Deciding that your home needs work is the easy part.
Now you have to find a contractor. And not just anyone, but a reliable contractor that can handle the scope of work you’re looking for. Not to scare you early here, but I’d like to prepare you for what you might find an extremely frustrating process.
“Finding good contractors is one of the most exhausting, frustrating, and critical parts of doing any home renovation or project.”– Me, after just completing my first net-zero solar home fix-n-flip renovation project.
Many questions come up –
- Where can you track down these high-caliber contractors to ensure a quality construction or remodeling experience?
- How do I know I won’t get screwed?
- Will I even get a call back or a response?
- Can they do it on the timeline I need, and will they?
- Will they actually show up on the job site?
- Will they disappear halfway through the project or delay it for weeks or months?
Don’t get me wrong – I have great relationships with some of the contractors I found online. We now have ongoing work, and lots of things went well. I also went through a few nightmare scenarios, too – so you have to protect yourself early on in this process.
I had just moved to town, didn’t know anyone, and I sure wasn’t in the “scene” in terms of a real estate or investor network of any kind.
So I did what most of you are looking to do now – went online to see who I could find.
Table of Contents
- How We Rank The Top Online Contractor Website Resources
- 1. Thumbtack
- 2. Google Maps / Google Search
- 3. Craigslist
- 4. HomeAdvisor
- 5. Angi (Formerly Angie’s List)
- 6. Houzz
- 7. Porch
- 8. Yelp
- 9. Pro Referral
- 10. Homeflock
- 11. ServiceWhale
How We Rank The Top Online Contractor Website Resources
In this article, I’ll cover the 11 most popular and well-known online resources to find contractors out there. For the first half of this list, I’m speaking from my own personal experience. They are sites I used myself on this last project.
These resources are numbered in terms of value and helpfulness. This is based on my one experience for a complete home renovation over six months, but your experience might be different.
The last half of the list is well-researched, but I personally used them scarcely or not at all.
For those that I had experience with, I add my thoughts under those companies, with some tips and tricks to hopefully make your life easier when you embark on this journey.
Founded in 2008, Thumbtack is a home contracting website and a service for connecting project-seekers with almost any kind of professional. We really mean almost any kind, with 500 different service types currently available on their website.
For my own net-zero renovation project here, I found contractors on Thumbtack to help in the following areas and more (too many to list):
- Full kitchen renovation – down to the studs
- Roof Repair
- Handyman services – anything you can think of
- Doors and Windows
- Finish work
To make the most out of Thumbtack, you can sign up for a free account. If you have a Google or Facebook account, you can use either of those accounts to register with Thumbtack, so you don’t have one more login to worry about.
If you don’t see what you need, then input the service into Thumbtack’s search bar, input your zip code, and see what results pop up.
Thumbtack’s website is well-organized despite that they offer so many services. This makes it easy to find what you want. If you’re more of an app person, Thumbtack has a free app on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.
The interface is clean, and the messaging system works well to send out bids, search directly for contractors, and set up appointments or phone calls to take it from there.
Why Thumbtack is My Favorite (No, I don’t get paid for saying this)
Thumbtack was my favorite online contractor resource to use on my project here. I would estimate that about 80% of my renovation was done from contractors I found on Thumbtack. My profile is showing that I did 14 projects on Thumbtack through the renovation. Whatever they are doing – they seem to have some good contractors on there.
One key point about any type of site like this that has reviews –
Online contractor sites with reviews keep them accountable.
Not coincidentally – When contractors are not found online or have no public image to worry about, it creates an environment where people have nothing to lose. That means they can take your money, disappear on you, or just go silent before anything happens, usually without much consequence.
I found some good contractors, but also had ones that did swindle me out of money, material, and labor time.
Almost every legitimate business these days has some sort of web presence on Google. You have to be able to be found on the biggest search engine on earth, or you’re just way behind as a business.
Though that is not to discount the scores of great contractors who are in such high demand. The truth is that you most likely don’t have access to them unless you’re a full-time builder, flipper, or developer. It’s just the way it is. They are usually booked out for months and have no interest or need to seek out more work. Every business model is different, though, and different companies are set up in different ways.
For our purposes – that brings us back to Google. Here are some ways I found to use Google search to find the right company or contractor –
Use the Regular Google Search
Type the specific type of contractor you’re looking for into the search box. Even though Google usually narrows things down with local companies anyway, I like to help it by typing in my zip code or specific area as well.
An example would be “painting contractor 33901” or “painting contractor Tampa, FL”. This should get you close enough.
Using Google Maps
What I like even better is to type in the above search phrases first, and then click right on the Google Map that shows up when you hit the Search button. This will bring you to not only the map, so you can see who’s directly around you, but all of the info on the left side panel with reviews. It’s easy to scroll down the list of contractors to see who you might want to get a quote from.
