Ten tips to find and keep a good handyman

© 2015 Richard Montgomery1

Reader Question: We cannot seem to find and keep a good handyman. We are at a loss to understand why they come two or maybe three times, but after that they are booked for months or have some other excuse. We need help. Do you have any advice for us? Don and Betty J.

Monty’s Answer: Most of us know someone that seem to be able to repair most anything. Those that have this ability are unique; It is a gift to possess the attitude and the aptitude to fix things that require maintenance, break or wear out.

Where do you find one?

Some of them have a “full practice” so the only way they take on new customers is when a client moves or dies. Here are a few tips:

  1. Word of mouth. Ask friends who always seem to have everything at home “up to snuff.” Real estate agents can also be a good source.
  2. Be diligent when traveling around the neighborhood. Watch for a truck, often unmarked, with a ladder, tool box or other signs it is a handyman.
  3. Stop and leave a sticky note under the wiper blade or on the driver side door with your phone number and name. Just say, “Handyman? Please call us.”
  4. The manager of the local hardware store sees these folks all the time. He may have a name or two that “stand out of the crowd.”
  5. The builder desk at a home improvement store such as the Home Depot or Lowes is another spot to check out. These stores drive more volume to you than driving the neighborhood because every handyman has to pick up supplies.
  6. Craigslist.org has a category for services called “skilled trades,” and a quick review in different cities turned up many “handyman” ads. You may also find ads in the local newspaper want ads or with an online search.

Do not stop with one name. Seek four or five names and phone numbers. The best way to interview them is to ask them to do a “typical” job. Talk with them on the first visit. Show them a list of kinds of work you need and ask them if there are jobs on the list they do not do.

How do you keep them?

Now you have expended some effort to identify and qualify handymen, how do you keep them as a resource? Handymen are pretty independent people. Anyone who is smart enough to determine the solutions to so many kinds of problems is also smart enough to size up their clients while their customers are sizing them up.

  • Do not ask them to come for a ten-minute job. Have an ongoing list of tasks that they can do in one trip. They will recognize that you know the value of their mobilization and travel costs.
  • You may have heard the old saying, “Fast pay makes for good friends.”  Your handyman will appreciate quick pay as it saves them bookkeeping time. Agree how to pay them ahead of time. Either cash on their way out the door or if they prefer to bill you, pay the invoice within a few days of receipt. Do not force them to send another bill.
  • Tell them about the tasks in advance so they can bring the right tools, replacement parts and other items necessary like oil, or cleaning fluid. If you have email capabilities, send them a photo of the issue or issues ahead of time if a camera can capture the problem.
  • Treat them professionally. Time is money for them. They already have friends. Do not make them endure the story of your last fishing trip to Ecuador. Keep your pets away from them. Focus on clear instruction about the problem and your expectations then get out of their way. They appreciate a professional relationship.
  • Once you set an appointment, do not call them to change it. Well, a medical emergency, maybe, but if you get in the habit of changing appointments, the relationship may not last long.

How to define what it takes to be a good handyman is a moving target. We do not all hold similar expectations. Some of us just want it fixed as quickly and inexpensively as possible. Others have certain expectations regarding the quality and visual appearance of a repair or replacement. Some people expect the repair to last for eternity. What we should expect depends on our experiences, our understanding of the problem and our pocketbooks.