By Alma Gill (NNPA News Wire Columnist)

Dear Alma,

I have a friend who knows I am hiring people to fix up my house, and she keeps suggesting that I hire her cousin. I have hired workers in the past and prefer to keep using them. There’s one particular project, however, that she’s really pushing her cousin to do. She visits my home often and she knows I didn’t so much as call her cousin for an estimate. It’s likely his price would be lower, but I’m simply not interested. Things like quality of work, hiring contractors, who show up on time, etc., are more important to me than saving a little money. The people I’ve hired in the past have been licensed, bonded and insured. I don’t know if that’s the case with her cousin; she’s never given me a business card or website. How do I deal with my friend? I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but this is my house.

Happy Homeowner

Dear Homeowner,

Congratulations on owning your own home. Notice I didn’t address you as renter, borrower, house sitter or relative needing to crash for a few weeks. You said it in your email—you’re a homeowner; you go girl!

Now, how do you tell a friend you don’t want to use her cousin, her brother, her husband, etc., for home improvements and not hurt her feelings?

Let me back up a moment. Don’t you hate that? A friend tells you about that great relative who can get the job done on the cheap. You’re like, “okay, thanks girl,” but then file it way in the back of your memory. Now every time she spots the handyman at your place with a hammer, she brings it up again. And dang, you’re like, “Okay, okay, already, I heard you the first time you mentioned it. If I wanted to use your cousin and pay him with a pack of cigarettes and a six-pack, I woulda told you.” Oh, sorry, that’s my story; let’s get back to you.

There’s no easy way to deal with this. Bottom line, truth be told, business is business. This could be one of many situations—having your car repaired, building a new website, planning a wedding. You are placed in a difficult position when hiring a family member or friend. Deciding to embark on a home improvement project is a huge decision. You definitely should go with a person or company that’s licensed, bonded and insured. What if the job isn’t completed successfully and you can’t get it resolved to your satisfaction? Then, you gotta sue her cousin. You see where I’m going?

One more time, to bring this “home” and release you from your guilt: Business is business, friendships are friendships, and its best not to blend the two. Stick to the decision you’ve made. If she brings up the subject, cheerfully and lightheartedly remind her that you two are good friends and that you want to remain that way. I’m sure she’ll get the picture. Truly good friends, even when they disagree, understand and respect each other’s decisions.

Alma Gill’s newsroom experience spans more than 25 years, including various roles at USA Today, Newsday and the Washington Post. Email questions to: [email protected]. Follow her on Facebook at “Ask Alma” and Twitter @almaaskalma.