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Rental Repair Business

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The Downside of the Rental Repair Biz

The real downside of working for rental managers and owners (and the reason I say the biz is not all it's cracked up to be) is how you get paid for your services. Very rarely do you get paid on the spot.

In fact, expect it's going to take 30 days to get your money. To get paid by a manager, you submit a bill. Sometimes the manager has to send the bill to the owner, who then sends a check to the manager, who then sends a check to you. Not a quick process.

In some cases, the manager will keep a separate checking account for that property. If enough money is in that account, then you may get your money a bit quicker. Owners also preferred to be billed. Even though they write the checks themselves directly to you, they don't like to write checks. So they may make you wait a month for your money. It can all be maddening enough to make you want to hang up your tool belt.

As a general rule of my own, I recommend you get a deposit for any job that takes more than a day or requires a substantial investment in materials. I usually ask for 50 percent. Or if I'm dealing with the manager, I ask that the funds be readily available if a deposit isn't given. For instance, last winter I got a call from a manager who's tenant had a big party with so many people that they broke several floor joists. This was not a minor repair. I estimated the job at over $1,000 because of some complications and said I needed paid within 24 hours of completion. Sure enough, the check was in hand the day after the job was completed.

A Payment Tip for You

If you still want to work for landlords but can't handle financing your own work for 30 days, then all hope is not lost. Some banks offer a service in which you bring in the bill, they instantly credit your account for the amount, and they then bill the customer. Of course, the bank takes a fee for offering this service, but it can sure help with the cash flow.

Finding Your Customers: Be Choosy

The toughest part of working on rental property is getting your foot in the door. When I first started in the handyman/construction business, I didn't court landlords and managers. I courted homeowners. The landlords who've hired me made the initial contact themselves. I won't work for all landlords. Those who are chronic slow payers won't get me to answer the phone. I also won't work for those landlords who tell you to do the job one way (usually the wrong way), then expect you to come back and fix it again for free. Nope, don't call me. In cases like that, be sure to write "work not guaranteed" on the bill. Then if you're lucky enough, they won't call again.

Even today, all the advertising I do is an ad in the Yellow Pages and an occasional ad in the newspaper. Besides hanging my business card on every bulletin board I see, that's it. Once I got started, most of my business now comes from referrals, repeat customers and a few from my website. A painted or magnetic sign on your truck also helps spread the word about town of your services.

If you wish to make a living being a handyman, it's much easier to start by contacting homeowners. Work is steady and pay is quicker. Although less finicky than homeowners, landlords expect quick, inexpensive service. All in all, bigger money can be made working for homeowners than for landlords. Consider homeowners your main meal ticket and landlords your side dishes when nothing else is on the table. To find out more about how I broke into the handyman/construction business you can read in my bio here at Idea Cafe.

Mark Bower, Owner of Aberdeen Mobile Home Repair

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