vacation rental conference

When the only cleaner in town leaves – Train

Extract from cleaning manual
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Through tears my cleaner Lesley said “I’m leaving, so sorry”.  Yikes, this was very bad news!

She knew she was the only private cleaner in town, and other private cleaners are simply not available, leaving us in a bind.  She and her husband were leaving town to tour the country in their caravan, living slow and stress free. She told us a month ago, but now they leave in 2 weeks.

We have had a valuable partnership over the last 5 years.  Lesley cleaned quickly, handling tight changeovers easily.  The presentation after cleaning was great – despite us doing 35 extra things our competitors don’t.  We stayed the most booked property in town year after year.

But now this was serious.  We are away a lot so we can’t clean, and we don’t want to anyway.

2022 vacation rental conference

After some soul searching, we decided to switch to Holiday GOR, the local managing company who bring cleaning teams from out of town to our tiny village.  They are an excellent company who we have known for many years having used them a decade ago when we were based remotely in Melbourne.

But there are a few hitches.  They need control of the guest flow to coordinate cleaning, and they need to be fairly compensated for that control.  They came up with the bright idea of lifting our rental prices to offset some cost changes.  Hmm, good idea if it works.  We’ll give it a go and retune if necessary.  It’s now September 2019.  In time I’ll let you my readers know how that experiment goes, stay tuned.

I also want to drive DIRECT bookings separately from the OTAs like I do now, which provide over 50% of my rentals.  No problem, I’ll still do that, sending bookings to the manager via my online booking engine so I can measure my success.  So far, so good.

A side benefit from the change is that it frees up more of my time, and my wife and I are more free to travel.

Training new cleaners

Now normally changing cleaners is no big deal if they are experienced.  It becomes more tricky if, like us, you offer 35 extra little details that have to be perfect.  The extras are important, and our guests often tell us how we have ‘thought of everything’, they loved their experience, and they will tell their friends. However 35 extra details are too much for a cleaner to memorise with a once off walk through.

Memory and repetition can take literally months. We don’t have months, we have a week.  It is also human nature to be embarrassed if you forget something, and they can be reluctant to keep asking or worse, just guess.

The solution is a good training manual cleaners can refer to as often as they like.

What does a cleaner training manual look like?

It needs lots of photos and notes the cleaner can look at initially and when they need to check later. Photos show all those little details. Instantly.

An index helps. Finally a quick checklist helps the cleaner to do a final walkthrough testing the critical points, long after the training has been done.

I prepared our training manual this week. It took about four hours to prepare, but time well invested.  It has 14 pages, with 44 photos just for one studio and ensuite. Here is how it is structured:

  • Index and General guidance
  • Pics and notes for each part of the rental
  • Quick checklist

Here is an extract from a typical page:

Extract from cleaning manual
Extract from cleaning manual

Revealing all

The full document and those 44 photos also contain the hidden anatomy of our Sea Zen rental which achieves our ongoing 90% occupancy.  I’m happy to share it with my readers.


The new cleaners are being trained next week. They will watch Lesley do her last clean, and they’ll also have the training manual.  Easy.  I’ll let you know how it goes, also how the new partnership with the management company goes.


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My name is Rex Brown. I live in Australia, on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. I run two of my holiday rentals here on the coast, and another in inner Melbourne . They are all quite different, but they all run at high occupancy. They are the sandpit that I play in, running constant experiments about what works and what doesn’t.

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