When you need help with home repairs

Finding an Affordable and Safe Handyman

by Gary Foreman


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Finding a Handyman

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Can you help me? I'm a single woman and live alone in my own home. I've learned how to do some minor repairs, but there are still some things like electrical and plumbing repairs that I'd like to have a professional do. Here's my problem. How do I know who to trust? Not only to do the job properly, but also not to rob me or put my safety at risk?
Jordan

You're right. Being frugal doesn't always mean doing the job yourself. Nor does it mean always choosing the lowest price. Quality of work and your safety should also be a consideration.

So how can you find someone who's reliable, reasonable, and safe to allow into your home? Let's see if we can't find a way to make that do-it-yourself project a success!

Begin by trying to determine how difficult the project is. Your answer will help you decide how professional your help needs to be.

Some repairs don't require professional training or specialized tools. If you've done it once, you can do it again. But other jobs really require someone who solves those problems daily. So gear your search appropriately.

It's obvious, but start by letting your friends know that you're looking for help with an electrical project. Often that's all you'll need to do.

It's possible that one of those friends is an avid do-it-yourselfer who might know more about your particular problem. Perhaps this person may even be willing to help you with the project or do it for you. You could choose to pay them or barter something that you could do for them.

If you don't find appropriate help from friends and family, you'll need to reach outside your circle. Look for safe places for referrals. For instance, churches or synagogues may be a good choice. Or consider local retirement homes.

Also, check with your local senior center. Often they'll know of a retired professional who still does a little side work or will have a list of people that they feel comfortable recommending.

Contact any local trade schools or technical institutes. Talk with an instructor. They may have students who could do the work for you, or they may moonlight themselves.

Realtors are another good source for referrals. They deal with a lot of homeowners who need to have work done, and the work must be done well, reasonably, and on time. Most will have a list of "go to" repair people that they call.

One popular online resource is angieslist.com. It includes reviews from customers. It is a subscription service, so you will need to pay for membership.

Once you've identified a prospect or two, use the web to check them out before hiring anyone. Many counties have sites that list any open lawsuits and judgments. Obviously you don't want to find your potential professional on the list.

Here are a couple of other thoughts to reduce the cost of home repairs. Don't put off important repairs in an effort to save money. Some repairs, like roof or plumbing leaks, can do a lot of damage if left undone. Spend $100 today to avoid spending $1,000 next month.

Finally, think beyond your present project. For instance, if you hire a plumber for one toilet repair, have them check out your other bathroom, too. You may pay them for an extra half or full hour, but you could avoid having a larger problem later.

Jordan, congratulations on being willing to tackle some home repair projects yourself and also for being wise enough to know that not every repair is for the do-it-yourselfer. Some require a little professional help.


Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money and he's a regular contributor to CreditCards.com. You can follow Gary on Twitter or visit Gary Foreman on Google+. Gary is also available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

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