Your Second Home: Who Will Clean Your Vacation Home Between Visits?

If you’re lucky, and your vacation property is rented throughout the season, you’ll have renters passing each other in the driveway. And that’s a good thing, especially if rental income is a large part of how you’re paying for your second home. You’ll want to make sure the home is as welcoming to the second guest as it was to the first, which means you’ll have to make some decisions about cleaning.

To make sure everything looks great for the next group of guests in your vacation house, you'll need to decide how the place gets cleaned in between.

Here are a few options:

  1. Count on your renters doing the right thing and leaving the place spotless for the next guest. You may want to ask for a security deposit equal or greater than the amount you would have to pay someone to come in and clean at the last minute if they didn't clean it well enough.

  2. Hire a cleaning service, often recommended by your property management company if you use one, to come in after each guest, and factor the cost into what you charge renters.  This is probably the easiest option, because good cleaners will be consistent and you won't have to worry about an irate phone call from a new renter.

  3. Combine the two options, asking renters to do some things in preparation for the cleaning crew. Leave a list. Ask your renters to clean out the fridge, strip the beds, and take out the garbage. Then let the cleaners do the heavy lifting and more detailed work.

  4. Give your guests the option to clean it themselves according to a detailed list OR pay a set cleaning fee. I've found that when I have this option, I always say I'm going to do it myself, but at the last minute change my mind and pay the fee. Because who wants to clean on vacation?

If you don’t live nearby, hiring a cleaning service to check on the place in between renters is probably a good plan. After all, no one wants to spend the first day of vacation complaining and being left to clean up after the previous tenants. If you do leave a list for renters, either a complete list or one designed to get the place ready for a cleaning team, keep it simple.

Whether or not you leave a list, make sure your renters have the supplies needed to keep the place clean during their stay, protecting your investment. At the beginning of the season, and every time you visit, make sure these eight things are available.

  1. A powerful vacuum that can deal with big messes. Don’t assume your guests will think to empty or change the bag, either. After all, they’ve only been there for a few days.

  2. Brooms and dust pans for indoor and outdoor spaces. Mark the handles for indoor and outdoor, but don’t assume they’ll be used as you request. You’ll probably need to replace them every year.

  3. A mop and bucket.

  4. A variety of cleaning products, based on what’s in your home. You’ll need all-purpose spray cleaners, as well as glass cleaner, and any other cleaner appropriate for specific surfaces in your home. Make sure they’re replaced regularly.

  5. Dish towels. While many vacation homeowners ask renters to be responsible for bringing or renting their own towels, people don’t usually think of dish towels. It helps to have a few on hand.

  6. Plenty of paper towels. Though it would be better for the environment if everyone had reusable cloths for cleaning, it doesn’t always happen.

  7. Garbage bags, both heavy duty and liner style. Remove the temptation to use the kitchen garbage without a liner.

  8. Garbage cans or wastebaskets in every room. When your renter comes in from a day of shopping and empties his pockets, you don't want to risk receipts falling on the floor and ending up behind furniture, collecting dust. Make it easy to throw things away.

At the beginning and end of each season, you should also have the house deep cleaned, getting into all the nooks and crannies, moving furniture and appliances to get every speck of dust. Hire a team or spend a weekend there and spend the time to clean the house right the right way. If you spend most of the time cleaning and doing other maintenance, a weekend trip may not count against your personal days, but make sure you document your work for the IRS.

Cleaning is one of the many responsibilities of landlords, whether they do it themselves or pay someone else. Ideally, your guests will return year after year and refer their friends, and they’re a lot more likely to do that if the place is clean when they arrive. No one wants to start a week of vacation with a mop and a bucket!