Finding a contractor (a good one)

Eventually, once I’m a seasoned landlady, I’ll have my crew assembled: Electrician, Plumber, General Contractor/Handyman, Appliance Repairman…. As it is right now, I have one drain-clearing guy that I like, and an appliance repairman. Luckily, I haven’t had to call in that many professionals. Right now, though, there is an issue with the upstairs tub drain that is beyond my skills and frustration level, so I went onto Angie’s List to find a good plumber to call. Here’s how I went about interviewing contractors, and making the final decision:


Angie’s list, for those who aren’t familiar, is a great tool for finding good contractors. You pay a yearly membership fee, and then have access to reviews of contractors in your area. The key, however, is that the contractors themselves can’t post advertisements — all of the information is posted by fellow members (homeowners/property owners). They typically give a review of what type of work was done, what the charge was, and rate the contractor on:

  • Price
  • Quality
  • Responsiveness
  • Punctuality
  • Professionalism

Many members also list the year that their house was built, which is helpful when you’re looking for someone who’s experienced with older homes.


I logged into my account, and did a search for plumbers with an overall grade of A who were located a maximum of 20 miles from my home, and came up with quite a list to choose from.

I’ve found that contractors located in my neighborhood tend to be cheaper (it’s not a high-rent part of town, unfortunately), so I sorted the list by “Miles to Home: Min to Max.”

When looking at reviews, I chose a few plumbers to call, based on this criteria:

  • People were happy with them and the work they had done
  • They had done work similar to what I was going to have done
  • They had worked on older homes
  • They offered a 10% discount to Angie’s List members
  • They were licensed, bonded, insured, and offered payments with Visa/Mastercard.

Most of my chosen plumbers had several reviews; one, however, was obscenely cheap, but had only one review. It was also fairly far away, but I decided to give them a call anyway, to see if they serviced my area.

This morning I started making calls at 7 AM (I’m glad that plumbers start early, I’d like to get this taken care of ASAP). I asked the prospective plumbers:

  • Do you service my area (just to doublecheck)
  • Do you have a travel charge, or minimum charge?
  • What is your hourly rate?
  • About how long do you think it would take to fix my problem
  • How soon would you be able to come out?

I got only the voicemail of a few plumbers, so they were taken out of the runnings by default. My ultra-cheap plumber didn’t service my area, so it was narrowed down to two.

The first plumber I talked to had a $25 trip charge, and then charged $75 for the first half hour, and $60 for each half hour after that. They thought that my issue would take a maximum of three hours ($360 to fix a leaking connection! yikes!) and wouldn’t be able to come out until tomorrow.

I called my second option. They had NO trip charge. Their rate was $130 for the first hour, and $55 for each half hour after that, plus parts. He told me most repairs can be done within an hour, and that they could have someone here today.

The second plumber was slightly cheaper (unless the first plumber would be able to solve the problem within a half hour), but being able to come out today was the big deciding factor for me. I’d really like to get this problem solved right away, since it’s in my tenants’ apartment.

I just got an 8am call from their scheduling desk — they can have a plumber out between 10am and noon today. Fantastic!

Hopefully everything will go smoothly (and quickly) with the repair AND I’ll like them well enough to have them be “my plumber” next time there’s an issue.

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