As a home withstands the forces of nature, so do I. Every once in awhile, I need a hand with something I can no longer do for myself ... at least not safely. In my case that means staying off of ladders. But finding someone who has the insurance to work at a height means higher cost than the job is worth .... So:
What do you do? How to find someone who will clean 200 feet of gutters for less than a doallar a foot! And people who would handle the other 'stuff' that needs someone with youth and/or skill.
Like simple electrical.
Like cleaning up the mess left by remodelers in the attic (with no floor)
Something REALLY simple like planting a couple of bushes where the soil thinks it's granite.
'Handyman' in the phonebook yields people who want to remodel a kitchen. It might be different where you live.
Sometimes the job is simple but needs skill -- like wiring a new ceiling light and switch -- but hiring an electrician will pay for way more skill than what that job is worth.
Sometimes the job needs experience -- like replacing the missing insulation in the attic -- but hiring an insulation company is as pricey as the cost for the electrician. And they want to install even more insulation. Not what I want ....
I'm sure you have your own list -- what do we do? It's no wonder homes owned by elderly folk end up looking "shabby" ... you let it go because you can't do it yourself any longer and it's not worth what it would cost to hire a "pro".
Suggestions are welcome!
Great topic, JoeW519! I look forward to seeing what others have to say.
As part of my life long goal to perfect immaturity I've refused to accept that I'll ever become so old I'll need assistance. Still, the thought crept into my mind this past week while I was cleaning 2nd story gutters, doing my fall roof inspection and splitting firewood.
We don't just wake up old one day, even though it may seem like it. So isn't that part of why we down-size, move into more maintenance free homes and ( can you tell this is coming from a maintenance professional?) do a better job of preventive maintenance? Spending a few dollars on PM now can save in time, labor or both when things fail down the road. Making minor repairs (or paying someone else to make them for you) may not keep you from eventually replacing your roof but it can certainly postpone it and make it less expensive when the time comes.
Beyond that there are condo associations where somebody else takes care of the exterior, and rentals where somebody else takes care of everything. But let's not rush things, I still have my above-mentioned goal you know!
Thanks, TroutBum. You're right of course -- on all the points you make. And I mulled the same thoughts.
We do have an HOA here -- and they take care of the lawn and landscaping, extensive common areas, roads, etc. And we chose a down-sized home (1500 s.f vs. >3000 before, and one story).
Still there are all these things that come up. Of course I could hire people who drive by in trucks looking for work, or I could hire someone from church ... and so on. But aren't insured, and I chicken out.
I wonder, with your contractor's history (and network), how would you answer the question if you had to?
In my opinion your best bet is word of mouth and observation. The concerns you mentioned; insulation, basic wiring and gutter cleaning are things that don't require a lot of finesse, just fundamental skills. You might want to ask the HOA who they use for any common buildings they may have. HOAs typically are under some pressure to keep prices down. Rental management companies are in much the same position. They will almost always work with insured contractors who employ semi-skilled workers or "handyman." I would offer different advise if you were planning a new kitchen with granite tops.
If you're driving down the street and see someone cleaning gutters, take note of the name on the truck. If they're in your neighborhood, ask the property owner about their experience. Did they give the appearance of a contractor you'd feel comfortable with? If they appear to be working (as opposed to taking a smoke break and horsing around), ask them for a general estimate. I'm not suggesting going out to bid for gutter cleaning but any contractor should be able to tell you with a pretty good ballpark price on how much it will cost to clean 200' of gutters on a 2 story home.
I agree with using contractors with insurance but I'm not as much concerned about it when it comes to something safe and simple like an electrician to replace a light or a plumber replacing a faucet. Those really are handyman type jobs. Sure, an electrician could possibly get electrocuted or leave a bare wire but that's almost non-existent if it's someone who has an established business and comes with references. I'd be more concerned about the roofer who is working at heights and could take an accidental fall.
This may seem like a silly observation but don't forget about the old fashioned phone book. If a local contractor has had a listing in the yellow pages for a couple years (doesn't everybody have last year's phone book tucked away?) they aren't just passing through. They're at least somewhat established. I avoid the ones with a ton of big ads and billboards and let someone else pay their overhead.
