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Compare references, estimates when contracting for help

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Posted: Saturday, September 8, 2007 3:30 am | Updated: 7:46 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Hiring a handyman? Angie’s List, the online rating system for home improvement service companies, suggests:

Make a detailed list of what you need done.

Have this list when you call to make an appointment. Talk through your list with the handyman or contractor. Most professionals are going to tell you up front if it’s a job outside their area of expertise. In the case of some of the larger handyman shops, knowing what jobs you need done often determines which employee they send to your house.

Talk to at least three handymen.

Get estimates on price and how long it will take to complete your list. Ask for and check references.

Walk through the house with the handyman, pointing out the tasks.

It will give him/her the opportunity to ask questions, as well as better understand your expectations for the job.

Know what’s included in the price.

Are you being charged a trip fee? Can you purchase the supplies yourself, rather than paying for the handyman’s drive time to and from the home improvement store? Whether your house is brand new or 20 years old, a list of odd jobs and fixes can pile up quickly. If you’re not handy, or you don’t have the time to hang a ceiling fan, adjust a cabinet door, or fix a leaky faucet, you may want to hire a handyman.

We caught up with DIY Network’s Karl Champley while he was busy filming the second season of “Wasted Spaces” in Knoxville, Tenn., to ask him for some ideas about hiring a handyman. He says finding the right handyman is similar to finding a good contractor or builder.

First, go on a referral. “If they’ve done work with someone that you know,” he says, “you’ll know they’re good.” If you don’t have a referral, call someone and ask them for references, but not any reference.

“They could be from two or three years ago,” he says. “Ask if they can give you the last six clients they just worked for. If they’re good, there shouldn’t be any problem with that at all. Ask if they were tidy, on budget, did they slaughter you with variations?”

If it’s a tradesperson, such as a carpenter or a plumber, they should be licensed, but if it’s a person coming in to do odd jobs, they probably won’t be. They should, however, be insured, have public liability, and, if they have a crew, worker’s compensation, says Champley. “This will give you peace of mind,” he says. Before any money is paid out, do a walk-through to make sure everything that was supposed to be fixed works correctly.

A handyman is best suited for odd jobs and small repairs, things such as cleaning or fixing guttering or hanging light fixtures. Adding an addition, or completing any renovation or major alteration to the structure of your home — anything that requires permits — is best left to a licensed tradesperson, says Champley.

It’s also a good idea to keep the same contractors and handyman once you find ones you like as they can get to know the nuances of your home.

“If you have a lot of work you need done, create a relationship with that person,” he says. “The biggest hassle of all of this is finding someone you like. Once you do, it’s good to keep them.”

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