Savvy Senior: Reliable help is hard to find |

Savvy Senior: Reliable help is hard to find

Dear Savvy Senior:

How can a senior citizen find a good, dependable handyman to do some work around the house? I’m 76 years old and have had some bad luck lately with handymen who either don’t show up or don’t finish what they start. Any ideas on how I can find some dependable help?

Unhandy Senior

Dear Unhandy:

Hiring a local handyman can be a crapshoot. How do you find someone who will return your calls, show up on time, do the job right and finish it? While there’s no sure-proof method in finding a reliable handyman, there are some resources that may help.Here’s what you should know.

Finding a handyman

Finding a good handyman (someone who typically deals with projects that are too small for large contractors and too tricky or time consuming for the average homeowner) can be a tough task. Some places to help you look include:

— Yellow Pages: This is the most common, but not necessarily the most reliable resource people turn to. Look under “handyman” or under the specific trade area you need help with, like carpentry, plumbing, painting, masonry, etc.

— Classified ads: Many newspapers offer classified ads listing handyman or trade specific services.

— Referrals: A more reliable way to find a dependable handyman is to ask your friends, neighbors, fellow church members, coworkers, real estate agents or your local hardware store for referrals.

— ServiceMagic: This is a great resource that can help you locate a professional handyman or contractor in your area. Just visit and fill out a form listing the work you want done, and ServiceMagic will match you to three or four prescreened professionals in your area. This site also offers online reviews, so you can read other people’s feedback to help you make your selection, and after the job is done, you can post your own ratings. You can also get help over the phone at (800) 474-1596.

Service companies

Another option to find a good handyman is to go through a service company. There are dozens of companies around the country that provide a wide variety of handymen for hire. You’ll probably pay more going through a service company than you would with an independent handyman, but service companies typically promise professional workers who are screened, licensed, bonded and insured. To find a handyman business in your area, here are five large reputable companies to check into:

— Mr. Handyman: or (877) 674-2639.

— House Doctors Handyman Service: http://www.housedoctors .com or (888) 468-7336.

— Case Handyman Services: (800) 426-9434.

— Handyman Connection: (800) 466-5530.

— ServiceMaster: or (888) 937-3783.

Things to know

Whether you choose an independent handyman or one from a service company, there are several things you need to know that can help insure dependable service.

— Experience: Be sure your handyman has previous experience doing what you need done. Also ask for references and check them.

— License: Do they have an approved contractor’s license? You can check with your state licensing board to be sure. This is especially important when it comes to trades like electrical and plumbing.

— Insurance: Make sure your handyman has at least general liability insurance to cover any damages they may cause while working on your home.

— Pricing: Find out if they charge by the hour or by the job, and always get an estimate (on paper and signed) that lists the materials, costs and details of the project. To be sure you’re getting a fair deal get several other written estimates from different sources.

— Availability: Find out when they will start and when they expect to finish. And, if you discover any problems or need more repairs, will they be available quickly.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit

– Jim Miller is a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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