cleanings every time

As I’ve written about before, one of the hardest things about running a short-term rental is standardizing the cleanings. 

Of course it helps to have a good cleaner – and if you’ve found one, make sure you do everything you can to hold onto her! But the nature of this business is that sometimes you’re going to have to use alternate or backup cleaners. 

So how do you ensure that you get the same level of cleaning every time, no matter who is doing the work?

Two words: cleaning checklists. 

There are many ways to do this. 

You can print out a stack of paper checklists and have the cleaner leave it behind when she leaves, so the guest also knows what’s been done. Many guests like this extra touch that reassures them the house has been properly cleaned before their arrival. 

You could share a Trello board or Wunderlist list. These are both free and very simple. However, the old adage you get what you pay for is very true, so they both come with their own limitations. Make sure you test these tools out before you commit to them. 

Both of the main paid turnover management systems out there, Properly and TurnoverBnB, also support cleaning lists. Properly’s interface is very slick, allowing you to basically do a full photo walkthrough of everything you want done in your property. 

However, I personally find Properly a little too flashy. I prefer Turnover. Turnover also allows you to attach a photo to a checklist item if need be, although it’s not quite as slick as Properly. 

But what I really like about Turnover is that you can highlight certain items on your checklist. This is great because most properties will be mostly the same, but they’ll also all have their own unique quirks. Turnover allows you to highlight those little differences in your checklists. That way your cleaner can know exactly what’s special about this particular property and not miss it while they’re cleaning. 

It’s a marvelous tool that has saved me a lot of headaches over the course of my hosting career!

Whatever tool you choose to go with, just make sure of 2 things. First, that your cleaners all sign off on being willing to use it. And second, that you actually use it! Set up a checklist, update it as needed, and send it to every single cleaner you work with. 

It will make you, your cleaners, and your guests all so much happier. 

What tips do you have for making your cleanings go smoothly every time? Let me know in the comments! 

How to find new STR clients

If you’ve been an Airbnb property manager for any length of time, you know that one of the biggest challenges you face is finding good, quality clients to work with.

With many problems, after you figure out a way to solve the issue once you don’t need to deal with it again. It’s one and done.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case with this particular problem.

If you have any desire to continue to expand your management portfolio, you’re going to have to constantly be on the lookout for new clients. This is actually true even if you don’t want to expand, but simply want to stay constant – there will always be some amount of turnover in your clients, and you’ll need to be on the lookout for great partners to replace them with after they move on.

So how to find new STR clients without sounding sleazy or salesy?

For many people (myself included) networking is hard.

Perhaps I should clarify. It’s not hard to talk about what I do, or even to sell myself – I love what I do and could talk about that all day. What’s hard is finding the right people to listen to you, the sort of people who could actually connect you with quality leads and long-term client relationships.

Enter BNI.

BNI (Business Networking International) is a global networking organization whose aim is to connect professionals with each other in meaningful ways and increase annual revenue for all of their members through regular referrals, 1-on-1 meetings, and other similar events.

I just joined my local chapter 2 weeks ago and I’m astounded by the results I’ve already seen.

In that short amount of time, I’ve already gotten 2 quality referrals – the same amount as I’ve gotten the rest of this entire year! I’ve also been connected with professionals in other industries that I need help in, which has also been a huge asset for me.

I have no doubt that the connections I’ll make in this group will be a HUGE boon to me and my business in the coming months and years. I’m so excited to dive in!

So, if you’re a STR property manager and are struggling to find more clients, my advice is this: connect with a networking group of some kind.

BNI is great and has chapters all over the world, but they’re not the only one out there. Do your research, visit a few, and then join the one that’s right for you. But once you join, COMMIT. Plug into the group in as many meaningful ways as you can. You will be amazed at the results you’ll see!

4 tips to help you hold onto good cleaners

I recently had a bit of a blow up with one of my cleaners. She was chronically late and unreliable, so when I finally made the hard decision to stop working with her, she did not take it well at all. Lots of ugly and unprofessional name-calling ensued, leaving me rattled but also more confident than ever that I’d made the right choice.

But something about this experience really got me thinking. When I started working with her she wasn’t like this at all. She was friendly and professional, and always got the work done in a timely manner. What had changed to sour our relationship so drastically?

