Vacation Rental Housekeeper Spills the Beans
By William May
Published: 02/16/13 Topics: Comments:
The gigantic listing websites that seek to dominate vacation rental lodging have done a persuasive job of convincing home owners that they can effectively manage their cabins, condos and homes in distant locations.
Just buy enough ads, hire a cheap housekeeper, expect guests to behave and have no requests or problems while they stay. No one needs training, you can teach yourself. It’s a great hobby and you'll make lots of friends while living the easy life.
Professional Managers know this is nonsense of course, but some owners love spending 10-20 hours a week taking phone calls, answering emails and paying those giant websites an overly large portion of their income, all while working for just a few dollars per hour.
In return, the websites insist on posting reviews from guests without authentication or substantiation. They even refuse to remove bogus, slanderous or fraudulent reviews.
What do they get in return? Aside from too little money and too much work, what is life really like for Rent By Owners? What are the properties like for guests? And how do the properties fare?
And it is all made possible by hiring housekeepers who are often paid far too little or, dare I say it, are taken advantage of by owners. Here is an Interview with one long-time vacation rental housekeeper who wanted to remain anonymous.
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Jane Doe (obviously not her real name), a housekeeper who works for property managers as well as directly for rental by owners, has a surprising tale to tell.
VRAI: So how long have you been doing housekeeping?
JANE: My mom had rentals and did housekeeping years ago. I started when I was a teenager.
VRAI: What is life like for you?
JANE: Frankly, I work very hard, often on weekends, sometimes at night, and frequently alone. I feel kind of faceless as I clean up other people's messes.
VRAI: Are they always a mess?
JANE: Actually no, not always. Some guests are very courteous, even doing the dishes, sometimes sweeping up, and not breaking things. But others are - well - pigs if I must say.
VRAI: Which guests are the best?
JANE: Well those that leave tips of course. (She laughs). Although the idea that a housekeeper who spends 4-10 hours cleaning a house should get a tip seems odd to those folks who pay a waiter 20% for a few minutes of work.
VRAI: What kind of properties do you like to clean best?
JANE: Well condos are smaller which can make them easier, but sometimes owners let guests cram far too many guests in, which can be a nightmare to clean up after. Houses pay better.
VRAI: Do you have that problem with property managers?
JANE: Rarely because but most managers are pros who use strong leases, establish fair but firm rules, and keep a close watch on guests.
VRAI: Are you saying owners don't do those things.
JANE: Apparently not, because guests of direct-owners are by far the worst. I can't figure out what they are thinking. Buy a half million dollar place and then give the keys to people you've never met. It's crazy.
VRAI: But surely those owners can hire someone local to watch over the home?
JANE: Not hardly. I am happy to clean, but no one in their right minds will agree to be on call, deal with drunk guests, fix unmaintained properties, and get paid a measly $15, $20 or even $25 per hour. It's just not worth it.
VRAI: Are you saying that property manager homes are easier to clean?
JANE: They are easier in every way, near as I can tell. Rental by owner homes get trashed very frequently. Property managers can get a bad guest as well, but it seems to be far less common. And when it does I just call in the extra work to the manager, who pays me and, I presume, charges the guests. Owners who self rent want to blame anyone but themselves when things go bad.
VRAI: Why don't owners hire managers instead of taking that risk?
JANE: Beats me. They are trying to beat the system, but the guests eventually beat them. I have cleaned dozens and dozens and dozens of homes and I would never ever try to manage them. It’s a losing idea.
VRAI: But they save money right?
JANE: No. Without a manager they are just asking to lose money.
VRAI: But owners get more bookings by telling guests they are dealing directly with the owner, right?
JANE: Wrong again. The manager properties are busy all the time, and even get bookings in slow season. Owners don't. If I had to rely on owner rentals l would starve during the slow season.
VRAI: What is your relationship with owners and managers?
JANE: Every manager I work with is respectful. Most owners are rude and treat me like their personal slave. As I tell you this I am wondering why I actually work for them (laughs.). And when a guest acts up or brings too many people, owners have the gall to ask me to go over and confront drunk people. I just won't do it. That is too dangerous.
VRAI: Well the owner can always call the police if its bad right?
JANE: In our area, the police won't come out unless its an actual crime. Putting too many people in a home is not a crime.
VRAI: In doing this interview it sounds like you are biting the hands that feeds you, by talking about owners?
JANE: The worst part of working for owners is they become presumptive, often asking me to do favors and tasks for free. Some say they clean after their own use, but it always requires additional touch up or full cleans and those owners expect me to do that for free.
VRAI: Do you do that?
JANE: If I don't throw in free work they'll fire me, some even say that. Frankly, I need the job. These are well to do people. Very presumptuous.
VRAI: Why are you willing to tell your story?
JANE: I just think owners need to know the truth about how difficult this business is before they jump in.
VRAI: But it’s a good business isn’t it?
JANE: It is - if you know what you are doing and hire a pro to take care of everything. And, by the way, when I go on vacation I would never rent from an owner directly. Its just too risky.
VRAI: Why not?
JANE: When I travel far from home, I want a manager just down the street not hundreds or thousands of miles away. What would a distant owner do if the oven or AC quits? Or the water is bad? Or the neighbors are noisy. I'll take a professional manager every time.
Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0342 – 02/16/13