Tips on finding a reliable D.C. area handyman

Tips on finding a reliable D.C. area handyman

I'm a senior on a fixed income; I need a handyman with clear pricing who's willing to take on small jobs, such as trimming bushes and caulking windows. How can I find someone who's trustworthy and affordable? - Angie's List member Theresa Martinez

Handyman Jerry Dix, owner of highly rated S&J Painting and Remodeling in Elkridge, Md., recommends reading reviews on Angie's List to find trustworthy handymen.

"It's not easy to find a good, honest contractor because there's an overload of guys in this area," Dix says. "Angie's List can help eliminate fly-by-night contractors: If a contractor is not very honest, it would show up there."

Virginia requires home improvement contractor licenses for any job costing more than $1,000 and some cities have their own additional requirements, so Dix also suggests checking a handyman's license with state and local licensing boards.

Beyond licensure, ask for proof of insurance, recommends Cecilia Moore, owner of highly rated Handywoman Services, which has offices in Fredericksburg, Va. "Insurance is key because if someone gets hurt at your house, you don't want them to turn around and sue you," she says.

As for pricing, both contractors say customers should ask what a handyman's minimum charge is upfront and package smaller projects together to make it worth their travel and time, and seniors should ask about discounts. "Put enough work together for a half-day or full day and you'll get more bang for your buck," says Dix, whose minimum charge is $175.

Moore says local companies typically charge at least $120 for the first hour of work and then less for additional hours, but costs vary by the project type and contractor. She adds that some handyman also charge based on a project rather than by the hour.

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