Getting Your House in Order: How to Build Your Own Home Repair Rolodex®

With cooler weather just around the corner, now’s a great time to get your personal Rolodex® of home service experts in order—before you actually need them. After all, the best time to call an electronics installer is before you buy the deluxe home entertainment system, and the worst time to find a friendly, cost-effective plumber is after your pipes have frozen. To help create your list of trusted home experts, here are some tips for finding the right people for each job.

Create Your Dream Team

Depending on the age of your home, you may want your personal home repair Rolodex® to include a plumber, electrician, carpenter, handyman, and interior painter, to name a few. In addition, check to see if your local energy provider offers bundled furnace, air conditioning, and appliance service plans. Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy both offer an array of preventative maintenance, repair, and replacement plans that often pay for themselves in a single visit.

Do Your Homework

If you’re a fact-finder by nature, visit Google, Yelp, Angie’s List, and HomeAdvisor to find plumbers, electricians, and other local resources with user reviews. Groupon, Living Social, and other flash deal sites are another source for home service professionals, but remember that the promotional values usually have an expiration date. You can also search for a professional the old-fashioned way: through word of mouth. Ask your neighbors, the manager of your favorite coffee shop, the owner of your hair salon, or a local realtor for recommendations. If you already have one repair expert you know and trust, ask him or her for referrals to other experts.

Meet the Experts

Once you’ve identified some likely candidates, take the time to schedule an initial meeting at your house. Even if the individual has received rave online reviews, meeting him or her in person allows you to determine whether they’ll be a good fit for your home. Look for people who arrive on time, take off their shoes or boots, shake hands with your children, and greet your pets, as they’ll likely take good care of your home. Find out if they’re licensed and insured, if they hold a current workers’ compensation policy, and whether they’re willing to provide references. Ask them to explain their fees, whether they work on an hourly or a project basis, and if they include a charge for trips, supplies, and other expenses.

Request an Estimate

Once you’ve added an expert to your personal repair Rolodex®, it may be several months or longer before you actually need their services. Before you hire anybody for a specific task, ask for an estimate. If it seems high, get one or two more bids and compare. If you’re not sure what a project should cost, visit the HomeAdvisor website to find average costs for home improvement projects in your area. While it can be tempting to choose the lowest bid, remember that you get what you pay for. In general, a seasoned professional is going to work faster and deliver better quality results than a less-experienced individual.

Reward Great Work

If you’re happy with the work, make a point of referring professionals to your family and friends. Once they know you’re willing to help them build their businesses, they’re more likely to help you out when your pipes freeze on New Year’s Day!

Seasonal Migration; Not Just for The Birds

As the weather takes a turn for the worse, the thought of getting away to a warmer climate becomes more appealing. The term “snowbird” is often used to describe those who migrate from colder climates to sunny locations for extended periods each year. Becoming a snowbird and owning a home in another state can provide more than just a respite from the cold. Read on for more about the benefits of being a snowbird.

Smart Ideas for Staying Warm: 5 Ways to Reduce Your Winter Energy Bill

If you’ve ever received a letter from your local energy company comparing your energy usage to your neighbors, you’ve probably wondered what you could be doing differently to save money. Here are five tips to help you reduce your energy costs while staying warm this winter.

Ready. Set. Entertain! Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

As much as we look forward to the holidays, the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day can often feel like an endless round of decorating, cooking, and entertaining. To reduce stress and prevent holiday burnout, use these tips to make this season easy, enjoyable, and memorable.

Gift Giving Made Easy: Fun and Ingenious Ways to Streamline Your Holiday Shopping and Manage Your Budget

When it comes to holiday gifts, it really is the thought that counts. While it can be fun to indulge your family and friends with extravagant gifts, it’s not always necessary. With a little forethought and planning, it’s easy to manage your budget and impress your loved ones with cost-effective gifts that convey how much you care about them.

Get Your Garden Winter-Ready: 7 Easy Ideas for a Fall Weekend

Winter is a gardener’s friend, providing flowers, shrubs, and trees with a well-deserved opportunity to rest and rejuvenate after a lush, showy summer. To give your garden a jumpstart on next spring, spend a sunny fall weekend planting, mulching, and watering. With these autumnal preparations, your efforts will be rewarded next spring with a healthier, more beautiful landscape.