Finding a contractor you can trust can be a daunting task. There was a time when homeowners would call the Better Business Bureau. The internet changed that. Now there seems to be more options than ever, but how do you really know what’s real?
There are many sites that claim they’ll send you the best contractors, but what they’re really doing is acting as a middle man between the homeowner and the contractor. Ask yourself, how do they make their money? If they’re not charging you, they’re probably charging the contractor who is buying your name and phone number. In some instances they’re selling your info to many contractors.
What you need to know is that there are ways of finding a quality contractor now, but those same places could be a hot mess even a year from now. Contractors have to be wary and change services they use just as you have to pay attention to what’s happening in their industry. But for now, here’s a short synopsis of what is legit and what is just marketing.
- Google: Right now, google, which also owns youtube, is the search engine king. A few years back, most people used Yahoo but their percentage of users is dwarfed by google. With google, you have to not only look at the star rating, but also read the reviews. Sometimes they do have bogus reviews on there. A responsive business owner replies to several of their reviews, even the bad ones. You can learn a lot from reading the reviews.
- BBB: The Better Business Bureau used to be the King of ways people would find contractors, but with the rise of the internet, their influence submarined for a few years. They have come out with some website enhancements in the last couple of years and they seem to be gaining in popularity again. Their primary revenue is from contractors who want to buy a listing so their business is an Accredited BBB company, but have also proven themselves with what are mostly real reviews. Customers can go into their website and review a company and the company can reply. The BBB does not remove a negative review just because they have a company that pays to be an accredited member. Accredited members must maintain a standard.
- Angi, formerly Angie’s List: Positioning themselves as a middle man, Angi is really losing ground fast with homeowners serious about getting their project done, and contractors. They used to be a low cost subscription company that would provide access to lists of contractors from any specific trade. Customers had some skin in the game. Now Angi is free to homeowners but contractors can pay $20,000-$50,000 or more to be listed high on their site. Now that Angi (I can’t say I understand why they rebranded) has been purchased by HomeAdvisor, they are now free to the homeowner. Contractors are now flocking away from them because Angi likes to oversell the leads and are telling people what they should be paying for any given project without ever looking at the project. Unfortunately many of these prices are not realistic and if they are, they’re not someone you would want to hire. If you look them up on the BBB, their ratings from their customers are not flattering.
- HomeAdvisor: This platform, formerly ServiceMagic, operates on the premise of building trust and then selling your information to contractors. Effectively, they’re a middleman. If you click on 3 categories (roofing, concrete and siding for instance) , and a contractor takes on those types of projects, HomeAdvisor will sell the leads to 3 or 4 companies whether you pick up the phone or not. The HomeAdvisor / Angi business model sells different types of leads in different areas. So if you clicked on 3 project types, you may be getting 9 contractors looking for your business since they each may have paid an additional $100 per lead. That makes their stockholders happy but imagine how you would feel if you discover that those 9 contractors each paid $100 to see you and after your phone rang off the hook for an hour or two, paid a combined $900.
- Yelp: This is more popular on the West Coast and with restaurants. They can charge contractors the same or more that Angi does, but they don’t inspire much confidence.
Just remember — just because a contractor source is good today, it might not be the best tomorrow.