How To Hire Someone To Make Household Repairs

Hiring an honest, hard-working repairman does not have to be a difficult task for the educated consumer.

Your roof gutters need cleaning, your house needs painting, and your front lawn is in desperate need of a meeting with a lawn mower. Maybe you're not up to the task because you're too busy, or maybe you're just not physically capable of doing these household chores. But regardless, they've got to be done one way or another. You've got the money put aside to hire a repairman or woman to do what you don't want to do or simply cannot do. But where do you start to make sure you find a responsible person?

One of the best and easiest options you should explore right off the bat is simply asking family and friends. You'd be surprised at the number of references you can get just by asking around the neighborhood. In this way, you will be able to assess the results of different workers without too much trouble.

But let's say that you're new to the neighborhood or that your neighbors are home repair fanatics, doing their own work and not bothering to hire outside help. Now it's time to break out the telephone book or the local classified ads and start making phone calls. But how can you avoid being taken advantage of as a consumer?

First, contact your local Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau to get a local list of recommended companies or individuals that have a good reputation for delivering solid, reliable work at a reasonable cost. If that fails, draw up a list of companies and start making phone calls.

Never sign any contract or make any agreement without a written estimate from the very start. It may require a single trip to your residence by the company or one of their representatives to deliver an estimate about what the work you want done is going to cost, but this is a vital document on which you should insist. If the company or the workman refuses to deliver one, please reconsider doing business with them. There are plenty of documented court cases where people first agree to a set price, but when the final bill is delivered, it is far above what was agreed upon. Without a written estimate, you're on very shaky ground legally and may end up going into debt to pay an unscrupulous workman more money than you planned to spend. If you're dealing with a professional company, they will not flinch at delivering an estimate in written form.

Of course, there will always be surprises. That quick painting job you had priced at two hundred dollars may leap to three hundred if you change your mind about the color halfway through the job or add on an extra room or three. If this happens, feel free to renegotiate the final fee with the contractor and again, put it in writing. This works both ways, of course. If the landscaper finds massive stones in your backyard while preparing your new garden, he may ask for a higher price due to the extra work involved. Be sensible, and remember that it's to your benefit and to the contractor's to keep a paperwork trail of all discussion and negotiations.

Should you monitor the work? Of course, but keep a level head about it. The painter may not want you standing over her as she stirs the can of brick red latex you want on those walls because you're distracting her and presenting a potential hazard to her work. But poking your head in every hour or so to check in and see how the work is progressing is recommended for your peace of mind, as well as for showing the contractor that you're an aware consumer.

Finally, don't be harassed into signing off on inferior work. If you ordered brick red paint and they start painting the walls with pink, speak up and ask for the supervisor if they insist on continuing the job. If the supervisor shrugs you off, call the main office, and notify them that they are in breach of your written agreement and that you want immediate action. Most companies have mobile supervisors that will attend a site and try to resolve most problems without much trouble. You may feel self-conscious pointing out errors, but remember that when the trucks roll out of the driveway and you're left alone with the signed contract, you may regret not enforcing the agreement you both settled upon.

But what if you just want a local handyman to help out? Follow the same basic rules - get references, ask for a written estimate and follow through with quality control. Most local handymen rely on their reputation to get new customers and repeat work. So they will probably follow the same professional practices as their larger, corporate brethren.

Payment for these services should always be followed up with a written or printed receipt, documenting what was done and what money was received on what day. If a deposit was required, that should be noted, as well as any supplies you are being charged for. Store your copy in a safe place in case you need to refer to it for either legal issues in the future or for possible tax credit. You may also want to refer to it in the future to continue or repeat the work done. Be it by cold hard cash or by credit card, documentation needs to be made to protect both sides from any legal problems in the future regarding what was paid for what.

Hiring a repairman can be a daunting task for anyone, but with a little preparation and research, you can sit back and choose your workman with confidence. Being an informed consumer will not only benefit you, but also your community. Your business stimulates the local economy and saves you physical work while creating a better home for your and your family.

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