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Newish Host Questions

Hey there, me and my girlfriend recently started hosting via AirBNB. We’ve traveled it for about a year and half and started hosting about a month ago. We have two listings, one is a private room, the other is shared with my office. I feel we are priced pretty aggressively to our area, in addition we often offer almost bed and breakfast, providing food, and our left overs are often shared.

For reference, the listing is

So the biggest contention point we have on our reviews is cleanliness. I’ve stayed in much dirtier AirBNB, and it’s not subjectivity. I’ve rented the property, and tried selling so I know about staging and keeping it in good standing. The whole reason I want to ask this question is because we’ve received notification from AirBNB clean up ratings or be suspended.

The house is from 1924, so it’s not the Ritz. But before each listing we sweep, clean the floors, dishes, guest linens, etc. If I have spare time I also bake goods for our guests. So my question is has anyone else experienced issues with the cleanliness remark. My biggest guess is clutter, we moved back about a month ago and are still settling in. So some items still need to be unpacked.

The second question I wanted to ask, and it sorta relates to the first. We placed a guest for 6 months. However he is leaving a bit of a mess. Often dishes lag severely, refuse/waste and dishes out etc. How kosher is it to ask the person to clean up a bit? I know AirBNB isn’t exactly a room mate service, but the additional effort of cleaning up after our other guest is extending the preparation time.

I’d clear out the stuffed animals and other clutter. People think unclean when it’s cluttered. It’s also harder to clean between guests. Not sure that I’d spend $ on toiletries in small bottles. I buy large bottles of basic products at the dollar store, people seem to like this. As a fellow cook, I know that I can’t keep the kitchen spotless if I’m doing lots of meals, baking, so people see me, which isn’t dirty. If you can get rid of carpets, it’s easier to clean hard surfaces, a few hairs from the dog can make your place look dirty. Mind you for the price, they can’t expect the Ritz.

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You rent? You don’t own? Do you have your landlord’s permission to be doing Airbnb?

I believe that when the original poster said " I’ve rented the property, and tried selling so I know about staging and keeping it in good standing." he/she meant that he/she is the owner and has rented it out to tenants, not that he/she is the lessee.

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Oh, OK, I see what she or he meant. The statement wasn’t clear at first.

Sorry for the lack of clarity. Yeah I own the property, I’ve rented at the past and sublet it for periods of time.

Thanks for the tips. So it sounds like I’m thinking the bit of clutter correctly. The house is 100% hard floor throughout. I wouldn’t have thought of the stuffed animals. We don’t have too many out, we have them out because we have several friends who visit daily with their kids and they like them. I have removed my other specific decorations and tried to leave it primarily neutral.

Thanks,
Sean

Hi @soulnothing,

I’ve also been marked down for cleanliness, though my place is clean - it’s cleaned daily.

I suspect that is a combination of clutter and water damage in parts of the house. The latter is causing the paint to peel, and is admittedly unsightly.

@soulnothing – Sean, I presume you want candid remarks: the house looks lovely, however, you need to get rid of stuffed animals and anything else that doesn’t have a specific function/purpose in the guest’s space. The bed needs a bit more attention. Clutter gives people the impression of untidiness. The small bottles of products should go on a tray or basket. I suggest white towels and white bedding. You clearly have an overall good rating, just work a bit harder on improving the bedroom. Success!

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Yes, the cleanliness star can be a bear.

I rent out the guest bedroom and adjoining bath suite on the first floor of my home. In order to maintain fairly consistent 5 star ratings in cleanliness I have basically turned the entire first floor of my home into what a staged home, or show home would look like. In other words, a brand new house that’s been professionally staged to be used as a model home. Look at photos of decorated rooms on the web and do what you can to emulate them.

To do this, I removed almost all personal “clutter” and decorated with real and fake greenery, large framed mirrors and a few statement items, along with minimal seasonal decorations. I cleaned up the book cases so they look less crowded. I touched up the paint on the walls to make the scuff marks go away and repainted all the window sills.

As far as cleaning, you have to start with a deep clean of all areas guests can see. This means all surfaces cleaned and dusted, no cobwebs or dust in corners or on baseboards. Repaint those baseboards as well if they are showing too many scuffs. Door handles and parts of doors near the handles that get fingerprints cleaned. All floors deep cleaned and stain treated. Windows washed inside and out. Blinds or curtains cleaned. Soft furnishings vacuumed and spot cleaned. All horizontal surfaces cleaned of dust, including door tops and picture frame tops. Kitchen cabinets cleaned of food drips, fingerprints and grease. Remove all the stuff you stick on the fridge with magnets. If guests will access any cabinets, clean them out, wipe them down, purge and put stuff away so it looks neat and orderly. Bathrooms get cleaned to within an inch of their lives and are left dry and shiny, with no water spots on chrome.

