First of all, shame on you. You are seeking a gender neutral handy-PERSON. We are in 2014, right? I mean, not that I see many female plumbers (they exist, I swear) but let's concentrate on the skill set and characteristics you're looking for, rather than the picture-perfect handyman (gratuitous, but appreciated, I'm sure.)
It's imperative that you are concrete about your expectations. What kind of person are you? No, not a Buzzfeed quiz - more like - are you going to be annoyed if you expect him at 10am and he shows up at 10:30? Or are you a bit more....flexible? What about the length of time (or number of visits) it's going to take the handy-person to finish the job...do you work from home, and therefore it doesn't really matter if it requires three separate visits to complete things? Or, do you have to specifically stay home for work, meaning that it has to be completed in one clean shot? Identify and communicate what's going to make you a satisfied customer.
Know Thy Project
Determine, before you begin your search, if your projects are black and white (leaky toilet, light fixture installation, Ikea assembly) or require some brainstorming/creativity/discussion (custom shelving unit, doggy door.) This delineation is important because these two distinct project categories require separate skill sets. The black and white projects are reactive: "Make the toilet stop leaking" whereas the more creative projects are proactive "What do you think would work better for the doggy door, hinges or a flap?" Look for the person who has the skill set (and attitude) that you need.
But Where Do You Actually LOOK?
“Yeah, I know. Be careful of all these things. But I need somebody right NOW, and I have no phone numbers. Where can I look?” Ok, ok, we get it. Here you go:
- TaskRabbit – City dwellers love TaskRabbit. It’s a quick, easy portal to request, locate and hire background-checked service providers for everything from grocery delivery to cleaning to – wait for it – handypeople. You simply enter what you need done, when, and how much you want to pay for it, and Bing! You have referenced service providers. The best part is that you pay for the service securely, online, only after it has been completed. No fumbling with cash (we city dwellers hate cash.)
- WhoDoYou – Based on the concept of “Who do you know? Everybody knows somebody” this free online service is based on referrals and recommendations. Had a good experience with a service provider? List that person here. Then, when you are in need of something, the handy-dandy database is absolutely chocked full of glowing reviews (or “steer clears”) of the folks you need, including ratings and contact information.
- Handybook – You gotta love any service that allows you to order a cleaner, plumber or handyman just as easily as Thai food – right from your phone. You can book these (insured and background checked) service providers in 60 seconds, and they show up at your door the following day. These guys perform more than 10,000 jobs a month! Highlight: they also provide a money-back guarantee.
- Yelp – What, you didn’t know that in addition to recommending the best Mexican food in the city, Yelp also lists handypeople services? Yelp provides all contact information, plus reviews (both negative and positive) so you can make the best decision, even if you’re basing your choice on proximity (like – my toilet is overflowing NOW. Get here QUICK!)
Now that you know where to look, let’s talk about what to consider once you have options!
The Red Tape
Does the potential handy-person have insurance? I mean, what if he is bringing a hammer into your place and turns around too quickly, accidentally knocking your Great Auntie Linda's Waterford crystal vase off your shelf? Can he replace it? Your homeowners or renter's insurance ain't gonna cover that. Ask your potential handy-person about liability insurance. Don't piss off Great Auntie Linda.
Now that we're talking red tape, would you feel more comfortable with a certified professional? Keep in mind that a licensed plumber is going to cost you at least double what an unlicensed handy-person will, but that license comes with a guarantee (probably - but worthwhile to ask) and perhaps peace of mind. What's that worth to ya?
Not every potential handy-person is going to trek out to your place (which, as you know, is going to take him over an hour on the subway or 40 minutes to find a parking spot on your block) with tools in hand to give you a free estimate. Be clear about that up front. Is he going to charge you to take a look at your project? If you hire him, will he credit you that fee?
Is your handy-person going to charge you for the project, or by the hour? Can you hire him or her for the day, to complete several projects? Either way will work, but whatever you do, get it in writing. There is nothing worse than attempting to negotiate (read: arguing with someone brandishing a hammer) after the fact.
By far, the best way to identify a good candidate for this type of role is by word of mouth referral. You are going to be inviting this person into your home, where you will most likely be alone with him or her for a time. Trust and security is non-negotiable, so ask around. Use your social media channels (that's what Facebook is for, right? I mean, besides posting pics of your dinner) and your community groups. Surely, you have somewhere local you can post and ask - and if not a virtual group, you can ask at your local hardware store as they're sure to have a recommendation for you. Before calling up a potential candidate, however, be sure and check if there are any open complaints on the person filed at the Better Business Bureau. Google the candidate and check his or her Facebook page, if there is one, to see if there is anybody out there blacklisting the work.
Ultimately, a skilled, accountable handy-person can work wonders in your new home, knocking through the honey-do list in no time so you can dedicate your time where it really matters: getting ready for your housewarming party, obviously.