When handyman Matt Formato built a mantel for his customers, he made sure they were involved in the process the entire time. “I explained what I was going to do every step of the way – this piece goes underneath here with this type of look,” recalled Formato, who is based in Livingston, N.J.
But the finished product did not please the couple. “I had to rip the whole thing apart,” he said, “and they were fine with it.”
When it comes to small construction jobs and general repairs around the house, handymen have been hired to do it all. And sometimes, they confess, customers just don’t get it. “It’s hard to ask people to know exactly what they want when they don’t do the type of work we do,” Formato said, adding that pictures are always helpful.
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And while most handymen have no problem working until the customer is satisfied, the customers often have unrealistic expectations of what extra work means for the person they hire.
Eric Waeschle, who has been a handyman in Chatham, N.J., for 10 years, said people sometimes watch him paint an entire room before deciding to change the color – and then expect him to re-do the work at no extra cost. “Some people do think it’s no big deal – oh, as many coats as it takes,” he said. “I have to charge you double.”
Another New Jersey handyman named Ron said a customer once had him install a basketball hoop and then decided he wanted it on the other side of the yard. “I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. Just to break the cement off is going to take two days.’”
All of those who talked to Yahoo DIY said it is important to do some research before you hire a handyman for jobs big or small. You don’t necessarily need multiple bids, especially if the person you hire has good references, but you should have a general understanding of what the job should cost.
“If something is too good to be true, most of the time it’s too good to be true,” said Ron, explaining that the lowest price may not be the best as the contractor may not provide the quality product that you want. For example, instead of a newly-made replacement window he might use one that’s been sitting in storage for years.
Formato said it is a red flag if a handyman requests a deposit on a job that only totals a few hundred dollars. He gets paid when the job is done and the customer is happy, he said, and you should be suspect of anyone who requires a down-payment on a small job. “You don’t know if they’re going to show up that next day or not,” he said.
Promptness is also a good indicator of how reliable the handyman will be. “I always show up on time or at least a couple minutes early. I’m always texting or calling,” Formato said. “If they show up a half hour late, it speaks to what kind of person they’re going to be when doing the work.”
There was potential one job that left him baffled. “I had a customer who called me about having spiders all through her house and wanted me to caulk everything in the house so they couldn’t get in,” he said. “I got there and there were no spiders at all.”
Sometimes it’s better to turn down a job that seems to be more hassle than it’s worth, Ron said.
“I get a sense from the customer right away if they’re somebody I’d like to work with or not,” he said. “Some people can’t make decision to save their lives. I’ve had instances where I never went back to that location again. I just knew for my sake and my psyche I’d better not.”
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