I like your way of thinking. Thinking again of Tom on "Car Talk"
Joe! You just hit on one of my least desired activities - find a contractor, or dentist, or barber or anybody that performs services that are hard to evaluate until you have already paid. We moved far form our locale of decades and had to do all of these.
I have found that I can write up a short "specification" for all potential providers for more expensive work like a deck or heating/AC and add things like providing at least 3 references for very similar work and then call every one of them and talk. Write down a standard set of questions and print out one for every call so that you can take notes and add comments they provide. People love to talk about their projects and will be very honest. Just respect their time. I also add requirements in the spec like providing proof of insurance and even how we would arbitrate incomplete or unsatisfactory work. Two pages max covers almost any project.
Now for smaller projects, I try to revisit any good contractors who might be very willing to do smaller jobs especially if you are flexible and/or it relates to or extends work he has already done for you. For one gutter guard job that I had, my wife keep mentioning that some immigrant workers advertise every week in the church bulletin. For a couple hundred dollars and providing the materials an older roofing guy who had to have his son translate came over and installed the gutter guards (2.5 stories high!!!), put back a fascia that came off of a gable vent and inspected and redid any of my exhaust vents that needed it.
So, I am totally seconding TroutBum's word of mouth solution. I would just broaden it to networking and keeping your eyes open in local reliable organizations like a church or other organization. Most providers do not want to mess up their standing in the organization by sloppy work. I would also say that I have learned from some experience on very big purchases of complex items that references are always very highly recommended, remembering that the only one reluctant to talk is probably you and not the person called.
GOOD LUCK, Joe!!!! :-)))
the church (bulletin) is a great idea!
I have a personal acquaintance (with such a business) in Florida: Founder, We Can Lend A Hand Personal Assistance Services. Location: Daytona Beach, Florida Area; Industry: Individual & Family Services . I follow her on Facebook and she is also on LinkedIn (have you tried).
Thanks, Bo, JerryD, TroutBum
I like the idea of sizing up the job to choose a risk level and then, if it's not dangerous, hiring someone who might not be insured.
I think in this region I'll have to rely on networking, especially through church.
I've struck out in the phone book -- these are the guys I mentioned who advertise as "handyman" but don't call back for less than remodeling work -- I can't blame them, but I'm done remodeling at last.
And yes, gutter cleaning isn't much about skill, and ordinarily I'd go with the guy-driving-by approach. But in my case I'm a little nervous about hiring someone without insurance -- I'm in one of those houses you see down South that has a metal roof and unlike shingles the metal is really slick, so I'm cautious on that.
Thanks for the feedback -- everything you say is useful and I'll push ahead on the networking front unless someone has a better idea. There used to be a franchise business -- 'Hire a Husband" or something like that. Ideal, but I guess there wasn't enough interest to sustain the company. Sheesh.
Several years ago when I was assisting my mother by looking for an interior painter I found a site entitled HomeAdvisor.com I was able to find several local painters who we interviewed and settled on one. The contractors are thoroughly screened by the company (i.e., finance history, criminal history check) and there is a degree of confidence that the persons who will come to your home are legitimate and responsible. I am not endorsing the site, only to point out that there are these new on-line resources.
Also note that many communities have established associations which senior homeowners can join that provide support services. The most famous is http://www.beaconhillvillage.org/ It has been replicated across the county. The goal is to enable seniors to remain in their homes, but also have the comfort in knowing that the little things like getting to the supermarket when one can no longer drive, finding someone to repair the toilet, or someone to clear the gutters is not an earth shattering experience. We need more of these and there is support to show how to create new ones.
I love the association of seniors idea, Zebrasenior. I'm going to have to start to research that .... it would have to be set up here as there isn't much of that sort of cooperation and support going on.
Both the association and Home Advisor work best of course when in or on-the-outskirts of a major metro area where the quantity of customers allow handymen/women to antiipate greater profit. Or at least so I assume. HomeAdvisor I've tried before --- like Angie's List it didn't list anyone within 25 miles .... and for a small job the cost of travel is such that it makes the cost to me to steep. But the association is a concept which is good for mining and needs some thought.
Thanks for your idea.
thank you for this good information
One good possible source are local hardware stores who can recommend general "handypersons".
What works for me:
word of mouth from someone you know and trust.
especially for bigger jobs get three estimates.
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