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.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to our Cleaning 4 Profit RSS feed. If you are looking for a step by step blueprint that will show you how to start your own cleaning business, then check out my Cleaning Business Training Manuals. If you need a great website or would like to upgrade what you already have then you may want to take a look at my Cleaning Business Website Packages.

{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Francisco April 28, 2013 at 8:28 pm

what keeps me awake at night is the one person cleaning companies that only charge $60 to clean a home, I rather compete with big companies because at that point it’s all about the quality.

Great post!

2 Tom Watson April 28, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Thanks Francisco!

3 Carmen April 28, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Thank you zo much for your cleaning information. I am new and I follow you closely. You are my mentor and I appreciate your time and yout dharing your knowledge thank you knights in cleaning armor corp /Carmen

4 Tom Watson April 28, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Thanks Carmen! I’m happy to be of service.

5 Christine April 29, 2013 at 2:17 am

Great post Tom! One of your best! This will come in handy. Thanks for sharing!

6 Tom Watson April 29, 2013 at 6:05 am

Thanks for the kind words Christine!

7 Lee-Ann Smith May 3, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Great post and very helpful!!

8 Tom Watson May 3, 2013 at 8:57 pm

Thanks Lee-Ann!

9 Carl May 4, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Another great post Tom! I just started my company last week and used this method to win my first job. Now that I have one job under my belt, I plan on adjusting the formula a bit.

10 Tom Watson May 4, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Hi Carl! Congrats on your first account! I’m sure it will be the first of many. And yes, mold the formula how ever you see fit based upon what you learn as you go.

11 Tracy Mason May 11, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Thanks so much for this helpful article! I too see people around here quoting extremely low prices and do not understand how they make it! Keeping this for my records!

12 Tom Watson May 11, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Hi again Tracy! Glad you liked the post, thanks!

As to low prices and how they “make it”… Well, they DON’T make it over the long run charging such low prices to clean houses. They are slowly LOSING MONEY on every job, they just don’t realize it.

With that said, low-ball companies will always be there as new ones are always cropping up. The good news is the people who hire them ARE NOT YOUR IDEAL CUSTOMER. You ONLY WANT those who are willing to pay well, leave the others for the low-ballers to pick over. You keep the profit, they pick the bones.

13 Gabriel R May 16, 2013 at 8:31 am

its a great insight. Am about starting a cleaning business. THis is really helpfull.

14 Tom Watson May 16, 2013 at 9:54 am

Thanks Gabriel!

15 monique May 21, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Thank you for the information, I am just starting out so this is very helpful.

16 Tom Watson May 21, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Hi Monique! You are very welcome. Touch base if you need anything.

17 Carl June 2, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Tom, I just wanted to say that I recently placed your formula into an excel spreadsheet. So now when I am contacted by a customer, I simply enter their square footage and I instantly have a baseline quote for how much to charge.

I also went a step further and added a section for travel distance. Simply put, I take into account how many miles round trip the cleaning job is from my office and add an extra $0.25 / mile to my calculations.

Thanks again Tom! This article rocks!!

18 Tom Watson June 3, 2013 at 5:38 am

Hi Carl! That’s a great idea you have there. You could add a bunch of custom settings to help quote a house cleaning price. Anyway… thanks for the comment!

19 Carl June 4, 2013 at 1:22 am

Tom, any possibility of writing a similar article on how to quote a commercial cleaning job? I wouldn’t even know where to start on something like that.

20 Tom Watson June 4, 2013 at 7:37 am

Hi Carl! YES, that is coming at some point. I’ll give an overview like this one (I go into detail in my courses).

21 Jennifer July 29, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Tom, fabulous fabulous info!!! Have a printed version I carry when doing an estimate..bingo everytime:)..one question..how does this formula translate into weekly , bi-weekly and monthly rates? did I miss a step? this would help greatly. Thanks for all your great advice!

22 Tom Watson July 30, 2013 at 8:19 am

Hi Jennifer! The formula for quoting house cleaning gets you a “per visit price” (that is your WEEKLY price if you are cleaning once per week). If you cleaned a house once per week and needed the per rate price “converted” to a monthly price you need to multiply the “per visit price” by 4.33 (that is the amount of times you will clean PER MONTH when AVERAGED over the course of a year). To get a bi-weekly MONTHLY charge multiply the “per visit price” by 2.16.

23 Kerry Westbury August 2, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Thanks Tom, I have struggled with the quoting thing and to see it written out like that really helped. I have just made first contact with a property management group and it was about the state of the shopping plaza near where I live. Before I realised I was telling them that they needed my services and they seemed really keen. Then I panicked! I have never done any cleaning on this scale before but I have always wanted to. I have been cleaning holiday houses and a few select domestic clients. I have people that work for me and they are up for some extra work. I love google and the fact that I can connect with people like yourself even though you are on the other side of the world ( I am in Australia)
Thanks mate for a great site.

