How to quote house cleaning

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by Tom Watson on April 28, 2013

One of the most popular questions concerning starting a house cleaning business is “how do I come up with a price to charge?”

While that seems like a simple question to answer, it’s not, due to the many variables you will be faced with when trying to perform a quote yourself.

So while we will try to give you some common sense advice in this post, we won’t be diving head-first into every possible scenario you may be faced with. What I can say is that “on the whole” it’s a pretty straight-forward process, and you will catch on quickly.

How to quote house cleaning

Before I begin sharing the process we need to cover a few things real quickly. Many people who write in and ask about pricing are fixated on two main issues, and we need to clear the air on them before we start. Without further ado, people tend to be worried about….

  1. What the competition is charging to clean houses
  2. Can they give bids for house cleaning over the phone

I’ll cover number one first. My short answer to that question is “don’t worry about what the competition charges”. Odds are they are flying by the seat of their pants, so by copying them you will be too!

While having a “general idea” of what the market price is for cleaning houses is a good idea, you NEVER want to just copy what someone else is doing. Besides, how they run their business, and what costs they need to factor in are probably VERY DIFFERENT from your business.

Now on to question #2. My answer to that is “NO, you can’t give bids over the phone”.  If you do you will be COMPLETELY at the mercy of the person on the phone describing how clean their home is. What you find when you go to clean however can be completely different!

This does not necessarily mean they lied (though they might have), it just means “their perception” of what is needed to be cleaned and how long it would take does not match yours. The reality is the only thing that matters is how long YOU think it will take to clean, NOT how long THEY think it will.

Needless to say this means that “YES”, you need to bid EVERY SINGLE HOUSE by visiting it in person and evaluating it for yourself. This protects you from making the stupid mistakes that lead you to getting house cleaning jobs that don’t pay well enough to make a decent living.

Quoting a price to charge for cleaning someones house is directly related to how much time will be needed to clean the home in question. As a guideline you should expect to spend about 1.5 hours cleaning for every 1,000 square feet of home.

That’s a pretty safe guideline for you to follow as you first get started. I highly suggest you keep a diary of how long it took to clean each home so that you can ZERO IN EXACTLY on your personal cleaning rate. This will allow you to fine tune your house cleaning prices once you have a few cleaning jobs under your belt.

Keep in mind that initial first time cleanings may take MUCH LONGER due to neglect. In cases like these you may want to DOUBLE OR TRIPLE the time needed to perform a good cleaning for the first time and get the home back to square one. After that you would just charge “normal rate”.

House cleaning quote example

So lets say you were called by someone who has a two thousand square foot home. Under our beginners guideline we spoke of a moment ago we should allocate about 3.0 hours to clean the home provided nothing extra is required and it’s not a neglected home or a spring type cleaning (the owner kept up the place but just needs a break from doing the cleaning themselves).

To calculate a price to charge you will perform the bid as if someone else will do the cleaning, even if you are the one who will actually clean the home. This is KEY because doing it any other way is a huge mistake people new to the business make everyday.

Now we need to determine what you will be paying your cleaning person (let’s assume it’s just one person for the purpose of this quote). For the sake of argument lets say you pay $15.00 per hour. So $15.00 per hour X the 3 hours it takes to clean equals $45.00 labor.

Next up is the associated payroll taxes that come with having employees. These are commonly referred as FICA, State & Federal taxes etc (a payroll provider will take care of this part). A good number to figure on is about 18% of your labor (the $45.00 number we just came up with earlier). So $45.00 X .18 = 8.10. Now we total $53.10.

Now we need to factor in supplies. A commonly used number to figure on is 6%. So we just take the $53.10 we came up with earlier and multiply it by 6% to get 3.19 (53.10 X .06 = 3.186 then we round-up). So now we total $56.29. To recap this takes into account the payroll, the payroll taxes and the supplies.

Overhead is the next part of the quote. As I mentioned before, this covers the “average cost” per cleaning of administrative and non-payroll expenses. (THINK: pens, paper, office etc…) As a rule of thumb you can use 50% for that figure. Now you just multiply the $56.29 running total we have by 50% to get $28.15 (56.29 X .50 = 28.145 then round-up). Now we have $84.44.

The last part of coming up with a house cleaning quote is PROFIT. I would use a figure like 33% to factor in for profit. You can adjust this depending on how badly you want the job, but this is a good number to use. So now we would just take the $84.44 runnning total and multiply that by 33% to get $27.87 (84.44 X .33 = 27.8652 then round-up). We now total $112.31.

We have a total price of $112.31 that we will quote for house cleaning! PLEASE NOTE: If your state requires you to charge sales tax, then you must factor that into your quote by adding it at the end (on top) of this total. For instance NJ sales tax is currently 7%. So it would be an added $7.86 ($112.31 X .07 = 7.86) So the total is $112.31 PLUS sales tax of $7.86.

That was not all that hard to figure out, PLUS you now have a really good understanding ofWHY” the price is that amount. Going around quoting houses is nice, but going around quoting them and actually UNDERSTANDING how you got to that price is what separates the rookies from the professionals.

To recap the process for quoting house cleaning

  1. How long will it take? Use 1.5 hours per 1,000 square feet to start.
  2. Determine payroll. Just multiply time spent by what you are paying per hour.
  3. Factor in employee payroll taxes. Use 18% of running total to play it safe.
  4. Factor in supplies. Use 6% of running total as your number.
  5. Factor in overhead. Use 50% of running total to start then adjust as needed.
  6. Factor in profit. Use 33% of running total to start then adjust as needed.
  7. Add it all up and submit house cleaning quote. Make adjustments as needed to “fine tune” over time.

As you can see it’s not all that hard to pull this stuff off and REMEMBER that practice makes perfect. In the beginning use the estimates provided and see where it puts you, then adjust as needed. The more you provide quotes the faster you will zero in on a pricing strategy that makes sense for both you and your customers.

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{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

51 Tom Watson October 7, 2014 at 7:41 am

Hi Gus! No I never did. The issue is that it’s just too much to write for a post. I have a whole chapter dedicated to that in my courses. As far as using the house cleaning… it’s similar, but there is more factors to consider on commercial. Houses are very straight-forward in my opinion. They tend to be a very fixed size, while commercial can vary greatly not only is size but in frequency of cleaning.

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