House cleaning can be a big job, taking several hours out of our weekends or other spare time (do any of us really have spare time?) throughout the week. Between all the work and family obligations of the modern parent, house cleaning services have become especially popular among this demographic.
If you, like so many others, are considering hiring a cleaning service to help you out around the house, there are some things you should know and some things you should be asking each potential house cleaning service that walks through your door. Knowing what to look for and the right questions to ask can save you all kinds of trouble and frustration later on down the line.
Choosing the best service for you initially will require a little more work than just saying, “Let’s start!” to the first person that you meet, but it will save you much time in the long run if you aren’t constantly looking for a new cleaning service provider and wondering why it seems to be so much trouble to find what you’re looking for.
Read on for a few things you should require of your house cleaning service, a few warning signs to be on the lookout for, and some important questions to ask before you hire a house cleaning service.
- 1 Know What You Are Looking For
- 1.1 Find What You Need
- 1.2 Do Your Research and Hire a Reputable Provider
- 1.3 Will your maid get along with Fluffy?
- 1.4 Paying the Right Price
- 1.4.1 Be Price Savvy
- 1.4.2 This said, there are valid differences in price and you will often be making a trade in the area of service for these differences.
- 1.4.3 Then there are smaller businesses and even individuals you might hire.
- 1.4.4 At the lowest end of the scale is where you will need to be most careful in hiring.
- 1.4.5 So, all this talk, no answers. How much does house cleaning cost?
Know What You Are Looking For
Find What You Need
This seems to be obvious. You are looking for someone to clean your home. Duh. But different house cleaners and maids will offer different levels of service. This doesn’t mean that one is bad and the other is good – they’re just different. If you have a clear set of expectations from the start, it will help you choose the right provider for your personal needs.
For instance, maybe you want someone who will make the beds or change them.
Some cleaning services will do this while others don’t offer this service. Maybe you want your main floor and upstairs cleaned every week but you only want the basement done every other week.
Again, many providers will work with you on such things, but not all of them will so be sure to ask. Do you want the same person to come every time or is it more important than the house be cleaned quickly so that cleaners are not in your space all day long? Do you care which products are used in your home?
Many larger companies are unable to use your personal cleaning agents due to employee safety issues, so you would have to be alright with the cleaning products they provide. Others may use your cleaning products, but doing so will void any satisfaction guarantee they normally provide. Know what you’re looking for so that you know the questions to ask, and be sure to read all the fine print on any agreements before you sign them.
All these questions will help lead you to the right service provider.
Most companies have a clear list of basic cleaning tasks that will be completed at each cleaning.
Such a list is a wonderful tool to set clear expectations and establish good communication with your service provider before problems arise. Ask if the list can be customized to your preferences and be clear about what those preferences actually are. Do you want specific cleaners used, certain tasks skipped or added on? This may also change the price you are quoted, so be sure to discuss this with possible providers. If a cleaning task list is not provided, consider creating one yourself and going over it with providers at the time of your estimate.
Whether created by you or the company, a written list of tasks means both parties know what is to be done.
Do Your Research and Hire a Reputable Provider
There are many people out there any more who buy some cleaning supplies at the local grocery store and call themselves a “maid” or “cleaning service”. Knowing how to tell the difference will save you all sorts of headaches, and possibly money, later on.
A reputable house cleaning service will carry insurance.
This protects you, your belongings, and the worker(s) from accidents, breakage, and damage. Hiring a cleaner without insurance is risky business indeed. It may seem like a great money saver, as such cleaners are usually willing to provide services at a very low fee; however, when your carpet gets bleached or your brand new wood floor gets scratched, you will quickly lose any savings that you had previously accumulated.
It really isn’t worth it to most homeowners to play this game with their home, their most valuable possession. Always be sure to ask potential cleaners if they carry insurance, and don’t be afraid to ask for proof of insurance. I personally have a stack of them sitting next to me on my desk as I write this, and any reputable cleaning service will be happy to oblige, understanding your need for this assurance.
Bonding is also carried by the majority of reputable cleaning services.
