In LA, hidden armies of workers keep mega-mansions on the market

Jack Flemming, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Everything's bigger with a mega-mansion: not only the cost, but the cost of selling it.

Kevin Stein is a district supervisor with L.A. Elite Window Cleaning, which cleans the windows of roughly 1,000 houses every year. Stein and his team often work for luxury clients — most notably agents for The One, the 105,000-square-foot behemoth that traded hands for $141 million earlier this year. While small apartment jobs can cost just $250, glass-loaded mansions such as The One can cost roughly $10,000 to clean.

"I'm numb to it now, but seeing the opulence and insane wealth we're surrounded by in this city is crazy," Stein said. "It's always shocking the upkeep and staffing required to clean these places."

Armed with either a squeegee and mop or a water-fed pole — a 60-foot-long device that uses deionized water to clean glass spot-free — Stein keeps properties looking glistening. It's a less common service than maids, but he said he'll typically service a home twice a year (save for those in coastal communities like Malibu and Laguna Beach where ocean air forces owners to seek his services every other week).

"I work on homes that are on the market all the time," he said. "Realtors always want the windows clean for potential buyers, and they also want them clean when they photograph the home."

Like Flores, he's one of dozens of workers at a home on any given day.


"You go to properties that have 30-40 landscapers tending to gardens that look like Buckingham Palace," he said, adding that the biggest properties have a pecking order. The homeowner, then the homeowner's assistant, then the estate manager, then the estate manager's assistant — not to mention the internal hierarchies among the maids, landscapers and other service staffs.

"There's a full hotel staff at some of these places," he said.

And that's just when the house is on the market. When it becomes occupied, different—or additional— workers fill the halls: nannies, chefs and butlers. Someone to service the bowling alley. Someone to refill the candy room with sweets.

Some compounds require so many bodies that they come with "staff quarters," or guesthouses jammed full of rooms where full-time workers can stay. Beneath the glitz and glamour of The One, there's an entire level of bedrooms for staff — with a decidedly lower level of luxury than the rest of the estate.


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