The following article is from Canadian Real Estate Wealth Magazine.


Hunting for the right handyman to help you with your next home improvement? The search is easier than you think A good handyman is an important player on any real estate investors’ team. Having someone you trust for renovations and can depend on in an emergency will really make a difference to your portfolio’s potential – not to mention your stress levels.



So who do you turn to when you’re looking to renovate or repair a property? Here’s a simple guide to finding the right (handy) man for the job.

1) Who’s who.
Before you start looking for home improvement help it’s a good idea to figure which type of professional is best suited to the job. “A handyman doesn’t have a trade license, he knows a little bit about everything,” says Jim Caruk, master contractor of The Caruk Group. “What you have to understand is a contractor doesn’t necessarily have to be a tradesman either. He contracts everything out and he makes sure that the people he brings in are licensed tradespeople – that’s his job.”


If you’re planning a large project that requires the expertise of a number of different professionals then you’re better off looking for a qualified general contracting company. Smaller jobs are usually best suited to a handyman who has a broad range of skills and extensive experience, but is not necessarily licensed.

2) Where to look.
There are several ways to find a good handyman or contractor, says David Foster, director of environmental affairs for the Canadian Home Builders’ Association. “There are some companies that specialize in this, and the time-tested method is asking friends, neighbours and family who they use and would recommend.”


He also suggests checking with HBA websites for “RenoMark” contractors. These contractors are members of the CHBA association and comply with the association’s code of ethics, as well as renovation-specific codes of conduct. In addition they provide warranties, meet regularly to keep up to date with current trends, materials and regulations. Caruk also suggests looking at contractors’ signs in the neighbourhood. “If you see a lot of their signs then obviously they’re on the up and up and you would think that they do good work if everyone keeps hiring them.”

3) What to ask the contractor.
When calling around, there are some key questions to ask that will help you narrow down your search.


· References – ask for at least three names


· Licensing – Licenses expire annually; so you’ll need to look at it to make sure the license is still valid. A license does not guarantee the contractor is a quality tradesperson. Foster adds, “Licensing and so forth varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction – consumers should check with their municipal building department to determine if any local licensing is required.”


· Insurance – Business liability and WSIS insurance is a must, says Foster. If the contractor doesn’t have valid insurance coverage, you can request him or her to buy temporary insurance. Alternatively real estate expert Paul Hecht suggests having your lawyer draft a general release that stipulates the contractor fully understands that they are responsible for any accident and damage and cannot sue you. This will protect you should something break on your property or there is an injury.

4) What to ask referrers.
Whether you’re asking friends for references, or checking out the list of names provided by the handyman, there are several questions to ask that will help you determine if you’ve found the right person for the job.

· Have you personally used them?
· How many times have you worked with them?
· What did the job entail?
· Did the project start on time?
· Was the work completed on time?
· Was it on budget?
· Were there any problems?
· Would you use them again?
· Are you getting a referrer’s fee?

5) How to get the best estimate.
Price plays a major part in deciding whom to hire. Provide each home improvement professional with the same information. This may include: plans (with simple sketches or full construction drawings), and detailed descriptions of materials and products. According to Caruk they should all be within 10 per cent to 15 per cent of each other. “If you’ve got four or five and you’ve got one that’s really, really high and one that’s really, really low what you usually do is discard the highest and lowest one and work with the three guys in between. Then go with your gut feeling.” Caruk warns homeowners not to get too carried away getting estimates. “If you start getting 10, it just makes it more confusing.”


There is also a risk of alienating good professionals. Caruk usually asks how many others are bidding for the job and if there are more than five he won’t even provide a quote. According to the CHBA, a written offer becomes legally binding and becomes part of the contract between you and the handyman should you accept it. That said there are always unexpected challenges in any project. Make sure you set aside a contingency fund in your budget.

6) What to expect from the contract.
The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation suggests a typical contract might include:

· Description of the work to be done – make this as detailed as possible. Include: prep work, items to be salvaged or reused, waste disposal, structural details, product information, size and location of things like doors, windows, closets and finishing work such as coats of paint and stain.

