Have you ever wondered how to find a handyman? The trick is finding someone trustworthy with a proven track record of success. There are plenty of websites and apps that make it a snap to recruit this much-needed helping hand. But hiring the wrong person to get a job done can turn a seemingly straightforward task into an expensive headache. What can you do to make sure your home project is snafu-free?
Here are the essential things to consider.
Do you need a handyman or a licensed professional?
A handyman is typically a jack-of-all-trades who handles basic projects or repair jobs that don’t require special licensing—think interior painting or assembling flat-packed furniture. However, for projects that involve your home’s major systems, such as plumbing and electrical, it is best to hire a licensed professional.
“Licensed [professionals] have the training, experience, and tools to make code-compliant installations and repairs,” says New York City architect John Mochelle. ”Someone without proper training in those areas can cause far more harm than good.”
Get to know your local laws
While there are no national standards for handymen, some parts of the country have their own regulations in place designed to protect consumers. For example, some states require handymen to carry insurance, while others prohibit projects that cost more than $500 without a contractor’s license.
Before you contract out a job, be sure the handyman you’ve selected is compliant with all the laws in your area.
Should you seek recommendations from friends, family, and neighbors?
“Word-of-mouth is currently still the best way to find a handyman,” says Nathan Outlaw, CEO of Onvico, a construction company based in Thomasville, GA. “But make sure to check out the work the person did first as your friends and family may have different standards than you do.”
Social media is another avenue that can help you find some strong leads.
”If your friends and family can’t suggest a reliable handyman, reach out to neighborhood groups on Facebook and ask the people you find there for suggestions,” suggests Lauren Hundman from Owl Management, a property management company in Chicago.
Your local mom and pop store can also be a great resource.
“Smaller stores are often more careful about who they recommend because their reputation is riding on the people and companies they suggest to customers,” Outlaw says.
If you decide to work with a friend or family member, be careful.
“Over the years I have received a fair share of emails from consumers who regretted hiring someone they knew personally,” says Jody Costello, founder of ContractorsFromHell.com, a website dedicated to sharing home renovation horror stories as well as insight and resources on hiring contractors.
Because they personally know the handyman, homeowners can let their guard down and possibly overlook some formalities. So when problems come up, the situation can get especially heated. And awkward.
Reputable online sources
Most people don’t have the resources or time to do a formal background check on everyone they hire. So many people turn to websites that recommend local handymen.
“Many of these sites claim pros are background-checked and certified with glowing reviews, but you shouldn’t take it at face value,” Costello says. Always do your research, which should—at the bare minimum—include asking the person for references.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t use a popular site to start your initial search to get a list of names.
“TaskRabbit, Angie’s List, Porch, Handy, and HomeAdvisor are all good places to start looking for help based on your project and budget,” says Mochelle. “Facebook Marketplace recently launched home services, which pools together service professionals from some of the popular home services websites.”
Once you find a person or company you like, do your due diligence to make sure all is legit.
Verify, verify, verify
When you think you found the right handyman for the job, it’s time to ask for references and a copy of their insurance.
“Sites such as Yelp and the Better Business Bureau can help paint a realistic picture of the person or company you plan to hire,” says Isabel Williams, a member of the handyman crew at Fantastic Service based in the U.K. “If you spot more than a few bad reviews on one of those websites, that’s a big red flag.”
On the flip side, one or two bad reviews in a sea of good ones shouldn’t necessarily be a deal breaker.
“Before you make a snap decision, read the bad reviews carefully and see if the company or handyman responded,” says Richard Ciresi, a franchise owner of Aire Serv, an HVAC contractor in Louisville, KY.
Businesses and individuals interested in excellent customer service will want to reach out to an unhappy customer to smooth over the situation.
Get it in writing
If you want to keep a lid on your budget, get a written estimate—or better still, a written contract with a flat rate. A reasonable contract protects both the homeowner and the handyman and should be completed before any work starts.
“The days of a handshake are gone, and there is no reason not to get something in writing,” Outlaw says.