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Tips for hiring a housecleaning service

Thinking about hiring a cleaning service for the holidays? Washington Consumers' Checkbook has some tips to help you choose the right one. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON — Whether you’re giving your house a thorough cleaning for holiday festivities, visiting family members or just because it needs it, prior planning is likely to make you more happy with the results, says a local consumers’ group.

The first thing you need to decide is whether to hire an individual or a company, recommends Washington Consumers’ Checkbook.

Overall, individuals get higher ratings from customers, Checkbook says. But, you lose the convenience factor.

“If you hire an individual, then you have to do all the vetting and you also have to pay taxes,” said Kevin Brasler, executive editor at Checkbook.org. “At that point, you’re an employer and have responsibilities as an employer that you don’t have if you’ve just hired a company.”

Whether you go with an individual or company, do your homework first.

Here are some recommendations to make sure you hire the right housecleaner.

Get references

“Get suggestions from friends and co-workers and ask specific questions,” Brasler said.

Some examples of questions to ask:

  • Have you had any problems with them, if so what kind?
  • If you’re picky about certain things, is it easy to communicate that with them?
  • Is it OK if you stick around for at least the first visit or two to oversee the work?

If you notice any issues with a newly hired cleaning service discuss the problem immediately, Brasler advised.

Examine price differences

Checkbook undercover shoppers asked businesses for estimates of hypothetical cleanings and found significant price differences.

A one-time cleaning of an empty four-bedroom, two-story house with 3-1/2 bathrooms and a finished basement cost between $129 and $585. Prices to clean a two-story, three-bedroom, two-bath home ranged between $75 and $270 per cleaning, per week.

“Over the course of a year, that’s going to add up to big price differences,” Brasler said.

Confirm types of insurance

A cleaning company being “bonded” doesn’t protect the homeowner, it only protects the company in case an employee steals something from a customer’s home. Brasler says be sure the company has general liability and workers’ compensation insurance.

  • Liability covers you if they break something or cause damage such as a fire or flooding.
  • Workers’ comp covers workers in your home in case they slip or fall, for example, and get injured.

Before getting a set estimate and hiring a company, Brasler says be sure to get in writing specific tasks that will be performed, how frequently and at what price.

Through a special arrangement with the nonprofit Washington Consumers’ Checkbook, WTOP.com readers can have a look at Checkbook ratings and price comparisons for housecleaners for a limited time.

Consumers’ Checkbook/Center for the Study of Services is an independent nonprofit consumer organization founded in 1974. It has for more than 40 years been an innovator in providing information to help consumers make smarter choices.


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