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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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 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.

2 Angie May 21, 2015 at 2:15 am

I was wondering how much to charge per room if you would like to customize a quote to a customer’s needs instead of just going off sq footage?. Meaning, kitchen’s and bathrooms take the longest, in my opinion. Or if they would like to alternate rooms, per cleanings.?


3 Tom Watson June 7, 2015 at 9:57 am

Hi Angie! You need to ask yourself “how much do I want to earn per hour”. THEN from there you decide what to charge. And also, going off square footage is not recommended (if someone calls you with one thousand SF that is WILDLY DIRTY, do you charge the SAME PRICE as if it’s CLEAN? You need to SEE the place, not just go off SF.

4 Mary Woolverton August 31, 2015 at 9:25 am

Using the info you provide above, what would the price be every two weeks? Would you charge double? Thanks for your input.

5 Tom Watson September 4, 2015 at 9:45 am

Hi Mary! The formula gives you the price to CHARGE PER VISIT. So if you come up with $125 to clean a home, then that is the price EACH TIME YOU COME OUT. But remember: If the home was IN BAD SHAPE the first time out, then charging a “double clean” (twice the regular amount for just the first cleaning) would be a good idea.

6 michelle September 18, 2015 at 11:32 am

please send this to email

7 Tom Watson September 18, 2015 at 2:05 pm

Hi Michelle! There is no way for me to do that really. You just have to refer back to the page. Sorry about that.

8 Laela January 19, 2016 at 3:42 pm

Thank you! I was supposed to take over a one-person domestic cleaning business in June of 2015 with 9 clients. I started with 3, one dropped me, one is in another state for the winter, and i managed to pick one up on my own. How would i go about changing the price without hurting their feelings?

9 Tom Watson January 21, 2016 at 10:04 am

Hi Laela! I’m not sure there is a way. All I would do is fully explain why the price needs to go up, so that everyone understands WHY.

10 Cynthia August 13, 2016 at 6:53 am

Thank you for this information it was very informative.

11 Cynthia August 13, 2016 at 7:11 am

There are times when I have more then one cleaner cleaning a house. How do I calculated that cost?

12 Tom Watson August 13, 2016 at 11:15 am

It’s not “HOW MANY PEOPLE” that matter. It’s “HOW MANY MAN HOURS”. If one person take 6 hours to clean, that is SIX man hours. If you send TWO PEOPLE it is STILL SIX (3 hours each). So when bidding you just want to concern yourself with “WHAT IS THE TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME NEEDED”.

13 Tom Watson August 13, 2016 at 11:15 am

It’s not “HOW MANY PEOPLE” that matter. It’s “HOW MANY MAN HOURS”. If one person take 6 hours to clean, that is SIX man hours. If you send TWO PEOPLE it is STILL SIX (3 hours each). So when bidding you just want to concern yourself with “WHAT IS THE TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME NEEDED”.

14 Nicole January 10, 2017 at 6:47 pm

Hi Tom, for residential cleaning, how much should the price differentiate for weekly, bi-weekly and monthly cleaning.

15 Tom Watson January 11, 2017 at 11:26 am

Hi Nicole! Great question. I never had some “set difference” between the different cleaning schedules (it was flexible). I will say I did something like this… once per month pricing may be 35 per hour. Twice per month may be 31 per hour. Three times per month may be 27. Four times may be 25. See how I charged less per hour as the customer used me more? I viewed this as “wholesale and retail pricing”. If they bought a little they got RETAIL pricing. If they bought more they got WHOLESALE pricing.

16 Regina February 14, 2017 at 8:22 pm

How can you offer your own product to customers and added to the total pricing?

17 Anna March 1, 2017 at 1:12 pm

Should you give the estimate on the spot? Or would you tell them that you will get back to them with the price? Meaning is it ok to take time to figure out all the numbers?

18 Tom Watson March 5, 2017 at 8:37 am

Either way is fine. I did both. For simple bids I gave price right away, for more complicated bids I went back to office and gave it to customer in day or two.

19 Tom Watson March 5, 2017 at 8:43 am

Sure… why not!

20 DIANE HALLORAN July 12, 2017 at 3:05 am

I was wondering ….. what do you do when you go to a clients home on the expected day of cleaning and there not home …so you call them and there out of town and they forgot to call you ,….so ,in the mean time you’ve just spent all this time getitng ready, loading up all the equipment etc. etc.
they disrespected you and your cleaning business and time, so do you charge them a special charge next time or do you just leave it be.?
just wondering,

21 Tom Watson July 12, 2017 at 10:06 am

Great question… My answer…LEAVE IT BE. Odds are it was not personal, just a oversight. If it happened all the time, then it may need to be addressed. Overall… that’s life as a business owner.

22 Aziz October 10, 2017 at 6:59 pm

Wow, such a great article. Thank you Tom. I’m glad that I came across it. Since I have started my cleaning business I had some issues estimating the right price. Some people lie to you about how dirty their place and you end up spending there extra time and then paying extra money to your cleaners.
I was wondering, can I start charging my customers .15 to .20 cents per sq ft if the house is 2,000 sq ft or bigger?
Thank you

23 Tom Watson October 12, 2017 at 12:36 pm

I bid every place on a case by case basis. When you try to do a one size fits all price, you get yourself into trouble.

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