Real estate tip: When to call a contractor

lauren-and-scottsponsored post by Lauren Hruby and Scott DeVouton

This is the time of year when we work with sellers to get their homes on the market.  Looking toward the busy season, there are usually a lot of items on the home repair to-do list. Many, such as organizing, cleaning, dropping off clothing and trash, and making various repairs and improvements, are more than manageable. At what point should you call a contractor to get the job done?

Repairs and improvements come in all shapes and sizes.  Many are DIY-worthy. Tightening screws, changing light bulbs and installing new shower curtains are all examples of things you can and should do on a regular basis. Small tasks like these typically don’t take very long and won’t break the bank. As the list gets more complicated, however, you’ll need think through a few things in the time you have before listing. When should you hire a contractor?

Time and Money

Time and money will give you an honest baseline gauge. Contractors take work off your plate, but they are also a line item on your budget.  If you simply don’t have time to do all the repairs on your list, and you can afford to outsource, it makes sense to talk to a contractor.

Make sure to honestly assess how long a project might take to complete. An extra household project or two could overextend an already taxing schedule.  In addition to extra stress, you risk the project not being finished, or being rushed to the detriment of quality.

If money is a concern, there may be funds in other places. Insurance could cover repairs needed after an insurable event. Public funds may also be available as a grant or loan, to cover various infrastructure or historic preservation repairs and improvements.

Expertise and Equipment

Some jobs are just over your head, because of lack of skill or lack of equipment. Attempting to change your own electrical panel, for example, is probably not a good idea. We have also seen a few hardwood floor disasters around town.  Tradespeople are trained for a reason, to make your life easier and your home sound.  They also have specialized equipment to get the job done.


Our electrical panel example reminds us that you can’t just make any repair or improvement you want. Electrical, water, gas and home infrastructure are commonly regulated areas, and ones for which you should call a contractor. In addition to requiring a higher level of expertise, these projects pose a higher risk of harm to you and your home.  They may also require a permit.

DIY Plus

You may also find yourself with time and ability to work with a project, but without the expertise or manpower to make it happen. Some contractors can work with you to determine tasks you can take care of, such as digging, painting or clean-up.  This can help your budget or just keep things moving along.

Survey Your Situation

Whether you are planning to list your home this season, or just need to attend to routine maintenance, make your list.  You will find that most of your to-do’s are DIY worthy, while some may require help.  Look at your timeline.  Will you be able to complete your DIY list in the time you have?  If time is of the essence, some tasks could be delegated. Look at your budget. Can some costs be prioritized off the list? Are there ways to purchase supplies at a discount? Will a contractor take payments, or be paid at closing?

Where to Find a Contractor

Many people don’t have a list of contractors they’ve worked with at the ready.  Ask for recommendations. Your realtor is a great resource. Social media and other online sources will also yield results, but vet and verify. Talk to whomever you might work with, and make sure you fully understand what work will (and won’t) be performed, and what will be charged. Also ask what will happen if the scope of work changes.

Finally, understand that like most occupations, there are general contractors and specialists.  General contractors and handypeople are great initial contacts.  The best know if and when a specialist is needed. The general contractor typically manages or at least works directly with the specialist.

As we approach the peak real estate season, we wish you luck in completing your list. Take comfort in the fact that most of your tasks are easily in the DIY column. If you’re not listing this year, but want to see some common maintenance you might need to perform, take a look at what we wrote last May. Whatever boat you’re in, remember that hiring a contractor is an option and the way to go for some projects. In the right situations, it’s just makes sense.

Author’s Note – If you enjoy reading our Midtown KC Post articles, and might be buying or selling your own home, please contact us. We enjoy writing these, and love helping people.

Lauren Hruby Real Estate


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