The business Deborah Carter has chosen has a high ick factor.
If walls could talk, they might have warned her before:
- She opened a door and roaches flew up at her.
- Her crew moved a couch and baby mice scurried in every direction.
- She discovered the strange hissing sound she noticed in one house was actually a nest of raccoons.
Carter owns Daash Kleaning, a niche business that cleans foreclosure homes. She got the idea to focus on foreclosures from an aunt who did it in Georgia.
The industry dubbed “preservation field service” has a lexicon all its own.
• A “trashout” is complete removal of debris left by ex-owners.
• “Debris” is anything from old furniture to a pit bull carcass. It is measured in cubic yards — five cubic yards of it is about the size of a washing machine.
“Trashouts pay pretty well, so you wouldn’t turn one down,” Carter said. This savvy entrepreneur on her way to a master’s degree in organizational management wouldn’t reveal figures, but she said she makes a “comfortable” living.
Carter says two prayers when she enters a foreclosed home: one for those who lost their place and another for those who will be coming.
She also makes a loud noise to alert any stray animals or squatters who might be living there.
She has two rules for herself and her crew:
• “You have to do an excellent job. No matter if the house is old and nasty and dirty, you have to treat it as if it were 1 or 2 years old.”
• “No matter what’s going on, you’ve just got to get it done.”
That last rule means cleaning refrigerators so moldy they make your stomach hurt and pouring rubbing alcohol into your cleaning bucket so the water doesn’t freeze in an unheated house in December.
They clean spray-painted walls, tear up urine-soaked rugs, and open fridges unattended for five years. They removed 92 cubic yards of debris from one Middletown home. Still, Carter said she loves her work and she’s grateful to God that she has it.
She gets jobs by word-of-mouth. Each house has a sign-in sheet where cleaners document each visit. When HUD officials and real estate agents like what they see, they check the list and text Daash for other jobs.
“I’ve been very blessed. I’ve been in business four years without any breaks. I love what I do,” Carter said. “I enjoy going into a house that is filthy and full of debris and seeing the before and after. The end result fascinates me — that fresh smell.”
Forty percent of Daash’s business is trashouts. The rest is biweekly maid service to keep the dust down and the interiors smelling fresh for prospective buyers.
Carter laughs about her one-time attempt to branch out into cleaning regular homes. She gave the homeowner an estimate based on the square footage. When her crew arrived, she realized it’s much more time-consuming to clean a house filled with furniture and knickknacks. She lost money on the deal.
Her plan for Daash’s future: large-scale business and government contracts.
Carter, who is divorced, worked as an administrative assistant during her marriage. No one who knew her then would have connected the dots, she said.
“I always wanted to have my own business. I just never dreamed I could. If you can dream it, you can be it,” she said. “This is for all the women who are in a relationship where their other half is holding them back from what they want to do. You have to step out. You have to do it.” ♦