How To Hire A Contractor: Handyman Matters Consumer Guide

Handyman Matters has created a Consumer Guide on How To Hire A Contractor (PDF) that contains the 21 questions to ask to make sure your project gets done on time and on budget. You can save yourself a lot of time and money by finding one competent handyman who can do several different projects instead of hiring a different person or company for each individual job.

If you haven't had experience with home improvement contracting, it's difficult to tell if someone can successfully complete your projects. You may feel uncomfortable taking someone's word when they tell you, "We can do anything—it's not a problem."

This report explains the things you need to know to get the best job done at the best price. It explains what you need to know, why you need to know it and the questions to ask to make sure you get the information you need to make an informed decision.

Our extensive customer surveys have identified certain issues that homeowners are most concerned about. Click on the topics below to learn more about the questions you should be asking to protect yourself, and your home.

Consumer Guide Contents

  1. Making Sure The Job Gets Done Right The First Time
  2. Making Sure They Can Do the Work
  3. Ensuring Your Contractor Will be on Time
  4. Making Sure You Get a Fair Price and the Final Bill Won't Exceed the Quote
  5. Types of Home Improvement Quotes
  6. Ensuring Craftspersons Won't Be Rude or Messy
  7. Communication and Job Progress Updates
  8. Guarantees on Work Performed
  9. Home Improvement Contractor Availability
  10. Legal Questions to Ask
  11. Convenient Contractor Check-List (21 Questions to Ask to Make Sure Your Project Gets Done on Time and on Budget)
  12. Letter from the Handyman Matters President and Founder

Make Sure The Job Is Done Right The First Time

Good Craftsmen will clean up after themselves each day, understand and be trained in how to handle any potentially hazardous materials and use the proper techniques for all repairs and remodeling jobs.

Because anyone can claim to do all these things, and you might not know they lied until it's too late, check their complaint record with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). A contractor who does shoddy work, does not come back for any necessary repairs or leaves your home or yard a mess will get complaints with the BBB.

Many contractors do not have established systems in place that they or their employees must follow to make sure your job gets done right the first time.

As a national company, each Handyman Matters location adheres to the highest standards set by our home office. Prior to employment, all of our handymen must pass a stringent 118-point skill assessment before going out on jobs.

Additionally, each local owner provides their craftspeople with extensive continuing education to ensure they are expanding their capabilities. This training course is broken down into 212 sections covering everything between a home's foundation and its roof.

Ask anyone how long they've been doing repairs and how many jobs they've done. Handyman Matters has done over a million jobs across the country.

Another sign of competence is that a financially strong company with good workmanship will not ask for up-front payments on small jobs (typically one or two days). Handyman Matters will not ask for payment until the job is completed and you're satisfied. On substantial remodeling projects, material and progress payments are typical.

Also, make sure they take most or all major credit cards. You can always protest poor workmanship or incomplete work on your credit card bill, but you can't do that if you pay by check.

Most contractors that go out of business fail in the first five years, so longevity is another indication of being a solid company. Handyman Matters has been in business for 20 years with new locations opening all the time. Each and every one of our units has access to the experience and expertise we have accumulated over that time.

As a national franchise system, all of our locations abide by the standards set by our home office. What this means to you is that we can offer quality work and consistent customer service across the country. Plus, you will always be able to contact a corporate representative should you have questions, comments or concerns about your local operation.

Questions to ask:
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Do you have complaints filed against you with the BBB?
  • What documentation do you have that proves you're qualified?
  • Do you require an advanced deposit on all jobs?

How To Find A Qualified Contractor

It’s critical to hire a qualified contractor to do the work you're paying them to do.

Having someone say, "No problem, I can take care of it" is not enough. Anyone you call should be able to show you written documentation that he or she is an experienced and qualified contractor to do the repair or remodel you need.

Handyman Matters can fix a broken window or completely remodel your bathroom. We can repair wood trim, doors, closets, patch concrete or paint your house — inside and out. Do you need an appliance installed, a shower replaced or just your caulk or grout repaired? We can repair or replace any type of floor or complete a small drywall patch. Whether it's a big job or just a small list of tasks, we can help.

Handyman Matters can provide over 1,162 services to customers at home or at the office. Since Handyman Matters has such experience with virtually all home repairs and improvements, you can make just one call and get all your repairs done. Call today for the list of over 1,162 different things we can do.

Questions to ask:
  • What experience or proof do you have that you can do (whatever I need)?
  • How many times have you done (whatever I need) before?

Ensure Your Contractor Will Start On Time

One way to be confident with your home repair provider is with a contractor on–time guarantee. Home repair contractors are notorious for arriving late... and sometimes a lot late. We're on time 94% of the time and our craftspeople will call to notify you if they are running late.

