A major home renovation project can be a dream come true or a nightmare that costs you more money than you planned. The contractor you decide to use will determine whether you have a great experience or lose a lot of money. A remodeling contractor is a company who can design, estimate, schedule & manage all the details of a complicated remodeling project.
The state of Illinois does not require general contractors to be licensed, bonded or insured. Because of this, many homeowners find it difficult weeding out the honest, reliable professionals from the fly-by-night companies.
One of the highest number of complaints filed with the Illinois attorney general’s office is against contractors. In other words, a high number of people end up very unhappy with the contractors they hire. There are many things that can go wrong — from the poor quality of workmanship, to not even finishing the project and disappearing with your money.
Sometimes the problems are not as obvious, such as a contractor using poor quality materials or neglecting to pull the correct permits and not building with-in local building codes, both of which can hurt or even prevent you from selling your home down the road. However, there are also plenty of honest, qualified, reliable, contractors in your town. As a homeowner about to undertake a remodeling project, it’s up to you to find one of the good ones. Online review sites have become the leading way for homeowners to reduce the possibility of hiring the wrong remodeling company.
Angie’s List evaluates companies using a scale similar to a report card, with grades from A to F. Each company is rated by the following criteria: punctuality, quality, price, responsiveness, and professionalism. What makes this site unique to the others on this list is that it requires a monthly fee for membership. By requiring an email address, home address, and membership fee, this helps to reduce the amount of fake reviews.
Yelp grades companies based on a one to five-star rating system. It has primarily been used for reviewing retail locations and restaurants, but recently has become a more active site for reviewing contractors. Yelp is known for their proprietary algorithm that was developed to battle fake reviews. It evaluates whether a review is authentic and filters out reviews that it believes are not based on an actual personal experience with the business. Filtered reviews are moved into a separate area and not counted towards the businesses’ star-rating.
Although Houzz is mostly known for its millions of images of residential interior design & remodeling, it also is a great source to find reviews on local remodeling businesses. Similar to Yelp, it uses a one to five-star rating system. What makes Houzz different is that you will not only find reviews from homeowners, but you will also find peer to peer reviews. This will help you get a sense of how the company is viewed by other businesses in the construction industry.
There are many review websites across the internet, all trying to provide the same thing. Here are few of the others and why they didn’t make our list.
The Better Business Bureau (or BBB) has been around for a long time. But because it only looks for the really bad contractors and scam artists, this it is not a reliable source to understand the good and bad of each contractor. I have heard they are trying to become more like the others on this list; my feeling is that they are late to the game.
Google review is powered by the number one search engine which helps it get more reviews. But I find that the others on the list above do a better job at it.
Facebook for business has an option for homeowners to write reviews as well. But like the BBB, unless the contractor is really bad, I find it less likely for a homeowner to leave a negative review. Because of this, you don’t get a healthy mix of negative and positive reviews.
Here are my 10 best practices in reading online reviews:
- Lean towards companies that have received a lot of reviews. The more reviews, the more likely they are not fake.
- Likewise, be more careful with companies that have only one or two reviews.
- If you can’t find a review for a company, don’t hire them. An established reputable company will have past clients that want to leave online reviews.
- Look for specific people or processes that helped make the contractor so great. When you meet with the contractor ask them about the specific people or process. Make sure they can elaborate.
- Look for a common theme to all the reviews. If a number of reviewers offer the same opinion about a quality of the company, this gives the opinion more validity.
- Some review sites have the option to add photos of the project. If a reviewer takes the time to do this, it will give the review more validity as well.
- Pay more attention to reviews that compare a contractor to another one they have used in the past. Comparative reviews indicate that the reviewer likely has more experience and can be more relied upon.
- When you see a bad review, look at how the contractor responded to the negative feedback. This is a great example of how the contractor will respond to your criticism in person. Were they apologetic to the client, did they have harsh words or did they even respond?
- Yelp’s filter commonly removes legitimate reviews, especially for remodeling contractors, so I strongly recommend clicking the “not currently recommended” link at the bottom of the page. I think this will be eye-opening for you… good or bad.
- You will find mostly positive reviews on Houzz, so look at these reviews more based on the quantity of reviews, rather than the quality of negative and positive.
The bottom line: Do your research! The more thorough you are in the process of hiring a contractor, the less likely you will be to hire the wrong company. Don’t forget, Help your neighbor out! You can help with the online review process yourself by writing informative reviews that describe in detail benefits in easy-to-understand language. For more help learning about contractor review sites or how to find a trustworthy contractor for remodeling, download our free Remodeling 101 E-Book or contact us today.