How to Find an Affordable Handyman

by David Sung

If you have less time than money to repair your home, or if your repair skills rank around the level of one Heathcliff Huxtable, then hiring a handyman may be your only option to keep your home in one piece. Finding a reputable, timely, and economical jack-of-all-trades can be frustrating, but there are methods that can help you with your search and hiring process. Try out these suggestions to find your handyman.

Get Recommendations from People You Trust – There are people you know, and then there are people you know who have standards. When you ask people for handyman recommendations, ask people whose homes are in good condition and who appreciate a job well done, rather than just a job done. When you are asking for recommendations, make sure to ask for more than prices. Once you determine the problem that needs fixing in your home, write a list of all the qualities you require in a handyman. In addition to finding out how long and on what kind of projects they have worked together, ask your friend or family member about all these qualities. Is the person timely? Are they fair? Did they make mistakes? Were they willing to pay for those mistakes? Once you have all these answers, your job is more than halfway done.

Ask the Hardware Guys – No one takes home repair more seriously than the people who work in hardware stores. They’re usually proficient at home repair themselves, and they know the best people in the community. Additionally, they will be less likely to fib about the work of someone they refer you to because it could reflect poorly on them and their businesses. While you are in the hardware store, check to see if there are ads on bulletin boards. It’s still a cheap way for local handymen to advertise their skills.

A Note on Licensed Professionals and Liability Insurance – Granted, people who come by recommendation may be cheaper, but they are not always licensed. Licensing isn’t required to work odd jobs, but it can be a source of security for you. If a handyman is licensed it means he has a good record. If you choose to go with an un-licensed professional, ask whether he has liability insurance for any major problems that may arise, especially on big projects.

When you first talk to the handyman, make sure to verify any information that you get about him and also ask for more references. Before any work begins, have the handyman visit your home. There should be explicit agreement over the work that needs to be done, any contingency plans, and then he should give you an estimate. The estimate will include the price of his work by the hour and also the cost of materials. Since they are paid by the hour, you may want to consider setting a price ceiling, so that if he doesn’t have it finished by a certain time – for no good reason – then you either get the rest of the time free or have the option of hiring someone else. If any of this is a problem for him, then that could be a red flag.

One word on timing your projects and testing a handyman: Do not wait for a home repair emergency to test a new handyman. If your house is being flooded by a broken water pipe, you are in no position to shop around, and you are more likely to take an expensive, possibly unskilled, first responder. Choose a minor home repair now, shop around for a repair man, and then test him on that small issue. After that, slowly move him up in responsibility. If he passes each level, then you have found yourself a reliable, fair skilled laborer. Good luck!

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