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Top 5 Things to Know Before Paying a Handyman/Contractor

When you have a home improvement or renovation project that is out of your scope and ability, you want to find the right person who will do the job right, the first time, always. However, sorting through Google may not always give you the most authentic or thorough information on a professional. Especially when it comes to fair pricing and payment models.

So, how does one go about determining who they should hire as a handyman or contractor for your home improvement/renovation work?

I started off with some great questions and considerations in the post The Top 10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Handyman, but the #1 concern seems to lie around price and payment. So here are my recommendations for what to know and ask before hiring a handyman or maintenance professional.

FIRST, do they actually come out and look at the project or just give a flat rate over the phone? There is NO way that this person can accurately price your project without first seeing the work to be done. Without seeing it first hand how can they truly evaluate the amount of work - time and labor cost and expenses - any potential problems that might sneak up and materials needed let alone the what kind of tools they need to bring?

Pictures over text won't do it adequately enough either. The pro you hire needs to come and look at the project at hand in person for a thorough understanding of what needs to be done. At this time, you can get a feel for the person, ask questions and understand the expectations.

Pricing. Get at least three quotes on the project. If the price seems too good to be true and is far less than other quotes, remember, that you often get what you pay for. I'm not suggesting you go with the most expensive guy either - buyer beware! Go with what seems most reasonable of the bids and the person with whom you feel most comfortable. Be willing to pay a little bit more for solid experience, better service and performance, someone you like and trust to give an end result that you will be thrilled to share.

What is a payment schedule? First of all never, ever pay for the project in full up front. If the person expects or insists that you pay for the entire project's work up front, then you need to find someone else. It is not unusual for part of the service fee and cost of goods to be paid at the start of the project - most definitely the cost of materials needs to be covered upfront - and a good handyman/contractor will not expect to get the rest until the project is done and to the customer's satisfaction.

Ask for a Scope of Work (SOW) and an Agreement. The pro may have told you in person what the job is and what to expect, but get it in writing as proof that you're on the same page with the project, price and timeline of work and completion. This also gives you the opportunity to make sure the SOW is consistent with the initial expectations that were set in conversation and make corrections prior to starting the project. A SOW should include:

  1. An overview of the project in narrative form - short or long, it will tell you whether they understand the scope

  2. Timeline - how long will the project take to be completed. What are some measurables per day or per week (again good for large projects) that you can use to determine progress?

  3. Price including a list of materials that they will need to purchase

  4. A Reasonable Payment Schedule

An agreement is often overlooked but truly key, especially for big projects. Smaller projects don't require an agreement, however, to protect yourself and your property, it's best to get one for larger, longer projects. All agreements ensure that the work gets done right, on time and on budget and protects you from excuses, delays and paying for nothing.

If the professional doesn't present an agreement, you can either ask for more definition on the SOW and sign it or find simple 2-page contracts online for a handyman or contractor. Make sure the payment schedule is outlined as well as a clause that allows you an easy exit if the job is not getting done to your satisfaction.

Get a copy of their insurance. Credible handypersons and contractors all carry insurance and if they don't, do not hire them.

Finally, make sure they answer ALL of your questions. Before the project starts, you should feel 100% comfortable with the process and the expectation of how and when work will be completed. If you have questions, ask them. Any professional worth their salt wants their customer to feel good and confident in who they hire. Without it, the core component of the relationship is nonexistent. It's what makes collaboration on home projects easier. It's trust.

Every property owner wants the one person they keep on speed dial. Someone they trust, will call for any and every need for years to come and refer to their friends and neighbors.

Make it easy on yourself and just give us a call!

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