It’ll save us money.

They say they can do it.  What’s the difference?

Who’s going to know?


Have those words ever come back to haunt you?  They most likely will one day, especially if you’re talking about a home improvement project.


When planning for home maintenance or improvement, most homeowners focus on the immediate outlay of money, with an eye on potential future recoupment.  The most common place homeowners try to save is by hiring a local handyman instead of a licensed and insured contractor.  They may not work out of an office or have employees, and their lack of “overhead” means they can promise you the job for less.  But, cutting this corner could end up costing you more in the end.


In Virginia, any job over $1000 requires the contractor to have a license.  And it is a misdemeanor to operate without a license.  Here is a helpful link to learn more about this:


When hiring someone to work on your home it’s important to ask a few questions:


Are they licensed for the job at hand?


Acquiring a license means acquiring the knowledge.  A licensed contractor is going to know how to fix your problem.  And if by chance, something is done incorrectly they will come back to fix it.


You have no guarantee that the unlicensed handyman actually knows the correct way to do the job.  And, good luck getting him on the phone if you need something corrected.  You may end up needing to hire someone else to come to fix their damage.


Another thing to watch for--Is the person you hire the one with the license?  


If your home improvement is a larger job then your General Contractor may hire a Subcontractor to do certain jobs.  Depending on the jobs they are doing the subcontractors may be required to have Trade Certifications (plumbing, electrical, etc) but they don’t have to hold a General Contractors license.  


The contractor that you enter into the contract with must be the one with the license.  And, it is illegal for someone to use another contractor’s license.   It may seem like a good idea to cut out the “middleman” of the general contractor and go right to a subcontractor, but it most likely is not.


Are they insured?


Licensed contractors are required to carry liability insurance and workers' compensation.  If something goes wrong and they are injured or damage your property you can rest assured that their insurance company will take care of that cost.


But, if a handyman puts their ladder through your window, or falls off your roof, you are most likely going to be on the hook for fixing it, or him, yourself.  


Do they know the building code requirements/Will they file for permits?


Many people shrug off getting the appropriate permits.  “It’s inside my home, it’s no one’s business what I do”.    That attitude can definitely bite you when you go to sell your home.  If jobs aren’t up to code you will have to fix them in order to pass your home inspection.  Or take a hit on your sale price.


You may be reading and thinking to yourself, “Sure, Robin, but is this really such a big deal?”


And to that, I say an emphatic YES!  I once represented a buyer where the home inspection turned up an attic full of mold because when the seller added a second kitchen they simply vented the stove into the attic.  


And, I’ve seen decks removed prior to sale because they were not done to code. 


These things DO matter.


So, to go back to those first questions:

  • Yes, it could save you a little now, but it could cost you a lot more soon.
  • They say they can do it, but can they?  
  • The difference can be huge.  And costly.
  • One day, a home inspector may know.

Your home is most likely your most valuable asset.  You want to make sure you do everything you can to maintain its value.

If you have any questions feel free to give me a call.


Robin Butler,

"Your Friend in the Real Estate Business"

Remax Gateway