When searching for a reliable contractor, there’s nothing better than a personal referral from friends or neighbors. But if leads are few, many people are turning to online review sites.
Sites like Angie’s List and Home Advisor provide an easy source of information on thousands of contractors in markets across the country. These sites use the concept of crowdsourcing, in which thousands of consumers report their experiences with a business. Here are a few of the better known review sites.
- Angie’s List. This site offers a free basic membership to users followed by two paid levels for increased benefits. Businesses of many types are evaluated, not just home contractors, although they are the foundation of Angie’s list. Each business has its own profile page with customer reviews. Members who have used the business grade it on an A to F scale on price, quality, responsiveness, punctuality and professionalism. The expanded tools for paid membership include price guarantees, complaint resolution and emergency service line. Only members who have used a contractor, verified by Angie’s List, can contribute a rating and review, preventing anonymous phony reviews. Some businesses can be hired directly through Angie’s List at a discount.
- Home Advisor screens contractors for malpractice, lawsuits, criminal records, sex offenses and other issues. Customers of the contractor provide reviews after the work is complete. Home Advisor also offers tools to homeowners working on a project such as cost guides and design ideas. There is no charge to the consumer. An “Instant Booking” feature allows consumers to book contractor appointments directly through Home Advisor.
- Yelp. Similar to Angie’s List, Yelp reviews business types other than home contractors. Consumers post star ratings and reviews of businesses. The potential exists for anonymous fake reviews.
- Thumbtack also offers a range of businesses beyond home services. The site walks you through a series of questions to fine tune your request, then sends you information on professionals near you.
Pros and cons of using ratings services. Some, but not all, rating services vet contractors or have safeguards in place to prevent fake reviews. Be sure to check a rating service’s policy before relying on it.
How do these sites make money? Angie’s List generates revenue from its premium subscriptions and contractor advertising. Home Advisor charges contractors a fee for job leads generated when consumers use the site. Thumbtack charges contractors a nominal fee for bidding on leads. Yelp makes the vast majority of its money through advertising.