Palm Beach housekeepers earn over $150,000 a year due to high demand

A massive migration of wealth to Florida from New York and other high-tax states has created record demand for domestic workers in elite Florida enclaves — especially Palm Beach. Staffing agencies report increased demand for butlers (now called “hospitality managers” or “estate managers”) and nannies, cooks, drivers and personal security.

However, the shortage of domestic workers has created a huge dilemma for wealthy homeowners. Many of the wealthy immigrants to Florida bought big houses and now needed people to clean them. Hotels, resorts and commercial establishments also compete for cleaning staff. The result: The typical wage for domestic workers rose from $25 an hour in 2020 to $45 or $50 an hour today, according to some agencies.

“I’ve been staffing for 30 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said April Berube, founder of The Wellington Agency, which places domestic workers in Palm Beach, Miami, New York and other locations.

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

“It’s wonderful for home workers,” Berube said. “It’s very difficult for us. 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 fair for the market. Administrative staff can do even more, helping to lead the staff of other housekeepers and laundromats. Psitos says he knows a chief executive in Palm Beach who makes $250,000 a year, including overtime, and visits the family at their various homes.

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“There is not enough supply,” he said.

Bidding wars between wealthy homeowners have become commonplace. Staffing agencies post “Help Wanted” ads all over the Internet and across West Palm Beach. Customers are frustrated.

“At first they’re in shock, and they say, ‘I can’t afford it,'” Berube said. “I’m embarrassed to give them numbers. But when they try to hire someone with less experience, they always come back to us and say, ‘I’ve learned my lesson. We’re willing to pay for experience.'”

Berube said housekeepers for the wealthy required very specific skills — from how to move quietly and unobtrusively around the house, to how to carefully clean antiques, flatware and fine art, and how to wash and press fine linens.

“Good housing has specific tools and skills you need to work with,” he said.

With so few qualified candidates, Berup said she’s thinking of starting a school to teach advanced housekeeping skills and create more homemakers.

“I’d like to do that, but I don’t have time because we’re busy finding staff.”

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