What type of Housekeeper is right for you?

As homeowners (or renters), parents, professionals, and pet owners, we all have plenty to do, without having to clean house. The addition of a housekeeping service that's reliable and consistent may be exactly what you need to relieve the stress associated with keeping your home functioning, organized, and running smoothly. Whether you hire a single housekeeper or a team of people from a housekeeping agency, hiring housekeeping help should improve your quality of life, and give you more time and energy to spend with your family.

Ready to Find Help? Here Are Your Options:

*Private Housekeeper. A personal housekeeper can be virtually anyone who publishes an ad offering a housecleaning service. Some are excellent and trustworthy; some aren't. You will be responsible for evaluating these qualities yourself. The most crucial evaluating technique is to check their references. Ask for three and call them. Ask their previous or current employers to comment on the quality of their work, their reliability, flexibility, and why they do or do not currently employ the housekeeper. If the relationship ended, ask why. There might be a very good reason that has nothing to do with the quality of work, such as scheduling or a move. If you feel the explanation is negative, you are free not to hire the housekeeper. You should also run a background check on the housekeeper as well.

A private housekeeper can be a cost-effective and mutually beneficial solution for both you and your housecleaner; however, be cautious when hiring. Technically, as the employer you can be held liable for injury claims, worker's compensation insurance and unemployment insurance. It's important to review your home liability insurance to make sure it covers service people in case of injury, and to notify your insurer of the relationship. Keep in mind that a housekeeper hired under the table can be a serious financial risk if they don't pay employment taxes -- in which case you as the employer can be held liable for the taxes due to the IRS.

*Agency. An agency is a local company or even a national franchise that employs housecleaners or teams of people to go to your home. The benefit of using an agency or professional cleaning service is that the team assigned to your household reports directly to a higher boss/owner of the company, whom you deal with and pay directly. Although this is not true of every cleaning agency, if you hire a reputable company, they are typically insured and bonded for your protection. This is a major benefit. If your belongings are damaged, you will have compensation recourse and bonding protects you if an employee is guilty of theft.

Other benefits of an agency may include the fact that: Their maids are screened, trained, and supervised at all times. They pay all federal, state, and social security taxes. They offer tiered cleaning packages and add-on services. They provide cleaning solutions and state of the art equipment. They inspect and guarantee their housecleaners' work (and often leave a Quality Card for comments after every cleaning.) Many offer coupons and cleaning specials. Many now offer Green Cleaning, using effective cleaning products, equipment and procedures that don't endanger you, your children, your pets or the environment with harsh chemicals. Some promptly re-clean, whenever a customer is not satisfied.

*Franchise Agency. Franchise cleaning companies have many of the above benefits with the added bonus of national recognition, such as Merry Maids or The Maids. They often advertise cleaning specials and have the infrastructure to facilitate and maintain customer satisfaction.

*Commercial Company. If you own a business, you are more likely to use a local, commercial housekeeping service that can come in after hours. They have the capability to use industrial strength cleaners and vacuum large areas.

The Bottom Line:

Choose the option that fits your needs best. Check references -- always.

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