As a homeowner, you may have been trained into asking if anyone coming into your home is bonded, and most often the answer is yes. I personally carry bonding for the feeling of protection and safety it provides clients. However, everyone should be aware that the possibility of bonding actually kicking in and covering any possible theft is basically non-existent.
Bonding will only cover theft in cases of actual conviction in a court of law.
If you have had a team of 3 people coming into your home to clean for the last 6 months and just noticed that your diamond earrings are missing, you will never get a conviction and the fact that the company carries bonding will not help you whatsoever. Your best bet is to hire a company that does criminal background checks on all employees and can send the same team each time. Some companies have one maid, one house policy which means only one cleaner, the same one, will come to your home each time. Likewise, self-employed cleaners provide the same type of benefit to the client. This will at least narrow down the list of suspects in a case of theft, giving you some slim hope of a conviction.
As the point above demonstrates only too well, a huge issue in house cleaning is trust.
As a homeowner, you are putting a huge amount of trust in whoever you hire to come into your personal space. Companies with employees often run background checks and do drug testing. If you are hiring a company that will be sending employees into your home, it’s a good idea to ask about their policy on this. And then, I know it sounds silly, but be specific – if they do a background check or drug test and they discover something, might they still hire the person, or retain someone already employed?
This is the often committed lie of omission in house cleaning companies, so pin them down and get an answer to this very important question. If you’re going to be hiring an individual maid or ultra-small service (like mine) where the owner will be providing all of the cleaning services, you can easily run a background check on them with an online company. This can get expensive if you’re doing it multiple times, so narrow your selection based on other qualifications and then run the check on your top 2 or 3 choices.
References are a great way of gaining an insider view of any cleaning service you’re looking to hire.
Even large companies should be willing to provide you with a couple of references from clients who have used their service.
Yes, of course, you’ll be getting hand-picked references who will give a good overall report on the service provider, but remember, you’re looking to hire a company that meets your personal needs. Do you need someone who is always on time, who can complete an additional task when needed, who is good with your pets?
Will your maid get along with Fluffy?
These are the types of things you can discover by calling and checking references. References can be useful if you have a list of questions prepared ahead of time so that you can zero in on important points and get detailed information.
It is also worth noting that you need to be getting business references; a personal reference is fine, but you aren’t hiring a friend, you’re hiring a cleaning service. If it’s someone who is just starting out in the field, they may not have cleaning references. In this case, I highly recommend that you ask for at least 2 references from past employers who can give you an idea of this person’s work ethic, ability to communicate effectively, work independently, and provide trustworthy and reliable service in your home.
Lastly, hiring a reputable cleaning service ensures that you will not be held liable for taxes or personal injuries to the worker(s) while in your home.
Anyone providing you cleaning services either has to pay taxes on the income generated from such service or you remain liable for those taxes. A house cleaner who will only accept cash or gives you a discount for cash payments is very likely not paying taxes on that income. Likewise, if they request that the check be made out to them individually as opposed to being written out to the company name, they likely are not paying taxes.
That doesn’t mean a reputable service can’t accept checks written to the owner, but they should be equally willing to accept checks written to the business.
I know I have people who write the checks out to my name and that is perfectly fine. But I never suggest that they do this, or ask that they write the check-in such a manner as I have a business account and am perfectly capable of accepting payment to the company.
Again, be sure your cleaner pays all applicable taxes, including sales tax, or you are liable for these, including Social Security, Medicaid, FICA and possibly state taxes. This is another instance where the savings you may realize will not compensate if you end up liable for such items later on down the line.
Paying the Right Price
Be Price Savvy
Many people look to price to quickly decide if they will hire a cleaning service provider. As a provider of these services myself, I have met the potential clients who are simply looking for the lowest prices in town, and I rarely pick up such accounts. As a locally owned and operated business, run and serviced only by me, I am able to provide clients with considerably lower prices than larger companies or franchises.
However, as a legal business, I also have expenses as mentioned above that restrain me from being able (or willing) to provide the lowest prices in town.