Another Bidding Tip:
I’d like to offer another tip on getting bids from contractors listed online. Many people will give you a rule of thumb on the number of bids to get. Many will say get at least three, maybe five. I say:
Get bids from everybody.
After just going through this whole process, I found that maybe three or four out of ten companies you contact will actually reply back or answer the phone. Prepare to leave a lot of voicemails, and prepare to never hear back from most of them. You’ll eventually find some good ones, but put in the work upfront to call everyone. You’ll also most likely get a great price, along with a great partner as well.
You might be surprised to see Craigslist on here since you’re seeking reliable contractors, but hear me out. Craigslist can be a good site if you know how to use it. It certainly has a long-standing reputation, having been founded in 1995 by namesake Craig Newmark, who took his creation online in 1996.
Going on Craigslist can be a little overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time. But there are many contractors on there, not only listing their own services but seeking work but looking at your postings.
Here are a few ways to use Craigslist for finding your next contractor:
- You can search the “services” section and type the home contracting service you want in the search bar, such as kitchen remodels, electrical, home repair, and the like. Then you should click a listing that stands out, read more about the listing, and decide if you want to proceed by emailing, calling, or texting them.
- Post an actual job description in the “jobs” section. You can list your job in many categories, such as skilled trade, general labor, or real estate, but keep it to one or two to keep your costs down. Each category costs money to post in. If your city is big enough, you may get some hits here but it will also cost you money.
- My Favorite: Post a Gig in the “gigs” section towards the bottom right of the main screen. I wish I found this one sooner and at the beginning of my project, instead of towards the end. Sometimes I would need general labor help for the landscaping or similar job and would post the gig for $5 at 6 a.m. By 8 a.m., I would have 25 response emails of people looking for work. It was like a gold mine. This may be one to focus on for general labor help, more so than skilled labor perhaps.
Now I will say – Craigslist can be a good option but you’ll most likely have to be very comfortable with:
- Paying cash
- Being on-site the whole time.
- Being comfortable with new and random people in your house, potentially when you’re alone with them.
- Working on crazy schedules or timelines.
It’s possible, and I did it for lots of my own projects. You can do things like verify their ID, and even run a background check for $20-30 or something if you like. In general, you at least want to have some kind of contract written up. Admittedly though, in the craziness of a full fix-n-flip type of renovation, plus the energy efficiency and net-zero part of it, I just didn’t have the energy sometimes. Nothing happened, luckily, but that was a mistake in retrospect.
Some More Points on Using Craigslist and Why It’s A Good Resource
When searching for contractors on Craigslist, the ad poster has a hidden email address supplied through Craigslist for safety reasons. This means you don’t have to share your personal contact info unless you want to.
Compared to the other home contracting websites we’ve discussed to this point and what’s on the rest of the list, Craigslist doesn’t quite work the same. However, if you’ve successfully used Craigslist in the past for other services, then finding a contractor through the site should be possible when applying the above caveats.
If you’re looking for ultra-localized services, Craigslist delivers. The site will put you on a portal for your area with listings that are only relevant to your location, and you can narrow them down by the number of miles in a radius as well. You can also search nearby towns and cities to expand the breadth of your search. Craigslist is even available in other languages such as Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Italian.
HomeAdvisor is a service powered by and merged with Angi (Angie’s List), and it has nearly as much longevity. Created in 1998, HomeAdvisor was then known as ServiceMagic. Despite that the name didn’t stick, HomeAdvisor’s services were always the same. They’re all about connecting homeowners with contractors for remodeling, home maintenance, or homebuilding. You don’t have to worry as much about the quality of the contractors available, as HomeAdvisor pre-screens every contractor they accept on their platform.
After a bit of poking around on the website, you’ll notice a lot of similarities between HomeAdvisor and Angi, but not enough that you wouldn’t want to use HomeAdvisor in its own right. For example, it too has a Pro Network for contractors.
Using HomeAdvisor to Find Contractors
When on the HomeAdvisor homepage, you can research contractors for a project without having registered an account. Some of your options include:
- Home additions
- Doors and windows
- Tree and lawn services
- Cleaning services
If none of those project areas resonate with you, then you can search for what you’re looking for in the handy search bar. HomeAdvisor even auto-suggests options such as painting or HVAC. Then you have to go through and answer a series of questions like you would when using Angi or Thumbtack.
First, put in your zip code. Then, using painting services as an example, HomeAdvisor asks you if you want to paint stucco or trim, if you need exterior or interior work, or if you want paint removal. After answering more questions and adding your address, you can see a full list of contractors and their pricing for the service you requested.
