Read Between the Lines of Contractor Reviews

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Aug 25, 2016 | Laura Firszt

CollegeDegree360When you’re looking for a reliable contractor, like a roofer or a plumber, customer reviews are one of the best features of the internet – or should we say the worst? On one hand, these ratings can give you a clearer picture of your potential hire. On the other, you may end up confused when you see just one or two reviews of a particular contractor, for instance, or ratings that sound too good to be true. Read our handy guide and discover the truth about interpreting online contractor reviews.

You find only one or two reviews – or even none. When you Google “roofing contractors near me” (just as an example), you may get several mega-companies in the nearest big city and then a lone result right in the neighborhood – hooray! Problem is, the local guy has just one or two customer reviews – maybe even none. There is definitely a workaround in this case. Find out how long he’s been in business and meet with him face to face, to see if he knows his stuff. Ask for references that you can call or, better still, visit to check out his finished product.

You get overwhelmed by tons of positive reviews. You might be faced with a long list of positive client reviews when you look into a particular contracting company. That’s gotta be good, right? Well, maybe yes and maybe no. A contractor who is that popular could be very busy. To make sure he won’t be too busy to get your job done according to your timeframe, request a completion date -- and milestones along the way, for a large project like a kitchen remodel -- as part of the quote process and again in the contract you eventually sign. (Of course, this should be standard procedure whenever you hire a contractor.)

You’re more than overwhelmed; you’re bombarded by over-the-top ecstatic reviews. When every single result rates the contractor five stars and raves about his excellent, fantastic, perfect work, be wary. If he sounds too good to be true, he may well be … but rave reviews are not a reason to blow him off completely. The first step is to check with the Better Business Bureau. Online consumer forums can also be a good place to verify the contractor’s reputability.

You spot a few descriptions of past problems. Nobody -- but nobody -- is perfect. Every contractor makes a mistake now and then; however, the true test of a pro is whether he cares enough about customer service to come up with a solution. For example, my mother recently had her back door replaced with a model complete with built-in blinds. A few days later, she noticed that the blinds hung crooked. The company replaced the door promptly and politely. The review she wrote as a result stressed their willingness to solve the problem … with a smile.

You feel confused by wildly varied reviews. Occasionally you may find a contractor whose reviews seem to be all over the place – past clients seem to either love him or hate him. Don’t just look at the number ratings – read what is actually said to see whether it is relevant to your home improvement plans. And remember that a negative review may be due to a customer with a legitimate grievance (which was not resolved even after discussion with the contractor)… or to a professional complainer with unreasonable expectations.

You don’t know whether to trust reviews on the contractor’s own site. Let’s face it, chances are good that you won’t see anything besides positive reviews on the contactor’s home website (duh!). Balance the picture by looking on third party sites, such as Yelp, in addition. Of course, there’s always the possibility you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find more positive-only reviews there. The interpretation: You’ve found a contractor who’s a keeper.

Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.

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