My quest for the perfect mobile-home contractor or handyman is ongoing. After 15 years of investing in — and rehabbing — mobile homes with help from contractors and handymen, I have yet to find someone I would describe as ideal. There have definitely been a handful of good ones who have vastly separated themselves from their competition. However, many handymen seem to share very similar flaws, and it can be very important to know what to look for when hiring someone to work on your mobile home.
Below are 5 things that I wish I had considered before hiring a mobile-home handyman.
Remember that you are the investor — you are the entrepreneur. Your handyman or contractor is not looking for an investment. He is likely looking for the best pay (and comfortable work) he can find. It is important to remember this when dealing with people. Many people keep their own best interests in mind most of the time. Contractors and handymen are no different.
My past mistakes: In the past, I have treated contractors and handymen as my equals. I would mistakenly follow their advice as if they were leading me. This cost me time, energy, capital, self-doubt, and the ability to try new things. While I absolutely value an expert’s opinion, I should have remembered that the investor is in charge.
I’d suggest only considering a mobile-home handyman or contractor who has at least 2+ years of mobile-home specific experience. Dealing with a contractor who works mainly with mobile homes can provide you with someone who:
- knows how to work with older and newer mobile homes
- may live in a mobile home, and therefore has a less-expensive lifestyle (read: charges less)
- knows where to find and source mobile-home parts
- is familiar with safely repurposing items, saving you money
- knows shortcuts that save time but do not jeopardize quality of work
If a contractor tells you, “I don’t have mobile-home experience but all homes are all the same,” he most likely doesn’t know what he is talking about and you should avoid using him.
Be clear in your advertising. Be clear when vetting each handyman. Be clear with your expectations for your contractor or handyman. Be clear in how you interact and manage your handyman. Make sure paperwork and agreements are explicitly clear. Set clear boundaries for the cost and duration of repairs.
In hindsight, clarity comes with personal experience and by listening to, and heeding the advice of, someone who has extended knowledge on a topic. The forums on this website may be very useful for asking repair questions and posting pictures to get advice. It may sound challenging, but you should aim for 100 percent clarity in a situation before getting into that situation.
My past mistakes: In the past, I was far too boastful with handymen and contractors. While it can be important to let handymen know that you’ll likely have future work for them moving forward, make clear how much work you honestly expect to offer them each month. Under promise and over deliver. Additionally, it may be wise to mention you work with a partner whom you must refer questions to, and get second opinions from, before making decisions.
Here’s an example of practicing clarity: Confidently and proactively tell a contractor or handyman, “We look forward to potentially having a long-term relationship with you. Because this is our first business transaction with you, we want to make sure you get paid on time. However, we are not going to pay anything upfront in order for you to get started. We’ve been burned in the past by people who took money and left, or did not perform all of the work they’d promised. If you are not comfortable with fronting the job for the first week until the first draw we should not move any further. After all, if we did not pay for your services rendered, you could put a lien on our mobile home much easier than we’d be able to take you to court and have to hope to be paid on a judgment. I hope this makes sense Mr. Handyman, and I hope we can do business together.”
The saying goes, “How you do one thing is how you do everything.” While I do not always agree with this statement, I do believe that it has merits. It can be prudent to have each of your potential contractors and handymen bid on your rehab jobs and repairs. Have each contractor provide an itemized list to explain what repairs you’ll be paying for. Before committing to one specific contractor, make sure to give the most qualified people a test job to evaluate how quickly they work, how many excuses they make, the quality of their work, problems they self-solve, etc.
A test job can be as simple as fixing one of the soft spots in the subflooring of your mobile home, fixing a small section of drywall, or correcting a small plumbing issue. Use the best candidates — those who complete the jobs to your liking and are cost effective for your ongoing investing business.
Different regions may have different rules. Ask for paperwork help at your local Real Estate Investors Association or club meeting. Aim to talk with other investors who are actively investing and working with handymen and contractors.
There is so much more to discuss when it comes to mobile-home handymen and contractors. From the very start of your advertising all the way through paying for services rendered, there’s the potential for costly mistakes you do not want to make. Be continuous and thorough in your search for an experienced mobile-home contractor or handyman. Advertise online and offline to find and attract proactive, sober, and affordable rehab professionals. Remember that we are all human beings with inherent flaws. Aim to help others daily while protecting yourself — and stay cautious with people you deal with.
What did we miss? Do you have any great contractor/handyman tips you can offer below?