Most of us know someone that seem to be able to fix most anything. Those that have this ability are unique; to possess the attitude and the aptitude to tackle problems that can sometimes be arcane or mundane tasks is a gift. Here is a description that may encompass what a majority of us could agree is a good handyman:
- They can perform most tasks correctly, timely and efficiently, with little or no supervision.
- They offer a fair labor value, are open about their limitations and know when to say”no.”
- They can accurately judge the client’s expectations to achieve the best method and price point at which to accomplish the task.
- They clean up after themselves and are on-time for appointments.
They can deal with a wide variety of tasks: Minor electrical work, painting, plumbing and fixture repairs, repairing or replacing locksets, hinges and worn parts on a variety of equipment. They enjoy minor carpentry work such as adjusting doors, patching plaster, installing interior and exterior items like mailboxes, loose shingles or ornamental objects.
They understand the application and use of a variety of cleaning solvents, degreasers, sealing compounds and lubricants. They also understand when to use a nail instead of a screw, or vice-versa.
Where do you find one?
Some of them have a “full practice” so the only way they take on new customers is when a client moves or dies. Here are a few tips:
- Word of mouth. Ask friends who always seem to have everything at home “up to snuff.”
- Be diligent when traveling around the neighborhood. Watch for a truck, usually unmarked, with a ladder, tool box or other signs it is a handyman.
- Stop and leave a sticky note under the wiper blade or on the driver side door with your phone number and name. Just say, “Handyman? Please call.”
- The manager of the local hardware store sees these folks all the time. He may have a name or two that “stand out of the crowd.”
- The builder desk at the Home Depot or Lowes is another spot to hang around. These stores drive more volume to you than driving the neighborhood because a handyman has to pick up supplies.
- Craigslist.org has a category for services called “skilled trades,” and a quick review in different cities turned up many “handyman” ads. You may also find ads in the local newspaper want ads.
Do not stop with one name. Seek four or five names and phone numbers. The best way to interview them is to ask them to do a “typical” job. Talk with them on the first visit. Show them the list of kinds of work they do and ask them if there are jobs on the list they do not do.
Depending on the condition of your home, or other properties you have, it could take you some time to interview all of them. Another method to use when it is a bigger job is to ask each of them to come to inspect the job and submit a price to you. That way you can interview with each of them in a couple of days.
How do you keep them?
OK, so now you have expended some effort to identify and qualify handymen, how do you keep them as a resource? Handymen are pretty independent people. Anyone who is smart enough to figure out the solutions to so many kinds of problems is also smart enough to size up their clients while their clients are sizing them up.
- Do not ask them to come for a ten-minute job. Have an ongoing list of tasks that they can do in one trip. They will recognize that you recognize the value of their mobilization and travel costs.
- You may have heard the old saying, “Fast pay makes for good friends.” Your handyman will appreciate fast pay as it saves them bookkeeping time. Pay them with cash on their way out the door unless they have a preferred method of payment. If they prefer to bill you, pay the invoice within a few days of receipt. Do not force them to send another invoice.
- Tell them about the tasks in advance so they can bring the right tools, replacement parts and other items necessary like oil, or cleaning fluid. If you have email capabilities, send them a photo of the issue or issues ahead of time if a camera can capture the issue.
- Treat them professionally. Time is money for them. They already have friends. Do not make them endure the story of your last fishing trip to Ecuador. Focus on clear instruction about the problem and your expectations then get out of their way. They appreciate a professional relationship.
- Once you set an appointment, do not call them to change it. Well, a medical emergency, maybe, but if you get in the habit of changing appointments, the relationship may not last long.
How to define what it takes to be a good handyman is a moving target because we do not all hold similar expectations. Some of us just want it fixed as quickly and inexpensively as possible. Others have certain expectations regarding the quality and visual appearance of a repair or replacement. Some people expect the repair to last for eternity. What we expect depends on our experiences, our understanding of the problem and our pocketbooks.
“Richard Montgomery gives no nonsense real estate advice to readers most pressing questions. He is a real estate industry veteran who has championed industry reform for over a quarter century. Send him questions at DearMonty.com.”