My vote for the worst part of owning a home is getting those surprise maintenance problems fixed quickly, cheaply and reliably. That’s why I included a shout-out in a recent newsletter asking readers for their best tips on finding good plumbers, electricians, carpenters and renovators.

Thanks to everyone who offered their thoughts on this. Here’s a quick summary of what I learned.

There are quite a few online services that help you locate people in the home maintenance and repair business, including:

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  • HomeStars: A database of contractors and tradespeople, with reviews. There were mixed comments about the experience of using this service. One reader said he’s had good success using HomeStars, while a couple of others said good reviews do not necessarily mean you’ll be happy with the work.
  • Houzz: A website offering reno design ideas and a way to connect with construction pros.
  • Jiffy: Quickly connects you with home maintenance people, with pre-set rates.
  • ProjectUp: Launching this month, ProjectUp offers the opportunity to post your project on the website and have contractors bid on the project.
  • Setter: Bills itself as a “personal home manager” that will help you find people to tackle all your household jobs.

Other thoughts from readers…

  • Referrals from neighbours, family and friends: A few people mentioned that they used contractors who had already done work for their neighbours.
  • Community Facebook pages: These are a great place to ask for referrals.
  • Google and Yelp ratings: They’re worth checking before you hire someone.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list...

The first week of retirement

A blogger describes his first week of retirement. He says it’s like the first few days of a vacation, except you’re never going back to work. I’m interested in hearing about the 52nd week of retirement – what’s it like when the novelty is gone?

North America’s top-rated airlines

When prices and routes are similar, how do you pick an airline? Top customer satisfaction ratings.

The frugality trap

A blogger writes about foregoing">dental visits to save money and the bad stuff that happened as a result. Readers chime in with their own frugal purchases that went awry. Single-ply toilet paper gets mentioned prominently.

The difference between being poor and broke

A nicely done graphic about what it’s really like to be poor… and broke. There’s a mention of “rushing through the grocery stores trying not to look at the things you can’t afford.”

Today’s featured financial tool

Found an investment opportunity that sounds good, but looks suspicious? Try this Scam Spotter tool from the Ontario Securities Commission’s website.

Ask Rob

Q: “I recently got a sizable amount of money in U.S. dollars, which I wish to invest in a couch-potato portfolio using ETFs inside my RRSP. However, I don’t wish to convert this money to Canadian dollars to invest in these ETFs. What is the best way to invest in U.S.-listed ETFs inside my RRSP?”

A: One option would be to set up a U.S.-dollar RRSP at an online brokerage and buy U.S.-listed ETFs for it. Here’s some information on the ins and outs of Canadians holding U.S.-listed ETFs.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length.

In case you missed these Globe and Mail personal finance stories

  • What CPP reforms mean for Canadian seniors
  • Couple interested in laying the groundwork for an early retirement
  • Make your travel costs deductible when you can (for Globe Unlimited subscribers)

More Carrick and Money coverage

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