Like many other first-time homebuyers, I naively thought the actual buying process was the hard part. Between finding time to tour homes in person, to needing a notarized letter for every financial transaction since age 8, I imagined only bliss after closing and moving in. No such luck. What does no one tell you before you purchase a home? Things break. Like, all the time. Sure, you expected the 20-year-old basement refrigerator to break down shortly after moving in, but then the dryer? Really, the furnace now too? Oh yeah, what about the garbage disposal, is that making a strange sound now?
In this blog post, following the groundbreaking revelation that things break, we'll explore ways to find qualified repair service providers in your area. Just as we can trust our beloved appliances and electronics will fail, we should be able to trust our local repair person too.
Contact the manufacturer.
Whether you're looking into a broken refrigerator, range, water heater, or furnace, contacting the manufacturer directly is an excellent first step. Most major brands have easy-to-navigate websites and live chat features that can help in finding a local area service provider.
Often visiting the manufacturer's website alone can identify a local area service provider. By searching the zip code of the damaged item, you can find qualified repair providers organized by factors, including distance, manufacturer tier, highest customer rating, etc.
Using manufacturer-recommended repair service providers has several benefits, none more significant than the assurance any active warranties are not voided. Additionally, manufacturer-recommended repair providers are typically well-versed in your specific appliance and repair options. These companies may be able to obtain OEM repair parts more quickly and at the current market cost compared to other providers.
While knowledgeable about their specific products, it shouldn't be ignored that manufacturers have the incentive to sell you a new item, rather than repair a damaged one. Depending upon the severity of the issue and the age of the item, you may find the manufacturer of the appliance discouraging repair attempts.
For older appliances, you'll want to ask the manufacturer to confirm whether parts are still available for your model no. appliance.
Check out crowd-sourced review sites.
You may prefer Yelp, Angie's List, Nextdoor, or Home Advisor. No matter which site speaks your language, crowd-sourced review platforms can serve as a wealth of knowledge for local area repair service providers across various industries, including kitchen appliances, refrigeration systems, security camera systems, and more.
These websites are super helpful if you're looking to get upfront quotes from multiple providers at once. Most sites allow the user to describe their project and share it with local providers who may then bid on the job. This scattershot method can be undeniably convenient; however, if you're one for your privacy, I'd suggest looking elsewhere. Typically, these sites require you to sign up for an account or provide additional personal details that you may not want to give a stranger or company you've never heard of.
Use caution when exploring crowd-sourced review sites, and NEVER give away personal information like your exact address or security access code without vetting the company or provider first.
Consult your neighbors.
Depending on where you live, your neighbors can be a great resource to locate trustworthy, skilled repair service providers in your area. New in town? You will certainly want to get your neighbors' opinions when it comes to hiring HVAC providers, plumbers, and electricians. Which company overcharges? Habitually late? Which provider can I trust in my home?
Of course, while perfectly helpful even if you don't like your neighbors, this strategy is NOT recommended for those who are disliked by their neighbors. Before asking your neighbor which HVAC company to hire, be sure they don't wish you harm, or financial, or emotional stress.
What does 'Qualified' mean?
At the end of the day, you need to be comfortable with the company or individual you are allowing into your home or business to repair stuff you need to be working properly. There is no one size fits all solution; however, you should employ a few guidelines to vet the repair service providers you're considering.
1) Are they licensed and insured?
As a new homeowner, these are terms I've heard a lot recently - but what does it actually mean to be licensed and insured? Basically, you want a licensed and insured service provider if and when something goes wrong. While qualifications may vary by state, a provider is licensed when they have met the minimum qualifications in their field. A service provider who indicates they are insured has obtained one or more insurance policies to protect themselves and their work.
2) Are they rated by Better Business Bureau?
The Better Business Bureau is an excellent resource for vetting a new service provider. Check a company's BBB rating, recent reviews, complaints, and more.
3) Is their work guaranteed?
Does the company offer a guarantee or warranty for repair services? How long does the agreement last? Does the warranty cover parts, labor, or both? What is the process for making a claim? These are all important questions to ask when considering if a warranty is something you'll want from a repair service provider.
4) Are they the only service provider in the area?
This one can be tricky. If you live in a small landlocked town, you may only have 1 or 2 choices in pool repair service providers, for example. Companies that lack competition can be unmotivated to provide excellent customer service and repair work. If you're dealing with a niche problem in your area, consider branching out 30-50 miles. It could be worth the extra travel charges if your local company has a bad reputation.
5) How many years of experience do they have?
Consider how experienced the service provider is in their field. How much experience do they need for you to feel confident and comfortable using their services? Is the company transparent about its background? Which is more important to you, experience or quality customer service? A qualified service provider will be upfront about their experience, professional background, and qualifications. If they aren't? Run!