Staffing Your Estate: Part II

Part 2 of a three-part series: nannies, drivers, personal pilot and yacht captains, groundskeepers and pool technicians, tutors

Hiring a personal staff for consistent white glove service

Part 2 of a three-part series: nannies, drivers, personal pilot and yacht captains, groundskeepers and pool technicians, tutors

For any luxury homeowner, keeping up an expansive estate can be an overwhelming task. San Diego Premier’s three-part series will help you build a staff of Private Service Professionals that will keep your estate running effortlessly, whether you are at home or away.


Children are the most precious asset of an estate, and should be treated as such. When choosing to hire a live-in nanny, hiring the best is of utmost importance for both your child’s safety and comfort, and for the harmony of your home. By having a full-time nanny as a part of your everyday household, your child will benefit from not only from another set of watchful eyes, but also from another set of loving arms that will help him or her grow into a well-rounded and nurturing adult.

Because children will bond to their caregiver, it is important to encourage a strong and lasting relationship with whomever you choose to hire. Frequent turnover is traumatic, especially for young children, so as parents you should ensure longevity by treating your nanny with a high level of respect. Remember, your nanny is a partner in your child-rearing efforts, not just a babysitter. An easy open-door communication policy with your nanny is essential when it comes to the quality of your children’s lives and education.

Once you have decided to hire a live-in nanny, the most effective way to find one is through a staffing company. Qualified placement companies will put nannies through an extensive background check and rigorous personality profile. They also check references to ensure that a potential hire has the experience needed for her new placement.

Once the parents settle on their nanny’s working conditions, the staffing agency will usually charge a 20% fee of the nanny’s gross annual salary. Most placement companies will have a grace period whereby a nanny can be replaced if the situation turns out to be a bad fit. With companies like Estate Staffing by Heartland, all nannies are under contract with their new employers for at least one year. However, nannies are encouraged to stay far longer if the situation proves amiable.

Salary range: Since nannies are usually on salary, yours will thrive if she feels bonuses and raises are possible. Salaries should reflect a 50-hour work week only, and compensation for overtime should never be overlooked (with dollar value of housing/vehicle use and total salary reflecting overtime to comply with 40-hour workweek Labor Law regulations).

Although salary range varies throughout the country, a typical salary for younger nannies with strong childcare experience is generally $400-$500 per week. Experienced nannies can earn up to $1,000 per week, but their salary can fluctuate depending upon hours and number of children in their charge.

Baby nurses are nannies with exceptional experience with newborns, and many have a medical background. Baby nurses are usually responsible for the care of a newborn around the clock, and need to be compensated closer to $1,000 per week for the 2-24 weeks they are in your home.

An au pair is usually a young woman from another country, receiving room and board and a small stipend to work overseas. Au pairs usually get lower salaries for acting as a nanny while living in your home; however their travel expenses are almost always compensated by their host family. Whether employing a nanny from home or abroad, always be sure to check on federal tax regulations regarding live-in employees.

Your nanny’s compensation package could include health insurance, some state/federal holidays off with pay (or other days off in compensation), two weeks paid vacation per year, use of a car and cell phone, and personal and private living accommodations.

Karen Ryan, President of Estate Staffing by Heartland, has compiled some of the best advice from professional nannies around the country. These 10 tips will help you create a positive working relationship with your nanny and a loving environment for your children for years to come.

* The first week or two a new nanny is in your house can make or break your relationship. Take the time to show the nanny around, especially if she is from out of town.

* Make the arrival of your nanny a celebration — try not to put her to work the very first day, but rather welcome her warmly into your home.

* Give your nanny her own personal space. If turning an extra room into your nanny’s new bedroom, be sure to clean out all of your belongings before she moves in. Give her a clean, special space where she can keep personal belongings and photographs.

* Successful placement of a nanny requires that the children understand the nanny has the parents’ full support.

* Providing your nanny with her own vehicle will allow her to take your children safely on fun outings and also be mobile on her days off. Make sure to have a copy of your nanny’s driving record and insurance coverage on hand.

* Getting your nanny a cell phone is a must, both for your nanny and for your peace of mind.

* Encourage frequent meetings with your nanny to discuss the progress of your child. Because most nannies are young women, remember to criticize gently as feelings can be easily hurt.

* Discuss upfront what discipline and child rearing issues you and your nanny may have. You should come to an agreement on household rules for your children, including TV time, allowed foods, types of toys, etc.

* Have respect for your nanny’s free time. Arrange for other babysitting if you plan to be away from the house during your nanny’s off hours. Accordingly, if you ask your nanny to accompany you on a family vacation, you should pay all her costs for the trip (transportation, lodging, food, etc.) on top of her regular salary.

* Always remember that the safe and proper care of your children is a nanny’s number one responsibility. Do anything in your power to ensure that your children thrive from a creative and motivated nanny, not one burned out by too many strict rules or additional domestic chores.


