Use the Web to Help Improve Your Home

Sites like Angie's List can help homeowners find reliable contractors

Before you throw a lot of money into a gigantic home improvement project, it's good to know what you can expect from the crew you're paying.

"Overall, I have to say it's been a fantastic experience and I feel so lucky," said homeowner Julie Shemitz.

How often do you hear someone say that about a contractor? But Shemitz researched first on Angie's List, and was surprised the first time she called the contractor she had chosen.

"He said, 'Well where are you?' and I told him, and he said 'I'll be right there' and he came right over," said Shemitz.

She had a $150,000 remodel planned.

Job one?

She thought she needed a new roof, but the contractor said she didn't, and her leak was just in her air conditioner.

"He saved me a gazillion dollars, not having to have my roof replaced, so then I really, really trusted him after that," said Shemitz.

The reviews on Angie's List work because there is accountability, said Angie's List founder, Angie Hicks.

"Consumers can't give anonymous reviews. There needs to be accountability to make sure that information is trusted so we can make good decisions," said Hicks.

And it goes both ways.

Contractors can find themselves in trouble if they are caught raving about themselves in order to boost the grades.

"We find those and make a public display of that. … If we find out that you've reported on yourself we will add that to your record," said Hicks.

But there is a legitimate way for the service companies to boost their grades, Hicks says.

They should take the opportunity to go onto the site and listen to what people are saying about them, follow their reviews, respond to the customer, and most important, learn from them.

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