Once you’ve done this super deep clean, it is indeed a daily battle to keep it that way. I have a Dyson hand help vacuum and it is my best friend, LOL!

This level of clean seems to be working for me fairly well. That being said, I still have a 4 star and even one 3 star from a woman who thought my house was dirty because she found a couple bugs. I also expect sooner or later I will get marked down because there are a couple of stains in the corner of the guest room carpet that will not come out.

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Agree re bedding. Check out your local competition, they show very smartly made beds, bedside table & lamp. To be honest I wouldn’t book it as the bed looks like it’s made up with bedding I’d use for rags, bottom part wider than upper.

Depending on the guest, “cleanliness” does not mean just a sweeping. It includes dusting all those 1924 building corners and crevasses and moldings and louvres. Also ceilings, fan blades, and knobs and handles. It can also mean a floor which sees a wax/polish after, every couple guests, and a fresh coat of paint or wallpaper not the stuff left from 1924.

Do the ‘deep clean’ that Cloe suggests not just once, but every month or so. Old houses ‘leak’ dust and dreck all the time and require really better than average cleaning to keep up.

I do more or less what @Chloe suggests after every guest.

Well… me too, but I didn’t want the others to feel bad :blush:

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I suspect it’s nothing to do with the actual cleanliness level - but as others noticed it’s the clutter.

I know it’s your home (and kitchen, and bathroom) but get everything off the kitchen benches and bathroom sink. Everything. Mouthwash, cosmetics, the works. Stash them out of sight. The sacrifices we have to make, etc.

Have to echo the supplied toiletries - stop spending the money and just get large shampoo & cheap shower gel pump packs into your shower stall for the guests. You’re a bedroom in a private home so you CAN’T market yourself as a hotel, which is the impression given off by a basket full of little assorted bits of cheap shampoo and soap, packaged toothbrushes, etc (cold, impersonal). Supplying toiletries can work - if they’re luxury products - but then I would expect luxury bed linen to go with it, and if I’m candid, that isn’t worth the expense for you with just one bedroom to let. To use up what you have maybe just leave them in a drawer and let guests know they’re there in case they have forgotten something.

PS Retake all your photos. Your lead picture should always be the nicest, most welcoming photo you have. Sort out the bed linen - even if you just buy/borrow ONE nice matching set or throw a bedspread over the whole bed - re-take the bed photo and make this your first picture. It’s far less important if the same exact bed linen isn’t what greets the guest as long as it’s neat and tidy, but first you need the bookings, and great photographs matter. I’m personally not at all bothered by un-matching towels, but they serve no purpose in your bedroom photographs, take them out. Snap the bathroom again with no bottles/towels/bathrobes/mats visible at all, you need more white in the pic to make it look “cleaner” (and related: you might want to keep your personal towels in your bedroom while you have guests). Snap the living room sofas rather than the fireplace. Add pics of your dining table with a flower in a vase. Get a few pics of a local park or attraction. You could also do with trimming the grass a bit neater, adding a flowerpot and taking another pic of the front yard :slight_smile:

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Your listing looks clean to me, but a bit cluttered. I think that you could corral the toiletries. I think the stuffed animals are adorable, but you might want to put them in a basket in the common area so guests don’t have to move them. The bed with the mattress being smaller than the base looks kind of wonky. I would hang up the towels. However, none of this rises to the level of three stars for cleanliness, especially at your price point. I believe that you problem or problems with cleanliness lie with something that we can’t see in the photos. I have two thoughts. Do you have any of your personal possessions that aren’t for guests’ use in the guest room? If so, I’d remove them. Second, you mention in your listing that you observe Shabbat. This means that you cannot clean from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. Are you making sure to cook early enough that all dishes can be cleaned before sundown and eating from disposable dishes? A sink full of dishes will definitely get you low marks for cleanliness. Also, if you can’t clean the bathrooms on the Sabbath that could be getting you lower ratings for cleanliness. I think the best thing for you to do is ask your guests for honest feedback on why they gave you lower than five stars for cleanliness.

Well, yes. That’s kind of what I meant about a daily battle to keep it that way. However, I don’t do ALL of that EVERY time I get new guests. It’s just not possible. The first floor alone of my house is 1200 sq. ft. If you look closely, you will find some dusty baseboards in the dining room and things like that. I do the best I can.

