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  1. Default Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    Maybe it's this way everywhere, but handymen/women and tradesmen/women suck at getting back to me here (if they even answer you in the first place). First time we've owned a house, so never had to deal with it before (our landlords were all pretty responsive, we've been lucky), is this just the way it is?

    Had to call about 6 plumbers before one would even answer me, and then he blew me off after the first time I used him (finally found a good one, and he does HVAC too)

    Can't get a mason after calling a few (voicemail on one, another didn't reply, another didn't answer).

    Can't find a master gardener despite asking for recommendations multiple places.

    Had to call multiple handymen before I got one (and he was substandard) to replace some doors/locks.

    Multiple fence companies, same stories.

    Appliance repair, same stories.

    Haven't needed an electrician yet, just used the one our home warranty company assigned, and they kinda sucked, so not looking forward to our next electrical problem (there will be a next time, our house is 69 years old).

    Are they busy enough so they don't need new customers? Do they not care? Frustrating as all hell trying to get things fixed here, do I just need to randomly pick someone off Angie's (or whoever's) List and hope?

  2. Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    When you find a good service provider, you hoard them like a secret.

    We've run into this with tree trimmers, companies that spray yards, and handymen. Either the companies are so small they have zero organization and will dump a small job for a larger without notice - or - they are one man shows and when they are not working they are getting drunk or high.

    We finally found excellent electrician, plumber and sprinkler service providers. The rest are all hit and miss.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    It's a symptom of a very strong economy.

    Not only are they busy, but the good ones are tied up by general contractors who can guarantee them big, continuous jobs.


    It was even worse when I bought my home in California. I ended up doing a lot of work myself for this very reason.

  4. Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    Pete - yup. They are that way because they can be. They can pick and choose who to call back based on what they WANT to do today. If you want a different approach, you would need to use a larger company that employs the tradesmen. For example, rather than calling an individual plumber, call Brandons.

    They're not usually the cheaper option, but Home Depot and Lowe's do have agreements with local contractors for a lot of work. You pay the overhead of going through the corporation and it's not really a guarantee that the work/person will be awesome, but you do get some "warranty" type comfort from going through the larger company if something goes wrong.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    The ones I employ are very very very busy.

    There’s not a bunch of young people coming into the trades either. That amazon project kept a lot of people busy for a long time and it’s one of about 10 going on.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    Looks like I need to quit my desk job and become a tradesman. I have been doing all of the work myself, home, auto, and yard for years. Might as well go get the proper certifications and start picking up everybody that is getting left behind.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    Yup, run into this myself. I used to have a list of folks I used for various things. They've all moved away or retired, or in the case of my heat and air, got bought out by evil corp. I really miss my appliance guy. He could work on anything, and wouldn't have me waste my money if it wasn't worth repairing.

    I did find a new tree/plant/landscape guy. Older retired gentleman, who takes on very, very, few clients (no more than one a day). I keep his info close to my vest.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    Quote Originally Posted by gopokes88 View Post
    There’s not a bunch of young people coming into the trades either.
    This is very true.

    It's going to create a big problem down the line.

  9. Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    You also have to realize that the buying/selling season is in full force. Tons of homes are trading hands, which comes with repairing items from inspections.

    That being said, here are some solid companies I always recommend to people:

    Electric: Innovative Electric
    Plumbing: Aces Three
    Pests: A+ or Crew's Pest Control
    Fences: Premier
    Appliance repair: Metro Appliance Service of OKC

    I too have had older tradesmen retire and I have been scrambling some. Anyone have any brick mason contact for mainly tuckpointing? Or someone who lays wood floor?

  10. #10

    Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    I will say, and I know this is very anecdotal, that when I went to my son's graduation from the Francis Tuttle pre-engineering academy earlier this month, I noticed a fairly decently sized group of young graduates in welding and heat and air. I know Edmond schools, at the least, seemed to really push the votechs and the trade careers a lot more with my kids, than they did when I went to school.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    My wife and I are planning on pushing our son and hopefully the next couple of kids to be in the trades rather than going down the white-collar path.

  12. Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    Quote Originally Posted by TheTravellers View Post
    Maybe it's this way everywhere, but handymen/women and tradesmen/women suck at getting back to me here (if they even answer you in the first place). First time we've owned a house, so never had to deal with it before (our landlords were all pretty responsive, we've been lucky), is this just the way it is?

    Had to call about 6 plumbers before one would even answer me, and then he blew me off after the first time I used him (finally found a good one, and he does HVAC too)

    Can't get a mason after calling a few (voicemail on one, another didn't reply, another didn't answer).

