557840620_12701c1225_bChoosing a good contractor is a topic we’ve discussed before. With a majority of Internet users searching for information online to help make decisions about everything from shoes to medical care to home improvement products and professionals, referral websites can substitute or complement personal referrals.

You’ll find two types of referral Web sites: homeowner-to-homeowner and professional-to-homeowner.

The Queen of the homeowner-to-homeowner sites is Angie’s List. Members of Angie’s List pay a fee of about $50 a year to have access to reviews and ratings from fellow homeowners. Since 1995, when it launched, the site has grown to more than 300 categories. Providers are “graded” with letter grades on areas such as price, quality of work and professionalism.

As a member, you can search for a professional by zip code and check out ratings from other homeowners and read about their experiences. Angie’s List users take the responsibility of their contributions seriously. Everyone understands that the community depends on each member reviewing their experiences.

Angie’s list does not allow contractors to buy a place on the site or be featured above another.

A professional-to-homeowner site like Contractors.com provides a more traditi0nal referral service, but really serve a complementary role to a site like Angie’s List. On Contractors.com you submit a project and a team of former contractors reviews it for accuracy. The team then submits to licensed and insured contractors in your area.

Within about 24 hours, you’ll hear from up to three contractors interested in bidding on your project. This service is free to homeowners, it’s the contractors that pay the fees. Contractors pay for leads and can also pay for premium listings. Contractors.com also includes homeowner-generated reviews.

Regardless of which site you use to help make decisions about your home, we have a few general tips to consider.

  • A legitimate contractor will want to see a larger project in person before giving you a quote.
  • The best sites will offer support over the phone. Contractors.com will help keep contractors communicating with homeowners and Angie’s List will even step in to resolve disputes.

This Old House has a terrific article on the topic of using contractor referral sites. If you have experience with one of these services (or another), please let us know!