Why HomeAdvisor is a Good Resource
Though I didn’t use them much on my own project here other than soliciting for a few bids, the breadth of home projects available on HomeAdvisor is impressive. Unlike some contracting sites that can hide their quotes for work, HomeAdvisor lets you see this information readily, fetching it in a matter of seconds once you fill in all the pertinent information about your project.
Everyone is familiar with Angie’s List, a home services website that started in 1995 by company namesake Angie Hicks and William S. Oesterle. Today, Angie’s List is Angi.
This is more than just a name change. From its founding until 2016, you could log onto Angie’s List and read reviews of contractors and other businesses in your area. Then, in 2016, Angie’s List switched to a subscription-only service, which made it hard to find the kind of info the site was so renowned for.
The good news is that since becoming Angi, now its services are free to use again. The Pro Network still exists, but it’s for businesspeople. On the
Angi homepage, you can type in the service you’re looking for or choose from options such as home remodeling, electrical work, roofing, lawn care, handymen services, plumbing, etc.
Then you input your zip code and tell Angi more specifics about the kind of work you’re looking for. As an example, if you wanted electrical work done on your home, you can choose from lightning protection, vehicle charging station installation, telephone systems, or electrical systems work.
Angi will ask you more questions about your project too, like whether you’re interested in financing and how flexible your deadline is. Once you answer all those questions, you’re connected with pros in your area.
Why We Like Them
Despite the name change, Angi is still the same reliable service it’s been since 1995. The site has more than 25 years on the Internet, which says a lot. We can understand why they switched to subscription-only for a while there, but it’s even better that you can use the wealth of features on Angi’s website today without being a subscriber. This lets homeowners compare their options with no strings attached.
If you’re in the market for home decoration, design, or remodeling, then Houzz is right up your alley. This California-based company was founded in 2009 and has more than 17 million users as of this writing.
Outside of connecting you with contractors, Houzz is also a site for finding the inspiration you need to design or redesign the home of your dreams. We’ll focus on their contracting services for the sake of this article. Here is a smattering of the services that Houzz specializes in:
- Solar energy
- Window treatments
Using Houzz to Find Contractors
You can register an account on Houzz’s website or log in using Google, but browsing around on Houzz’s site doesn’t require an account. That said, if you find a contractor you like and you want to send them a message, you will need to have an active login.
When you search for a service that you’re interested in, Houzz presents a series of contractors in a list. Each contractor listing includes their full name, one photo, and part of one review that you can click to expand. You can see the star rating of the contractor, how many reviews they have, and their address. By tapping the “click to call” button, Houzz reveals the contractor’s phone number.
If you want to expand any listing to see all the reviews as well as more photos, you can do this without an account. You can even leave a review on the contractor yourself to better inform other homeowners.
Why We Like Them
Houzz makes it so easy to connect with contractors quickly and conveniently. You can see all the info you need on a contractor, such as their address and phone number, without having an account. Registering for an account is free, and then you can connect directly with the contractor through Houzz’s messaging system. Plus, it’s always nice to have a photo library to browse for home reno ideas.
Next on our list is Porch, which was founded in 2013. When the website went online, Porch had 1.5 million contractors and other pros listed, and it’s only grown since there. According to Porch, every month, their reach expands to over 8,000 companies and 65 percent of homebuyers in the United States, which is no small feat.
The clean design of Porch’s website makes finding a service quite convenient. Here is a list of the services you can use Porch for:
- Concrete contracting
- Carpet cleaning
- House cleaning
- Extermination and pest control
- Tree services
- Paving and asphalt work
- House painting
- Lawn care
- General contracting
As you would expect, you can search for contractors outside of the above areas by using the search bar on Porch’s homepage. You’ll be asked to type in your zip code when you search. After providing some project details, you’re connected to contractors who can do the job. Porch has a Property Protection Plan and uses personalized matching for higher-quality connections with professionals.
With Home Assistance, Porch staff can get in touch with you to ensure your project is going well or to answer questions about your project. You can even call Porch instead of answering questions on their website if you’d rather find a contractor that way.
Why We Like Them
Porch has a huge reach among homeowners, and after using their website, it’s easy to see why. You can get started finding contractors through Porch without a login. Unlike the other home contracting websites we’ve discussed, Porch even lets you talk to its team via phone if that’s how you like to get things done.
Yelp has been one of the most popular directories and widely known for restaurants and all kinds of things, but they also have a robust directory of home-related contractors as well.
When typing in “contractors” into Yelp and depending on your city, you’ll most likely find contractors able to help you with:
- General contractors
- Swimming Pools
- Closets & Cabinets
- Paving Services
How to Use Yelp
You’re able to search for contractors or the type of work you’ll need from the homepage without logging in. Once you select your project type and area, the directory will then show you a list of well-reviewed and experienced contractors on the left side, along with the map.