    Can't find a master gardener despite asking for recommendations multiple places.

    Had to call multiple handymen before I got one (and he was substandard) to replace some doors/locks.

    Multiple fence companies, same stories.

    Appliance repair, same stories.

    Haven't needed an electrician yet, just used the one our home warranty company assigned, and they kinda sucked, so not looking forward to our next electrical problem (there will be a next time, our house is 69 years old).

    Are they busy enough so they don't need new customers? Do they not care? Frustrating as all hell trying to get things fixed here, do I just need to randomly pick someone off Angie's (or whoever's) List and hope?
    I think there are lots of reasons.

    First, a *lot* of people are becoming DIY types. Strange as it may sound, YouTube and the Internet have a done a tremendous job of closing the "information gap" in the "skilled trades" area, giving average people the information and resources on how to do some simple things on their own, and for drastically less money. I'm not saying the *quality* or *skill* are always there, but the fact that there are increasing DIY'ers is just a fact of life. I'm one of them, and I'll fight to my last drop to do something myself until I just realize I can't rationalize not letting a "pro" do it.

    How does that translate into no callbacks or follow-through? There's not enough one-at-a-time work to sustain it, or the individual contractors gravitate toward larger employers that can offer sustained work. That means the traditional handyman role is getting tougher and tougher to find.

    Second, the market for appliance repair - particularly smaller appliances - is nearly vanishing. The cost of repairing most mid-range appliances is so high even after only a few years use that it doesn't make sense to repair; people just replace. You put even two or three labor hours, plus a service call, plus parts onto a repair, and you've probably hit a good percentage of a whole new *whatever*. If people stop repairing, the market for repairstaff gets smaller - and if you look at my prior point about DIYers, you'll find a lot of the local parts places that are still around are starting to *cater* to the DIYers. See Wade's Appliance in Moore - they're a great parts place, and sometimes they'll give you hints on how to repair things yourself or will tell you straight up if something is even worth repairing.

    Another factor is parts. Manufacturers are making fewer and fewer repair parts for their offerings. I kept an older fridge going for years, needed an temperature control valve, and guess what - they didn't exist. *No* suppliers. Not on the 'net, not local, nowhere. Even a few parts houses I called said the parts weren't available from even their last-gasp suppliers. Same held true on a more recent oven failure.

    The point is there's a whole constellation of factors in play that are making it harder and harder to find good tradespeople. And I don't think that trend is going to change anytime soon.

  13. Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    Quote Originally Posted by SoonerDave View Post
    I think there are lots of reasons.

    First, a *lot* of people are becoming DIY types. Strange as it may sound, YouTube and the Internet have a done a tremendous job of closing the "information gap" in the "skilled trades" area, giving average people the information and resources on how to do some simple things on their own, and for drastically less money. I'm not saying the *quality* or *skill* are always there, but the fact that there are increasing DIY'ers is just a fact of life. I'm one of them, and I'll fight to my last drop to do something myself until I just realize I can't rationalize not letting a "pro" do it.

    How does that translate into no callbacks or follow-through? There's not enough one-at-a-time work to sustain it, or the individual contractors gravitate toward larger employers that can offer sustained work. That means the traditional handyman role is getting tougher and tougher to find.

    Second, the market for appliance repair - particularly smaller appliances - is nearly vanishing. The cost of repairing most mid-range appliances is so high even after only a few years use that it doesn't make sense to repair; people just replace. You put even two or three labor hours, plus a service call, plus parts onto a repair, and you've probably hit a good percentage of a whole new *whatever*. If people stop repairing, the market for repairstaff gets smaller - and if you look at my prior point about DIYers, you'll find a lot of the local parts places that are still around are starting to *cater* to the DIYers. See Wade's Appliance in Moore - they're a great parts place, and sometimes they'll give you hints on how to repair things yourself or will tell you straight up if something is even worth repairing.

    Another factor is parts. Manufacturers are making fewer and fewer repair parts for their offerings. I kept an older fridge going for years, needed an temperature control valve, and guess what - they didn't exist. *No* suppliers. Not on the 'net, not local, nowhere. Even a few parts houses I called said the parts weren't available from even their last-gasp suppliers. Same held true on a more recent oven failure.

    The point is there's a whole constellation of factors in play that are making it harder and harder to find good tradespeople. And I don't think that trend is going to change anytime soon.
    I'm glad you brought this up. I own and manage 5 of my own rentals, and when it comes to older appliances I have found the trade off is to buy new vs fixing. Part prices will make you not sleep at night.

    That being said, I have used Sears the past few years for all my new appliances. They have transitioned to more of an online company, with shell stores still out there. I have found their prices to be among the best, and usually get free delivery.

