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Matchmaking Services Can Help Homeowners Avoid Home Improvement Problems

Thursday, March 24, 2005 - 00:00

When it came to finding a contractor to remodel her basement, Washington, D.C. area resident Jacqueline Sellers did what many homeowners do -- she asked her friends and family for referrals. After months of construction by four different contractors, her basement is still unfinished and she's out thousands of dollars. Nightmare contractor stories are not new; however, many homeowners aren't aware of the resources available to help them avoid problems.

According to a recent report from The National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators, home improvement contracting topped this year's national list of consumer complaints, beating out automobile sales, auto repair, credit fraud and telecommunications complaints.

"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 and unfortunately, most people don't have the time to spend looking for the right contractor to work with, which can lead to a poor selection."

Following a heavy rain storm that damaged Sellers' roof, instead of turning to friends and family for referrals she went online to, a matchmaking web site for consumers to connect with prescreened residential contractors, plugged details about her project into a form and added a note saying her roof needed immediate attention. Within an hour, Sellers had two local roofing companies call her to arrange a time to meet and discuss her needs. The roof was repaired within a week and Sellers was amazed at how easy the process of finding and hiring a qualified and reputable contractor was.

Services like ServiceMagic ( connect homeowners with prescreened and customer-rated residential contractors in their area. In fact, over 86,000 consumers in the Washington, D.C. area utilized the free 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 1,200 in the D.C. area -- 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 customer 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.  Don't just call the references but if possible, go
      look at their 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 and
      for larger projects, don't make the final payment until the project
      has passed the final building 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

   *  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.


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 ranging 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

SOURCE: ServiceMagic, Inc.

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

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