Business & Real Estate

On the Market: Who should you call to work on your home?

The No. 1 question I get asked is probably: “I need to find someone to help with a project at my house. Whom should I call?”

There are two categories of answers: (1) Is this repair something that would require a permit? or (2) Is it a repair that can be handled by a licensed contractor/repair person? Typically, larger projects that involve destruction of something such as installing new windows, a roof or a fireplace, or relocation of electrical, gas, heating, plumbing require a permit. Most repairs can be handled by a licensed contractor such as a plumber or electrician. Some minor repairs can even be handled by a handyman who is usually unlicensed.

Q: How do I find someone good, reliable and reasonably priced to complete the work?
A: In today’s tight labor market, this can sometimes be challenging. Ask your friends or colleagues if they can refer someone they have used. I get lots of these calls. Usually, word-of-mouth is a very good source of information. Many times, Nextdoor is a solid source of local referrals. If you strike out there, a number of online resources may be helpful, including Yelp, Real Word of Mouth and Angie’s List. Be sure to read the reviews to get a good sense of the feedback.

Q: How much should I expect to pay?
A: The cost of living in this area is high, so labor costs are very high. Typically, rates start at approximately $75 per hour and go up from there. Be sure to ask before the contractor or handyman comes out for a ballpark figure of how charges are calculated.

Q: Is it worth it to get multiple quotes?
A: Usually, yes, unless you are using someone you know and trust. Always yes if it is a big project that will require a permit. Be honest with the contractors and let them know you are talking to other contractors for comparison.

Q: How long will it take to find someone?
A: For larger, permit-type projects, most contractors are booked many months out and are rather busy. Competition is tough for their time. Prices are typically higher than you expected. Start your process early. The better prepared you are for a contractor to come bid on a project, the more accurate the bid will be and the happier you’ll be. Change orders can be rather costly.

Q: What if I need someone right away?
A: There are service call companies, like those homeowners would use for plumbing and electrical emergencies. Be prepared to pay top dollar for these types of companies, as they are essentially on call.

Q: I found a great contractor. What should I do?
A: Spread the word. Help them out by letting your friends know. Ideally, every homeowner should have a Rolodex (remember those?) full of people they can call when the need arises.

Q: What about a handyman?
A: A handyman can be a lifesaver if you have lots of little projects around the house that need completing but may not require substantial training. Be sure to ask handymen what things they are good at and which they don’t like to do. Handymen are typically not licensed or insured, so be sure to ask, if that is something you worry about. Some insurance companies will not cover work or damage caused by unlicensed work. Homeownership is a constant, ongoing responsibility, so staying on top of problems before they become big, expensive problems is a great way to protect your investment. As always, feel free to call if you have any questions.

Owen Halliday is a realtor who manages the Sereno Group office in Los Altos. For questions, comments and for more information, call 492-0062 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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