Tips for Hiring a Good Handyman

hiring a good handyman

After experiencing a ton of pain by hiring craigslist handymen, I identified common red flags to watch out for and eventually did find a couple of good handymen that restored my faith in humanity.  Below are tips for hiring a good handyman gained from painful lessons I’ve had.

Ask Your Friends for Recommendations

Ask your friend what services they’ve used their recommended handyman for in the past.  If it’s for work similar to what you need completed, it’s more likely you’ll have a good experience.  What you don’t want to do is put an ad on craigslist and try somebody cold as that’s just gambling with your time, money, and home. 

Hire a Licensed Handyman

Believe it or not handymen are supposed to be licensed as a “Residential Contactor” if they do a lot of handyman work.  The rules vary by state, but there is a test to pass and insurance proof of is required.

By far most handymen are not licensed like this, but the ones who are, are serious about their profession and you can expect good work.  I hired JR Property Services (image) and while he was expensive, he was professional and finished a list of work in one day that I expected would take two days.  It was well worth it.

license lookup
handyman license search

Ask for Proof of Insurance

Another sign that the handyman is serious about his craft.  If they have insurance they’ll likely produce better results for you.

Check for Marketing

Another sign that the handyman is serious about this business is if he has a couple basis listings online like a facebook page, yelp listing, angies list, or his own website. 

While around town I’ve found vehicles of handymen that have their company information on it.  I take a picture and call them later to discuss their services.  

Reliable handyman

Discuss Payment in Detail Before Work Begins

Come to agreement on if the work will be completed via fixed bid or hourly.  If hourly, I recommend communicating an expectation of total cost anyway as surprisingly some people’s pace of work can be 3x slower than you might expect. 

Determine how often payment will occur, and by what form – Venmo, check, cash, etc.  Require a summary of the work completed and good clear photos of the work if you’re not able to view it in person.  It’s common in the middle of the job they will request payment sooner than agreed upon, or even money up front.  Be prepared to tell them “no” if you feel it’s the right way to approach it.

Determine how materials will be purchased – either you spend your time purchasing it or they front a little money and take care of it.  I highly appreciate a handymen that doesn’t mind fronting a couple hundred dollars to get the job done and then include the costs on his invoice later as it saves me a lot of time. 

Don't Pay in Advance

All motivation to complete your work stops if you pay in advance.  There are too many horror stories about handymen collecting payment up front and then never completing the work. 

Discuss Capabilities of the Handyman

It’s so common for handymen to over state their capabilities and experience.  If they are hard up for money, they’ll tell you they can “do it all”, which can be a red flag.  Ask them what they’re best at, and what they’re not best at.  At a minimum, the items they list as not being good at, find somebody else to do those as if you don’t the quality of work will likely be low and the cost will be double your expectation.

Commonly they may tell you they’re not a plumber and can’t work with gas lines, and this is a good sign if they’re forthright about it. 

Stop Work ASAP if Expectations Are Not Met

Beyond looking at photos of their work, ideally you should view it in person and as soon as possible.  If the the work result or quality is not up to your expectations, stop work immediately before the problem gets larger.

Have as much in writing as possible, including the list of what you’d like done and any relevant details like colors. 

Ask How to Best Communicate

People respond better via various communication methods – voice calls or texting.  Rarely you’ll find a handyman that uses email in my experience.  Also ask what days and time of day is best to connect. 

Have the Handyman Give You a Timeline to Completion

For most contactors, vendors, and handymen I’ve used this year, the status quo is to over promise and under deliver.  Just about every single time the work will take longer and cost more than initially communicated, which is one reason to agree on a fixed price up front.  You might even build in a bonus for completing the work on time, or a deduction if late.  In any case, you should expect it to take longer than they say, even twice as long.  You might set a milestone early on that if they don’t have X completed by the second day, then you may find somebody else as you can already see the lack of progress early on. 

Ask how many other jobs they have going on right now that may get in the way of completing your work on time.  If they have one or two that’s fine.  If they have no other work, this is a red flag that nobody else is hiring them. 

Meet the Handyman in Person Before Hiring

If you run a business such as a property management company, the handyman’s appearance and demeanor should be such that your tenants will feel comfortable having them in their home.  If they use foul language and/or have an abnormal appearance, consider choosing somebody else. 

Nick Bartlett

Nick Bartlett

Real Estate Investor and Property Manager


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