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Handyman doing home renovations (Jupiterimages/Photos.com)
Handyman doing home renovations (Jupiterimages/Photos.com)

Magazine excerpt

Seven secrets to finding a good handyman – and avoiding reno hell Add to ...

The following article is from Canadian Real Estate Wealth Magazine.

Hunting for the right handyman to help you with your next home improvement? The search is easier than you think A good handyman is an important player on any real estate investors’ team. Having someone you trust for renovations and can depend on in an emergency will really make a difference to your portfolio’s potential – not to mention your stress levels.

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So who do you turn to when you’re looking to renovate or repair a property? Here’s a simple guide to finding the right (handy) man for the job.

1) Who’s who.
Before you start looking for home improvement help it’s a good idea to figure which type of professional is best suited to the job. “A handyman doesn’t have a trade license, he knows a little bit about everything,” says Jim Caruk, master contractor of The Caruk Group. “What you have to understand is a contractor doesn’t necessarily have to be a tradesman either. He contracts everything out and he makes sure that the people he brings in are licensed tradespeople – that’s his job.”

If you’re planning a large project that requires the expertise of a number of different professionals then you’re better off looking for a qualified general contracting company. Smaller jobs are usually best suited to a handyman who has a broad range of skills and extensive experience, but is not necessarily licensed.

2) Where to look.
There are several ways to find a good handyman or contractor, says David Foster, director of environmental affairs for the Canadian Home Builders’ Association. “There are some companies that specialize in this, and the time-tested method is asking friends, neighbours and family who they use and would recommend.”

He also suggests checking with HBA websites for “RenoMark” contractors. These contractors are members of the CHBA association and comply with the association’s code of ethics, as well as renovation-specific codes of conduct. In addition they provide warranties, meet regularly to keep up to date with current trends, materials and regulations. Caruk also suggests looking at contractors’ signs in the neighbourhood. “If you see a lot of their signs then obviously they’re on the up and up and you would think that they do good work if everyone keeps hiring them.”

3) What to ask the contractor.
When calling around, there are some key questions to ask that will help you narrow down your search.

· References – ask for at least three names

· Licensing – Licenses expire annually; so you’ll need to look at it to make sure the license is still valid. A license does not guarantee the contractor is a quality tradesperson. Foster adds, “Licensing and so forth varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction – consumers should check with their municipal building department to determine if any local licensing is required.”

· Insurance – Business liability and WSIS insurance is a must, says Foster. If the contractor doesn’t have valid insurance coverage, you can request him or her to buy temporary insurance. Alternatively real estate expert Paul Hecht suggests having your lawyer draft a general release that stipulates the contractor fully understands that they are responsible for any accident and damage and cannot sue you. This will protect you should something break on your property or there is an injury.

4) What to ask referrers.
Whether you’re asking friends for references, or checking out the list of names provided by the handyman, there are several questions to ask that will help you determine if you’ve found the right person for the job.

· Have you personally used them?
· How many times have you worked with them?
· What did the job entail?
· Did the project start on time?
· Was the work completed on time?
· Was it on budget?
· Were there any problems?
· Would you use them again?
· Are you getting a referrer’s fee?

5) How to get the best estimate.
Price plays a major part in deciding whom to hire. Provide each home improvement professional with the same information. This may include: plans (with simple sketches or full construction drawings), and detailed descriptions of materials and products. According to Caruk they should all be within 10 per cent to 15 per cent of each other. “If you’ve got four or five and you’ve got one that’s really, really high and one that’s really, really low what you usually do is discard the highest and lowest one and work with the three guys in between. Then go with your gut feeling.” Caruk warns homeowners not to get too carried away getting estimates. “If you start getting 10, it just makes it more confusing.”

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