Hiring help can be a beautiful thing, right? It’s a great feeling to get a bunch of things done. Especially if one of the things getting done is you enjoying a little R&R while a skilled professional knocks out a to-do list of improvements and repairs back at the house!
Even for the most industrious fixer-upper owner there comes a time when the right move is to hire a handyman. A handyman is usually skilled in many trades and, in a whirlwind of activity, can knock out all sorts of tasks from painting and drywall to carpentry and more. But where do you find someone like that? And what are the pitfalls you should be aware of? Here’s a short list of things you should never do when hiring a handyman. Avoid these common mistakes and you’ll be well on your way to being in two places at once!
1. Forgetting to Ask Around
Hiring a handyman isn’t the same thing as finding a good place for a pizza. Yet so many people rely exclusively on review websites and apps for handyman selection. I use reviews in my buying decisions every day, but when it comes to finding a skilled worker to be left alone in my house all day, I’d really rather have a referral from a friend or neighbor.
Pictures online are great but they don’t compare to actually being in a space and looking at work first hand.
People you actually know also actually know you too. You have an idea of your friend’s standards: what they demand from providers (or what they don’t). If you have a friend who is a total neat freak and he or she says a worker is clean, that holds far more value to you than a random reviewer saying that a worker “cleaned up well at the end of the day.” When you know the source, it makes a difference. The same is true in reverse. If a friend knows you are a stickler for punctuality, he or she is not likely to recommend someone will show up late.
The best thing, though, about a personal referral is that you can actually go look at the work with your own eyes. Pictures online are great but they don’t compare to actually being in a space and looking at work first hand. The more detailed the work you’re hiring for, the more important this step can be. Always start your search by asking around.
2. Having Low Expectations
One thing I can tell you without any doubt: There are some very high quality professionals in the handyman business these days. Without diverging into a piece on social change, I would venture to say that a bit of a culture shift is taking place and the physical working trades are getting much more respect than in years past. This is opening the door for a new caliber of skilled professional and I’m seeing them everywhere I look.
So whatever you do, don’t just assume your handyman will have a broken down truck, five-million-year-old tools and a healthy rap sheet. Professionals exist in the marketplace and you deserve professional service. Look for firms with good branding, clean vehicles, background checked staff and insurance. They’re out there.
3. Assuming You Get What You Pay For
You might be thinking, “Sure, I can have all that if I pay double.” We’re all trained to believe in the old adage “you get what you pay for.” When it comes to hiring a handyman service to work in your home, I’m just not sure that’s really true, Maybe it’s the economy, maybe it’s the shortage of skilled workers in the trades, maybe it’s inflation. I don’t know what to blame it on but I do know that there are some very low-end providers out there charging some very high-end prices.
So while I would agree that insurance, background checks and clean new trucks cost money, I couldn’t say I see a commensurate reduction of rate when those things are missing. So rather than “you get what you pay for,” it’s more like “If you’re going to pay for it anyway, you might as well get it.”
4. Being Afraid to Ask Questions
I remember a cartoon that one of my subcontractors used to keep with him. It depicted a tradesman giving a quote to a homeowner with three pricing options: $100 for the job, $200 if you watch and $300 if you help. It was a funny cartoon and I understand the sentiment, but the attitude isn’t really what I’d want in a handyman if it was my house.
I’d want to be free to watch from time to time and ask questions about the work. I like to learn from the things around me and I like to know what’s being done in my house. There may come a time in the future when the information is important to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting it’s ok to pull up a chair and sit behind someone while he or she works. If you’re hiring a professional you should trust that person enough to let him or her work in peace. Handymen do need to focus, after all. But you should never be afraid to ask questions, and if you actually want to participate, you should communicate that clearly up front.
5. Hiring a Handyman When You Need a Contractor
This bullet point might be the most important. Every job has the right professional to match it and not all home-improvement projects are created equal. If your job requires a permit, multiple trades, structural work or specialty work, you might need to hire a general contractor to take care of the project for you.
A handyman is generally allowed to do smaller repair and improvement-type work, such as rotten trim replacement, door hardware, cabinetry repairs, etc. Hiring a handyman to do something like a room addition is usually a mistake and can cost a fortune in fines and fees if the building department pursues an “unlicensed contractor” citation.
6. Forgetting to Enjoy Your Extra Time
When you do take the plunge and hire someone to help you around the house, make the most of it! Enjoy the spare time either for knocking some other work out or for getting a much needed break. You deserve it!