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How Do You Know

Copyright© 2019
By: Fred Willcox
All Rights Reserved

I get a big kick listening to the advertisements from home service referral sites. These ads states that you
can read reviews of service providers from real customers. And that should influence you to use these
contractors because they got a good review from a homeowner/occupant.

The question is:

How do you know if the contractor did a good job or not? How do you know if the contractor fixed your
real problem or if he just sold you a band aid? Do you know if what the contractor did complied with the
minimum standards of the building code? Or if the repair or installation complied with the manufacturer’s
installation and warranty requirements? Did the installation void your insurance policy? Did the contractor
sell you the best piece of equipment for your house and your situation? Or did he sell you the piece of
equipment that gives him his highest profit margin or that gets an old piece of junk out of his warehouse? Is
the repair or installation even safe? How can you, the average homeowner know the difference?

I am a real estate inspector. I have been inspecting houses for 47 years now. I make my living by seeing
and commenting on improper installations, poor work practices, incredibly dangerous installations, code
violations and violations of manufacturer’s installation instructions that void the warranty on the product.
Just so you have a point of reference, I have been inspecting houses in Houston since 1980. In those 39
years of inspecting houses in Houston, over 88% of the defects I find in a house were created or caused by
the builder, the installer or the repairman.

I hear from homeowners everyday about the problems that have with contractors, from general contractors
to handymen, and I investigate the problems caused by the incompetence of these contractors. The
compliments or positive reviews that my clients originally gave a contractor are:

1) He was a really nice guy
2) He was on time
3) It worked for a while right after he fixed it.

Of course, these clients are now very unhappy about the poor work, poor installation, substandard
equipment, safety issues and the refusal of the contractor to correct his poor work.

Even in my own profession, inspectors ask clients to write a review of them immediately after the
inspection. How do you know how the inspector actually performed? You haven’t even moved into the
house yet! Your opinion of his performance may change after six months of living in the house.

I love the claims of ‘no contractor can pay to be listed on this site’. That may be true. But a contractor can,
and does, pay for their place on the list at those sites. Sometimes the contractor pays a whole lot to be in the
top three spots of a listing. The top spots are not based on who is the best contractor. They are based on
how much the contractor pays for his position on the list.

Then there are the claims of the site being “free” to use. That is not really true. Ask your contractor how
much he pays that site for each referral. Not a fee for each job that he gets. Each referral that he can call-on
to bid to see if he can get the job generates a fee payable to the “free” site. Who do you think ultimately
pays those referral fees? Do you think that the contractors pay those fees out of their profit margin? They
do not. They pass those fees onto the consumer. You, the consumer, ultimately pays the fees. So that you
understand this completely; let’s say that a contractor pays a nominal fee of $20 for each lead. The
contractor knows that he is going to get an actual job on one out of every five leads. Five leads means that
he has paid the “free site” one hundred dollars. So, the contractor adds $100 to each bid so that when he
gets a job the leads are paid for. If the contractor doesn’t pass on those, and other, fees, the contractor goes

The best way to find a contractor? Ask your family, friends and co-workers for referrals. Go and look at
examples of the contractor’s work. Seek to determine how the contractors work held up over time. Check
the contractor’s involvement in this own profession and how diligent he is in learning and improving his
craft. Because a person has been in business for 20 years does not mean that the person has 20 years’
experience. I find that most contractors have one jobs experience repeated for 20 years. You really don’t
want those guys.

I do make referrals for contractors that I know are good. Believe me, it is a very short list. I do not get any
type of fee or consideration from those contractors that I refer.