We know you have better things to do than stay home from work waiting for a craftsperson to show up, only to have them be four or five hours late.

We have a precise four–step system which takes into account your project's needs, estimates the time, and recommends not only the most qualified, but also the closest craftsperson to your home.

This system:
  • Determines the scope of your project.
  • Generates an approximate budget for your project.
  • Determines the craftsperson closest to your property.
  • Determines the most qualified craftsperson for your project.

Our Pledge: Your handyman will never arrive late without calling to notify you first.

Make Sure You Get Fair Contractor Pricing

Our customer surveys have taught us that pricing is a top concern. The National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators' most recent consumer survey said the home improvement industry received the highest number of complaints across the board. Many of the consumer complaints related to inflated contractor pricing.

Don’t get caught by scams

This is where you can get caught by scams and here's how they work: a contractor or repair company will give you a low-ball price to get your job and then do a poor job, use substandard materials, ask for more money after the project is started, or after getting your deposit, skip town and not do the project at all. You know a local company with no BBB complaints and advertisements in the phone book is not going to skip town with your money. Don't ever hire someone who comes to your door offering you a "deal" because they had a job cancellation or available time in their schedule they need to fill. They could be one of those operations that gets an up-front deposit and then disappears.

So how do you protect yourself without being an experienced contractor yourself?

If you are looking for a large-scale project, make sure you get a written quote on the letterhead of a local company specifying exactly what will and will not be done, get a written guarantee of performance and a guarantee the final price will not exceed the quote.

At Handyman Matters, we price our jobs on a "Time Plus Materials" (T+M) basis. This ensures you will only pay for the work we complete and any materials we purchase, and at any time you can stop our services. All of our Craftsmen and employees are members of the local community and have been appropriately screened, tested and trained.

Additionally, they are held accountable by the local and home office for their actions and measured by customer satisfaction feedback forms. To save money on all your projects, you should be aware of the pricing methods in the home repair industry and what they mean.

Questions to ask:
  • Do I get a written quote (for larger projects) and how is it calculated?
  • Will you help me make a materials list so I can buy my own materials to save money?

Types Of Home Improvement Quotes

There are several different types of home improvement quotes used by contractors today: estimates, bids, time plus materials, price not to exceed and hidden damage. Below you will find a description of each type.

Estimates

This is an educated guess about the time and material costs necessary to complete your medium to large job. Usually, you will be provided a low and a high number that normally range within 20% of each other. The advantage is that you pay the actual cost and no extra mark up to cover contingencies. The disadvantage is that you do not know your exact cost in advance, but if you are comfortable with a price range then you can save money.

Bids

This is a firm quote on labor and materials for your job and will be the amount you pay. The advantage is that you know the exact cost up front. The disadvantage is that the contractor has to plan on unforeseen problems and your cost will be substantially higher than other methods because the contractor has to charge more to cover the risk of unexpected costs.

Time Plus Materials (T + M)

You are charged only for the actual time worked and materials purchased. Though most companies do not allow it, Handyman Matters will advise you on materials to buy and help you make a shopping list so you can buy your materials and do not have to pay us for shopping time or warranty markup on the materials you want.

The advantage of this method is that it is the least costly (estimates are always calculated at a higher hourly rate) and fastest way to have many small to medium sized projects done. Also, it is easy to expand your to-do list without changing any contracts. The disadvantage is that you do not a have a firm price up front, but rather an approximate time frame.

Price Not to Exceed

This is like T+M but provides the homeowner with a price the project will not exceed. Typically, the contractor will quote you a price they are sure of, taking all unexpected problems into account. This method will be slightly more expensive than T+M, but it is your second-best choice to keep your costs down on small to medium sized projects.

Hidden Damage

Damage discovered that could not be seen before starting your project is not included in any of these methods. Ethical companies will notify you of this and give you a written change order with any additional costs as a result before proceeding. Handyman Matters' policy is to stop work, inform you of any problems we discovered, and give you a written change order detailing all the additional costs for you to approve before continuing your project.

Depending upon the scope of your project, Handyman Matters can work with you in any of these ways, and we have found it's best for you to choose T+M for typical "handyman work", and the Price Not to Exceed option for larger projects.

Hire A Clean And Polite Handyman

Ensure your home improvement contractor won't be rude or messy!

You should expect a courteous, safe and polite handyman.

Handyman Matters considers the comfort and safety of our customers to be of critical importance, so we do criminal record searches for the last seven years in every area where a prospective employee has lived, a nationwide sex offender search, and a full traffic record search before we will hire anyone.

