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How To Hire The Right Cleaning Service

Updated: Jun 8, 2021

Young woman cleaning home counter top

It's not hard to find a cleaning service. There are a lot of them out there. What's important is finding the right one for you and your home. Why is it hard to hire the right cleaning service? One of our own clients summed it up perfectly.

"...having a stranger come into your home is never easy, especially when they see it not at its best. They made me feel immediately at ease and it was a pleasure having them here."

There are three main business models in the cleaning services industry. Each service will give you a different kind of experience.

  • W-2 employer: The service hires and trains their own W-2 employees.

  • The service is a domestic referral agency which connects/matches you to independent cleaners and cleaning companies.

  • The service is a single person or team - like an independent contractor or domestic employee.

How Much Should House Cleaning Services Cost?

House cleaning service costs can vary depending on the type of company, the services that are needed and your location. House cleaning costs in the bay area are typically around $40-$50 per cleaner per hour for a reputable, high-quality company that hires W-2 employees. Similarly, an experienced independent contractor will typically charge $20-$50 per cleaner per hour. Read our article titled How To Hire The Right Cleaning Service for a more detailed look into the different types of cleaning services, their costs and what to consider before hiring each.

There is a direct connection between the quality of work and length of time to complete a job. Proper training and the right tools go a long way to improving efficiency, but time is always going to be the biggest factor when it comes to job cost. So, don't be fooled by a low-ball offer to clean your home. Many companies will price their estimates low to get their foot in the door. But you'll find that the end result is either going to cost you more or it won't be as thorough as you hoped it would be because the housekeepers are working quickly to meet an unreasonable deadline.

At Spring Into Clean, our goal is to provide you a realistic price. We also set flat-rate prices so that you can more easily budget. You don't have to worry about your housekeepers going over time and costing you more money. The price you see is the price you'll pay. It's part of our goal to be as open and honest as we can about what you can expect. We want all sides to be on the same page so that there are no surprises when a job is complete. We believe this approach leads to much happier clients, and a cleaning team that is less stressed out.

Use our Cleaning Calculator to see what a high quality house cleaning would cost for your home.

What is a W-2 housekeeping service?

These are W-2 employers who have proven experience, policies and procedures to ensure the quality of their employees and tools is the same on every cleaning. Prices are typically the highest of the services types you'll hire. Part of this is because these employers have to pay more in taxes and insurance in addition to their other business costs, such as the infrastructure to make communication, scheduling and billing very easy.

One of the biggest advantages to hiring a company is that they have employees instead of independent contractors. One of the biggest reasons this service is so popular is because it relieves you, the customer, from the responsibility of filing employer related taxes, paperwork, doing the interviews, and checking to make sure the worker is authorized to legally work in the US.

Another big advantage to this type of cleaning service is that level of oversight or managing they can perform. W-2 employees can be trained and must adhere to a set schedule - which means no missed appointments. These companies can even control which tools they use.

Benefits plays a huge role as well. As a W-2 employee, they will earn sick leave which is a huge deal for this type of work. When you hire a company with W-2 employees, you’re supporting a company that provides their employees with security knowing that if they are too ill to work, they won't lose out on pay. This is also good for the client because they won't have to worry about a sick worker spreading a cold in their home.

One big hassle with this business model is that they are bit old fashioned. Many of them still require customers to call or email them to get a quote. This usually means sending multiple emails back and forth, or spending 15-20 minutes on the phone with someone as they interview you about your home and in some cases scheduling an in-home visit just to get a quote.

Often times you'll receive a quote that goes something like this:

"Based on what you've told me, it will probably take between 2-4 hours. We charge X amount per cleaner per hour."


"Based on what you've told me it will take about 4 hours and cost X dollars. If we arrive and we think it will cost more, we'll let you know before we start any work."

After 20 minutes on the phone and 6 emails this isn't really the definitive answer people want to hear. Most customers want to know what it will cost. Having price certainty is just a very nice feeling!

That's why we've created a unique booking form and is able to smartly capture the needs of your home in one simple form. Our pricing is a flat-rate. What you see is what you'll pay. You could easily book your home cleaning in about 5 minutes and never have to speak to anyone.

What should you consider before hiring a referral agency?

This business model is called a domestic referral agency. This business model is growing in popularity because of its lower operational cost. Referral agencies also have the flexibility to take on more work quickly because they have access to a larger pool of housekeepers - usually independent contractors (which we'll discuss more below).

How does a domestic referral agency work?