What I do provide is exceptional service, friendly and open communication, a willingness to correct and work on any issues that may arise and the assurance that I will not suddenly disappear (I’ve had many people who later tell me my prices are too high explain to me how their last cleaning lady “just disappeared” never to be seen or heard from again). I also am able to guarantee the same cleaner to a home each time and thus the same level of service at each cleaning.
I’m not restrained from using different cleaning agents than I provide and all my clients can rest easy knowing that hiring me means the decision won’t be coming back to haunt them later in the form of the IRS knocking on their door.
- However, with all these benefits, I can’t offer the lowest prices in town and maintain any semblance of a normal standard of living – and so I don’t try.
- Don’t look for the lowest price in town – you will get exactly what you pay for. Unreliable, spotty service with the risk of tax issues and liability concerns is not worth the extra $5 or $10 you will save.
This said, there are valid differences in price and you will often be making a trade in the area of service for these differences.
A large or franchised cleaning company will be the most costly due to increased overhead, mostly in the form of entry-level employees, managers, and quality assurance providers. However, if you are willing to pay the amount they cost, they can provide you with a fairly good ability to get your home cleaned (by someone) even if the normal cleaner or team calls in sick on the day of your cleaning.
Then there are smaller businesses and even individuals you might hire.
Assuming you’ve done your homework as stated above and these are all reputable providers, references may give you a good way to narrow down your selection.
These maid companies and cleaning services are likely to be more affordable than the larger companies, but you must be prepared for the inevitable day when your house can’t be cleaned as scheduled due to low employee turn out that day with a small business or personal issues that may arise with a self-employed house cleaner.
You will often be rescheduled to a different day as soon as is possible, but if this is unacceptable to you, these cleaners may not be the best choice for you.
If you can deal with the occasional rescheduled cleaning, however, companies and self-employed people in this category often provide the most “bang for your buck” with more personalized service, better quality and the same benefits of larger companies such as being legally operating businesses and carrying insurance and bonding.
At the lowest end of the scale is where you will need to be most careful in hiring.
This is the group that will give you the lowest price by far; however, the savings in price comes with a different kind of price tag. These people often do not carry insurance, have spotty references or are unable to provide them, do not have experience in the field of residential cleaning and do not report their earnings.
All is fine until you discover that something in your home is missing, your cleaner broke (and then failed to tell you) an item in your home, or you are contacted regarding the employment taxes you haven’t paid on the domestic help you are employing. Following the tips above will help assure that you don’t end up in this kind of situation.
In addition to the actual price of the cleaning, always know any additional fees you may be charged in certain circumstances. Most cleaning companies with employees have additional fees for lockouts, cancellations and rescheduling services to a different day.
Many of these fees depend upon the amount of notice you give. Either way, ask about additional fees, read agreements carefully before signing them as the additional fees will be carefully spelled out in such agreements, and be honest with yourself in whether or not you will be incurring these fees from time to time and, if so, what the true cost of services from the company will be for you.
So, all this talk, no answers. How much does house cleaning cost?
Well, that varies widely from region to region and even within an area, depending on the type of service hired as explained above, and your home and personal cleaning needs.
A general cleaning from a reputable service can run anywhere from $20-$50 or more an hour.
- First time (initial) cleanings and one-time or move-out cleanings often cost more per hour.
- Those in highly populated, urban areas can expect to pay on the higher end, while those in suburban and rural areas can often find house cleaning services on the lower end of this range.
- An average house (in my area) can cost anywhere from $60-$100 for a bi-weekly cleaning, differences being in the size and set up of the home, the number of people and pets occupying the home, how much decor there is throughout the home, materials in the home, frequency of cleanings and how the home is maintained between cleanings, just to name a few.
Always get more than 1 or 2 estimates, so that you are able to more accurately compare prices in your area.
Make Your Knowledgeable Decision
In summary, finding a good house cleaning service takes some time in preparing, meeting and checking on potential providers. However, the additional effort will be well worth it. Once you have found the service with good references, a clearly stated list of tasks, cheerful and friendly answers to your questions, proof of insurance and reasonable rates, you will agree that the time you have invested is worth every penny. And the next time you hear someone else complain about not being able to find good help, maybe you can give them a reference, along with some good tips on avoiding similar problems in the future.