She would say I didn’t appreciate her. I would say she had gotten complacent and overcommitted. Perhaps the best answer lies somewhere in the middle.

So how do you help your cleaners avoid getting to that place of overcommitment and burnout?

Here are 4 tips to help you keep a long-term, healthy relationship with your short-term rental cleaner.

  1. Set clear expectations. Have a checklist (preferably with photos of how you want certain things to look, if you’re picky). Walk her through the checklist to make sure she understands. If you see her slipping on quality, say something. Don’t let her believe that she can get away with a half-done job.
  2. Speak kindly and be understanding of her situation. Your cleaner probably has a family and other clients to juggle. She may be trying to get to your cleanings without reliable transportation or some other similar challenge. So don’t assume that her world revolves around you. Speak to her kindly and respectfully, with plenty of “pleases” and “thank yous.” Give her as much notice as possible for the cleanings you’ll need. And be understanding if she goofs up once or twice – she is, after all, human just like you are.
  3. Express your gratefulness often. If your cleaner is doing a good job – tell her! Bring it up if you’re communicating about work. Text her out of the blue just to say you appreciate her work. Give her a bonus at the end of the year, or even mid-year if she’s done a really bang-up job. It’s worth it to invest in a good relationship with a cleaner who will be with you for a long time.
  4. Pay her fairly. Don’t jump on the cheapest cleaner you can find. In fact, when I find a cleaner who’s good at what she does AND cheap, I insist she raises her rates with me. Cheap cleaners are forced to overcommit themselves to pay their bills, which will eventually lead to poor work and cleaner burnout. Plus, insisting on paying more than what the cleaner is asking will go a long way towards making them feel like a valued and important member of your team (which they are).

What other suggestions do you have to help you hold onto those amazing cleaners? Let me know in the comments!

7 tips to help you deal with unauthorized smoking in your Short-Term Rental

One of the most common problems you’ll deal with as a host of short-term rentals is smoking. If you’ve been hosting for any amount of time, I’m certain you’ve dealt with some version of this problem before. And if you’re brand new, I can promise you it’s coming.

Of course, there are plenty of variations on this problem.

What if you live in the home and have allergies? What if guests are smoking weed and it’s illegal in your state? Maybe they’re vaping and don’t consider that smoking? How do you successfully collect a smoking fine? How do you avoid a retaliatory review if you’ve tried to collect a smoking fine?

I could go on, but I think you get my point.

And while no one could ever fully address every potential problem that could arise because of guests smoking on the property, I’ve learned enough in my years as a host that I can probably address most of them.

Here are 7 tips to follow to avoid fighting with smoking guests (or the resolution center after they check out).

  1. Make sure your house rules are CRYSTAL CLEAR. If you don’t allow smoking inside, or vaping, or smoking of any kind, make sure all of that is explicitly spelled out in your house rules. Also make sure to specify what the smoking / vaping fee is, if any. This is the only way you’ll have a chance at Airbnb backing you up in the resolution center if a problem happens.
  2. Make lots of scary warnings – even if they can’t be enforced. The reality is that most requests for smoking fees won’t be approved if there isn’t other damage. However, the guests don’t usually know that! In my listings I say several times that smoking of any kind will incur a $300 penalty and immediate eviction from the property. I’ve never actually kicked anyone out for smoking, and only rarely ever even try to get paid the smoking fee…but don’t tell my guests that! The threat of those consequences tends to keep most people in line.
  3. Get cameras. Smoking is notoriously difficult to prove, because if all that’s left is a smell you can’t send that through the internet as proof. If you can get video of your guests smoking your case will be so much easier to prove. (**NOTE** If you install cameras, make sure to disclose them on your listing!)
  4. Take pictures. Along the same lines as the camera, make sure your cleaners are instructed to take pictures of any ash residue or smoking-related damage they see so that you can include that in your claim.
  5. Get a smoke remediation quote in advance. Smoke remediation quotes by licensed companies can be EXTREMELY helpful in collecting smoking fines. However, they take time to get and often the clock is ticking when you’re trying to collect a resolution claim, so I always recommend getting one in advance to have on hand.
  6. Invest in an ozone machine. Ozone machines are great for getting out that nasty smoke smell in a hurry. The only thing is that they can’t be run when people are around, so make sure you have enough time to clean the place AND run the machine before the next guest checks in!
  7. Choose between the fine and the review. Many people ask me how they can collect their $200 smoking penalty, AND avoid getting a retaliatory review after the guest checks out. I say, for the most part, the answer is you can’t. You need to decide whether it’s more important to you to go after the money, or try to keep your ratings high. It’s very unlikely that you’ll get both.