All of our handymen have a presentable appearance and are individuals your family can feel safe with. Give us a call, we're confident your Craftsman will be the politest handyman you've ever had in your home.

Even though we know our employees don't have any of the serious problems listed above, we also train them to provide exceptional customer service.

Our employees will never:

  • Play loud or offensive music
  • Smoke in your home
  • Use foul language
  • Leave a mess in your yard or on the job
  • Leave your bathrooms or house dirty
  • Improperly park their vehicles in your neighborhood

On top of that, if a repair or remodel will be messy, we will put down paper or plastic barriers to protect your carpets and make sure to cover any furniture in the area.

Our Craftsmen also wear uniforms and name badges so you can identify whom you're letting into your home.

Questions to ask:
  • What is your employee screening process before hiring (or if working with an individual, check his or her background)?
  • Do you have policies for how you or your employees will conduct themselves in my home?
  • If so, what are they?
  • How will I contact my Craftsman before and during the job?

Contractor Communication

Are you getting steady communication from your home repair contractor? Lack of contractor communication with customers ranked high on our customer surveys. Often times when you are trying to contact your repair provider you end up getting voice mail and are in the dark about the status of your job.

  • When will the craftsperson be in your home?
  • For how long?
  • When is the craftsperson coming back?

Handyman Matters has several innovations you'll appreciate:

All Craftsmen have mobile phones so you can always contact them during your job. Surveys show that 67% of the time customers call their repair provider they get voice mail and the typical time to return a call is 18 hours. Handyman Matters answers the phone with a live person 90% of the time.

Once they talk with you, many home improvement companies can take up to a week to get back to you about your project. Over 80% of the time Handyman Matters can provide a thorough consultation over the phone the very first time you call. And we can schedule your job right then. Larger jobs and remodels require an on–site inspection.

Here is our seven-step process for communicating with you:

  1. We will call the day before to confirm and review your project.
  2. On arrival, we will review the project and give you a time estimate in writing.
  3. We will discuss your project with you step-by-step and explain the progress we've made each day.
  4. We make sure you know when our Craftsman will be working, when he or she are getting materials, when he or she will be back and when he or she will complete the job.
  5. In addition to the Craftsman working on your project, our friendly and professional office staff are available during normal business hours, Monday through Friday, to accommodate any schedule changes you may have.
  6. We will immediately notify you if any changes are necessary to our plan.
  7. We solicit feedback on our Craftsman's performance and guarantee to come back to fix any problems with our work for an entire year.
Questions to ask:
  • What steps do you take to communicate with me before, during and after my job?
  • Will you come back at no charge and fix any problems with your work that show up after you leave? For how long?

Contractor Guarantee

Are you getting a contractor guarantee on work performed in your home?

Most home improvement individuals and companies do not have any guarantees other than they will cash your check. A contractor guarantee is only valid if it is in writing.

Handyman Matters offers a unique four–part guarantee:

  1. If we find hidden damage or problems we could not see when we gave you the quote, we'll give you a written change order to approve before proceeding—no surprises!
  2. All the work we do and materials we purchase are warranted for one year—any problems and we'll come back and fix it FREE of charge.
  3. You won't have to wait – you will always receive notification if our Craftsman is running late.
  4. You will never be asked for an advance deposit for small to medium sized jobs that do not contain specialty ordered items. You pay only for the work completed to your satisfaction!

Make Sure They Have Time Available

Most home improvement companies require a long lead-time in order to schedule their contractors. From the time you first call to get a quote, it could be five to seven weeks before they're actually on your job. Also, it's typical to be charged a two- to four-hour minimum and often no quote is provided.

Handyman Matters operates differently. Our minimum is only one hour and in most cases you will have an idea of how long the project will take before we arrive. If we cannot provide you with a time frame over the phone, our handyman will provide you a time frame when he or she arrives.

The craftsperson is there to work for that hour, so create a list, test our company and get your money's worth. Generally, we are able to start your project within a few days after you call, not five to seven weeks. How readily we can respond to emergencies depends on our schedule, but we can normally accommodate you quickly.

Questions to ask:
  • How long will it be before you can start work on my job?

Legal Questions To Ask Before Hiring

Here's what you need to know, why you need to know it, and the right questions to ask to find out:

Do you have a current business license and/or contractor license (if your local government laws require it)?

If they don't, beware. A valid business license is the most crucial item for any business owner, regardless of industry. If the service provider you're considering can't obtain this fundamental document, you might want to consider other aspects of their business practices.

Unlicensed contractors who only work in the summer to make extra cash probably don't invest as much in their own quality equipment as full-time contractors do. Established contractors have credit accounts with their suppliers, but a non-professional may ask you to pay for his or her materials before he or she starts work. If a contractor does not pay a supplier, that supplier could come after you for payment.

