Every house, no matter how old or new it is, will have its fair share of maintenance issues that come up. More often than not, these little projects don’t require an experienced contractor who specializes in one particular trade. Oftentimes, all you need is a reliable handyman.
Before you hire the first handyman service that shows up on Google, there are nine things you need to know. Don’t sign that dotted line until you take all nine into account.
1. Do Your Research
Whether you are looking for a plumber, painter or any other skilled-handyman, you must do your research. ImproveNet has plenty of cost guides, including those for handymen, but there are resources galore out there giving you valuable information regarding each potential hire. Some of the details you should be researching include:
- Average price information in your area
- Reviews and testimonials
- Portfolios of recent work
- License numbers
- Average timeline for scope of work
- Necessary experience for project
According to our cost guide, most handymen cost $370/project. Use this number as a starting point for your research.
2. Friends & Family are the Best References
Eliminating a huge part of the process would be finding a handyman through your friends and family. When it comes to working with handymen, a monumental aspect of the entire project is to find someone you trust. Fortunately, your friends and family would never recommend someone they didn’t trust or didn’t do a terrific job.
Ask friends, neighbors and coworkers for recommendations. You could also ask past pros that you have worked with. They oftentimes have friends in the industry.
3. Interview Potential Hires
Never hire a handyman service over the phone. All potential handymen need to look at the project, give you an appropriate quote and prove that he or she is the right person for the job. As such, there are various questions you need to ask before making a final decision:
- How long have you been in the business?
- What is your experience with this project?
- Can you show me pictures of similar work?
- Have you worked with anyone in the area?
- What is your preferred form of communication?
- How much will it cost and how long will the project take?
- How did you come up with your price (see a full breakdown)?
- Tell me a little about yourself?
- Can you give me a list of references?
Additionally, once you have a few estimates on hand (we recommend at least three), you can ask why certain handymen are charging more or less than others. In the end, all these answers should help you determine if you can trust this person and if they are the right handyman for the job.
4. Agree on Scope of Work
Make sure you and your handyman fully agree on the scope of work that needs to take place. Oftentimes, there is a miscommunication between the handyman and the homeowner. That almost always results in a delayed project or higher bill.
Before you sign that agreement (and there should always be an agreement), make sure the entire project is mapped out. No small home repair project should have surprises and that includes the agreed upon scope of work between you and your handyman.
Note: There are many things within a home that a typical "handyman" or contractor are not legally allowed to work on. Make sure they not only have the experience to complete the project, but the papers as well.
5. Pull Permits
As annoying as it may be, homeowners usually have to pull their own permits. When it comes to fixing the floors or repairing pipes, you don’t need permits, but there are other projects that do require them. Your local government is your best source of information regarding which projects require permits and what needs to be presented during the filing.
Know that some handymen will offer to pull the permits for you, but as always, this comes with an added expense.
6. Figure Out Payment
Speaking of expenses, just like working with any home remodeling professional, you should never pay for the entire project until it is 100% completed. Some pros will ask for a deposit to ensure the work, which is very common. However, if they ask for the entire payment before the project even begins, a huge question mark should be raised. Remember, you hold the power in the relationship. If you hand over all your cash before the project is done, that power has shifted.
7. Verify License Number & Insurance
Believe it or not, some handymen lie about their contractor’s license numbers. While some states do not require such verification, others do. Check with your local government to see if your state requires it and if they do, verify that number.
Additionally, make sure they have insurance. You always want to be covered should a surprise come up. Without insurance, you could be on the hook for an even bigger repair bill.
8. Call References
What good are references if you don’t give them a call? While it does take up time, you should take the time to give all their references a call. Ask them their overall thoughts. Ask them what their communication style was like. Ask them how they handled pressure or delays in product deliveries. If they are willing to oblige, ask them anything you want to know before hiring this person.
Tip: Just know that they are giving you these references for a reason. Always have that in the back of your mind.
9. Do Not Go with the Lowest Bidder
We all want to save a buck or two, but when it comes to home improvement, you never want to hire the lowest bidder. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, but that handyman service is the lowest bidder for the reason. Whether it’s skipping corners, buying subpar supplies or delaying the work, more often than not, their quality of work will not meet your standards.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Overall, when choosing a handyman, you want to find someone you trust. If you have built a bond through the interview process, chances are, they are the honest handyman right for your project.
For more guidance, please see the rest of our handyman cost estimators.