Over the last few years, as I’ve implemented all of these changes, I’ve seen the number of guests smoking on premises where they shouldn’t be steadily going down. Now what used to be a major, almost weekly headache is simply a minor occasional annoyance. It’s made a world of difference!

What are some tips you have? Share them with me in the comments!

FREE live Airbnb training next week! Sign up today!

I’ve been in the world of short-term rentals for about 5 years now. Considering that Airbnb has only been around 11 years, and really didn’t take off for several years after it’s conception, 5 years is a pretty long time in the world of short-term rentals.

Needless to say, I’ve learned a thing or two. Or a few hundred or thousand things ;).

Running STRs can be hugely rewarding, but it can also be enormously challenging. It is not at all like running traditional long-term rentals; nor is it much like running a hotel, either. It’s this weird in-between niche that’s a world all to its own.

Have you ever wished someone would just walk you through all the quirks so you don’t have to figure them out yourself?

Your wish is my command!

Over the past few months, I’ve been hard at work disseminating all of my hard-earned knowledge into easy-to-digest videos and downloads. I want to teach you all of my tricks, all the pitfalls to watch out for, so that you can avoid making all of the mistakes I did.

Sound too good to be true? I promise you it isn’t.

In fact, next Wednesday September 4th I’ll be doing a totally free live webinar to tell you about some of my favorite tools of the trade, as well as debunk some commonly held STR myths.

It’s called “How I gained 9 Airbnb properties in 1 year…without spending a dime on real estate or marketing,” and I promise you you don’t want to miss it.

But if you do have to miss it live, be sure to sign up anyway, as there will be a free replay sent out afterwards that you can watch at your leisure.

Click the button below to sign up. Can’t wait to see you there!

Why short-term renting isn’t always better than long-term renting

Short-term rentals are all the rage right now. They’ve taken the world by storm, and many people find themselves being seduced by the allure of “easy” money – and a whole lot more of it than you’d find in traditional renting.

But it’s important to remember that there is another side to the coin.

There are some big advantages to longer-term renting that many people seem to gloss over. One of the biggest is that long-term renting is virtually guaranteed. You sign a contract with someone for a year or two and, providing you’ve vetted them properly, you get the same amount of money every month for the next year or two. Easy as that.

Short-term rentals are not so simple. Depending on where you are, the supply of short-term rental (and thus competition you have to beat out) might be incredibly high.

You’ll have to compete with low prices and work a lot harder to keep bad guests out.

You might have more pushback from the neighbors, too, who are often much more uncomfortable with having a constant stream of strangers coming through than they would be with a traditional renter.

Yes, short-term rentals offer the potential to make several times more than you would with a traditional long-term rental.

But there is something to be said for guaranteed income, a known market, and placating the neighbors.

With short-term stays, you are never guaranteed to get the next booking. You’re never guaranteed to have a good guest – even if they have good previous reviews. You’re never guaranteed to have understanding neighbors – even if the HOA allows short-term rentals, the neighbors can still make your life miserable.

It’s true that there’s often less wear and tear on your house with a short-term rental….but that’s only assuming you don’t get a bad guest who ends up trashing your house.

This is not to say you shouldn’t do it. Many people have done it and have been very successful at it.

But if you’re considering starting a short-term rental – either a brand-new listing or converting an existing long-term unit to short-term stays – make sure you do your research before jumping in all the way. Because at the end of the day it’s not as simple a calculation as many people make it out to be.

And if you make the calculation wrong you could be out thousands of dollars and a whole lot of headaches.

Three common short-term rental scams

As a short-term rental host, you’ve got a fine line to walk.

On the one hand, you want to do your best to give your guests a good experience – which may sometimes include compensating them when you or your cleaner legitimately messes up.

On the other hand, you are running a business and can’t be expected to give away all of your profits.

As Airbnb and other sites like it have gotten more legitimate and established, so have the scammers. People who aren’t looking to pay honestly for a stay, but want to get a free ride any way they can.

So how can you tell the difference?

Here are 3 common scams I’ve seen – and what to do about them.

