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Q & A

Answers to commonly asked questions from the experts on Thumbtack.

What does a handyman do?

A handyman is a skilled laborer who provides basic home repairs. Anyone can call themselves a handyman, although most who do so are skilled with repairs and home projects. Reading reviews is a good way to determine their fitness for your job. The tasks a handyman can perform include assembling furniture, painting interiors and exteriors, repairing fences, repairing broken doors or replacing trim, hanging lights, hooking up appliances, and much more. Handymen may have flat fees for certain services, or charge an hourly rate. Handyman rates are often lower than those of a contractor, as they don’t have the same specialization. Some states have no limit on the work a handyman can perform, while others do. For example, California’s Building and Professions Code section 7048 (small operations) permits handymen to provide work similar to that of a contractor (floor installation, painting, etc.) provided the total cost of labor and materials does not exceed $500. A handyman is a great resource for minor home repairs at a lower cost than a licensed contractor, but for more complex projects, it pays to hire a specialized contractor. Fore more, check out our tips for smart hiring on Thumbtack.

How do you find a good handyman?

Finding a good handyman can change your life. Within days, the endless list of insurmountable tasks that were either out of your skill range or impossible to fit into your busy schedule can be completed. If you know you want help but aren’t sure how to hire the right pro, ask these questions to find the right fit:

  • What is your work experience? If you are putting in a tile backsplash, you want someone experienced with the task, not someone who generally does painting and junk removal.
  • How much do you charge? Handymen often charge hourly rates that vary based on the complexity of the task they’re hired to do, as well as flat rates for standard jobs. Be clear about what they’ll charge before you hire them.
    • On that note, discuss payment details. It’s wise not to pay all the money up front, especially for larger projects. You may be able to pay a deposit for materials and pay the remainder upon project completion.
  • How long will the job take you to complete? If the handyman is as busy as you are and a fence repair is going to take months, you should probably find another qualified handyman for the job.

Read client reviews and follow up with references to make sure you’re choosing the right handyman for your projects. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring on Thumbtack.

What does a property management company do?

Property management companies manage the rental of residential homes, apartments, condos, commercial spaces and retail spaces. Property managers can oversee just a single unit or many properties, whether those sites are inhabited full-time or are vacation rentals. A property management company helps a property owner or landlord find tenants; collects rent; takes care of accounting, property maintenance and repairs; handles on-site management; and manages vacation rental check-in and checkout tasks. Although many property owners or landlords successfully manage their own rental real estate, a property management company can help you handle tenant issues and maintenance problems, especially if you are not located in the same city or state. Most property management companies deal with tenants directly, and their tasks include:

  • Marketing the rental property
  • Collecting rent
  • Handling repair problems
  • Responding to tenant complaints
  • Evicting tenants  

A property management company may be a good choice for property owners who have several investment properties, live far away from the rental property, or don’t have time for hands-on management.

What is a general contractor?

When starting a home remodel or new construction project, you will probably hire a general contractor. A general contractor is a professional who is qualified to take a set of building plans and construct them as outlined. The general contractor may help perform the day-to-day building, or they may just hire workers and oversee all the work activities. In either case, the job of the general contractor is to see that your project gets built.

When you have a building project, ask for bids from various contractors. The bids tell you how much each will charge and what their scope of work will be. Once you have selected a bid, you sign a contract with that general contractor outlining the specifics of the project and the milestones during the project when they will receive payment installments. Once the contract is official, the general contractor will bring in their crew to begin construction. The contractor will manage the workers and subcontractors (anyone who doesn’t work directly for their company but that they need to outsource, like a marble installation pro), order all the materials, obtain work permits, and confirm that all the workers and subcontractors are completing their projects as planned. They typically handle all the payments to the workers and subcontractors, and send you invoice. For all these reasons, it’s also especially important to follow a few smart hiring practices when it comes to finding a general contractor.  If you are organized and competent to oversee construction projects, and are able to make sure everything is being built properly and meeting code, it’s possible you can be your own general contractor.  

What do general contractors charge?

If you’re doing a home remodel, building a new home or embarking on a commercial building project, you’ll hire a general contractor. A general contractor is a professional who is qualified to oversee and execute construction projects. Each construction project is unique; even two duplicate homes built on lots next door to each other could have different construction costs due to factors like different excavation costs when building the foundation. Since each project is unique, many general contractors make bids on potential construction projects. These bids can then break down to a per square foot cost that encompasses the labor of all the workers needed for the job, materials, the scope of work, and any equipment needed. Materials and finishes make a major difference in your cost per square foot. For example, choosing standard kitchen tiles at $3 per square foot will result in a lower total project cost than imported marble tiles that cost $63 per square foot. Where you live will also affect how much general contractors charge, as labor and the cost to do business can cost less in many regions than in high-cost areas like New York or San Francisco. Here are some examples of average costs general contractors typically charge in various regions:

  • Home addition in San Francisco: $250-$270 per square foot.
  • New home construction in Knoxville, Tennessee: $100-$200 per square foot.
  • Kitchen remodel in Tennessee: $40-$80 per square foot, depending on finishes.
  • Bathroom remodel in Vancouver, Washington: $110-$170 per square foot.

Be sure to check out our smart hiring practices when it comes to finding a general contractor.

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