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How to hire a housecleaner

Hiring someone else to do your least-favorite household jobs may be cheaper and easier than you think.

By MSN Money Partner Jul 7, 2014 1:05PM

This post comes from Marilyn Lewis at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyIf you do your own housecleaning, you've probably dreamed of hiring a professional to take at least some tasks off your hands.

If there aren't enough hours in a day for you to accomplish everything, you should seriously entertain the idea, if it's economically feasible and you'd rather spend your time on other jobs.

Here's how to find the right housekeeper at the right price.

You can't do it all

We women, in particular, may struggle with guilt ("What kind of a wife/mother/woman am I if I can't do this stuff myself?")

But, face it: You can't do it all. The way to keep your marbles is to focus on what is most important. Usually, that’s family, job (at home or for an employer), health, safety and keeping your sanity.

When you offer someone else the means to make a living, you're making a worthwhile contribution while also helping yourself. Erica Douglass, at Get Rich Slowly, told how she came to outsource the aspects of her life she liked least.

Can you afford it?

If you and/or your spouse earn an hourly wage equal to or greater than the rate you'd pay for housecleaning, chances are you can afford to buy help for at least a few hours a month.

When weighing costs and benefits, consider taxes, transportation and whether you can get enough hours of work to cover your monthly expenses and also hire household help.

If you cannot afford to pay, all's not lost. You might be able to barter with trusted friends or acquaintances. Maybe you'd rather baby-sit or garden for others than clean house. Or perhaps you may have other skills you can trade, such as dog walking, tax preparation, hair cutting, baking, catering, tutoring, or skills you or your spouse use to make a living.

What does it cost?

The hourly cost of housekeeping services varies not just from town to town but also within a town. Here's how to learn about rates:

  • Call local companies and ask for their rates (search the Internet for your ZIP code and "housekeeping services" or "housecleaning services").
  • Check ads in your local newspaper, Craigslist or other classified ad services.
  • Check bulletin boards at your church, grocery store, hardware store, library and community center and call to ask for rates.
  • Check reviews of providers on Angie’s List (memberships start at $9.99 a year). "Members can see prices listed out on the reviews," says Angie's List spokeswoman Cheryl Reed.

Your next decision is whether to use a housekeeping service or hire an individual. Here are pros and cons for each:

Hiring a service


  • Takes care of bookkeeping and billing.
  • Pays housekeepers’ taxes and files necessary government forms.
  • Should be bonded and insured, protecting you from theft, lawsuits and workers' compensation claims.
  • Trains employees.
  • Can assign new cleaners if you aren't happy with ones they've sent.
  • Can send backup if a regularly scheduled cleaner can't make it.
  • Offers an arm's-length relationship. If you don't like the cleaner’s work, you are off the hook for difficult discussions with the worker. Instead, just tell the company.


  • Usually charges more.
  • May use different cleaners, which, in theory at least, increases the opportunity for privacy invasions and theft.

Hiring an individual


  • May be cheaper -- perhaps even a lot cheaper.
  • May be open to negotiating over price, especially if you throw in some non-wage goodies, like lunch or a snack, and perhaps transportation help.
  • Allows more control over who is in your home.


  • You must hire and screen candidates yourself. (A service does that for you).
  • You have a relationship with the worker, which can be a pleasure. But you must clearly communicate what you want done, and fire and rehire if you don't like the results.
  • If you meet the legal definition of an employer, you could be responsible for employee injuries on the job. (This article from Nolo explains the distinctions between the employer-employee relationship and the client-independent contractor relationship. You have fewer legal obligations working with independent contractors.)
  • If you meet the definition of employer, you're responsible for paying and withholding Social Security and Medicare taxes and also possibly unemployment tax. You must file IRS Form W-2 at the end of each year.
  • To avoid hiring undocumented workers, you must see proof that the worker you hire is legally qualified to work in the U.S. Your worker should complete U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.

