Cleaning businesses blossom with spring's arrival

For Jennifer Metcalf, the owner of Jenny's Quality Cleaning, a Lansdowne home-cleaning service, March and April are the busiest times of the year.

"It's kind of good to get all that dust out of the house," she said. "It's a good feeling to know your house is spring cleaned."

Her 18-year old company's experience is not unique. With more families juggling busy schedules, demanding jobs and with steady incomes, the cleaning business has been growing.

The demand for professional cleaning services also has increased over the last 15 years because of the use of new surfaces that need to be cleaned properly, such as bamboo flooring or granite or marble countertops, said Ernie Hartong, executive director of the Association of Residential Cleaning Services International, a cleaning industry association.

"Consumers are looking at better ways to spend their time than cleaning their bathrooms," he said. "They're looking to cleaning professionals to do that task."

Eric Landers, owner of Landers Cleaning, a Baltimore-based company that serves Catonsville, said about 10 percent of his clients are millennials, people born in the 1980s and 1990s, and younger generations are a growing customer base.

"It's the most young people I've ever cleaned for," said Landers, 37, who has about 75 clients. "They're calling me even more."

He has also seen a rise in clients who are baby boomers who are now "empty nesters" who have developed hobbies or are going back to work.

The industry also has embraced technology, Hartong said, with more companies allowing users to schedule appointments using mobile devices and using their websites to provide estimates and bookings.

Hartong also said association members are seeing increased demand for more "green" cleaning from consumers, having workers use more natural products in their homes. He said consumers are concerned with air quality and they want to know how the substances being used impact it.

"People get into it thinking it's a mop and a bucket," he said. "It's way more than that now."

Last year, Metcalf's company recorded $425,000 in revenue, an increase from the year before. At the moment, she has 148 houses she visits on a regular basis, a rise of about 25 compared to the year before.

For a one-time spring cleaning, costs range between $200 and $250, depending on the size of the house, Metcalf said. For clean-ups every other week, prices range between $100 and $150 per visit.

Kelly Ribeiro and her husband, Eric, got into the cleaning business in 2010, when they purchased a MaidPro franchise that has offices in Catonsville and Parkville that cover Baltimore County, Baltimore City and parts of Harford, Howard and Anne Arundel counties.

When the Ribeiros bought the franchise, it had about 100 regular customers and about $350,000 in annual revenue, she said. In 2016, it had $1.5 million in revenue, an increase from about $1.2 million the year before, and serves 700 homes.

"It's a lot more fun than being like the dentist," she said. "People look forward to the day we come."

She said springtime is a popular time of year for her business, attributing it to sunshine coming through the windows and people seeing the dust particles accumulate.

It was a spring cleaning about 13 years ago that prompted Brian Ault, a 59-year-old researcher from Arbutus, and his family to hire cleaners to tend to their home every three weeks.

"We like what they did," he said. "We were so busy, [so we decided to] have them keep on going."

In a report of the janitorial industry, which includes housecleaning service, by New York-based investment banking firm Scott-Macon, the industry is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 4.3 percent through 2018 to $64.2 billion, in part because of the the rise in consumer income. Residential cleaning makes up for about 7 percent of the market.

The demand for domestic cleaning services is expected to rise, as unemployment decreases and disposable income increases, according to the May, 2015, report.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May, 2015 there are 926,240 employed as maids and housekeeping cleaners making an average hourly wage of $11.05. In Maryland, 14,500 are employed in the industry, making an average hourly wage of $11.27.

The growth of the local businesses means more jobs in the area.

Metcalf, of Lansdowne, anticipates adding a third three-person cleaning crew by the end of the summer.

Ribeiro said her company hasn't stopped hiring since she and her husband took it over. They started with a staff of eight. Now, the staff is at about 50, many of whom who have been with the company as long as they have.

MaidPro looks to hire additional staff prior to the start of each spring to prepare for an influx of requests. Customers are looking to get cleanings scheduled, but they don't have enough staff to handle it, Ribeiro said.

"We're definitely booked and hiring," she said.

FYI

Ernie Hartong, executive director of the Association of Residential Cleaning Services International, offers tips for consumers considering hiring a cleaning company to do work in their homes, whether it be an independent company or a franchise:

Reputable companies should have proof of insurance, so any damages that occur during a cleaning can be covered. Consumers can also ask about whether the company belongs to a trade association or have any special certifications, such as a house cleaning technician certification, provided by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification, an international trade group.

Ask whether background checks are conducted on their employees and find out if they have received any training.

It's also important for the consumer and the company to have an understanding of the scope of services. Get the information in writing so expectations are clear.

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