A mom's guide to hiring a professional house cleaner

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You’re finally doing it. Once and for all, you have decided that you deserve to have a clean house without having to constantly be the one scrubbing and wiping. You, mama, have decided it is time to hire a house cleaner. (happy dance and high fives)

Um, so, now what?

Just like hiring a babysitter to take care of your precious little ones while you pretend to go to the gym, but instead go shopping at Target for throw pillows, finding someone you trust to come into your home can be stressful, not to mention confusing. 

After owning and operating a residential cleaning business for the better part of a decade, I saw the pitfalls and confusion that came with hiring someone like me. Most clients came to be befuddled, not even sure what to ask for where to begin. Now that I spend my days helping moms with all things homemaking and home management, I thought there was no better topic to tackle than the nitty gritty of hiring a professional house cleaner.

Ask for referrals from friends. In my last 2 years of business, I did minimal marketing and advertising because almost all of my clients came from word-of-mouth referrals. We all love to brag on our favorite spots to eat, the best places to shop and the nail salons that give the best pedicures, and the same goes for house cleaners. Ask around to your friends and family, put a blast out on Facebook and be sure to ask why they love their current maid service or house cleaner. 

Check out Google and reviews online. If none of your friends have referrals for you, search your local area on Google and be sure to look at reviews as well. Does the company have a website or Facebook page? It is 2017 and as judgmental as it may sound, I don’t do business with any companies that don’t have some kind of online presence. 

Make a list of what you are looking to have done. This can be oddly difficult, like knowing you want a brand new hairstyle but not even knowing where to begin. A great place to start is to walk around your house and make a list of the things you want you to have done. It’s also important to give consideration to how often you are looking to have the cleaning done. Would once a month be enough or would you rather have it done once a week? Do you like the idea of biweekly cleaning or are you hoping to have a crew come in and do seasonal deep cleanings?
 

Need some help with deciding what tasks you want a cleaner to do? Download your free Everything and the Kitchen Sink list.

Large companies versus smaller companies: A question I am asked quite frequently is, “Is it better to hire a larger cleaning company, like one of the franchises, a smaller local company or just one person?” My answer is pretty annoying, because the real answer is, it is totally up to you. Larger companies usually offer numbers in the form of more people, which usually means less time in your home. However, they tend to be more costly and the turnover can be high. That means, you never really know who is coming into your home. 

Smaller cleaning companies or single person operations offer the same services, but can take longer because they are doing the work on a smaller scale. However, having been this type of company, I know that the prices are almost always less costly and their room for flexibility is higher. Need something extra done this time? It is easier to get a hold of one person and deal with them versus trying to speak with a franchise that has rules and standards in place.

House cleaning versus housekeeping. There is a big difference between a house cleaner and a house keeper. House cleaners focus on just that; cleaning. They don’t usually do other tasks like laundry, decluttering, dishes, picking up toys, ironing, etc. They won’t let pets outs or put away clothes. A housekeeper is generally someone that will do all over the above. 

Ask if they provide free estimates. I never, ever charged to come to someone's house and provide a quote and I don't know of many companies that do, but it is a good idea to ask beforehand. I viewed that visit as a time for us to get to know one another, discuss their needs, discuss what I do, the cost, the frequency, etc. I rarely, if ever, committed to cleaning a home or property without providing an estimate first. 

Should my house cleaner be insured? I won't mix words here. Yes, they should. Under no circumstances would I allow someone into my home, especially on a regular basis and when I was not home, without knowing that they were insured. This protects everyone. As with all kinds of insurance, you hope you never need it, but on the off chance that they break your antique vase or worse, burn down the house by leaving the oven on, their insurance should cover it. Be sure to ask for a copy of their policy. You have a right to see this and shouldn't feel badly about. I always offered this to potential clients so that everyone had peace of mind.

"But how much do house cleaners charge? I don't even know how much I should be paying!"

Oh dear. The dreaded "But how much will it cost me?" question. Of all the questions I have ever been asked, including my kids asking for the three thousandth time if they can have a snack, this one is by far the most frequent. And I understand why. When you're hiring someone to do a job, it is hard to know how much the norm is when you've never done it

The answer is, it depends. Ugh. I know. I'm the worst, but it's the truth. Pricing varies greatly not only from region to region, but from company to company. It depends on what you are looking to have done, how often, the state of your home, how large your home it, and so on and so on. What is considered affordable in NYC would be outrageously priced in my neck of the woods in upstate NY. 

Another thing to take into consideration is if the cleaning company or individual charges by the job or the hour. In my business, for example, I charged by the job. Whether it took me an hour or 5, it was the price that I quoted. This was because not all cleaning jobs or hours are created equal (if you don't believe me, spend an hour lightly dusting the house and then an hour scrubbing a shower or an oven...) There is no right or wrong way to charge, but you should be away before hiring someone.

The best way to determine pricing in your area is to ask around. Get a few different quotes, ask your friends, and compare. Remember, with service based business, you usually get what you pay for. If someone is willing to come in for $5 an hour and isn't insured, you are opening yourself up to be disappointed (and probably have your belongings stolen. #truthtime)

Here is a list of important questions to ask someone during an interview

  • Ask specifically what they do and/or don’t do
  • Ask if they work alone or as a team. If they work as a team, how many people and will it be the same each time?
  • How do they price? By the hour or by the job? If they charge by the hour, will they keep it within a specific budget?
  • Do they bring their own supplies or will you need to provide the supplies?
  • Are they insured? Can they provide proof of insurance?
  • Are their employees bonded?
  • Do they do background checks?
  • Do they have references (I would take at least 3) ALL reputable cleaning companies, even a one-person operation, should be able to provide references for you. Be sure to check those references.
  • What kind of payment do they take? When is it due? How do you pay?
  • Do you have to sign a contract?
  • Do they have any guarantees?

My last tip and tool of the trade is, trust your gut. If someone seems sketchy, or off, or if after a few visits, things just don't seem right, move on to someone else. I did my very best in my business to make my clients feel comfortable with the fact that I was in their home and treated their belongings as if they were my own. Anyone coming into your home should afford you the same respect and fill you with warm feelings of trust. This should take the stress off of you, not create more. 


Whether you are looking to hire someone to help on a weekly basis or just once every few months, there are always things that need to be done in between. But who has time to keep up with track of all of that? Download my free Everything and the Kitchen Sink cleaning list and take the confusion out of what needs to be cleaned and when. Print an extra copy to give to your newly hired professional cleaner so everyone is on the same page.