Find good candidates

Whether you use a service or hire an individual, do the research to find trustworthy, skilled and competent candidates:

  • Ask friends, family members and co-workers for referrals; the personal experience of people you know and trust is the most valuable recommendation.
  • Use Angie's List three ways:
  1. Search the housecleaning category for reviews of businesses and services written by members.
  2. Use the site's SnapFix app to shoot a photo or describe the job you want done; Angie's List will send you the names of recommended companies.
  3. Phone or email to ask Angie's List to do your search for you.
  • Try Thumbtack and Handybook, sites that connect service providers with clients.
  • Read reviews of companies and services at Yelp.
  • Pay a service (search online) for a police check and credit check on a candidate before hiring.

Caution: Do not post an ad, on Craigslist or anywhere else, for a housecleaner. You could be inviting thieves or scammers to take advantage of you. It's safer to limit your search to individuals and companies that advertise.

Assorted Cleaning Products Without Labels © Ocean/CorbisInterview several candidates

Even if you think you've found someone you like, interview at least three candidates. You'll learn much about the field of prospects and wage requirements this way.

One approach to interviewing is to list tasks you most want done. You may not mind cleaning floors, but you hate scrubbing toilets, for instance. Or making beds.

Once you know which jobs are most important, time yourself as you do them to see what can reasonably be done in a given time.

If you feel comfortable doing it, conduct interviews in your home so you and the prospective worker can together review the tasks to be done.

Otherwise, conduct interviews in a public place and bring photos of areas of your home you want cleaned. Ask candidates their sense of how much can be done in the time you've allotted.

Bring your questions

Bring a list of questions to your interviews. Ask them of every candidate. For example:

  • Will they use your products and tools or theirs?
  • Will they use chemical cleaning products? (You may not want exposure to chemicals.) Will they use only green cleaners? (You may believe green cleaners don't really do the job).
  • List your concerns, certain tools or products you want used on wood floors, for example. Or identify favorite products you prefer to be used.

Or use an alternative approach: Find the worker you like best, agree on the hours and days involved, and have them do what they can in the time allowed.

Next, give yourself the job of thinking about what you want to do with the time you have bought for yourself.

What do you think about hiring someone to work in your home? Would you do it? Have you done it?

More from Money Talks News

I'm for hiring an individual, but one that owns his/her business - and can show you proof of a valid business license in your state, along with valid business insurance. You make the check out to the business name. That way, you don't have to pay taxes because you're not an employer. You're the customer, paying a flat fee for a service provided by a business entity.
Jul 7, 2014 4:19PM
I wish we could clean house in DC get rid of the liars, worthless, the crooks all of them and write new rules with term limits. Also set standards and list reasons for dismissal of elected officials by private overview citizens groups that rotate annually based on same selection process as jury members.   
Jul 7, 2014 3:53PM

If you want to know who NOT to hire. Set out front of the local methadone clinic at 6am and see how many company truck show up with there employee's .....Plumbers, Roofers, Cleaning etc. You will be amazed.

Jul 7, 2014 3:09PM
I have hired merry maids and they are great. they may be a bit more in cost, but their cleaners are screened and dependable. they have been here for over three months now. my house looks great and has never been so clean 
Jul 7, 2014 6:57PM
I had hired cleaning people in the past.  My friends and I had very similar experiences.  The cleaning person started out doing a great job.  After a short period of time, the quality of their work went south.  This was true whether the the cleaning person was an individual or came from a cleaning service.  I have stopped having a cleaning person on a regular basis.  I now use a cleaning service every few months.  Since it is a first visit, they do a bang up job.  Once the home is very clean, it is easy to maintain it for several months.  I use Angie's list and try to avoid using the same service too many times.  But, in my experience, if you have them on a regular schedule, say weekly, every 2 weeks or even monthly, the quality of their work deteriorates over time.
Jul 7, 2014 6:23PM
I've been a housekeeper for a few years. Think this article is full of good advice. There are pros and cons for business and the private but the best option is the one that suits the individual's needs.
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