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      Consumer Confidential: Holiday House Cleaners

      If you hire a company, ask a lot of questions -- especially how you'll be charged and if the company is insured and bonded

      The holidays are a time for fun and family, but there's often a lot of prep work to be done around the home before your guests arrive.

      Keeping your house clean during this time of year can be a monumental task. Thatâ??s where hiring a house cleaner can help.

      One tip you should know right off the bat: book as early as possible if you need a housecleaning service for the holidays. Companies will fill up fast during this time of year.

      Bill Mangiameli, the owner of the Custom Maids service in Amarillo, says, â??Call two to three weeks in advance, if you can, so we can get you on the schedule and make sure we have time to get the work done for you.â??

      Before you hire, ask for an in-home estimate. Also, know that itâ??s important to communicate your needs and expectations clearly because everyoneâ??s opinion of clean can be different.

      Donâ??t forget to check on insurance and bonding when hiring. Insurance covers damage by the company, such as bleach stains, and a bond covers an employeeâ??s dishonest criminal conduct, like theft.

      Mangiameli says hiring a company for this type of work is often better than hiring an individual. He says heâ??s heard horror stories about that second option. â??I had one gentleman tell me that he had a gal that was cleaning for them. He had left for work and he had forgoten his briefcase and came back home, and when he got home, he found her sitting in his Lazyboy. She had cooked up some bacon and eggs and was sitting there eating breakfast and watching TV.â??

      Not all individual services are like that, but Mangiameli says he has several safeguards in place to keep that from happening with his crews. For one thing, he says, everyone who works for his company is screened well, and he runs background checks and reference checks on them. Plus, the cleaning isnâ??t done by a one-person crew. â??We always work our employees in teams of two or three girls,â?? he says, â??for safety reasons and for accountability.â??

      If youâ??re considering buying a deal on housecleaning, be sure you ask questions and understand exactly what you are getting. You want to be confident that youâ??re not going to get an upcharge for things after the fact, and that the person you are buying the deal from knows exactly the condition of your home.