24 Tom Watson August 4, 2013 at 8:45 am

Hi Kerry! That’s a great story, and that is how you wind up getting bigger and bigger accounts. It’s a process for sure and no doubt it can be a bit nerve racking but you can do it! I’m happy to hear the house quoting guide has been a help to you. I also agree it’s wonderful to connect with people so far away. I can’t tell you how many people in Australia I’ve talked to in the last few years but it’s a lot!

25 Bobbi August 18, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Hi Mr. Watson,

Thank you so much for your very helpful post! I just started my own home service business (cleaning/organizing/staging) and I have been so concerned that I would either over bid or under bid a project and was preparing to buy these calculators that were created to help in the bidding process. Your easy to follow guidelines actually eased my mind and gave me the confidence I needed to sit down and begin figuring out my first bid.

Again, thank you so much!!

Bobbi

26 Tom Watson August 18, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Hi Bobbi! You are very welcome. As you do more and more bids you will get better and better. As long as you are a “student” of the game you will be just fine. Good luck and thanks for commenting.

27 Sherry Pepple August 29, 2013 at 9:07 pm

great stuff

28 Tom Watson August 29, 2013 at 9:40 pm

THANKS Sherry!

29 Shiree September 23, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Thanks so much for the wonderful information. I am new to this and just came upon your website today and I must say, I have been glued ever since. So much useful and informative information; every step of the way.

Thanks a Million, for your time and great insights.

30 Tom Watson September 23, 2013 at 10:22 pm

Thanks Shiree! I’m VERY happy to be able to help.

31 Susan September 26, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Hi Tom,

I have been following your posts/podcasts for over a year now and really appreciate your words of wisdom. I see that someone requested the same kind of quoting information as related to commercial accounts. Did I miss that one?

Thanks so very much,
Susan

32 Tom Watson September 26, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Hi Susan! I have not touched on that yet. It’s in the pipeline, but I’m not sure when. I’ll do an email blast out to everyone when I get ready to publish it.

33 Samantha October 23, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Hi Tom!
I am so happy to have found your site! Thank you for all the time yo put into helping others! My mom has had a residential (some commercial) cleaning co. For 19 years now, she has never expanded because she was so busy working it. I have helped her since I was about 13-14 & I’m now 27 and wanting to help her expand. This article is so fantastic, thank you for writing. The question I have for you is…. Do you think it’s best to have a “team” of cleaners (2-3 per household) or just 1 person per 1 house? Also, is $15/hr an average rate of pay for cleaning employees? My mom & I will sometimes clean together so it goes faster & we can clean more houses per day, so. Thought cleaning in teams would be a good idea. But then it seems like I will have to charge the customer more. Do you have any advice for me? Thank you SO much for your time!!

34 Tom Watson October 25, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Hi Samantha! I’m very happy to have you, so thanks for stopping in. Anyway… there is no right or wrong on that question. Each approach has benefits and drawbacks. More people (team cleaning of 2 or 3 per house) get you done faster and give you flexibility if someone calls out (the jobs still get done). On the other hand getting two /three people who get along (without fighting for one reason or another) can be a challenge.

No reason to charge the customer more as long as the job gets done in the same amount of time. If a house takes 5 hours for one person to clean it only takes 2.5 for two people and 1.66 for three employees. SAME amount of man hours, so no need to charge more.

35 Samantha October 26, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Thank You Tom, I totally understand! Thanks again for your time!

36 Nathan November 6, 2013 at 10:43 am

I am presently in the process of starting my own cleaning service and just found your site the information has been very helpful. I have lots of questions. What do you think about offering a discount for the first cleaning? Do you have your clients sign a contract? How important is having a website? Are just a few questions that come to mind.
Thanks for all you assistance,
Nathan

37 Tom Watson November 6, 2013 at 10:50 am

Hi Nathan! Discounts are a great way to entice people to use your service. Lots of large corporations use that approach (cause it works). Contracts that spell out what’s going to be done is a good idea. If on the other hand you want to get people to sign up for a 1, 3, 5 year contract for cleaning services… that won’t work for a company without a track record. Websites are huge (try to name a company without one).

38 Jacqueline November 6, 2013 at 12:53 pm

thank you for this great insight great infomation

39 Tom Watson November 6, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Hi Jacqueline! I’m happy to help. Touch base if you need me.

40 Mbaegbulam Smith February 12, 2014 at 11:15 am

Thanks Tom good job you have here.

41 Tom Watson February 12, 2014 at 11:30 am

Thanks M Smith! I appreciate it.

42 m johnson March 7, 2014 at 11:38 am

hi I really loved your article .I am just starting on my own so I feelreally challenged .haven’t had my first client yet but I truly trust god. Thank you so much I appreciate it. mj

43 Tom Watson March 7, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Hi MJ! I appreciate hearing that. And I know… seems overwhelming but just focus on keeping it simple. You are trying to get hired to clean one house start to finish for a fair price. You can do it!

44 Naa April 28, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Tom thanks so much am so grate ful

45 Tom Watson April 28, 2014 at 8:57 pm

Hi Naa! You are very welcome!

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