What I Have Learned About Dealing With “Handy” Men

These last couple of weeks I’ve had to contract out many services to get both the sold and new houses ready to move in. From a new roof on the old Maison to the alarm system and cable wiring connections, I’ve been waiting for guys to show up and do something. The process has been excruciating! Here’s why:

1. It takes* either three days or forever to get a quote and a start date.

Most contractors on Angie’s List or Thumbtack reply within a few minutes but their availability isn’t necessarily on demand. Even with the scheduling technologies and apps, it seemed everyone was booked for weeks. If they have to go to your property to set up an appointment it can take longer than three days for the process to start. Take this into consideration.

*Emergency services that are 24/7 respond quicker but again, emergencies only.

2. Be prepared to play telecommunications phone tag. 

Gone are the days when you could get a straight answer. Between email, IM and text it can take a few rounds of playing “tag you are it” to get the answer or confirmation you need. It is a struggle to get multiple questions answered at times so you will need to send one at a time and pray they reply with more than a monosyllable.

3. Everything can be negotiated verbally but for it to happen ask that they put it in writting.

You have no idea how many times I have had to show an email with images to the contractor to make them realize they made a mistake or bad judgement call when completing the task at hand. If you aren’t clear, the hired crew will perform standard work with standard styles and may even low ball the quote because they didn’t realize the complexity of your request. This includes works that require permits. Trust, but verify.

4. A due date is a suggestion, a guess. Plan for an extra day or two in delays, or weeks depending on complexity and availability. 

Our fence was subcontracted by the builder. We are in week 3 and even though the fence is up, the sod, mulch and other phases of the job haven’t even been completed. The fence took 2 weeks, a threat to get a lawyer involved and a couple of new panelsto pass muster. At one point we had two styles of fencing. Two! Let that sink in for a minute. Wow! And this was in top of bad weather. Oy vey.

5. Always have a back up plan. 

Contractors can get sick. Companies go under. Acts of God can halt a works site. Allot for extra time, at least 10% in overages and a few misunderstandings and leeways. If you can’t find suitable alternates for the job, consider hiring crews that guarantee their work and plans and have clauses in their contracts that  cover delays and state penalty fees or courses of action.

In the end, the expectations will break or make the transaction. For example, when hiring help off the street don’t expect high quality materials or workmanship. Adjust accordingly. Read up on the process and tools needed for the job and be prepared to make tough choice in situations where the budget runs out or the work isn’t up to snuff. Basic knowledge can help you spot fakes or being taken advantage of which happens a lot when you hire strangers. Reviews help sometimes but John Q Public may not be registered and properly vetted if they only rely on word of mouth to get jobs. Hire responsibly.

Good luck!

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