Single Homeowner

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Please don’t laugh. My contractor and I are turning to you the way the
two self-declared mothers turned to King Solomon. Whatever you say,
we will do. That’s true even if neither of us agrees with your advice,
because we can’t agree with one another. Here’s the scoop: Three
plus months ago I started a backyard remodel project. New retaining
walls and replacement decking. I told Ludwig (my contractor) my
budget. Along the way he suggested and I agreed to add-ons and
changes (primarily invisible and structural) and I decided on upgraded
materials (composite decking and natural stone). In addition, I started
adding a long list of “honey do” items to the list: everything from
putting in new toilets and upgrading electrical outlets to digging in
plants and fixing an outdoor water feature. He’s close to done and
refusing to accept more money from me. I feel about this guy the way
you would about your favorite brother. I don’t want him working for
free, which it sounds like he does for many other people. I want to be
able to call him again when I need him. But mostly I respect and
appreciate him and want to show it with money. I think I owe him
close to $1,500.

Single Homeowner

Dear Homeowner:

I’m no Solomon but I do have a simple solution. Buy him a hefty gift
card from your local version of Home Depot. I’m talking $500 or
something large and beguiling that no man who makes a living with
tools could resist. Every contractor I know has a garage full of toys
and a secret lust list for more of them. That ensures he will be repaid
for at least part of his time.

Put the gift card in a note card that says roughly, Ludwig: I cannot
repay all the wonderful things you have done for me. But I want to try.
Enclosed is a gift card for tools. Go play!! Also include a check for
$1,000. I cannot compel you to cash it now, but even if you do not, I
want you to keep it for lean times between jobs. That way I’ll know
you’re always going to be happy and healthy when I call you again,
which you know I will do when my honey-do list gets long enough
again. He may protest, and you cannot compel him to cash the check
now. But one day he will. That’s when you should call for him to do
more work for you again, unless you have a homeowner crisis sooner.
Guys like him are more valuable than gold. Congrats on finding him.