Cashier’s check

This is one of the most common short-term rental scams going around right now. If you see someone ask to pay with a cashier’s check instead of through the booking site, for any reason, IT’S A SCAM. Do NOT accept them. Period, full stop.

It’s very easy to forge a cashier’s check, but it often takes weeks to bounce back from the bank, which means by the time you realize it was a fake and the banks takes that money back, your scamming guests will be long gone with a free stay under their belt.

Unclean listing

These short-term rental scams can take a myriad of forms. A guest might say they saw a roach, mold, unwashed towels, socks in the bedding, etc. Sometimes they’re telling the truth. But often they are not, or they’re nit-picking and looking for tiny little issues in order to get a free night.

If this happens, simply ask as professionally as you can for a picture of their claim. You can blame it on your cleaner if you want – “I just need to have a picture to show my cleaner when I talk to her to address the issues you brought up with this cleaning.”

If they can’t produce a picture, it’s a scam. If they wait until the last day of their stay to complain, it’s probably also a scam. You might want to include a caveat in your listing that refunds due to cleanliness issues are only given if reported within 24 hours of checking in.

Urgent cancellation

People come up with all sorts of reasons they might need to cancel. They booked the wrong location by mistake. Their flight was delayed. Death in the family. Someone else in their party had already booked a space for them. The list is seemingly endless.

You’ll get asked all the time to be flexible on your cancellation policy because of these extenuating or unforeseen circumstances. The most pragmatic thing to do would be to take the stance that lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part. This means that you stick to your cancellation policy – always. If they cancel 12 hours before check-in they won’t get a full refund, regardless of their story.

However, I also know that some people are very uncomfortable taking this hard line, especially when the guests are claiming something like a death in the family happened. If you’re open to giving a partial refund because of something like that, definitely ask for some sort of proof before you hand over the money! Scammers know that pulling on people’s heartstrings is the easiest way to get what they want.


Although those are some of the most common scams you’ll see, it is by no means an exhaustive list. Be sure to approach all guest requests for refunds with a fair amount of skepticism. Sometimes a refund is totally warranted – I myself just refunded a guest nearly $200 only a couple days ago. But often it’s just someone trying to pull one over on you. Make sure to ask lots of questions and require evidence of some sort to back up their claims before you go along with their request.

What are some other scams you’ve seen? Let me know in the comments!

Your first job as a host

I’m a member of a lot of groups for hosts on Facebook. Many of them are very helpful, offering lots of great tips and strategies for more successful hosting. However, there’s also a common thread among them that is not as helpful: complaining.

Oh my word. Some of these hosts complain like you wouldn’t believe.

Their guests had the nerve to use the provided kitchen. Guests didn’t strip the beds. Brought a friend over without telling them. Had kids who scribbled in the guest book.

Seriously, some of these complaints are so trivial.

When I see hosts talking like this I want to shake them and ask them why they got into this business in the first place.

This is first a foremost a hospitality industry. Your job is to make your guests happy.

This means that your job is also to be understanding of guests’ needs and mentality while on vacation.

People on vacation aren’t going to want to strip the beds. That’s why they pay a cleaning fee. Many people book short-term rentals instead of hotels specifically for the express purpose of having a kitchen available to save on food costs…how can you expect them to not use it? And anyone who’s ever been around kids knows that even the best-behaved of them will get into the crayon box and write on something they shouldn’t at some point in their lives.

Webster’s defines hospitality as “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.”

Working in the hospitality industry, while perhaps slightly different because there is still an end goal of profit, should have more or less the same vision.

That means no charging people for extra electricity usage or other stupid charges like that.

It means graciously providing if someone wants extra towels.

Writing off small damages such as stained face towels as a cost of doing business.

Being proactive about inquiring towards and providing for the guests’ needs.

Tools like TurnoverBNB, Your Porter, August Locks, Wheelhouse, and more are all geared towards making managing short-term rentals easier and more streamlined. These sorts of apps have made a business out of making hosts’ lives easier.

But have we as hosts forgotten that our jobs are essentially to make our guests’ lives easier?

Don’t forget that. It’s the heart of this business. And without it, you’re going to get frustrated and burned out in a hurry.

A cleaning headache you shouldn’t ever have to deal with

Is your STR cleaning closet giving you headaches? Maybe you’re doing it wrong.

