Tips to find, and keep, a good handy­man

The Progress-Index - At Home - - DEAR MONTY - RICHARD MONT­GOMERY

Reader ques­tion: We just lost another 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:

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.

Be dili­gent when trav­el­ing around the neigh­bor­hood. Watch for a truck, usu­ally un­marked, with a lad­der, tool box or other signs it is a handy­man.

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.”

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.”

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. 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 ten­minute 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 ex­pect de­pends on our ex­pe­ri­ences, our un­der­stand­ing of the prob­lem and our pock­et­books.

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