· Any permits needed and who is responsible for providing and paying for them
· Supplies and materials
· Sub contractors (if needed)
· Timing – when work is to commence and full completion date
· Terms of payment – fixed cost basis, cost plus or cost plus fixed fee
· Payment schedule – Never pay huge sums of money upfront. Some contractors will ask for a down payment as a show of good faith – on average this is about $2,500. Additional payments should be based on the work completed, not time put into the job
· Extras and how they will be calculated
· Washroom facilities and Utilities
· Standards of work (level of clean-up, hours permitted on site)
· Third-party liability insurance details
· Compliance with Workers’ Compensation and other laws
· Warranty
· Default by owner or contractor – indicates what happens if either owner or contractor defaults on terms of contract
· Dispute resolution – an agreed upon process to deal with potential conflicts

7) How to manage your handyman.
The contract forms the basis of your relationship with your contractor or handyman. According to Foster, “In all situations, effective management of a contractor requires clarity about what they are being hired to do, how and when they will do it, what their services will cost and when payment will be due, and what warranty do they provide on their work. It needs to be in writing. Every time. Period.” Once the job is underway, communication and mutual respect will play a vital role in keeping things rolling along smoothly. A good handyman or contractor should not make you feel uncomfortable for asking questions.


On the other side, try to be reasonable with your expectations. The CMHC advises homeowners, “Don’t overreact if something is wrong. Allow sufficient time for a response. As well, things the contractor can’t control, like bad weather and back-ordered components, can delay the job, so leave a little leeway in your schedule for them.” If things start to go pear-shaped, follow the dispute resolution method outlined in the contract. And if all else fails, you can cancel the contract. However, this will likely result in a cancellation fee. Be aware that there are several laws protecting consumers, which vary across the provinces and territories.


In addition to contacting your consumer protection authority, you can also get in touch with the Better Business Bureau. If legal action is necessary, you can take the contractor to small claims court. Small claims are less complicated than a formal court case and do not require the services of a lawyer. Decision in small claims courts are binding.

How to spot a handyman from hell

  • Bad presentation – Late for your initial meeting? Reluctant to answer questions? Vague about the technical aspects of how they’d handle the job? These are all indications that they might not be capable or trustworthy
  • Poor communication skills – Communication is absolutely vital to the success of any project. You need someone that is willing to listen to our ideas, concerns and suggestions and who in turn, is able to effectively discuss challenges with you as they come up
  • Requests cash only payments – Don’t be tempted if they offer a discount to you if you pay in cash. You want to keep as much of a paper trail as possible and all payments should be cheques or certified cheques
  • Doesn’t provide receipts – make sure you get a receipt for all your payments, signed and dated by the contractor
  • Does not want signage – Many renovation companies ask to promote their services to your neighbours by displaying signs on the property. According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, if the company does not want to display a sign, it could be an indication it is trying to avoid scrutiny


From Canadian Real Estate Wealth Magazinea monthly publication focused on building value through property investment, covering topics such as values and trends, mortgages, investment strategies, surveys of regional markets and general tips for buyers and sellers.


There are more than 20,000 homes for sale in the Lower Mainland, so making your home stand out for potential buyers is vital. It is especially true in today’s buyer’s market.

First, work with your Realtor to get the maximum exposure for the home. Then prep both yourself and your home for sale day.


Say to yourself, “This is not my home; it is a house—a product to be sold.” Make the mental decision to let go of your emotions and focus on the fact that soon this house will no longer be yours. Picture yourself handing over the keys and envelopes containing appliance warranties to the new owners.


Say goodbye to every room. Don’t look backwards—look toward the future. All sellers want their home to sell fast and bring top dollar. Well, it’s not luck that makes that happen. It’s careful planning and knowing how to professionally spruce up your home. Here is how to prep a house and turn it into an irresistible and marketable home.


Dawna Johnson, an Accredited Staging Professional Master (ASP) says the idea behind staging is to allow rooms to show themselves.Think clean and simple: when prepping a home for sale, get rid of clutter, clean and, if necessary, stage rooms with rented artwork, flowers.


“If your home is vacant, it’s soulless,” Dawna warns. “Without staging, it will probably remain on the market for many months.” She has this practical advice for making a home sparkle:


  • Apply orange oil to cabinets that appear dry, which will renew their original lustre
  • Put out large bowls of fruit such as polished apples, bright oranges, luscious grapes
  • Arrange colourful and fun cookbooks on the kitchen counters

Dawna believes in bringing the outdoors inside through the use of greenery and plants, creating clean, crisp spaces and arranging furniture with plenty of room to walk around.