Each contractor has a Request a Quote button with typical response times listed, so you can contact who you like.
Why We Like Them
Founded in 2004, it’s been on the scene for awhile, and has thus gained a big database on contractors with many reviews as well. It’s a fast site and easy to use. When displaying the different contractors, it looks like they’ve recently added some nice badges, including:
- Verified License
- Veteran-owned & operated
- Certified Professionals
- Locally owned & operated
- Emergency services
- Family owned & operated
- Virtual estimates
You probably do a lot of home improvement shopping at the Home Depot, right? If so, then you’ll want to check out Pro Referral, a service that’s run by Home Depot (before that, it was Red Beacon, Inc.).
As the name tells you, Pro Referral’s goal is to help you find a contractor for your next home improvement project. Pro Referral’s process is very simplified, with only three steps. First, you describe what kind of contracting service you’re looking for, such as landscaping, glass replacement, carpentry, painting, and so much more.
How to Use Pro Referral
Pro Referral will then show you contractors in your area. You can review their credentials and read reviews that other Pro Referral users have left. Once you choose a few contractors you might like to work with, you submit a request to Pro Referral. About 24 hours later (sometimes sooner), you’ll hear from the contractor(s) through email.
Pro Referral will protect your information until you hire a contractor so the contractor sees only the most relevant information about you, nothing more. Pro Referral is free, but the site requires an account to connect with pros.
Why We Like Them
Pro Referral has the backing of Home Depot, which makes their service more trustworthy. You can choose the means of contact the contractor will use to reach out to you, either by phone or through email.
Do you ever wish you could see a contractor’s public record, including any blemishes? Then you should try Homeflock. That’s the exact purpose of their website, to paint a complete picture of home contractors. The staff at Homeflock have combed through building permit data as well as linked up with federal and state licensing agencies to provide this information for you.
Having this kind of powerful data at your fingertips allows you to read through contractor reviews, recent projects, owner information, number of employees, and corporate history. If you want to connect with an old client of the contractor before hiring them, Homeflock helps you do that. You can even see a customer satisfaction history index of a contractor.
All you have to do to get started is search for a contracting category that matches the project you want. Here are some options you can select from:
- Handyman work
- General contracting
- Wood flooring
- Home design
If you’re going to use Homeflock’s search function, you need to know the contractor’s name and their city and state. You can also search for permits in the above categories by selecting your city or state. Homeflock doesn’t require a login to use.
Why We Like Them
Homeflock is a different kind of website to find information on home contractors. You can learn the nitty-gritty details about any contractors that sites like Houzz and Angi just don’t reveal. For that reason, we’d recommend using Homeflock in conjunction with one of the above sites so you can get the full breadth of information on a contractor.
The last recommended website for finding reliable contractors is ServiceWhale. According to them, it’s common for homeowners to pour as many as 30 hours into finding a contractor and comparing quotes. I would attest to this myself, and might estimate even more for a larger project.
ServiceWhale was created to buy back homeowners more time. Their service utilizes quoting technology to provide faster quotes for more instant decisions.
When you have a handful of quotes, you can organize them within ServiceWhale according to criteria that matter to you, such as contractor location, contractor rating, or most to least expensive quotes. Through ServiceWhale, you can also connect directly with a contractor by phone to clear up any ambiguities about project pricing.
If you’re not quite thrilled about a quote, don’t discount a contractor entirely. ServiceWhale lets you negotiate quotes. According to their website, “every price you see on ServiceWhale is negotiable. If you think you can get a better deal, send the contractor your best offer.” Haggling is a gamble here as it is everywhere, but it’s an option nevertheless.
ServiceWhale offers its users a ServiceWhale Guarantee that promises to pay you the difference if the contractor increases the cost of service after you two already agreed to a quote.
Why We Like Them
ServiceWhale is all about simplifying your life so you can get your home remodeling or homebuilding project done faster. They have a free app on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store if you’d rather track your quotes from your phone. It’s also interesting that you can negotiate for a lower quote, as that’s not something you see all that often on these kinds of websites!
These 11 websites we highlighted today are all great picks for finding a reliable home contractor. Some offer more unconventional services than others, so there’s no reason why you can’t use at least two of these sites to streamline your search for a contractor.
Every project scope, situation, and your own needs will be different. There was a lot here and there are many resources to use, but these should give you a great head start.
The last thing I’ll mention is that you may want to completely map out your plan and exact needs before you even start this process. The more specific you can be, and the more research you can do on your own, the better off you’ll be in finding the best contractor online.