Over the years you learn to tolerate a home’s “quirks”—the leaky faucets, sticky doors and windows, the damaged drywall you covered up with a piece of art (classy!). Because who has the time to regrout bathroom tile after work?
But poor general home maintenance can hurt your home’s value by 10%, and buyers want to purchase a home in good, working condition. They’ll notice the little stuff.
So if you’ve let a few things slip, and you’re not exactly Chip or Joanna Gaines, well, it’s time to hire a handyman to whip that home into selling shape.
Problem is, the best handyman in town won’t have a catchy radio jingle, a flashy website, or even a work van with a cheesy advertising scheme. No, the handyman who can fix anything under the sun flies under the radar, building their business on word of mouth, quality workmanship, and a great reputation.
How do you find this unicorn of a professional and get them to stick around? Let’s explore the ways.
What is a handyman, anyway?
Are you wondering if there’s a big difference between your cousin Bill, who knows his way around a toolbox and has watched every episode of MacGyver, and a professional handyman?
The Association of Certified Handyman Professionals, an organization that has worked to continuously improve the handyman industry since 2009 through education, networking, and building customer relationships, states that a handyman is a fix-it specialist that uses technical skills and knowledge to help solve household maintenance issues.
In some states, a handyman must have a license, but the licensing and insurance requirements often differ from state to state. Well-funded insurance startup Next Insurance offers a comprehensive breakdown of each state’s handyman license requirements.
Finding a handyman you can trust: Start with word of mouth
Resist the temptation to start leafing through the yellow pages or do a Google search where you’re subject to the luck of the handyman draw. Your best bet is to get a referral from someone who has real, working experience with a handyman.
Start by striking up a conversation with your real estate agent about trusted professionals in their rolodex of local contractors.
“Your Realtor sells enough homes to know a reliable and reasonable handyman to hire,” says real estate agent Christie Cannon, who has over 21 years of experience helping people sell in home her market of Frisco, Texas. “If you call random people, you may end up with someone who overcharges you.”
Aside from contacting your real estate agent, you should talk to:
- Coworkers at the office
Get the word out that you’re in the market for a quality handyman you can trust to get some work done.
Broaden your handyman search by using Nextdoor
Another great resource is the neighborhood social network Nextdoor. This platform is sort of like Facebook, but specific to your neighborhood.
A neighbor who is already a member can send you an invitation via email to join or you can go to Nextdoor.com to enter your email and street address to get started.
Now that you’re a member of your neighborhood’s online community, you can read others’ posts or create your own.
There’s even an interactive map feature to let you know which neighbors have joined Nextdoor, as well as a neighborhood directory to let you see all your neighbors—which comes in handy when you can’t remember someone’s name!
Simply post an introductory message to let people know who you are and what you’re looking for. The place for posting callouts for recommendations is simply your Nextdoor news feed.
A simple message like: “Hi there—who do you call when you need help doing something around the house? Looking for a good handyman.”
Then sit back and watch the recommendations start to flow.
Vet your handyman’s credentials and insurance
Once you’ve selected a few handymen for your candidate pool, it’s time to put on your Sherlock Holmes’ deerstalker cap and do some vet work. Don’t feel intimidated! Checking up on a handyman’s credentials and experience is simple.
1. Check for the handyman’s license and insurance
If your state requires licensing, ask your handyman candidates to provide their license number and then verify it with the proper association or local government office that issued the license.
Also, insurance is a must. A handyman has insurance to cover any surprises that may pop up. Without insurance, you’re on the hook for a large bill should unforeseen circumstances arise. Have your handyman:
- Give you a copy of their insurance paperwork, something called a declarations page.
- Get the number of their insurance company for you to call and verify their policy.
Check that their insurance is currently active and that their coverage will protect you for the work they’re hired to do.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility for a handyman to pay for insurance to get the proof, then cancel the policy. Protect yourself from this circumstance by doing your due diligence.
2. Interview your top 3 handyman candidates
A quick 15-minute phone call with a handyman can tell you a lot about their experience level and professionalism. Even better if the handyman can come to your home and you can show them the work you need to get done, then gauge their comfort level with your task list.
Get started with this list of questions:
- How long have you been in business?
- What is your experience with (the specific projects you need completed)?
- Do you have pictures of similar work you’ve done?
- Have you worked with others in this area?
- What is your preferred method of communication?
- How long will the project or projects take?
- What is the full breakdown of the cost?
- What form of payment do you prefer?
- Do you have a list of references to contact?
3. Check out the handyman’s online reputation, if they have one
When people are happy with the work they’ve received, or unhappy, they’ll often post reviews online. Yelp is a great resource you can use to check for the quality of their work, their professionalism, and their responsiveness to issues that may arise. You may even find photos along with reviews of past work a specific handyman has performed.
4. Get real-life references
Ask your handyman for a list of references and then follow up past clients. Any handyman worth his or her salt will have a growing list of satisfied customers happy to sing their praises.
Make sure to ask:
- What was your overall experience working with this handyman?
- What was the handyman’s communication style like?
- How did the handyman handle anything that went wrong or delays?
- Is there anything they think I should know before hiring this person?
Here’s something to keep in mind: This handyman has given you these references for a reason. Naturally, all the feedback you get is likely positive. If it’s not, then that’s a red flag.
So you’ve found a great handyman to work with—now what?
Once you’ve homed in on the perfect handyman for your odd jobs around the house, here’s what you need to do to lock them in. If they’re as good as you’ve learned, then there’s likely a waiting list for their services—and you want on that list!
1. Bundle jobs to be mindful of a handyman’s time
You want a busy handyman to take you on, so instead of simply replacing the trim in your living room or repairing the grout around the bathroom sink, try to bundle up jobs to offer them more work.
According to Stephen Jackson, owner of Handyjack Professional Handyman Services with over 10 years of experience in the field, combining projects is a win for you and the handyman. “When you combine projects, you get a home that is fully repaired and in tip-top shape to put on the market, while the handyman can make enough money to make sure the job is worth their while.”
Getting all the work you want done in one fell swoop may cost you more, but it’s worth it to have the work you need completed one way or another done by a top-notch handyman.
2. Purchase the materials needed for the job ahead of time
You can encourage a handyman to take your job by getting the materials you need to complete the project ahead of time. This saves you money as well since most handymen markup the cost of materials to cover their storage and transportation costs.
Cut all that out by paying for everything yourself. If you want the guidance of the handyman before buying materials, you can wait. Just let them know it’s something you plan to do.
3. Consider getting your maintenance work done during the offseason
If you’re just starting to tackle your honey-do list to sell your house and you’ve got the time, consider waiting until the off season to tackle your projects.
“In the winter,” says Jackson, “handymen are eager for work, so you’ll often get a better handyman at a better price by waiting until then to start your projects.”
This even applies to any exterior work you need, such a deck repair. Many jobs are easily completed in the cold. Even if the job takes longer, it’ll likely cost you less.
4. Be flexible with your timing
A flexible timeline makes you a much better customer for a busy, quality handyman. They may work to fit some of your smaller projects in during the downtime on another job. If you’re not working under a tight timeline, it’ll pay to go with the flow.