It might seem like the highest risk is when you don’t know their job at all, or on a large complex project where you can’t possibly have a handle on all the costs. Sure, you can get ripped off on those. But if the measure of the rip-off is by percentage, then there’s one type of home repair that will always beat those.
When you need to be the most careful about who you hire and what you pay them is with . . . the one-day job. Or even less than one-day job.
It’s not uncommon for a homeowner to pay triple and even five times what it should cost. Part of the reason is that the homeowner is gaging the cost by their perception of value. It’s really important the fireplace gets fixed so the house doesn’t go up in flames, so $900 for a 3-hour job sounds reasonable, right?
Not so. All jobs should be measured by the hours it takes and the cost of materials. A bus driver doesn’t make $300 an hour just because everyone riding his bus really values riding over walking the distance. No, he’s paid in proportion to the value of his skills (driving) plus the hours he works. Similarly, your contractor shouldn’t make $300 an hour just because you really hate laying insulation in the attic or digging a hole to plant a shrub.
When talking to a handyman or contractor about your job, one of your questions should be “How long will it take?” When you know that, plus can google for a rough feel for the cost of the main materials, you will know what a good price should be. A full burden hourly cost for a tradesman (full burden includes insurance, taxes, business expenses plus a 20% profit margin) should be around $40 for unskilled, $60 for semi-skilled, and $90 for skilled (electricians, plumbers). Adjust up or down for your area’s cost of living.
Tips like this and more are in the Amazon book, “Contractor Heaven: Bringing Out the Best in Your Home Improvement Contractor” by L. Hartwig