Unlicensed contractors who run into problems on the job may not be experienced enough to solve them. Nothing stops them from walking away from a mess with your money. Even if they intend to be fair, cheap prices won't allow for any warranty work months or a year from now. If you hire a company and it utilizes independent contractors, each one should have liability insurance, otherwise you might be liable for injuries or mistakes made on their part.

Do you have proof of insurance?

If you hire an uninsured contractor and he or she gets injured while working on your property, you can be responsible to pay for medical and possible rehabilitation expenses and can be sued.

A legitimate contractor should be able to show you their current worker's compensation policy, their liability insurance and a dishonesty bond that covers you if someone steals anything from your home.

*Many local governments do not require licensing for projects under a certain dollar amount, so smaller projects may not require a licensed contractor.

Do you have letters of reference from your bank suppliers to show that bills are paid and that you are in good financial standing?

If a contractor goes out of business during your job, and they don't pay their suppliers, you could be responsible for covering the amount. Essentially, you'll have to pay twice for work that may not have even been completed. For your protection, demand a "lien release waiver" at the end of the job.

Do you have letters of reference from past customers that I can contact?

One way to check a company's performance is to ask past customers what their experience was like. If someone cannot give you customer references, beware.

Check out our latest reviews to see what our past customers are saying.

Do you have a written safety program and follow safe work practice?

Ask to see the documentation. The best safe work practice is to avoid accidents altogether, so insurance does not come into play. Handyman Matters has a 53-page safety manual that you are welcome to review.

Questions to ask:
  • Do you have a current business license and/or contractor license (if your local government laws require it)?
  • Do you have proof of insurance?
  • Do you have letters of reference from your bank suppliers to show that bills are paid and that you are in good financial standing?
  • Do you have letters of reference from past customers that I can contact?
  • Do you have a written safety program and follow safe work practice?

Contractor Checklist: 21 Questions To Ask

Check out our convenient home improvement contractor checklist!

21 questions to ask a prospective home improvement professional to make sure your project gets done on time and on budget:
  1. How long have you been in business?
  2. Do you have complaints filed against you with the BBB?
  3. What documentation do you have that proves you’re qualified?
  4. Do you require an advance deposit on all jobs?
  5. What experience or proof do you have that you can do (whatever I need)?
  6. How many times have you done (whatever I need) before?
  7. What guarantee do you have that you will show up on time?
  8. Do I get a written quote (for larger projects) and how is it calculated?
  9. Will you help me make a materials list so I can buy my own materials to save money?
  10. What is your employee screening process before hiring (or if working with an individual, check his or her background)?
  11. Do you have policies for how you or your employees will conduct themselves in my home? If so, what are they?
  12. How will I contact my craftsperson before and during the job?
  13. What steps do you take to communicate with me before, during and after my job?
  14. Will you come back at no charge and fix any problems with your work that show up after you leave? For how long?
  15. What guarantees do you have in writing?
  16. How long will it be before you can start work on my job?
  17. Do you have a current business license and/or contractor license (if your local government laws require it)?
  18. Do you have proof of insurance?
  19. Do you have letters of reference from your bank suppliers to show that bills are paid and that you are in good financial standing?
  20. Do you have letters of reference from past customers that I can contact?
  21. Do you have a written safety program and follow safe work practice?

Letter From The Handyman Matters President And Founder, Andy Bell

Since 1997 we have been working towards industry change and community consciousness. We are embarrassed that our industry is the most complained about among consumers. We hope this guide will educate consumers and therefore reduce the number of complaints.

Andy Bell, Handyman Matters President

Dear Homeowner,

We need your assistance in asking the tough questions and helping eliminate the organizations and individuals that are tarnishing this great industry. Don't use repair and remodel companies or individuals that can't prove to you that they have answers for the questions in this guide. You will save money and time and have the peace of mind that you did everything you could to protect your family, yourself and your property.

As a national system we are setting high standards for the level of service and delivery of home improvements. The standards set in this guide are the minimum that all businesses in this industry should adhere to.

I hope this information has been helpful to you. Though our company meets and exceeds all the standards listed in this report and also on the checklist, we're not the only qualified and ethical home repair and improvement company.

Rest assured that if you follow the guidelines in this report you will end up with someone who does a superior quality job at a great price and does it on time.

If you would like extra copies of this report for any of your friends or relatives, give us a call and we'll be glad to send them out. When you are ready to have any repairs or remodeling done inside or outside your home, give us a call and we'll make the process painless and trouble free.

Sincerely,

Andy Bell, Handyman Matters President and Founder