How much does a handyman cost? Why is there such a difference in cost?
These are questions that I have heard asked time and again, and unlike other professions or trades where rates are clearly defined, handyman charges can vary for a large number of reasons.
What is a handyman? Generally it is a skilled individual who may or may not be licensed but is competent in areas of household maintenance and minor repair or installations. They may have worked for many years as trades assistants, or have developed their skills in past working roles or training courses. Often tradesman, such as carpenters will advertise their services as a handyman service. There are however a large number of people working in the sector who are inexperienced, unskilled, and most importantly uninsured. There are many who are not registered as a business and conduct cash only trade.
So here is the first issue for cost. Who are you hiring? Is it a skilled tradesman, who has completed an apprenticeship, or another skilled individual who holds licenses in maintenance, sealing, or masonry work for example, or is it just someone who has put an ad on the local free site and has no qualification, skill, licence or INSURANCE? I think this last group is a group to be wary of. Many may only provide a cash only service, their charges will probably be cheap, but the end result can often be a disaster, requiring money to be spent on correcting shoddy or poor workmanship. One of the best methods I have heard to weed out these individuals is to ask a simple question, “Do you provide a warranty on your work?”
Having spoken about who you are hiring, another aspect is who are you? If you are a high income earner living in an expensive area you will often pay more for a handyman service when compared to a lower earning area. Why????? Generally this is not the handyman trying to cash in on a ‘gold mine’ but they are covering their own expenses. This will either be due to the fact that they also reside in that area, and living expenses are higher, so they have to charge more, or they have to travel from outside the area and they are covering their travelling cost. If someone is trying to cash in, the initial quote will probably be noticeably expensive. Another simple question to ask is “why does it cost this much?”
The final point on cost is what the work is. Is it a simple unskilled job such as rubbish removal? Does it require machinery such as a pressure cleaner? Does it require a high level of skill such as gyprock repair, window or door installation? Many handymen will have different rates they charge for different types of work, or they may have a base rate and then charge a hire or surcharge rate for equipment or skill. This is largely due to competitive business and running costs. If a carpenter who operates a handyman business charges $70 an hour for rubbish removal, plus disposal and running costs, he would never get the work as a rubbish removal company may only charge at $35 or $40 per hour. In order to compete he may have a reduced unskilled labour rate that he charges. If he is installing a door lock, hanging a door or repairing wall damage he may then charge a much higher rate because of the skill level and tools required. If he is running machinery that requires fuel, servicing, and ongoing maintenance he will have a further charge as most operators work out what the cost is to run the machinery per hour and add that to any charge. As you can see it may become complex for the handyman to calculate the cost of a job, let alone for the customer to understand the charges.
So how do I know that I am being given a fair price? Talk. Talk to the handyman about their service and experience. Ask them if they provide a warranty. Ask them why their charges are what they are. Most handymen, and business owners in general, will have no problem answering these questions. If they are unable to explain then I would be very cautious in dealing with them. Get several quotes, but take into account the work you want done and how long you want it to last. Be careful of the cheapest quote, they often cost more in the long run. Be honest with yourself, maintaining a home is expensive, the tradesmen you hire run a business and have to cover their cost and at the end of the day make a profit, as that is their wage. Their hourly rate may seem much more than someone who is employed, just remember that they are required to pay their business costs such as tax, insurance and equipment. Lastly if you feel comfortable letting the person into your house, they explain things well and are happy to talk with you, let this help you guide your decision, you will be more comfortable asking about the work and costs, they are more likely to be competent and skilled, and the finished job will be something you can both be proud of.