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(this article was first written and published on www.landlordology.com)
Finding Quality Contractors
What’s Your Property Maintenance Strategy?
To maintain your property, you have three options:
1. Learn to be an excellent handyman and do everything yourself, or
2. Build a list of go-to contractors that you can trust, and call them for repairs,
3. Do both…
I’ve chosen to take a hybrid approach (#3). For years, I’ve tried to learn about home maintenance by watching the professionals that I hire. Now, I feel that I can repair *most* things myself. However, I still hire out repairs when I don’t have time, or simply don’t want to try to tackle the issue at hand (here’s looking at you Mr. Clogged Sewer Line).
The Secret to Keeping Quality Contractors
Once you find them, the secret to keeping great contractors is to build a trust-worthy relationship with them.
Despite what you think, excellent contractors don’t need your business. If they are affordable and do great work, they will also be some of the busiest people you’ll meet.
From a Landlord’s Perspective
When reviewing contractors, consider these factors:
• Did they show up on time (or at least within the estimated window)?
• Did they show confidence and pride in their work?
• Were they competitively/fairly priced?
• Did they treat you (and your family) with respect (i.e. did they take off their dirty shoes, or did they put their tools on your clean duvet)?
• Were they willing and able to coordinate with your tenants to make the repairs?
From a Contractor’s Perspective
Remember, contractors are also reviewing you. In my opinion, Contractors and repair men don’t get enough credit. They often do the jobs that home owners are not skilled enough to perform, or are scared to tackle. Many times, my go-to handyman has fixed a job that I first poorly attempted to remedy (and only made worse).
When they perform a job for you, they are often asking themselves the following questions:
• Am I going to get paid immediately or is his check going to bounce?
• Am I being shown general respect and human decency, or does he treat me like dirt?
• Will the owner send me referrals and repeat business?
You Can Get Blacklisted
Believe it or not, contractors keep notes on their customers. In some cities, contractors even band together to help or hurt specific home owners.
For example, I recently purchased a rental house with a dilapidated in-ground pool. The previous owner had tried many times to repair it, but never paid any of the contractors for their efforts. As a result, each contractor left the job site quickly after the previous owner failed to make the 1st payment.
To my dismay, those contractors had told other contractors about the situation. When I finally decided to make the necessary repairs, I had trouble getting any of the local pool renovation companies to give me an estimate. As soon as I mentioned the house’s address, they immediately thought that I was going to stiff them. I quickly figured out what was happening, and had to convince the contractors that I was a new owner, and that I would indeed pay them.
Ways to Build Trust
In order to build a trustworthy list of contractors, remember to do the following:
1. Always greet them with respect and a grateful heart.
2. Be honest with them – you can negotiate, but don’t lie or use any manipulation techniques.
3. Thank them multiple times for responding to the service call.
4. Offer them multiple non-alcoholic drinks while they are working – and perhaps a snack.
5. Tell your friends and family about your favorite contractors. Generate referrals for them.
6. Give great reviews on Yelp.com when they are deserved.
7. Send a Christmas card (more applicable for a Property Manager)
8. After you’ve worked with them a few times, get to know them and ask about their family.
In return, they will do EXCELLENT work, and will make your service calls a priority over other folks. If you follow these guidelines, you will be surprised how quickly you will be able to weed out the bad contractors from the good ones.
Ideally, when you find a quality handyman that you trust, you can give them better access to your property so they can maintain it more easily. In lieu of actually giving them a key, I will often use a key lockbox, and will give the combination to my trusted contractors. Just for security, I usually change the combination once a year.
Note: I never give my tenants the combination because they will use it to let their friends into the house, and forget to put the key back in the box.
You Need to Build a List
To keep things organized, I store a spreadsheet in my Google Drive. I call this list my “Little Black Book of Contractors”. This list helps me track all the various contractors I’ve used over the years, which properties they visited, and which contractors were poor/average/great.