  14. Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    Thanks for the replies.

    I try to do things by myself when I can, I also have a home warranty for everything inside the house that breaks, so I have to use whoever they choose to come out. But if it's not actually broken and just needs work, I have to find someone - water heater wasn't broken, but was so gunked up and old I didn't want to wait until it broke because with the home warranty, I'd report it, they'd assign it to someone, they'd get back to me a day later, then schedule something for who knows how far in the future (usually a few days), then it'd take them 2 days to fix it (one to come out and "diagnose", then they'd come back later to do the work), and we'd be without hot water all that time, so I just bit the bullet and got a new one with my bonus this year. I can't do a water heater by myself, so I need a plumber. I don't have the knowledge to "fix" my yard, so once I get that knowledge, I can do the work myself, but first I have to find someone with the knowledge.

    So for those that use companies with employees, how do you know that they're that kind of company? I went to Fox Brick's site and it looks like a place that isn't a one-man shop, but apparently it is (or pretty close). And why can't these people just say "can't do it right now, sorry"? I don't take on projects at my workplace if I don't have time to do them, why do they appear to be taking new customers if they aren't? It just engenders pissed-off-ness and no return calls and bad reviews.

    And if anybody asks me for a recommendation for a tradesman and I know one, I give it to them, it's on the tradesman to decline/accept new customers, IMO. I just don't understand this way of thinking, but then again, I'm an IT guy, not a tradesman, so maybe this is just the way they work.

    So off to Angie's List I go to find a chimney repair place...

  15. #15

    Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    i've had decent luck on thumbtack. found a painter, electrician, and lawn mowing service that have all done excellent work.

  16. Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    Quote Originally Posted by worthy cook View Post
    You also have to realize that the buying/selling season is in full force. Tons of homes are trading hands, which comes with repairing items from inspections.

    That being said, here are some solid companies I always recommend to people:

    Electric: Innovative Electric
    Plumbing: Aces Three
    Pests: A+ or Crew's Pest Control
    Fences: Premier
    Appliance repair: Metro Appliance Service of OKC

    I too have had older tradesmen retire and I have been scrambling some. Anyone have any brick mason contact for mainly tuckpointing? Or someone who lays wood floor?
    Thanks for that list, I've got a plumber, pest control co., fence co., and our appliances are covered by the home warranty (got a $3500 Kitchen-Aid stove out of them last year, so I'm sticking with the home warranty for a few more years, I've gotten way more than my money's worth so far), except washer/dryer which I'll buy new when they die, but I'll eventually need an electrician.

    If you find a mason that's actually accepting new work, let me know, please. Can't help on a flooring guy though, ours are in great shape, so haven't needed one (and hopefully won't ever), sorry.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    ^

    Regarding Angie's List, I have not had good experiences.

    I called a couple of highly recommended deck companies and the bids were incredibly high. I found someone through a realtor friend who was excellent and half the price.

    Same was true with a small concrete job.


    I'm curious about what think about AL.

  18. Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    Quote Originally Posted by chuck5815 View Post
    i've had decent luck on thumbtack. found a painter, electrician, and lawn mowing service that have all done excellent work.
    Oh yeah, forgot about them, been seeing their commercials, I'll give them a shot, thanks.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete View Post
    ^

    Regarding Angie's List, I have not had good experiences.

    I called a couple of highly recommended deck companies and the bids were incredibly high. I found someone through a realtor friend who was excellent and half the price.

    Same was true with a small concrete job.


    I'm curious about what think about AL.
    it is crazy to me how different quotes can be on the same job with 2 very reputible companies

  20. #20

    Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    There is a shortage of building trade workers that is going to get a lot worse as the current aging work force retires. Likewise there is a push to get people in the building trades but most young people do not want physical blue collar jobs. One often asked question to illustrate the stigma, Would you want your daughter to be a plumber?

    The biggest difficulty with having a selection of trade repair and small job service people or companies to chose from, is it is not an easy business by any stretch. The economics are most tradesmen make their living in bulk wholesale, building houses or buildings, working on relatively larger projects. (Many of which have crushing deadlines and deadline penalties which doesn't pair well with home owners having it your way on your time schedule.) By and large, the construction industry is who trains these people too.

    Working for individuals is retail. It's a whole different ballgame. Some companies try to do both, with the net result being the wholesale part of the company subsidizes the service part of the company, and even though management usually doesn't have a full grasp how much truth there is in that, they have a gut feeling service is not what is making their business work, thus, it always plays second fiddle.

