How to Hire Help for the House After the Loss of Your Spouse

Published on February 12, 2013 by

This is a guest post by Patti Smith of Money Bootcamp Seminars

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Hiring a service provider to work in your home can be intimidating, especially if this responsibility has been forced upon you after the loss of your spouse. Begin by setting the right expectations, long before you pick up the phone or send an email to request a quote. Make sure you take the time to outline exactly what you need done, your timeframe for completion, and the limits of your budget.

The Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services at provides valuable information about planning, your rights, government rebates and contracts.

Before speaking with a potential service provider, create a list of questions so you don’t forget to ask something vital to your project. Here are some questions to consider, depending on the nature of your project:

1) What are your qualifications? This may include training and/or apprenticeship, licensing or certification.

2) How long have you been doing this type of work? Everyone needs that first job in order to gain experience, however, you may not want to choose someone who is just starting out in their field, especially if the project is complicated, potentially dangerous or requires more than one person to complete.

3) Do you have the proper insurance coverage? They should be able to show you proof of current insurance, including Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) coverage.

4) What is and is not included in your estimate? Being very clear about what is and is not included in the estimate you are given, and the cost of any changes to the scope of the project, will help you determine the real costs involved. This question should also address who will be responsible for obtaining any permits required, the costs associated with delays (whether under the control of the service provider or not) and any penalties for late completion.

Estimates always have a “valid until” date, beyond which the price quoted may no longer be available to you. Be sure to make your final decision before the expiry date.

5) What guarantee(s) do you provide for your work? You want to know that they will complete your project, using the materials that were selected, in a timely fashion and on budget. Do they guarantee to correct any deficiencies in the work (and who gets to define what a deficiency is)? Is there a warranty on materials used in the project?

6) How do you deal with conflicts which may arise? This question may surprise some service providers, and they may tell you that they have never experienced a conflict on the job. Don’t believe it! What you want to find out is the process they use to resolve a conflict. If you’re not getting a straight and honest answer to this question, that should raise a red flag about this service provider.

7) Why should I hire you for this project? The answer should include their commitment to excellence and customer service. If their first response is about the money they will get from you, there’s another red flag.

Always ask for at least three references, and if there is an unsatisfied customer to whom you can speak as well. If there is, you will learn valuable information for your decision-making process.

Once you have the contact information, make the calls to these references! Too often, references are not checked, or they are not checked in depth. Ask for details about the service provider’s work, what delays (if any) occurred as well as any problems or conflicts which may have arisen and how they were resolved.

Your final question to each reference should be, “Would you hire them again for the same type of work?” If the answer is “no,” probe to find out why – it could save you a lot of time, money and frustration.

When you do sign a contract with a service provider, be prepared to pay a deposit, but under no circumstances should you pay the entire amount before the project is completed to your satisfaction. The contract should specify the dollar amount or percentage of total cost that is due as a deposit, and the timeframe and amount of subsequent payments.

As a rule of thumb, a 25% deposit is reasonable, with additional payments up to 75% of the total cost being made at specified intervals. Your final payment should not be made until your project is complete and you are satisfied with the work.

By using these guidelines and resources, you can feel confident in your ability to hire the right people to help take care of your home.

Creator of the MONEY BOOTCAMP SEMINARS© series, which launched in 2009, Patti Smith’s personal mission is to help children, teens and adults change their money consciousness. Through seminars and coaching, Patti teaches people how to take control of their finances, implement good money management skills, and start building wealth. Find out more at


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