The agency does not employ any housekeepers of their own. Instead, they do the work of finding the best housekeepers in your area. They will interview, test the housekeeper's knowledge, call references, verify that the contractor has filed the proper business paperwork and has adequate insurance to perform cleaning services. That's a lot of work! And you don't have to do any of it.

What this means for you is that the agency takes your request for a cleaning appointment and reaches out to their network of independent contractors. These contractors will come to your home and clean. You pay the agency and the agency pays the contractor. The agency will usually pay the contractor 50-70% of whatever your total price is - it just depends on what their agreement with the contractor is. So for example, the agency may charge you $100 and will pay the contractor $70.

How does a referral agency benefit the customer?

You get a housekeeper without having to do all the research. The agency handles all of the administrative work and scheduling for you.

  • You don't have to worry about filing employer documents or paying employer related taxes or other fees.

  • If that housekeeper is sick or goes on vacation the agency can reach out to their network to find another contractor to fill the spot. This way you still get your home cleaned.

  • You don't have to do the firing - which can get awkward. If you don't like your cleaner, just say so and the agency will find another for you in no time.

  • If you like your cleaner, the agency will usually be able to assign that cleaner to all your cleanings.

How does a referral agency benefit the independent contractor?

Working with a referral agency is great for the contractor. It helps them scale their business by taking care of the operational and marketing activities they don't have the time or money for. Here are just a few examples of why independent contractors like working with referral agencies:

  • Contractors don't have to spend money on marketing to get new leads that may not even turn into paying customers - most contractors don't have the cash flow to do this effectively . The agency does all the marketing to get new clients and sends those guaranteed jobs to the contractor.

  • Contractors don't need to hire someone to handle customer service. They can just focus on cleaning and earning money. The agency will field all phone calls, emails, etc. Most leads need a response within 5 minutes to have a shot at converting them and independent contractors are usually cleaning so they can't respond quickly.

  • Contractors don't have to pay credit card processing fees or setup a system to allow online payments and invoicing. That technology can be tough for some to deal with. An agency can do that for them.

  • Contractors get the flexibility to accept only the jobs they want. The agency will notify the contractor when a new customer books. The contractor can see if it fits into their schedule and accept the job or not. This gives them the ability to make a schedule that still allows them to do things like spend time with family or take care of other obligations.

Are referral agencies worth it?

  • They way the agency describes their services may not be 100 percent the same as what the contractor will actually do. That can lead to inconsistent cleaning results or areas that you thought were going to be cleaned but actually cost extra.

  • It's very common for a contractor to skip out on your job because they got a higher paying job somewhere else. For the contractor, there's no real consequence to doing this because the agency is on the hook for getting a housekeeper to your home.

  • You might not always get the same contractor.

  • Independent contractors are notorious for forgetting appointments because they don’t use scheduling software. Most will use something like a Google calendar or just their own memory to keep their schedules organized. That can lead to double-booking or being really late.

  • This business model takes advantage of the worker. They have to be willing to work for less pay in exchange for getting a guaranteed lead.

  • The contractor doesn’t have any safety net like sick leave if they can’t work.

  • Independent contractors have to buy their own tools and pay for other expenses on top of earning only 70% of a job.

What should you consider before hiring an independent housekeeper?

This service model is a favorite for many because it's the least expensive. Plus you get the added benefit of building a relationship with your cleaner. You most likely have their direct email or phone number if you need to reach them. Normally you'll pay with cash or check as most contractors don't want to pay for a card processing system. Scheduling may not be as clear as you are probably relying on your cleaner's ability to manage their calendar versus an automated system which handles that for them.

But don't let the price fool you. It's not always true that you get what you pay for. We've met plenty of independent cleaners who do amazing work. And when you find that cleaner at the right price, that's hard to beat. You get personalized care of your home, a friendly cleaner you think of as family, and most importantly, someone reliable that you can trust.

One big issue with hiring this type of cleaner is whether or not you're responsible for filing employment documents and paying employee taxes. It really just depends on how the cleaner has structured their business. We recommend talking to them and doing some research on your own to determine if you'll need to do any extra paperwork to hire them. We're not lawyers so we can't help you figure this out. We just want to bring it to your attention as many people don't realize it's something they may need to do.

Independent contractors will bring their own supplies or they will use yours. It's really up to the the agreement you have with them. Some customers like to provide all the cleaning supplies, even the towels!

It's a lot harder to find a good independent contractor though. Most people rely on word of mouth referrals to help them find someone. Others will go to websites that are specifically designed to help you find contractors.


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