If you have a list of home contractors that you use and are satisfied with, consider your yourself lucky!
Many homeowners find themselves in the unenviable position of having to blindly search online for reputable contractors, sort their way through dozens of miscellaneous reviews, and then hopefully find a handful of promising candidates to interview.
Even after all that, there's no guarantee you'll be 100% satisfied with your choice!
Although picking a contractor may sometimes feel like a gamble, there are strategies for lowering your risk factor.
A personal recommendation from someone you know and trust is usually the most reliable method of finding the right person for the job. If a relative or friend has had a positive experience with a roofer, bathroom remodeler, or plumber, then there's a good chance, you'll be satisfied with them, too. It's still a good idea to get two or three contractor estimates, but a good starting point is to have at least one recommendation from someone who has your best interest at heart.
Do Online Reviews Help?
Online review sites can also provide helpful information and feedback, but they're not always the "unvarnished truth". In spite of efforts by review sites to discourage biased reviews, some are probably going to slip through. For example: Have you ever read a review that sounded like it was an advertisement for the contractor? Sometimes when the praise sounds just a little too glowing and over the top, you can't help but wonder if those reviews are genuine and unbiased. Although the majority of online reviews are probably legit, the best way to view them is with a healthy dose of skepticism.
When it comes to the occasional scathing review by a disgruntled customer, one has to put it in context and look at "the big picture." There are some customers who are literally impossible to satisfy and will always find something to complain about. However, if a contractor has more than one or two negative reviews online, and they're not offset by a couple dozen positive ones, then that could be a potential red flag. Since you don't know the reviewers personally, and the reviews are often posted anonymously, the credibility factor is much lower than if you got a recommendation from one of your parents, a close friend, a next-door neighbor, a sibling, business associate, or your real estate agent.
The point at which you should be able to separate the "wheat from the chaff" is during your face-to-face meetings. If a contractor gives every you indication of being professional, honest, knowledgeable, experienced, ethical, and customer-service oriented, then they're probably a good prospect for the job. Other factors include the price they quote, their Better Business Bureau rating, and their willingness to provide references, proof of insurance coverage (such as general liability and Workers' Comp, if applicable) and direct answers to all your questions