What You Expect Isn’t Always What You Get With Short-Term Rentals (and the Company That’s Changing That Narrative)

By  //  January 13, 2022

Airbnb just became a teenager this year but the lodging platform already has more listings than the top five hotel brands have rooms–combined. After slipping during the initial COVID lockdowns, the short-term rental (STR) market roared back as people sought out safe adventures and ways to get out of the house that had them cooped up for weeks, months or even years.

In the meantime, work-from-home for millions of people has turned into work-from-any-home. STRs, after all, have a lot of advantages over hotel rooms. They’re generally cheaper, larger, located in less dense areas and they typically don’t involve shared spaces like elevators and lobbies. 

But, as so many of us have discovered, that STR can also be far less predictable than the branded hotel room. Lodging chains have standardized policies for everything from how many hangers dangle in the closets to the detergent used to clean linens. Lodging platforms, meanwhile, leave the details up to their hosts.

Even AirBnB, which established a mandatory COVID cleaning protocol for all of its hosts outside of China, has admitted that it cannot guarantee that those protocols are being followed. 

But one business owner says that gaining access to a clean property, on-time, has been an issue for the short-term rental managers long before the pandemic. And inspired by his own experiences, serial entrepreneur Jonathan Wick decided to start a cleaning business exclusively for the STR industry. Called Well & Good Property Services, Wicks’ proposition is a win/win for flummoxed property owners and often frustrated renters. 

Most often, he says, it’s not the property owners but their management companies that are to blame. While he says there are some great management companies, the bad apples have used a “revenue above all else” approach at the expense of the spirit of a great industry.

“We’ve really seen that poor management companies have hurt our industry in so many ways,” Wicks observes. “The industry now has to deal with upset neighbors due to parties and bad guests, while the homes themselves are being used extremely hard–and it shows. The blame, however, usually falls on an underequipped and underpaid cleaning staff.” Wicks points out that where a hotel chain only has to figure out how to clean a 400-square foot hotel room, a rental property could be a 4000-square foot house that needs to be turned around in just a few hours. 

“There are literally so many more variables to the work that we do,” he says. “And if one little thing is off, it’s considered unacceptable. That’s why the pressure is on us and that’s why no company has really done a great job of cleaning and prepping STRs, until now. The expectations have been all over the map because there’s no benchmark for success. We’re having to set it now.”

Wicks says that important variables that mimic the hotel experience, like clean sheets and towels, amenities, toiletries and consumables, need to be consistent and completed professionally. And not just for the look. Forcing guests out into an unfamiliar environment to hunt for toilet paper or other essentials, for example, could be dangerous.

As well as asking cleaners to correctly wash all of the linens with the machines in the property in just a few hours is completely unrealistic and often results in “quick washes” or no washes at all. His company professionally launders all linens offsite in commercial units and the teams come completely prepared with all items needed per service.  

Wick says that check-in should also be standardized. Theoretically, of course, it is. But in practice, he says, the people cleaning and servicing the properties often end up running late, making guests wait outside, sometimes for hours. By streamlining the process and standardizing expectations, Wick says that 82% of the properties he services are now ready two hours early. “That’s a big deal,” he says.

“People are using STRs so much more these days, and after a long day of travel, it’s really a value to be able to check in as early as possible. Our systems allow for that process to be as efficient and often as possible.” 

Finally, being consistent in terms of longer-term maintenance is key. Wicks says that seemingly small things like replacing light bulbs, air filters, and smoke detector batteries, are often overlooked as hosts and management companies are generally more focused on the marketing and guest experience portion of the STR process.

A true servicing company such as Well & Good completing these items on scheduled times with set rates results in much more consistency.  As Wicks likes to tell his clients, “We can serve well and do good. Not just for ourselves, but for our industry as a whole.”