Living Smart: Hire a handyman for honey-do list

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Tired of waiting for that honey-do list to get done? Consider hiring a handyman instead to tie up all those loose ends around your house. Just make sure to follow these five tips:

––Understand pricing. Many handyman services, but not all, charge an hourly rate and a fee for travel.

Yvonne Costin, owner of Grandma’s Handyman Service in Aurora, Colo., charges $75 for the first hour and $60 for each additional hour, plus a $20 travel fee, for the employees she sends to people’s homes. "We’re basically a time, prep, material company," she says. "When people have a honey-do list, we can’t give them an estimate for that."

James Payne, owner of One Handyman and a Van in Mason, Ohio, says he doesn’t offer a set rate, but determines how much to charge based on the length and difficulty of the job.

Tasks like changing out a garbage disposal could cost about $100 if everything goes perfectly, he says, but unforeseen issues, especially in older homes, can result in a higher cost. "I prefer, before I start giving quotes to people, to look at it," he says.

–– Explain your problem in detail.

Handymen like to know what they’re up against, so be prepared to tell them in as much detail as possible.

Payne says it helps him determine whether he wants to do the job and what materials he might need. "I try to pick their brain before I drive 100 miles for 50 bucks," he says.

Costin says that sometimes when people explain their issues, she can help them solve them over the phone. "I love giving advice," she says. "That’s what grandmas do."

–– Know the scope. Handyman services stick to smaller jobs. They won’t rewire or replumb your house.

Although Costin says she often refers people to licensed electricians and plumbers, she points out that a handyman service will do jobs that those contractors often label too small.

"If all someone wanted is a kitchen faucet or a bathroom faucet, then we’re less expensive than a plumber," she says. "It’s the same with electrical. We could put in a new switch, an outlet or a ceiling fan, but we’re not going to pull wiring."

––Prepare your to-do list. It’s normal to need a million different odd jobs done around your house.

Payne says if a customer makes a list beforehand, it saves them money and saves him trips. "If I have a bunch of odds and ends, a honey-do list, you’re going to get that done cheaper," he says.

––Keep that phone number handy. One trip from the handyman may fix your current problem, but you’ll have plenty of pictures and light fixtures to hang in the future.

Payne says he appreciates when customers call him back. "When I help these customers, I try to build a relationship with them," he says. "It’s all about taking care of the customer."