I had a meeting with a potential new client the other day. It was a very eye-opening conversation.

He was an experienced host himself, having managed his own home for years; but a change in life circumstances had made him unable to continue managing the space, and he’d decided to look for a manager.

We were sitting there at the cleaning closet, discussing restocking needs and such, when he made a comment that took me by surprise.

“The closet needs to be locked,” he said, “so you’ll have to come by for every turnover to let the cleaner in.”

What??

No wonder he had started to get fed up with hosting.

Right now I’ve got a dozen listings, some of them over an hour from my home. There’s no way in hell I’d even consider going to every property after a guest checks out just to let the cleaner into the cleaning closet.

I just don’t understand why some hosts do that to themselves.

If you’re going to hire someone to clean your property, you need to have enough faith in them to trust that they’ll do right by you. And I understand that this is going to rule some potential cleaners out; but that’s ok.

Do the work on the front end to vett your cleaners so that you can relax and trust them to do their job after you’ve hired them.

And you should never ever have the only key to a cleaning closet. I just don’t understand why anyone would ever think that is a good idea.

Put a lockbox with a key in it on the property and give your cleaner the code. If you’re worried about her losing the key, get a hasp lock with a combination padlock. If you don’t want guests to see it, hide it somewhere they wouldn’t look.

Remember, if you’re trusting your cleaner enough to be alone in your home, you should trust them enough to have access to the keys.

There certainly are tedious parts to this business. But coming over in between every cleaning shouldn’t be one of them. Do yourself a favor and make your STR cleaning closet a simple solution.

3 things I learned from the World Domination Summit

Last week I went to a conference in Portland.

This was not just any conference. This was the World Domination Summit.

What is WDS, you ask?

The World Domination Summit was started 9 years ago by a man named Chris Guillebeau, author of the book “The Art of Nonconformity.” The purpose of WDS is to “help people live remarkable lives in a conventional world.”

As you might expect, this was not a normal conference. There were explosions, magicians, breakdancers, an “Alice in Wonderland” themed picnic, and even a guy in a ridiculous dinosaur suit. I went into WDS not having any clue of what to expect, and that’s probably a good thing. Any expectations I had would not have lived up to reality.

But aside from the fun atmosphere and literal smoke and mirrors, WDS also had a lot of real meaty wisdom and lessons to impart. Some of them were very specific; some more general life lessons. I won’t bore you with the specifics, but I think the more general wisdom might be very helpful.

So here are 3 life lessons I learned this year from the World Domination Summit:

1. Fear can be very useful.

One of the most consistent character traits across all of humanity is a desire to avoid fear. Sometimes we go so very far out of our way, just to avoid any sort of situation that makes us afraid. This is why people don’t travel, don’t learn new hobbies, don’t take risks at work. We’re afraid of failing, afraid of looking stupid, afraid of people thinking we don’t belong there.

But we forget how very closely linked fear and excitement are. A goal that doesn’t scare you also won’t excite you. And if you’re not excited about a goal, how will you get others excited about it?

Instead of running away from scary things, run towards them. Fear usually means you’re on the right track.

2. Our problems aren’t our fault, but they are our responsibility.

This one hit me right between the eyes.

I’ve been hit with more crap over the last 5 years than you could ever imagine. Seriously, my life would make a really good soap opera. I can’t make this stuff up!

And if I’m honest, some of it has really gotten to me. I’ve had whole days – sometimes whole weeks or even months – when I’ve wanted to wallow in my self-pity. When I’ve been angry at the world because of what was happening to me and refused to go out into it because I felt too sorry for myself.

And it’s true that most of my current problems are definitely not my fault. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do something about it. All of us have the responsibility to make the most of the cards we’ve been given.

Or, to put it more succinctly: Shit happens. Suffering is a choice.

3. When we embrace our flaws, scars, and awkwardness, they become our superpowers.

The things that made you weird in high school make you awesome now.

Isn’t this so true?!? When I was in high school I was a shy bookworm who loved reading and learning. These things were the cause of a lot of teasing back then. As an adult, however, it’s those very same traits that have helped me build a successful business and a life that I love.

Don’t avoid your weirdness. Don’t try to hide your flaws. Embrace them. Relish them. They make you who you are. And who you are is pretty awesome.

Almost done!Just tell me where to send all your goodies 🙂