As a landlord, you know better than anyone that maintenance requests pop up when you least expect them.
In fact, landlords receive an average of six repair calls annually, according to a study from Porch.
Having a local handyman on speed dial, ready to help with any situation, will reduce your anxiety while ensuring that your tenants receive top-quality assistance when they need it most. But how do you find a handyman in your area, and when should you call a contractor instead?
We’ll outline the difference between a handyman and a contractor before giving you the inside scoop on how to find a reputable handyman in your area.
What's the Difference Between a Handyman and a Contractor?
According to Angi.com (formerly Angie’s List), “general contractors are for bigger projects requiring a license, while a handyperson can tackle a series of simpler jobs for a lower price.” A simple way to remember the difference is that a handyman typically charges an hourly rate, but a general contractor is likely to price out the scope of work on a project-by-project basis and often works with a team of professionals. Also, handymen may have a wide range of skills, but contractors generally specialize in one area of expertise.
Common contractor positions include:
If you’re wondering whether you should find a general contractor or pursue handyman services, consider the scale of the project, your project budget, and then reach out to your local licensing office or your state’s Department of Labor to understand if the work you’re looking to get done requires a specific license. For example, undertaking electrical work requires a professional license in many states — though that isn’t too shocking, given the danger associated with playing in the fuse box.
Before we move on to how to find a local handyman, it’s time to address the elephant in the room: DIY projects. If you know your way around drywall and cleaning dirty gutters brings you joy, feel free to add “best handyman” to your resume. We won’t stop you. But there’s always a chance that a maintenance problem will strike that requires years of experience and know-how to fix, which is why it’s better to be prepared by having trusted service providers in mind rather than scrambling to make calls when the faucet explodes. When you hire reliable home maintenance professionals, the work is more likely to be done right the first time around.
Now that you know the difference between various home service providers, let’s dive into how to hire a handyman you can trust.
How to Find a Reliable Handyman in Your Area
Hiring service professionals is just like screening potential tenants: you’ll need to do your research and ask plenty of questions. Remember that the handyman-landlord relationship is mutually beneficial. Your goal is to find someone trustworthy who provides the services you need, and their goal is to have a source of consistent work. Both of you can refer customers to each other, which is also a plus!
Aim to understand who the person is, their skill set, reputation, and whether or not they can complete handyman work to your specifications. To that end, Lifehacker offers the following tips:
1) Jump into research with both feet. Sites like Yelp and HomeAdvisor let you search for general handymen based on the type of work you need done. Nextdoor allows you to ask your neighbors for suggestions, which can help you find your next handyman by word of mouth. If you’re a part of a local association, tap into that network and ask for suggestions.
Once you have a few people or companies in mind, look them up on the Better Business Bureau (BBB)’s website and read their customer reviews. You’ll be able to see if your potential handymen have any outstanding complaints from dissatisfied customers.
After noting their standing with the BBB, Google each candidate. Read their online reviews and peek at their websites to get a better sense of who will be the right fit for your project.
2) Schedule some interviews. Now that you understand the general scope of each candidate and their skill sets, it’s time to narrow down your search even more by scheduling an interview with each of the potential service professionals. Lifehacker notes that you shouldn’t let them “just give you a raw estimate for the work you’re asking for — especially if they’ve never seen your home, or have no idea of the scope of the work involved.”
Instead, reach out to each candidate and set up a time to connect. Ask them about the work they typically do, their area of expertise, if they’re insured, the materials they use, and whether or not they’ve completed similar projects like yours in the past. Then, request a list of references. A good handyman should have a list of satisfied clients available for you, so don’t be afraid to ask! Just be sure to actually reach out to at least a few folks on their list.
If possible, ask the references how their original quote compared to the final bill, how satisfied they were with the handyman’s work, and whether or not they’d recommend using their services again.
3) Get project quotes and scopes of work. Organization is the name of the game at this stage, so use TurboTenant’s comprehensive expense tracking software to keep everything in order. You’ll need to secure estimates from each of your top candidates along with their projected timelines and a detailed plan for completing the work. The project plan is likely to change — and if it does, get all updates in writing.
It’ll be tempting to work with the lowest bidder, but don’t let the potential savings fool you. If one of your estimates is drastically cheaper than the rest, look at it again. It may turn out that the handyman either doesn’t understand the scope of the work or thinks they can cut corners.
Once you determine which candidate is the best fit for your project, hire them “on the contingency that they stick to their plan, timeline, and estimate and don’t make any changes without your authorization,” Lifehacker advises. But your work doesn’t end there. Stay involved in the project by checking in regularly (and respectfully) so you know how it’s going at every stage.
Be sure to treat your other handyman candidates kindly and let them know you appreciate their time. You never know when you might need to reach out again for a backup handyman, or maybe they know some excellent tenants looking for a cozy rental to call home.
Let’s face it: maintenance requests are a chore, but having a trusted handyman in your network can ease your stress while providing great value to your tenants. Want to minimize your anxiety even further? TurboTenant can help! Our all-in-one landlord software makes it easier than ever for your tenants to share any maintenance issues while providing you with records of all the work you’ve done on your rental property.
How to Find a Reliable Handyman in My Area: Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference between a handyman and a contractor?
A contractor is usually licensed, has an area of expertise, and works with a team on big projects. A handyman typically has a general skill set, is often paid hourly or by the day, and works on smaller tasks.
Where can I find a handyman I can trust online?
When do I pay my handyman?
According to Lifehacker, “It’s not strange to pay a portion after some of the work has been done, or to pay for special equipment, and then pay the rest when everything’s finished. It is uncommon however to do a ‘half now, half when I’m finished’ arrangement.