I’m staying in a home exchange in San Diego this week and my host requested a $75 cleaning fee. I happily paid this fee, in spite of my general position that fees are not appropriate for home swaps. Let me explain my thinking.
The backstory: a holiday trip
This stay is just for three days during Christmas. We will be visiting family and then heading off to another home swap in Palm Springs for a few days. Both of these are points-based exchanges. And we will be hosting guests (for points) for several days while we’re away.
When I booked this trip I first looked at hotel and Airbnb options. Since we’re actually staying in three different places for just a few days each I figured that would be easier. But prices (in both hotel points and cash) are higher over the holidays. I also looked around for home swap options, offering our place for the entire week in exchange for a few days in San Diego, Palm Springs or Los Angeles. On networks that also offer a points swap option, I proposed either points or a direct swap in my requests.
I ended up with people accepting my points request in Palm Springs via the HomeExchange platform. And in San Diego via the Love Home Swap platform. Both look like great places, and communication with the hosts has been excellent.
Why I’m ok with the fee this time
The host in San Diego advertises the $75 fee very clearly in her profile. This is her primary home. And this is the note in her “About Our Home” description:
*** I charge $75 per visit for cleaning which we can arrange over Paypal or Venmo prior to your visit – no need to tidy up, wash sheets, vaccuum etc. I insist – please ENJOY yourself, kick back, relax – and leave the cleaning to the professionals!***
So I knew about this from the start. In her first response to my request she told me that a points stay would work as she would be traveling during our visit dates. And she mentioned the $75 cleaning fee. I really appreciate her clearly communicating this fee. If I oppose paying for cleaning I could easily bypass her listing. And if I missed it in her listing, I could just quickly move on once she reiterated it in the message.
I respect that some people would rather have professional cleaning. We all have different cleanliness standards. And in my experience $75 is a reasonable price for San Diego. I don’t think she’s making a profit from this; the money is going directly to a house cleaner. But is it ok to pass on this cost to guests?
I decided I’m fine paying this cleaning fee. Although we’re only staying in her home for a few days, we will no doubt make the place dirty. I want to leave home exchanges as clean as they were when I arrived. I expect the same from my guests. But this means that even a few days stay will require at least an hour of cleaning. More if I do some cooking. In this case I’m happy to pay the professionals to do that cleaning for me. It’s still a lot cheaper (and nicer!) than staying in a hotel, and we will be able to contribute to the family meal prep by doing some cooking.
Does this financial transaction make the swap feel less personal? Well in addition to giving me her PayPal info so I could send payment, my host mentioned she will be in Thailand during our stay. We then got into a long discussion about my recommendations for Thailand, other places she will be stopping, and travel interests more generally. It’s certainly as personal as any direct home exchange I’ve done. Based on our chat so far I think we have some similar travel interests. And I’m looking forward to checking in with her to hear about her trip.
Should you charge cleaning fees?
If you have a cleaner available, I think the best practice is to give guests an option. Talk about cleaning in advance. It is very reasonable to expect your guests to leave your home as clean as they found it. And you can offer to let your guests pay for a professional cleaning instead of doing it themselves. Some people will be happy to pay, some people would rather do it themselves.
If, for some reason, you feel a professional cleaning is absolutely required after guests stay in your home, make sure this is clear in your listing. And reiterate this expectation upon first contact with everyone. Don’t wait to mention this later on!
When exchanging with your exchange partner’s home, it always made sense to us to suggest each home is cleaned by the owner (or their housekeeper) afterwards, so there are no delays for cleaning and washing linen on the day of leaving.
However, with a points exchange you might clear up after your guests when you get paid the points, and then find the property you use the points for expect you to clean up yourselves!
Perhaps a cleaning fee for points exchanges would avoid this problem?
There is also a tendency for people to make shorter stays when using points, which means a lot more cleaning work for the owner for little reward, compared with a one or two week stay.
Our inclination is to agree a cleaning fee for short stays to discourage them.
We would always prefer that the guests don’t clean up after themselves, unless they really want to. Always much easier to clean the house you know at leisure, rather than spend the last day of your holiday cleaning and washing linen in a strange house.
I am the world’s worst housekeeper and always use a professional cleaner in my home. I usually request the service of a housekeeper in my exchange home, at my expense. I ask my guests which they prefer—paying 45€ for my housekeeper or doing it themselves. They choose about 50-50.
I have a large oceanfront house in an expensive part of California and my cleaners actually cost $250, which is a bargain for the area. But I agree it feels yucky to charge guests and it’s a big hassle to collect. I tested “PayPal me after you arrive and you’re happy” for example.
Ultimately, I settled on simply “charging” additional guest points, which is both easier to administer and more acceptable to guests.