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Matchmaking Services Can Help Homeowners Avoid Home Improvement Problems

Wednesday, March 30, 2005 - 00:00

Having had a bad taste in his mouth from his first few experiences with hiring residential contractors, Raul Retana dreaded the process of ever having to do it again. Like thousands of other homeowners in California, he knew there were good quality contractors out there -- he just didn't know how to find them.

According to a recent report from The National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators, home improvement contracting topped the 2004 national list of consumer complaints, beating out automobile sales, auto repair, credit fraud and telecommunications complaints. California saw more than 20,000 consumer complaints related to contractors in 2004 according to the Contractors State Licensing Board.

Homeowners typically find contractors through personal referrals and the yellow pages. However, these methods still require a lot of work on the homeowners' end -- checking references, licensing and insurance -- and can be both time consuming and frustrating, which may lead to a poor selection.

"There are quality contractors out there that will do a great job -- the first time around. It's simply knowing where to find them," said Tom Kraeutler, home improvement expert and host for the nationally syndicated radio show The Money Pit. "The yellow pages and personal referrals only tell someone so much, leaving them with a lot of homework to do. Unfortunately, most people don't have the time to spend looking for the right contractor to work with, which can lead to problems down the road."

When it came time to replace his roof, Retana was determined this time would be different, he was going to do his homework to ensure all went smoothly. He turned to the Internet to start his research and came across ServiceMagic.com, a matchmaking web site for consumers to connect with prescreened residential contractors. He plugged details about his project into a form and added a note saying he needed to replace his roof. Within no time Retana had three local roofing companies call him to arrange a time to meet and discuss his needs. The roof was replaced within the month and Retana was amazed at how easy the process of finding and hiring a qualified and reputable contractor was.

ServiceMagic (www.servicemagic.com) connects homeowners with prescreened and customer-rated residential contractors in their area. In fact, over 205,000 consumers in California utilized the free online service last year to find a contractor (from maid services to custom home builders and everything in between). ServiceMagic performs background checks and screens the contractors in its national network, consisting of over 30,000 residential contractors -- over 5,500 in California -- to verify they hold applicable state licensing and insurance. Consumers rate the contractors they hire through ServiceMagic so future consumers can view this information prior to making a hiring decision. Additionally, the company provides a customer resolution center and service guarantee if projects go awry.

Tips for Hiring the Right Contractor

Doing one's homework is key to a successful home improvement project. ServiceMagic helps homeowners with their homework by prescreening its member businesses for state licensing and insurance and providing past customer feedback. Kraeutler suggests consumers consider doing the following homework, especially if they are working with a non-ServiceMagic contractor.

   *  Verify Insurance.  Ask the contractor to provide a copy of their
      insurance certificate and verify with the insurance agency or carrier
      that the policy is still in good standing.

   *  Verify Proper Licensing.  Ask the contractor to provide a copy of
      their license or check with the state licensing board.  It is
      important that you verify the license is still in good standing.

   *  Check References.  Call the references and if possible go look at the
      work.

   *  Finalize the Contract Before Starting a Project and Document all
      Changes.  Make sure all changes to the original contract, no matter
      how small, are documented and signed off by both parties.

   *  Pay Upon Completion.  Don't pay in full until the project is
      completely finished and you have completed your final inspection.
      Avoid paying in cash and be sure to get a receipt for all payments.
      Some states have legal limits on the amount of a down payment
      contractors can ask for; check with the Contractor State Licensing
      Board to verify the limits in your state.

   *  Get Detailed Estimates.  Know exactly how much everything is going to
      cost so there are no last-minute surprises.

   *  Check with the Better Business Bureau.

  ABOUT SERVICEMAGIC®, INC.

ServiceMagic®, Inc., headquartered in Golden, Colo., is the nation's leading online marketplace connecting homeowners with prescreened and customer-rated home service professionals. Using proprietary technology to match consumer service requests with local service professionals in real time, the company addresses more than 500 different home service needs that range from simple home repairs and maintenance to complete home remodeling projects. In addition, its 30,000 home service professionals are prescreened to help consumers connect with licensed, insured, credible service professionals. ServiceMagic is an operating business of IAC/InterActiveCorp (NASDAQ: IACI). For more information visit http://www.servicemagic.com/.

SOURCE: ServiceMagic, Inc.

CONTACT: Elaine N. Schoch of ServiceMagic, Inc., +1-303-963-8082,
eschoch@servicemagic.com

Web site: http://www.servicemagic.com/

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