I’ve been involved in the Serviced Accommodation business for at least 10 years and started out helping with my parent’s 3 AirBnB properties. They always cleaned each property themselves after every checkout. Therefore when I got my first apartment, I used to do every clean myself. I think everyone starts out this way! “Why pay someone else to do something so easy?!” “Sure it only takes a few hours!”
Both my parents were running their 3 properties while retired, but both were working harder and longer than when they were employed. I was still working full time and thought I was running a business in my spare time. What I actually had was another job. I was swamped. I knew the apartment was bringing in good money but it wasn’t enough that I could leave work. And I couldn’t get another apartment because I just didn’t have the time to clean them both on top of all the other jobs that come with this business. This wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I was stuck.
What I needed was leverage. I knew that if I got someone to help with cleaning the apartments, it would free up my time. The apartment could be even be cleaned while I was at work! I knew with this approach that I could use this extra time to get more properties and as a result, these would more than cover the cost of the cleaning. So that’s what I did. I searched specifically for AirBnB cleaning companies in Belfast. They didn’t exist. “Not a problem,” I thought naively. Any regular Belfast cleaner will surely be able to do the job?! Well no. Turns out it’s not that simple…
There are a lot of differences between domestic cleaning and serviced apartment cleaning. Domestic cleaners generally won’t look in your drawers, cupboards and wardrobes. AirBnB cleaners absolutely have to look in there to make sure there are no smelly socks or leftover food from the previous guests! Regular cleaners can make the bed and that’s great. Serviced apartment cleaners have to get that bed looking like perfection without a single crease anywhere to be seen! Other AirBnB cleaner specific duties include staging the property to look the exact same way every time. Try asking a domestic cleaner to fold your open curtains a specific way and I’m sure you’ll get a funny look. AirBnB cleaning agencies will need to take regular inventories to make sure you have enough crockery and cutlery. They’ll also need to take away dirty laundry after each clean and make sure all your mug handles point in the same direction. The list of odd jobs goes on and on. However, this is what is required when managing a serviced apartment.
We’ve used or spoken to many Belfast cleaning companies with mixed results. The benefit of using a cleaning agency is that there is one central point of contact who you speak to. You give them the rota and they arrange for cleaners to turn up. The issues arise when different people show up each time. As I mentioned previously, the property has to look exactly the same after each clean: cushions positioned the same way, bed throws draped the same way, toilet rolls folded into a point etc. It can be challenging to make sure that happens when different people are doing the work each time! We’ve tried tick sheets, photographs of how everything should be left. Nothing seemed to work.
Another issues that always arises is the standard required for serviced apartment cleaning.
Every. Clean. Has. To. Be. Perfect.
This isn’t a regular domestic clean where if a hair in the bath is missed no-one will care. This is someone’s holiday accommodation for a few days and if they place is not spotless then they will complain or worse, leave a negative review. People like to feel like no-one has ever stayed in the property before them. No-one has ever slept in the bed before them. No-one has ever used these knives and forks before them. Obviously this is a fantasy, but this is what people buy when they book luxury serviced accommodation.
Every clean therefore needs checked. Undoubtedly, we will spot things within 5 minutes of entering the property. Crumbs on the dining chair, hair in the plug hole, a water mark where a glass has been set on the kitchen worktop, a dirty frying pan in the cupboard. I always say if I can see it within 5 minutes then a guest will definitely see it in the 5 days they’re staying.
Finding and keeping good cleaning agencies has proven to be the most difficult aspect of managing serviced accommodation. However, without the leverage of using cleaners, I wouldn’t have been able to grow the business to the size it is today. We currently manage 23 properties on behalf of clients.
Recently, we have brought cleaning in house and now directly employ our own team. This enables us to train our cleaners in the exact details that we expect. We can employ people with hotel housekeeping experience as this is a much more relevant field than domestic cleaning. We can also ensure that only the best people are working in our properties. There are obviously still some downsides to this approach, but overall, I believe it is the way forward to offer a consistent and reliable service to our clients and guests.