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Make hiring a housekeeper easier

Homeowners sometimes look to a housekeeper or maid service to help with work around the house. A housekeeper is a luxury many people cannot afford. For those who choose to splurge due to a busy schedule or an illness that prevents them from doing the work themselves, it is important to research a potential housekeeper before letting a person have access to the home.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are 1.5 million maids and housekeepers across the country. Around 30 percent of those workers are employed by private households.

Many housekeepers are self-employed, meaning they are not backed by the reputation of a particular company. There are others who work for a company and may come to the house with a team to get the work done more quickly.

Considering housekeepers and maid services will be entering your home, and sometimes when you are not around, it is important to find a reputable service and diligently check references. Even the best research may not account for or uncover every issue, but it will help narrow down housekeepers who do shoddy work or who cannot be trusted inside your home.

Before hiring a service, figure out what you expect of the housekeeper. Standard packages often include a thorough cleaning of the kitchen, bathrooms, floors and furniture. Other work, like moving furniture and vacuuming underneath or washing the interior and exterior of windows, may be an extra service for an additional fee, or they may not offer it at all.

Other housekeepers do laundry or put away clean dishes. It is important to pinpoint just what you will need from the housekeeper so you can compare prices and services of a few different maids accordingly.

It's a good tip to get referrals from friends or neighbors as a jumping-off point to finding a maid service. Once you have a few names, check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints against the companies or individuals you are considering. Also, look for a company that offers background checks on their employees. Select ones that offer insurance against any broken items, flooding, on-the-job accidents, etc. Ask each company you're considering if it bonds its housekeepers. This is essentially "dishonesty insurance" and helps offer extra protection against theft.

Cost may also be a factor when hiring a housekeeper. Costs vary among housekeepers, whose rates might be influenced by a host of factors, including whether or not you have pets, how frequently their services will be required and the size of your home.

After you've narrowed down the prospects based on security and cost, further shorten the list by finding out answers to some of these other questions:

* What types of cleaning products are used? Are they eco-friendly? Do I have a choice of products?

* Will the housekeeper use his or her own equipment, such as a vacuum cleaner, or must these items be provided?

* Will the same maid come every time or do they rotate?

* Does the maid service periodically do quality-control checks?

* Will the housekeeper come alone or with others to help?

* How are complaints handled?

Setting rules and boundaries, as well as having all expectations spelled out in a contract, can help alleviate potential problems. Finding a housekeeper the right way will prevent having to go through the process again.