By Mel Hignell, CEO & founder of White Spider, an interior design and guest management firm for vacation rentals
In March, when travel came to a screeching halt due to COVID-19, no one in our industry knew what to expect. However, by summer, we saw a surprising twist. Many people were itching to get out of town — even just to quarantine in a new setting, and Airbnb spending was up by 22% year-over-year in July.
Alongside an increase in spending on vacation rentals, we’re seeing a notable change in guest behavior. Instead of booking a long weekend away with the family, travelers are getting out of Dodge for weeks on end. Many white collar workers no longer have to go into a physical office. They can work from anywhere, and they’re choosing to do it in vacation rentals.
When short-term rentals aren’t so short anymore, a few things shift. Below, I’m sharing the three hidden costs of longer guest stays every vacation rental owner should be aware of.
1. The potential for damage goes up significantly. Many believe that guests who stay longer will be more likely to take great care of the home. Surprisingly, the opposite is true. The longer guests stay, the higher the risk of damage.
Because of this, owners must not only be diligent in reporting and repairing damage between guests, but it has to happen in a very timely manner. Owners often have just a few hours between bookings to find, assess and estimate the cost of damage to ensure it’s covered and reimbursed. As one example, we had guests who’d stayed for weeks in a home and somehow got wax all over the walls. We had five hours between bookings to not only find and assess, but report and accurately estimate the cost of the damage to ensure it would be covered. In these instances, having a trusted and experienced property manager to support claims is a big life (and money!) saver.
2. Guests take ownership of the home. When guests stay for weeks versus a weekend, they really start making themselves at home.
With longer stays, owners are most shocked by the sheer volume of stuff that gets left behind. Guests often have multiple packages delivered (each week!), leaving carloads of boxes to be broken down and hauled out. We’ve also had guests buy and leave kitchen appliances, extra TVs, full-size BBQs and usually, tons of food. Between long-term stays, we have to haul items away, restage new items or coordinate donations, clear out refrigerators and more. The most common mistake owners make is sending in a team that’s not prepared for this job, much less prepared to do it in the short amount of time allotted between guests.
3. Cleaning is a much bigger undertaking. Cleaning will obviously take longer between guests who’ve stayed for weeks, but many owners are surprised about why that is and what it entails.
It’s common for cleaning teams to treat vacation rental properties like hotel rooms, in and out in under 30 minutes. This has never been acceptable to us, and it’s certainly not
acceptable right now during a global pandemic. To meet current cleaning and sanitation standards, ensure your team is treating each and every job between bookings like a true “move out” clean.
Additionally, if we have guests staying for months, which is becoming more common. We recommend coming in to clean at least once per month. It not only provides a great guest experience, but reduces cleaning to be done upon checkout and allows you to regularly assess the state of the home.
Everyone in the industry is thankful to see that vacation rentals are rebounding more quickly than expected, but it’s certainly not “business as usual.” With longer guest stays come new and unique challenges that each and every property owner will need to accommodate for the foreseeable future.
Mel Hignell is the founder & CEO of White Spider, a design & guest management firm for vacation rental properties. Her team, which is 95 percent women, manages hundreds of vacation rental properties in top destination cities across the country. They’re known for their bold design (for example, converting a 200-year-old synagogue into an ode to Madonna) and commitment to a superior customer experience.
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