Finding Good Contractors

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Many homeowners shared their experience and the below is a summary. Please feel free to edit it if you have anything to share.

Finding good contractors is not easy

Finding good contractors is not easy. If a project gets screwed up it is not easy to get money back or get it fixed. You may lose the money and have to hire another contractor to fix it. Inexperienced homeowners must be very careful.

Good contractor may become bad over time

Some homeowners noticed when they use the same contractor for multiple times. The price may go up and the quality may go down over time. Some contractors may treat their customers very well only for the first time.

The tip is always having multiple good contractors available. When one doesn't work use a different one.

Most web sites are not reliable

Yelp

  • Mainly for dining and entertainment. If you have a dinner and don't have good experience it is no big deal. It is just tens of dollars. However if you hire someone to do a home project normally it involves thousands or tens of thousands of $. It is big deal.
  • Reviews have high fraud rate (~20% or higher)[1]
  • For home projects the reviews don't have the enough info like project cost, project finish date and so on.
  • Real reviews can be filtered out. If you always write 1 star or 5 stars reviews most likely Yelp will filter out your reviews even they are real.

Angie's List

  • You need to pay to read & write reviews. It is a big myth that if you pay to write reviews they can be trusted. With the membership fee dropped to a few dollars per month the fraud reviews become much easier.
  • Not reliable/trusted reviews. Top high rating contractors can be very bad.
  • Many good and small service providers are not on the list.
  • You can't share your reviews with people you know unless they pay to be a member.
  • Slow web site and bad user experience

HomeAdvisor (ServiceMagic)

  • They are in control. They collect your info and send it to contractors they prefer.
  • Many good and small service providers are not on the list.
  • They may manipulate the phone nubmers. Your phone call may go to HomeAdvisor call center instead of the contractors.
  • One more thing HomeAdvisor is the new name of ServiceMangic which had bad reputation.

Research Reports

Mistakes when finding contractors

  • Only look at the number of reviews and the ratings. Most of time you can do that on Amazon when you buy a product but it can be very wrong if you do this when finding contractors.

e.g. Brennan Heating has 1200+ reviews with highest rating on Angie's List and it is the top 1 on search result. However the reviews on Yelp are not good and our experience matches with Yelp.

  • Trust the contractors who speak your first language more.

Yes it is easy to communicate but that doesn't mean that they can do better work.

  • Didn't compare contractors. Always get at least 3 quotes
  • Only look at the price. If a quote is significantly cheaper than others there must be a good reason. Find that out.
  • Didn't ask friends/coworkers/neighbors for recommendations. Rely on online reviews from internet nobody too much.

How to find good contractors

  • Always compare at least 3 contractors.
  • Do enough research / homework. This wiki is built to help you out.
  • Ask friends/coworkers/neighbors to give recommendations. Ask them to write reviews for the contractors they used for you.
  • Provide recommendations to friends/coworkers/neighbors by writing reviews which can be shared multiple times
  • Many times owner operated small contractors are better than bigger contractors who hire salesmen to talk to you.

You need to find a good place that you and your friends/coworkers/neighbors can share recommendations easily for free (preferably using a group sharing feature).

References

  1. Yelp confirms Harvard study about fraudulent reviews