"Who should I hire to clean my home – an individual or a cleaning service?"
Who you hire will depend on your budget, cleaning needs and personal preferences.
Advantages of hiring individuals include: generally lower cost than large services, same person (or team) cleans your home consistently, which means they get to know your needs and preferences better than large services who may send different individuals on different days.
Disadvantages include: less flexibility in scheduling since individuals are covering a number of clients with set schedules, reference and background checks are left to the homeowner, workers may lack liability insurance (which is a problem if they are injured on the job), in certain cases, you may be obligated to withhold and pay Federal income, Social Security Medicare and Unemployment taxes. Check out IRSpublication 926 for more information ( pdf ).
Advantages of hiring professional cleaning servicesinclude: workers have the training, tools and supplies necessary to be effective, greater flexibility in scheduling, protection in case of accidents or theft (service companies should be licensed, bonded, and carry liability insurance), no need to worry about taxes.
Disadvantages include: higher costs, impersonal service, no continuity.
Price will depend on variables including frequency of visits, size of home, condition of your home, and the type of cleaning you need.
"How do I know if the individual or service I want to hire is trustworthy?"
All potential hires should be licensed, insured, and bonded. Ask around for referrals and check reviews for individuals and companies. During the interview process, ask for references. For individual cleaners, confirm their work history and perform a background check. Once you have made a hiring decision, create clear expectations and boundaries and get everything in writing. Finally, agree to a trial period.
Regardless of how honest and trustworthy a professional may seem, it’s still a good idea to keep your valuables in a safe place at least during the trial period, or until you develop a base level of trust.
"How should I handle security if I am not going to be home when the cleaners are there?"
Choose an individual or cleaning service that is bonded so in the case of theft or damage, your losses may be covered. If possible, be home for the first cleaning with a new individual or company to meet the professional and start to gain a level of trust.
Make sure you and the cleaner agree on how they will access your home, and what security precautions should be taken. For example, if you decide to leave a key under the mat, ask the house cleaner to leave it inside the house when they’re done. Always keep your valuables in a safe place during the cleaning.
You can also install home security system cameras.
"Are there certain tasks that individuals or cleaning companies won't do?"
A housekeeper's insurance may limit certain tasks. Often cleaners aren't allowed to perform tasks that require climbing on ladders, like cleaning windows, cabinet tops, and high light fixtures.
Also, individual house cleaners may feel uncomfortable with some jobs. Many house cleaners, for example, will not do window washing or any heavy lifting.
Negotiate and agree in writing on the tasks expected of the house cleaner prior to the start of services.
"Where should my pet(s) be when the home is being cleaned?"
Before hiring a housekeeper, ask about any preferences they may have regarding pets. You should also ask if there's an additional fee for cleaning a household with pets.
Before the house cleaner begins, introduce them to your pet. Depending on how the interaction goes, you may choose to cage or isolate the animal, or ask the cleaner to leave the animal in a safe spot outside during cleaning time.