Wouldn’t it be nice to sit back and relax, catching up on the day’s news or return some business calls in the backseat, while your own personal driver took the wheel? Especially in Southern California, inner-city traffic and freeway congestion bring out the worst in all of us. But Private Driver of Huntington Beach is just one of the companies offering to give San Diegans a smooth ride whenever they are on the road.

A chauffeur company like Private Driver offers qualified drivers with vast knowledge of the area. Drivers with flexible schedules are available for full-time, part-time or by-the-hour services. When hiring Private Driver, your chauffeur will arrive at your home or business with a fresh set of white gloves (if you desire), ready to drive you in your own car, limousine, rental or even luxury exotic. They offer after-hour pick up, business and leisure travel assistance, city tours, elderly and handicapped driving, and can even provide driving for your weekly errands.

If you’re not using a chauffeur and instead choose to hire a private driver, go for a test drive with him or her to solidify a quality hire. Red flags should rise if your driver constantly uses the horn or shows aggression on the road toward other drivers. You want your driver to be cool and calm behind the wheel, even under the most harrowing circumstances. Whenever possible, obtain driving records for your new employee, available through his/her insurance company. A current copy of coverage as well as a background check, when feasible, will give you peace of mind. Always obtain the social security number, driver’s license number, and full name and address of anyone who drives you, even for temporary hires.

Payment for private drivers will vary by company and location. $10/hour plus the price of gas can be a small price to pay for a luxuriously stress-free ride. Tipping is always appreciated and has become routinely commonplace for temporary hires. Full-time staff, however, should be treated as full-time employees, thereby receiving salary and bonuses in accordance to their work.


Your estate’s first impression is made as soon as a guest steps onto its grounds. Hiring a knowledgeable groundskeeper to maintain flawless foliage around your estate is therefore money well spent. Ryan notes that many trained horticulturists can be hired as full-time groundskeepers for around $50,000/year. “Why not hire someone who is not only interested but is also highly trained in the field?” she asks. Hiring a horticulturist will also let you get the most for your money – this person’s training and passion will lushly bloom in your gardens and greenhouse.

When choosing between staffing a live-in gardener or a groundskeeping company, think about the necessity to have someone on-call. Live-in groundskeeping staff is wonderful for any last-minute additions of flowers and blooms, especially if your estate is often hosting company. However, a gardener is a full-time employee and will require housing and benefits as such. Many groundskeeping companies are highly skilled and artistic, but they do require appointments for scheduled maintenance and yard improvements.

When choosing to hire a professional crew to maintain your grounds, look for California certified and bonded companies. Also look for a company who is willing to provide not only routine landscape maintenance, but who can also suggest improvements to your current outdoor environment. Hiring a company with specific expertise in your type of landscape is always a plus, especially if you are fond of growing plants not native to San Diego soil. Since trees are generally the most valuable plants on your property, and the longest lasting, also choose a company that has experienced arborists. This will ensure healthy trees that will give shade and beauty to your property for many years to come.

Pool technicians

Since most luxury estates also boast luxury pools, a groundskeeper will be tending the foliage around your water retreat. To maintain a crystal clean pool, however, you will need to hire a pool specialist – a licensed, insured and bonded person or group with the experience to fix and maintain your pool and spa.

Because chemicals used to clean and maintain swimming pools and spas are harmful to the environment and hazardous to swimmers when used incorrectly, always check references and the experience of any pool staff you hire. Thankfully, there are many pool technicians who now use animal and human-friendly cleaning techniques, and who are versed in green disposal methods for used spa chemicals. Once such company, Pool Butler of Southern California, is a state-licensed pool contractor with vast experience maintaining sparkling pools and spas around the area.

Pool Butler, as with many residential swimming pool service providers, offers weekly pool upkeep consisting of the following:

7-point water analysis
* Chemical adjustment as needed for proper balance and sanitation
* Skim water surface to remove leaves and debris
* Vacuum and brush the bottom of pool or spa as needed
* Brush pool and spa walls
* Service and maintain saltwater system
* Empty skimmer and pump baskets
* Maintain and adjust auto water fill system
* Adjust or program clocks when required
* Inspect pool equipment to ensure proper function
* Backwash system and clean filters as needed
* Clean tile when necessary
* Alert customer to any problems

For around $100/month for pool and spa services, professional pool technicians are a smart way to maintain the healthy balance of your estate’s water works. Basic chemical service can be purchased for around $60/month and will also ensure a long lifetime for your pool. When choosing a pool contractor, also look for a company that offers pool winterizing, 24-hour repairs with full-service plans, and trained heater repair. Most pool cleaning contracts include approximately 50 days of cleaning per year. Having a pool technician on-call will keep your pool swimmer-ready around the clock.

By Kelly Cochran

San Diego Premier Vol 15 Sept 2007

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