How to woo a handyman

There are ways to make your project more enticing to a potential contractor

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From the June 2014 issue of the magazine.

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The old cliché about good help being hard to find is particularly true when looking for a handyman or general contractor for a small job. Handy people tend to prefer big, expensive work—$10,000 kitchen overhauls, say, as opposed to $100 paint patches. As a result, many home­owners find that getting a quality contractor to come out to fix a broken door frame or repair some drywall is a struggle.

There are ways to make your project more enticing to a potential contractor, however. First off, before making a pitch, wait until you have a bunch of tasks that amount to at least a day’s work. Not only will the larger price tag prove more attractive but you may be able to bring down the overall cost.

It also helps to be flexible. Sam Sumaida, a Toronto-based contractor, hates saying no to small jobs because the profit margins are often higher and the work may lead to long-lasting relationships. But, he explains, it can be difficult to fit small jobs in. “If clients are available on evenings and weekends,” notes Sumaida, “that’s great for me.”

Once you get a handyman in the door, be sure to treat him well. Contractors like it when you have a clear vision for your project and you can easily access any required materials. Treating contractors with respect—perhaps offering the occasional glass of lemonade on a hot day—will increase the odds of a repeat visit. Another way to get in a contractor’s good books is through referrals. After all, once he installs your neighbour’s new kitchen, it will take less convincing to get him to come back for a $60 doorknob installation.

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