It’s a new year, so why not start it off with some home improvement projects?  Unless you happen to be handy with sprucing things up yourself, you’ll want to hire a handyman.  But how do you find one who’s reliable and who charges a reasonable price? 

 

REFERRALS

usnews.com has some advice and recommends hiring a handyman based on a referral, if possible.  Ask family, friends, co-workers, and even hardware stores for referrals.  There are even neighborhood websites and email lists. 

WEB

A number of websites list contractors reviewed by other homeowners.  A few places to look include yelp.com, homeadvisor.comangi.com, and porch.com  The problem with some of of the reviews is that contractors might be paying to be listed.  It just depends on the website.  

 

DO A TEST

Once you find a handyman for your home improvement project, test the person out on smaller projects.  That way you can see if the worker shows up on time, how well he or she does the job, and so on.  

 

COMMUNICATE

Even though a handyman should be the expert on the home improvement project you want done, you still need to communicate about what you want done.  Don’t expect the contractor to read your mind.  Be specific about, for example, what type of paint to use and anything else that’s important.   

 

HIRE THE RIGHT PERSON FOR THE JOB

Leave skilled work in the hands of a professional.  Plumbing, electrical, and heating and air conditioning work should be left to the more skilled professional.  Also, make sure the handyman has done the job before.  Ask about his or her experience.  

 

CHECK REFERENCES

Ask for references of former clients and call them.  Again, online references are ok, but you should get the best reference over-the-phone.  

 

PERMITS

Some repair and remodeling jobs require a city or county permit.  If the handyman you hire is licensed, they should have no problem in pulling a permit for you.  But, ultimately, you’re the one responsible if “unpermitted” work is done.  Know the law!

 

LICENSING AND INSURANCE

Some cities require the licensing of a handyman.  Ask for a copy of the license and check with a local agency to see if it’s still valid.  If a handyman is not licensed, they don’t have much to lose.  

 

BEWARE OF SOLICITORS

Good handymen don’t need to knock on your door, asking for business.  Many times, those at your doorstep posing as home repair workers, are thieves.  Other red flags include a handyman who asks you to get building permits, wants cash only for payment, and wants paid for work up front.  Never give more than 10% of the job’s cost up front.  If the handyman needs the money for supplies, offer to pay the supplier direct.  

 

GET ESTIMATES IN WRITING

If the handyman doesn’t write up a written estimate, draft a contract yourself with details and prices and ask he or she to sign it.  And don’t just go with the lowest bid.  

Get estimates in writing. Since many handymen aren't skilled writers, you can draft the contract or job list yourself, with details and prices, and have him sign it if he doesn't want to offer a written estimate.

Don't just pick the lowest bid. Resist your frugal impulses when searching for the best handyperson. "The cheapest is not always the best," Turner says. "In fact, they're usually not."