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So you have the odd bed which is a futon bed and then it looks like you put another mattress on top of it? I had a futon bed in my air rental for about a year and a half but I made it up to look like a real bed which others here have suggested. If you don’t have a duvet and cover and shams you can get decent, easily washed ones at IKEA or online.

I agree with the suggestions about clearing the clutter.

Older homes often have challenges looking clean even though they’ve been “swept and mopped.” It’s especially challenging if you are trying to keep the whole house clean but all they are paying for is a bedroom and bathroom. Are there hairs and dust in the corners that show in the sunlight? Is there rust around the drain in the sink or mineral build up on the faucet? Mold that’s been caulked over in tub area? Those things make a place look dirty.

OTOH, at $29 a night it doesn’t pay to spend a bunch of money on it.

I agree with @MissMiami and think that white towels and white bedding is a must, especially for a home in the city. And I agree with @Louise that people think “unclean” when they see clutter. @cabinhost, on this forum suggested “Bleach Safe” brand towels (search for key words “towels” and “stain”), because eventually, you are going to have a guest that uses your big beautiful bath towel to remove makeup.

And I am a fan of putting items in the bathroom.There are bottles in the shower of body soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc. Guests may use them if they don’t have their own. At some point, I may install a dispenser to make things look neater/nicer. I recommend a liquid soap dispenser by the sink. That way you aren’t throwing away used bar soap and have that scummy thing sitting there between uses by the guest. This is just what works for me. I’ve received 5-star reviews for cleanliness and many guest reviews have included comments as well.

Like you, I am also “aggressively priced,” and provide a quality space at a bargain price for my area (and my occupancy rate is over 85%). I suspect that because you have only a few reviews (less than 10 and 7 of which have been posted in the last month or so), and that there may be a lower rating from the guest that found things under the bed - that these things are skewing your star rating for cleanliness. You might try calling ABNB and ask them? Not necessarily for information that a specific guest may have said privately or what star rating was given, but generally, was this notice from ABNB a result from the rating of one guest or multiple? It’s not really fair that they don’t give you more to go on. It is also possible that it may have been an automated response or one that someone at ABNB really needs to take a look at to see why you received the notice. When I was new, I received a notice that I had declined too many guests (I think it was 10 in a row). My response to them was that 4 of the inquiries were in violation of ABNB policies, some of the other guests never replied, so I declined them to cleanly finish with them, and some had no reviews or profile information. (Yes, I vet my guests). Turns out that the “no-reply” guest inquiries I should have just let expire (this applies to inquiries and not booking requests) and archived so I didn’t have to keep looking at them. I tried not to let it bother me - too much… and I’ve now been doing this successfully for 2.5 years.

When you are new, it may be a good idea to keep reading forums (like this one), host blogs, and articles around the internet about hosting. I’m still learning new things from time to time, but I would say that for about the first year, I was always discovering new ways to improve. When I am chatting with guests, I let them know that I am open to their suggestions. For example, I have one small room (with a tiny closet) that has a desk with a hutch, but no space for a dresser - one guest suggested “soft” storage in the closet. It was a great idea, so I headed over to Ikea and bought a hanging soft shelf unit for the closet and a shoe holder for the back of the door.

Hope that helps a little.

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I think as many mention, people associate clutter with uncleanliness. Aside from clutter making a house look dirty, it also makes the house harder to clean.

When I started doing Airbnb I had to remove a whole lot of my own personal items from the common areas of the house, in order to reduce clutter. I had to create storage areas for these. I did all these reorganizing for guests, and I think it pays off, as removing clutter makes a guest feel more welcome – they feel like spaces invite them, rather than declare “there’s no room for you here.”

Regarding the guest you say is leaving a bit of a mess — really, having very clear and very firm house rules can help with this. Ideally, rules should be crystal clear, no room for ambiguity. That means, that there is no “sort of” cleaning up after oneself in the kitchen. Guests must clean up COMPLETELY when they finish the kitchen, not leave dishes for later — allowing dishes to lag to any extent is simply going to let your guests exploit this ambiguity. Dishes are either cleaned up and put away or they are not. It’s not only “kosher” to ask guests to “clean up a bit”, I would argue that it’s really imperative.

What I do that helps with this, is I give guests a plastic bin, to keep on their own shelf in the kitchen. If they don’t want to wash their dishes right away, I tell them they can just put their dishes in their own bin on their shelf and get to it later (within reason – the same day, not 5 days later when bugs are all over the dishes!).

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Me, too. We touch every surface after every guest.

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