She says bathrooms are essential to dress well. “Bathrooms should look open, airy and delightful,” says Dawna. One of her favourite tricks is to add baskets filled with spa items such as small towels tied with ribbon, bottles of lotion and scented soaps.


The front and back yards often need staging, too. For patios and decks, Dawna brings in plants and potted flowers and makes sure decks are clean and clutter free. Your Realtor has been through many open houses and will be able to provide other tips on getting your home sale-day ready.



The Greater Vancouver housing market experienced below average home sale totals, typical home listing activity and modest declines in home prices in 2012.


The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that total sales of detached, attached and apartment properties in 2012 reached 25,032, a 22.7 per cent decline from the 32,387 sales recorded in 2011, and an 18.2 per cent decrease from the 30,595 residential sales in 2010. Last year’s home sale total was 25.7 per cent below the ten-year average for annual Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) sales in the region.


The number of residential properties listed for sale on the MLS® in Greater Vancouver declined 2 per cent in 2012 to 58,379 compared to the 59,539 properties listed in 2011. Looking back further, last year’s total represents a 0.6 per cent increase compared to the 58,009 residential properties listed in 2010. Last year’s listing total was 6.1 per cent above the ten-year average for annual MLS® property listings in the region.


"For much of 2012 we saw a collective hesitation on the part of buyers and sellers in the Greater Vancouver housing market. This behavior was reflected in lower than average home sale activity and modest fluctuations in home prices,” Eugen Klein, REBGV president said.


Residential property sales in Greater Vancouver totalled 1,142 in December 2012, a decrease of 31.1 per cent from the 1,658 sales recorded in December 2011 and a 32.3 per cent decline compared to November 2012 when 1,686 home sales occurred.


December sales were 38.4 per cent below the 10-year December sales average of 1,855.


Since reaching a peak in May of $625,100, the MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Greater Vancouver has declined 5.8 per cent to $590,800. This represents a 2.3 per cent decline when compared to this time last year.


“We saw home prices come down a bit during the latter half of the year. During the same period, we saw fewer home sales and listings,” Klein said.


New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Greater Vancouver totalled 1,380 in December 2012. This represents a 15.3 per cent decline compared to the 1,629 units listed in December 2011 and a 50 per cent decline compared to November 2012 when 2,758 properties were listed.


Sales of detached properties in December 2012 reached 425, a decrease of 32.5 per cent from the 630 detached sales recorded in December 2011, and a 44.7 per cent decrease from the 769 units sold in December 2010. The benchmark price for detached properties decreased 2.7 per cent from December 2011 to $904,200. Since reaching a peak in May, the benchmark price of a detached property has declined 6.5%.


Sales of apartment properties reached 504 in December 2012, a decline of 34.9 per cent compared to the 774 sales in December 2011, and a decrease of 37.9 per cent compared to the 811 sales in December 2010.The benchmark price of an apartment property decreased 1.9 per cent from December 2011 to $361,200. Since reaching a peak in May, the benchmark price of an apartment property has declined 12.8%.


Attached property sales in December 2012 totalled 213, a decline of 16.1 per cent compared to the 254 sales in December 2011, and a 33.2 per cent decrease from the 319 attached properties sold in December 2010. The benchmark price of an attached unit decreased 2.6 per cent between December 2011 and 2012 to $450,900. Since reaching a peak in April, the benchmark price of an attached property has declined 4.4%.


“Activity continues to vary depending on area so it’s important to work with your REALTOR® and other professionals to understand the trends in your area of interest,” Klein said.   


The Real Estate industry is a key economic driver in British Columbia. In 2008, 24,626 homes changed hands in the Board's area generating $1.03 billion in spin-offs. The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver is an association representing more than 9,400 REALTORS®. The Real Estate Board provides a variety of membership services, including the Multiple Listing Service®. For more information on real estate, statistics, and buying or selling a home, contact a local REALTOR® or visit

For more information please contact: 
Craig Munn, Assistant Manager of Communications
Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver
Phone: (604) 730-3146

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