Contractor referral services may appear to be free for the consumer, but you still pay, just indirectly. Even the pay referral services charge the contractors for your information. Contractor referral services such as Home Advisor (formerly Service Magic) HACOA, Angie’s List, Upwork, Porch, and the hundreds of others out there all charge the contractors for your information; a cost which is then passed on to you. All of the referral services charge the contractor to provide them with your information; many charge the user as well.
Referral fees can be passed on to the client several different ways. Some are a percentage of the potential sale, and some services charge per call, depending on the nature of the request. Using one of these services to call a contractor and ask for a quote will cause a contractor to be billed $9, $25, even $75 and up, depending on the service being requested and the referral service.
Even if the contractor never comes to your home, they will be charged. Some services will send out information to many contractors and then they will all call you. You may only accept one or two of the requested appointments, but all the contractors are still charged for the lead. Other services will offer a “Premium Service” where the contractor is given leads for a specified area exclusively, but they come at a stiff cost. Other services will just send a text blast, and any contractor that accepts will pay a fee.
A few services will vet their contractors; all the contractor has to do is have a few good reviews (which can be done by employees or relatives) then they check for licensing and insurance. Others will claim they “qualify” the contractors; all this means is they make sure the contractor has licensing and insurance. Others do nothing but alert any contractor for which they have contact info. Basically, all this does is give the victim…um…client a false sense of security. These services are selling convenience and claim to sift through the multitude of contractors and provide only the best when really all they do is gather info off the net and act as a lazy match-maker. Having said this, they do have info for some very good contractors, but they will be mixed in with the riff-raff, or the contractors will be paying dearly for the service…or both. You will be paying for the service on one end or the other and you will be taking an unnecessary risk.
The best thing to do when looking for a reliable contractor is to use the free resources all around you: social media, the Better Business Bureau, friends, family, other contractors you already have a relationship with, or a real estate agent you trust (they know EVERYONE). People that have already used the type of contractor you are looking for are usually the best resources. I have had many instances where I was doing work at a customer’s home or business and a neighbor stopped by to get my card. Doing the leg work yourself with a few simple clicks of a mouse, a phone call or text can save you money and the frustration that comes with finding your referred contractor is inept.