When I was three years old, I was responsible for my mother’s most mortifying public moment. We lived in a very small town, and my mom was always on the lookout for fun, inexpensive activities that were kid-friendly. Attending basketball games at the local high school was a family favorite…until the night I waved and screamed at the top of my toddler lungs, “Hey Mr. Elbert Wilson, you come to our house A LOT!” Now, Mr. Wilson was a local handyman, and had been to our home only once for a minor home repair--but all the curious onlookers in the gymnasium didn’t know that. My poor mom!
One of the benefits of small town life is that everyone knows who to call when the plumbing leaks, the air conditioner breaks down or lawn work is needed. It can be much more challenging to find qualified, trustworthy service providers in a large community like Tallahassee, especially when you need help fast. Here are my top tips for finding home improvement help.
Seek word-of-mouth referrals. Asking friends, family and co-workers for referrals is always a great option. Not only will you be getting a trusted, first-person referral, but busy service providers also may be more responsive to your call when you can drop the name of a current or former client who has sung their praises.
Develop a contact list. Rather than waiting until your plumbing backs up, or the dishwasher stops working, or you need pine straw delivered, start keeping a list of service providers that you can access when and if the need arises. There are so many opportunities to do this. If you are visiting a friend’s home and the interior is beautifully repainted, ask about the contractor. If you notice a service provider at your neighbor’s home, ask about their project or repairs, and if they had a positive experience, request the contractor’s name. When you’re enjoying casual conversations with others, and mention is made of recent home projects or repairs, be sure to inquire about both negative and positive experiences. It’s good to know who you want to hire, and who you should avoid. Often, we “mentally file” this type of information and think we’ll be able to recall it if necessary, but it’s much better to write it down. If you keep a list in your phone, it will always be handy.
Request industry referrals. I am a home stager, and because I work in the real estate industry, I’m often asked for realtor referrals. When you need a specific service, but you don’t have a contact, think about a professional provider you do know who may be able to help you. For example, if there is a home painter on your list, they may be able to refer you to a wallpaper hanger. Recently, my refrigerator was leaking. I called my go-to handyman, and although he doesn’t work with appliances, he was able to give me a great appliance repair referral.
Utilize online service provider resources. There are many websites which can assist consumers to locate professional service providers, and include customer ratings and references you can review in your research process. A few of my favorites are Thumbtack and Angie’s List. With Thumbtack, you’ll answer a few basic questions about your project, and then you’ll receive service quotes from pre-qualified pros. This is a great site for finding help varied projects such as furniture assembly, pressure washing and landscaping. Angie’s List now offers a free “green level” membership that allows you to search for service providers and review detailed customer feedback.