When searching for contractors, homeowners often turn to contractor referral services or user review sites. While at first glance this may seem like a great way to find a contractor, it is important to keep in mind why these referral services and review sites are in business and whether their focus is in your best interest.
Many contractor referral services are in the business of charging contractors for project leads (i.e. homeowner referrals), meaning that they may not carefully screen the contractors they refer. While many user review sites position themselves under the guise of consumer protection, they’re filled with anonymous reviews from the general public. Due to these anonymous reviews, the site’s staff has little knowledge of the contractor services they refer. Adding to the problem, the more reviews on the site, the more valuable the site is from an advertising perspective, but not necessarily from a user perspective.
Most contractor referral services and user review sites screen contractors on the obvious points (i.e. licensing, insurance and bonding). However, few conduct criminal, financial and legal background checks or even bother to check client and trade references. Furthermore, they do not assess an acceptable level of contractor competence or gather information about the contractor’s ease of communication, interaction with neighbors and whether there were clear lines of responsibility for every detail (i.e. who selects and/or purchases fixtures?). They also fail to ask behavioral questions that reveal past performance in similar situations. Instead, they ask questions that focus on specific examples of what the contractor has actually done in the past, not what the contractor would have done. Behavioral questions are key because they are predictors of future performance.
So, the next time you find yourself looking for a contractor via contractor referral services or user review sites, ask yourself the following questions: Is how they screen contractors a reliable barometer of the contractors’ quality? Is the contractor really worthy of being referred to you? The bottom line, you want to know whether they’ve gathered information that will help you make the best hiring decisions.
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