Questions to ask before hiring a housecleaning service

After being locked down at home during the pandemic, some people might want to start leaving the dirty work to someone else and hire a housecleaner.

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

People seem to be much more satisfied on average working with an individual versus a service. Some people want to establish a relationship with the person doing the very personal job of cleaning their home and it may be easier to communicate with a single person.

“The problem is, is when you hire an individual, you’re responsible now as an employer, to do certain things like make sure that you have unemployment insurance, make sure that you’re, you know, doing the right things in terms of withholding the right taxes and find the right paperwork,” said Kevin Brasler, executive editor at Checkbook.org.

“That’s why a lot of people either hire an individual and don’t do what they’re supposed to do as an employer or they hire a service. So they don’t have to worry about it,” he said.

He recommends getting estimates and proposals in person.

“Have them come by and look at your mess, and quote you a price based on what they see, to do the work. And really the most important thing is ask them what they will do, what they won’t do, and really tell them about things that you’re picky about — like the grout being perfectly clean in your shower. A friend of mine was complaining about this the other day, so make sure you point that out in the beginning,” Brasler said.

He also said to ask about intermittent or special projects such as folding clothes or cleaning the refrigerator.

It can pay to shop around. Brasler said price differences between companies per session vary by about $40, which can begin to add up if you’re getting multiple visits a month.

“We also found that price and quality don’t really correlate at all so that the higher quality services were just as likely to charge low prices as the ones that didn’t rate very well. And so you may as well shop around among you know, high quality outfits for a low price,” he said.

Brasler said asking around for recommendations can have great results.

“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.

There’s also the issue of insurance.

Realize that 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. Be sure the company has general liability in addition to 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.

Through a special arrangement with the nonprofit Washington Consumers’ Checkbook, WTOP readers can have a look at Checkbook ratings and price comparisons for 67 area 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.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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