Hiring Domestic Help

One of the benefits of having wealth is the ability to trade money for time. Multimillionaires and billionaires often hire household help – whether it be just an occasional cleaning or lawn service or full blown domestic help including a household manger, live in nanny and maids or perhaps a houseman/handyman or a private chef.

If you are like us, you have spent a lifetime gaining wealth, doing most things yourself, including domestic work. Why would you change that now?

Why hire domestic help?

As you have worked your way up the success ladder, you have acquired more money, more assets and many more responsibilities. Your time is valuable and limited. Not only because you are getting older and there is less time left to you, but also because you have other, more important things to do than dust or mow the lawn. Should you hire those less important things done?

The answer is highly personal. Some don’t hesitate to farm out the non-essential tasks in their lives, others won’t because they still enjoy doing the work, or don’t want the intrusion hired help brings into their lives. In fact, hiring full time employees can bring you quite a bit of extra management work. Someone has to manage their work, their hours, the taxes and legalities of the situation.

Even hiring occasional help or a periodic service can be an extra hassle – finding the right person, checking their work, making sure you are covered from a liability and legal perspective when they are on your property and even deciding whether to let them in your house when you are not there.

Although we have never had maid service, growing up or in my married life, my Mom and Aunt both hired a cleaning lady to come in once a month – after they hit about the age of 70 years. They simply didn’t want to clean, couldn’t clean as well as they used to and had the money to spend, so they did!

If you need further examples and convincing on why you should hire help, read this US News story Why You Should Outsource Domestic Chores Now! Their main points are that it can help you be more productive as well as enjoy your free time more.

Things to consider before hiring domestic help.

The Krafts in Legal Pitfalls When Hiring Domestic Help on the American Bar Association site, writing to an audience of lawyers, warn that if you hire domestic employees, you touch many different parts of the law, including anti-discrimination, tax laws, employment law, contract law, immigration law, and negligence laws among others. If you read this article, it will likely scare you off from hiring anyone!

You need to make sure that your homeowner’s insurance will cover any liability issues, that your hiree is not an illegal alien, that you are getting an honest person who will do the work correctly and on time, that you are paying a fair hourly and overtime rate and etc.

They suggest that the safer route is to use a reputable licensed agency – a service agency.

Even though a permanent placement agency (as opposed to a service agency) can do some of the work for you (such as the background checks or letting you ‘try out’ the person before hiring as an employee, you still have all of the employee considerations to handle.

Butler for You  (a permanent placement agency) provides staffing for mansions, estates, prestigious hotels and for private yachts. Need a butler or a chef? How about just a housekeeper? They purport to handle it all.

Of course, as with anyone you hire or contract for work, you want personal recommendations. Your neighbor’s, or websites such as Angie’s list (a membership site that lets members provide feedback for contractors in their area) might be helpful finding those.

Background checks and the right questions in interviews are important in finding the right person as well.

When using a service agency, instead of hiring someone, find the agency that does the kind of work you want done and check out the agency via the Better Business Bureau and personal recommendations. Describe what you want done in good detail once you select the agency.

Merry maids is an example of a service agency. They detail what and when and how and who will clean.

How much will it cost?

If you hire full time help, you should expect to pay an annual salary, including all of the extras that go along with hiring any employee (social security taxes and etc).

According to the New York Times, you can expect to pay $65K a year for a full time cook; $75K for a nanny; and $60 – $80 for a full time housekeeper. A butler or household manager will typically want a six figure annual salary.

Hiring a periodic service is much less expensive and could possibly be an independent contractor situation as opposed to an employee (depending on your situation and how much direction you are giving in how and when the job is done).

Prices vary based on the house to be cleaned. We pay $85 per cleaning for a 3/2 condo at the lake in the Mid-West – which includes laundry and dishes – making sure everything is ready for the next nightly renter. My neighbor used to run her own cleaning business and she charged $300 for the initial (very thorough) cleaning and then $100 a week for a house of around 2500 sq. feet.

Hiring a lawn service, including mowing, fertilizing, spring and fall cleanup can range in price depending on the part of the country you are in, how big your yard is and who you have doing it. $25 for just mowing a smallish yard per week seems fairly prevalent. Upwards of $100 a month for the whole range of services is probably not out of line.

What kind of household help would you consider hiring? What was your biggest surprise when you hired live in help of any kind?

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