Living in any home for a while gives us selective memories. You might have forgotten about that damage to the drywall that you covered with artwork—or the extra holes you created when you couldn’t hang that piece straight the first time. And those nicks and scratches on the wooden stairs and door frames? Just wear and tear from when the kids were small.
But buyers want a house that looks brand-new. You may not have had a handyman on call before, but having a handyman or handywoman in your corner when you sell your house can smooth out the process of prepping for showings and inspections.
“People don’t treat a house a lot of times as the investment that it is, and they wait until they’re selling or they wait until things are in really bad disrepair before they even think about hiring someone.”
Basic home maintenance, such as fixing chipped or faded paint, replacing worn carpet, and cleaning gutters, can earn you about 1% of your home’s value each year, according to a flagship study out of the University of Connecticut and Syracuse. Unfortunately, letting what seems like little things slide can also hurt your home’s value by about 10%, especially if a minor flaw, such as a crack in the foundation, causes a major problem.
If even finding a handyman feels out of your league, we’ve removed some of the guesswork so you can get the help you need to put your home’s best foot forward.
Why hire a handyman?
A handyman, or handyman service, is a skilled jack-of-all-trades who can handle a wide range of repairs, according to Angie’s List, a reputable online directory of service providers nationwide. Some of these professionals are self-trained while others specialize in certain types of home maintenance, such as tiling, carpentry, or painting.
Consider a handyman an extra set of hands for little projects where you may feel all-thumbs or in over your head. A handyman is a capable and economical option for unclogging pipes, patching drywall, and the like, according to Resolve, a partnership between Lowe’s and Alacrity Services, a professional home repair and remediation company.
Here are a few of the main benefits of having a handyman in your corner when you set out to sell your house:
1. Knock out a bunch of odd jobs at once
Having a wide-range of experience in smaller repairs makes a handyman a one-stop resource for touching up paint, removing scuff marks from wood cabinets, and changing light fixtures.
That eclectic to-do list that keeps growing as you declutter and clean your home to put it on the market won’t intimidate a handyman—or seem at all strange.
These pros are used to doing odd projects such as sealing a deck, changing out bathroom faucets, and installing weather-stripping, sometimes on the same day.
2. Save money
Because handymen charge by the hour and supply their own tools, they have less overhead, so their rates are lower than general contractors. You’ll typically pay a handyman only for the hours worked and scope of the job, unless you agree on a flat rate, although you will have to supply materials.
The cost of hiring a handyman depends on the size of the project. The average hourly rate of a handyman ranges from $60 to $65—the national average is about $77 an hour—with some services charging higher, up to $125 an hour, according to HomeAdvisor.
A small job that takes one to two hours might be replacing a broken garbage disposal or thermostat, HomeAdvisor says. A medium-size job such as anchoring shelves, replacing a mailbox, or large drywall repairs might take two to four hours; installing a new kitchen sink and adding locks to certain interior doors are examples of larger jobs that can take four hours or longer.
3. Discover issues you might have missed
While they might not have the specialized knowledge of a plumber or an electrician, handymen are skilled workers who won’t look at your home through the mist of memories. They’ll take note of “leaky and squeaky stuff” and general maintenance issues.
Filling and painting cracks in a stucco exterior is a common repair in the heat of Florida that keeps water damage and mold from seeping into the walls, Creegan said.
Cleaning gutters regularly but especially before a sale will prevent mold growth and rot that could damage your roof, according to Arnett Construction, a roofing company with more than 20 years of experience in LaPorte, Ind.
4. Increase your home’s ‘saleability’
A handyman can take care of repairs such as peeling linoleum and loose handrails that, aside from being unsightly, could jeopardize financing for a potential buyer using an FHA or VA loan.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires home appraisers to note anything that could affect the home buyer’s health and safety, or the property’s soundness. This includes peeling or chipped paint, which must be corrected before a loan is approved.
“That happens all the time, especially on things like an FHA or VA loan where we have an appraisal come up and then there’s some little wood rot or something very small that could really kill a deal,” Creegan said. “If we didn’t have a hand in a good handyman referral source, we would be in trouble.”
How to hire a handyman
One of the best places to start looking for a handyman is your real estate agent. “A lot of their business comes from Realtors,” Creegan explained. In fact, if your agent recommends a handyperson or a handyman service, “they’re typically much more willing to take that job on. You’re probably even going to get better pricing.”
Barring that, an online directory known for its rigorous ratings, such as Angie’s List or Thumbtack, can be good places to search by ZIP code. Another neighborhood-focused resource is Nextdoor.com, which includes an interactive map feature and a place to post callouts for recommendations.
Don’t forget to ask neighbors, coworkers, friends, and family for their referrals.
Unlike contractors, licensing and regulation for handymen and handyman services varies by state. For instance, New Jersey requires those who work for a profit to register with the state and carry insurance. California requires the use of a licensed contractor if the work, including materials and labor, exceeds $500.
If your state requires licensing, ask for the handyman’s license number to verify it with the proper association or local government office that issued the license. Also get a copy of the person’s insurance declaration’s page and verify it with the insurance company.
If your state doesn’t require licensing, you can still vet potential candidates through your state consumer protection agency, your local Better Business Bureau, and prior customers. Ask how long the person or company has been in business, their experience with the project you need completed, and references for their previous work.
What could a handyman do to prep for sale?
Although your home has its particular needs, here are 10 tasks that a handyman could do to whip your house into shape before you sell:
- Change light fixtures, switch plates, or faucets
- Clean rain gutters and tidy a yard
- Replace caulk around bathtubs and sinks
- Replace a toilet or garbage disposal
- Touch up paint
- Replace an AC filter
- Stain a deck, stairs, and other exterior wooden features
- Patch small sections of drywall
- Replace a torn screen
- Hang window treatments, shelving, pictures, and mirrors
What about hiring a general contractor?
A good rule of thumb is, if the maintenance issue is something where a home inspector will want to see receipts and warranties, you should hire a contractor.
A contractor is different from a handyman or similar professional in expertise and licensing. General contractors coordinate and execute larger home renovation projects while others, often called subcontractors, specialize in a particular trade, such as plumbing, roofing, carpentry, or electrical work.
“A roof, plumbing, AC, or electrical … those things need to be handled by the contractor in their trade,” added Creegan.
Contractors typically have an installation warranty or workmanship warranty to guarantee they’ve done the job correctly. They’ll also ensure that any modifications meet code requirements, so that you don’t have to pay more to have the work fixed later.
Because their tasks involve a larger scope and more materials and labor, contractors cost considerably more than handymen—but you’ll want that skillset if your home has a problem that needs major repairs.
For instance, if your home needs to be rewired, a professional electrician may charge $100 or more per hour. Repairing a sewer line problem can cost about $125 per hour, plus materials, according to HomeAdvisor. A cracked foundation may need a steel beam or pier installed at a cost of $1,000 or more.
Whether you have a working knowledge of home repairs or consider yourself a novice in maintenance, a good handyman can prove invaluable in getting your home ready to sell—and refer you to someone more specialized should you need that.
Who knows? If you find someone whose work is stellar, you may want to keep that handyman on call to help with any quirks that arise in your new home.
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