    The same thing happens with smaller or single man companies, either service gets done as filler work, or the tradesman ends up working very long hours to make up for the inefficiencies inherent in a retail trade.

    The third scenario are the companies and individuals who figure out how to run a viable retail trade business on its own. It takes a different mind set and skill set of both employee and manager and it comes with charging the consumer accordingly. Those are the companies you see advertise all the time in a variety of media for home services. They are usually also known for charging a lot of money. Fair price? Some think so, others don't.

    (Inefficiency in retail...A good, well managed service tradesman *might* average 3-4 hours of actual productive work in an 8 hour day, day in and day out, between travel, talking to customers, training, and all the things that go into being able to service that clientele. Additionally, on average, it takes one office person for each field employee in a typical retail trade service company. In a small company, that one office person is usually the unpaid tradesman's spouse or the tradesman himself after his other day is done. Those numbers are no where near the same for construction.)

    There are a very few that manage to blur a few of those lines, good service, responsiveness, not tremendously expensive. That usually happens at the expense of their bottom line, ability to grow or other compromises. Those are the ones we all seem to want.

  21. #21

    Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    Easy answer, call someone who wants the work. Without naming names, my parents were the first steady customers of a new heating and air business where the owners used to live down the street. The business grew to the point where they would call with A/C out on Thursday and get told see you Tuesday...maybe. They would call to schedule maintenance and never get a return call. I finally convinced them loyalty is great only if you get it in return. Last time they pulled this, I called, and when they said Tuesday at the earliest, I told them no thank you, it will be done by then and had someone there an hour later.

    Bottom line, someone wants the work. If that someone is not Person A, Person B is waiting for your call. Call Person B. Or unfortunately as you note, it might be Person C, D, or E. Eventually take the hint and stop calling Person A in the first place.

  22. Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    I want to add don't use Air Comfort Solutions. For anything. Have too many clients get hosed and had to learn the hard way. AVOID!

    Travellers, congrats with the home warranty. My experience with buyers is that they usually aren't worth the paper they are printed on. Glad someone broke the mold.

  23. Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    Quote Originally Posted by stile99 View Post
    Easy answer, call someone who wants the work. Without naming names, my parents were the first steady customers of a new heating and air business where the owners used to live down the street. The business grew to the point where they would call with A/C out on Thursday and get told see you Tuesday...maybe. They would call to schedule maintenance and never get a return call. I finally convinced them loyalty is great only if you get it in return. Last time they pulled this, I called, and when they said Tuesday at the earliest, I told them no thank you, it will be done by then and had someone there an hour later.

    Bottom line, someone wants the work. If that someone is not Person A, Person B is waiting for your call. Call Person B. Or unfortunately as you note, it might be Person C, D, or E. Eventually take the hint and stop calling Person A in the first place.
    Yep, I pretty much give people one chance now, and if they don't call back or come out, I'm done. Just gets tiring, and if your tree is dying by the day, or your A/C's out, or your pipes break, or ......, it's insane to have to call someone, wait a day to figure out they don't care, then lather/rinse/repeat just to get your basic necessities running again.

  24. #24

    Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete View Post
    This is very true.

    It's going to create a big problem down the line.
    The tide does seem to be turning against higher ed a little bit. Being a tradesmen is more valuable than a soft college degree.

    We’re finding success with very young millennials/ gen z, and we can find young gen Xers.

    It’s that person born 1980-1990 (generally) where there’s a massive gap.

  25. #25

    Default Re: Why is it so hard to get a tradesman to do anything?

    I started to reply last night but had to attend to other things. Good and very accurate responses from all!

    It IS hard to find reliable, skilled and available trades people for various projects. We have a dear family friend of 25 years who does our contracting when we need it. He's hard to come by, however, even for us. He works alone (by choice), and only allows a handful of people to use his services. I can't tell you how many people I know have asked if he'll work for them, but he declines. He's simply too busy already.

    As to the emerging lack of skilled workers in the trades, this is something I've recently seen addressed (among other places) on This Old House. A year or two ago they began an apprenticeship-type program with young adults to encourage more of them to view skilled trades as a viable career option. Hopefully it'll catch on.

    In my field of work, I deal with career tech centers and have also seen a recent uptick in, for example, their welding programs. These are very good careers, often paying upwards of $75,000 within the first few years out of school. With no college debt!

    Do I want my daughter to become a plumber? Theoretically perhaps not, but when she is old enough, if that's what she wants, is passionate about, and if as a plumber she would be a fulfilled, happy, productive adult who can earn a good living, then hell yes! Hopefully the negative stigma someone mentioned upthread will go away. We need these types of skilled trades programs, and they're very beneficial to us all.

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