When dealing with an emergency like getting locked out of your home, you simply don't have time to search for the best locksmith. While I've used this argument for building a team of contractors so you're prepared for emergencies, my list has never included a locksmith. After reading Top Tips to Avoid Locksmith Scams, I knew it was important to share these tips on finding a locksmith you can trust. That's because home security is a key element of home safety,
PS Thought it was fun showing a door with an old fashion, skeleton key lock.
Finding a Locksmith Tip #1: Timing
Your home is your castle and you want to protect it. A good time to find a locksmith is right after you buy your home. Changing your locks is the only way you know that others don't have keys to your home. You're already researching other contractors for your home management team, so add a locksmith to your list.
Alternatively, you might switch to one of the new smart locks, that lets you track everyone entering your home. Before you buy your smart lock, consider all the other smart products you'll be buying. You want smart products that work together, or connect through a common Internet hub.
Finding a Locksmith Tip #2: Verify the Business
Once you've found a locksmith, research the business online. Confirm they're using a local address (Google maps will show you what it looks like). Check their online reviews. Call them outside normal working hours to insure they've got phone coverage for emergencies.
When talking to the office, ask questions about their process. How does their pricing work? Will they give you a rough estimates over the phone? Are their locksmiths licensed? Will they give you the name of the locksmith being sent to your home?
Finding a Locksmith Tip #3: Ask for Identification
When the locksmith arrives at your home, the most important thing to do is check their identification. All licensed locksmiths have a Master Security License Number. This number should be displayed on their vehicle and their photo identity card. If they say they're licensed but don't have their card, I'd suggest sending them on their way.
Finding a Locksmith Tip #4: Get a Written Estimate
After the locksmith has reviewed the situation, they should be able to give you a written estimate. That's how my handyman business worked. First we'd build a list of projects over the phone. Then we'd estimate how much time everything would take, which allowed us to give a rough estimate. After our handyman technicians reviewed the work, they'd confirm or adjust the estimate.
- Service fees including transportation and additional charges for emergency service outside normal business hours. My handyman business charged a flat “trip fee” that covered our time to drive to/from the job site.
- Hardware fees if a lock has to be replaced (lock and strike plate) or re-keyed. According to Improvement.com “If a locksmith tells you the locking mechanism needs to be replaced, you may want to get a second opinion.”
Make sure you have an opportunity to review, approve and sign-off on the estimate before work starts. This will help avoid questions at the end of the job.
Finding a Locksmith Tip #5: Pay via Credit Card
All legitimate businesses today take credit cards. It's the safest way to pay because you're protected against fraud. Never pay cash as there's no way to trace it, and no recourse. And with today's smart phones, there are lots of devices like the “Square” that enable payments through the phone (shown above).
Not Sure Finding a Locksmith is Important?
Still wondering how important finding a locksmith before you need one? ABC News did a video report showing several examples of locksmith scams. You can do your research now without spending a dime. Then you'll know you're prepared when you've got an emergency.
Want to do some more research? Here are additional resources to help you:
- Review the Federal Trade Commission webpage, Finding a Locksmith.
- Visit the Associated Locksmiths of American (ALOA) website to learn about their training and certification offerings.
- Use the ALOA directory to find certified locksmiths.