Palm Beach housekeepers are making $150,000 a year due to massive demand from the wealthy

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A version of this article first appeared in CNBC’s Inside Wealth newsletter with Robert Frank, a weekly guide to the high net worth investor and consumer. Sign up to receive future editions, straight to your inbox.

Housekeepers in Palm Beach and South Florida are cleaning up, with salaries often topping $150,000 and bidding wars between mansion owners becoming common, according to staffing companies.

The mass wealth migration to Florida from New York and other high-tax states has created record demand for household staff in elite Florida enclaves — especially Palm Beach. Demand for butlers (now called “hospitality managers” or “estate managers”) as well as nannies, chefs, drivers and personal security has surged, according to staffing agencies.

It’s the shortage of housekeepers, however, that has created the biggest mess for wealthy homeowners. Many of the wealthy emigres to Florida bought big homes and now need people to clean them. Hotels, resorts and businesses are also vying for cleaning staff. The result: Typical pay for housekeepers has rocketed from about $25 an hour in 2020 to $45 or $50 an hour today, according to some agencies.

“I have been placing staff for 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said April Berube, founder of The Wellington Agency, which places household staff in Palm Beach, Miami, New York and other locations. “We’ve seen such a boom from people relocating, especially Palm Beach and Miami.”

In Palm Beach, housekeepers with experience in wealthy homes are typically making between $120,000 and $150,000 a year, along with 401(k) plans, health care and benefits, including overtime.

“For housekeepers it’s wonderful,” Berube said. “For us it’s extremely difficult. It’s a severe shortage.”

Melissa Psitos, founder of Lily Pond Services, said she recently had a Florida client hoping to hire a housekeeper for $75,000 a year. They ended up paying $110,000, which was reasonable for the market. Executive housekeepers, who often help direct a staff of other housekeepers and laundresses, can make even more. Psitos said she knows one head housekeeper in Palm Beach who makes $250,000 a year, including overtime, and travels with the family to their various homes.

“There is just not enough supply,” she said.

Bidding wars between wealthy homeowners have become common. Staffing agencies are posting “Help Wanted” ads all over the web and throughout West Palm Beach. Clients are growing frustrated.

“At first they’re in shock, and they say, ‘No way I’m paying that,'” Berube said. “It’s even uncomfortable for me to give them the numbers. But when they try to hire someone for less, with less experience, they almost always come back to us and say, ‘I learned my lesson. We are willing to pay for the experience.'”

Berube said the housekeepers for the wealthy need highly specific skills — from how to move quietly and unnoticed throughout the house, to how to carefully clean antiques, flatware and fine art and how to properly wash and press fine linens.

“There are specific tools and skills you need to work in fine homes,” she said.

Berube said with so few qualified candidates, she’s thinking of launching a school to teach high-end housekeeping skills and generate more housekeepers.

“I would love to do it, but I don’t have the time, since we’re busy trying to find staff.”

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