Contractors and boyfriends have a lot in common. They sound great in the beginning when they show up on time and the bathroom remodel is zipping right along. Then all of a sudden our phone calls aren’t returned as quickly and after the fifth unreturned call being sent straight to voicemail, we realized we’ve been dumped for a pricier job.
Neighbor2Neighbor.com offers to be that middleman, no promises, they just get the couple in the room and see what happens. Best part? No memberships, no cost, no commitment. You can peruse their site to find local contractors, read an interview and testimonies from happy customers. Rest assured, there is a vetting process, so not just anybody who uses Vistaprints and has a toolbox can profiled on their site.
Check out this quick interview with Mara Schoner, publisher of Neighbor2Neighbor.
How long have you been in business?
We started neighbor2neighbor in 2005 after two waves of renovation on our Venice Beach fixer-upper.
What inspired you to start this type of business?
We seemed to encounter two types of contractors: the few good, reliable contractors, or alternately, undependable, easily distracted workers on whom we had to keep a close watch. In one case a contractor did a great job up until the day before he was done. He requested that we pay him prior to finishing because he had some bills to pay. And he never showed up again!
We wished that there was some way to find out who the good people were. And when we found them, like Borite, our pest control service, it was clear that they had their business figured out on so many levels: customer service, knowledge in their field, honesty and integrity.
The problem was that it took a great deal of time, organization and energy to find the good companies. And even referrals from friends or online services were not always reliable. For our termite problem, I interviewed ten pest control companies from the Yellow Pages over the phone, from which I chose six to come to the house. The process was educational and once I had met so many people in the industry, it became apparent that Jack Launius of Borite was by far the best. He talked at length about the treatment process, showed me easily five times as many places where the termites were infesting than the other companies, and taught me a ton about termites and the safe treatments he uses.
I would have loved to have had the time to interview ten contractors, plumbers, roofers and electricians, but truthfully that was just too much work for us. But I thoroughly enjoyed the process of vetting these companies, and it was rewarding to find the diamond amidst the others. During and after the remodel we kept thinking there should be some resource out there that does a thorough job of vetting services.
Finally we decided we could do that work.
My partner Mark’s background in journalism editing, photography and writing, combined with my background in writing and research made us believe we could do neighbor2neighbor pretty much just the two of us, which is what we did for several years when the kids were little. Now we have some part-time help, but we still do the vast majority of work ourselves.
I’m also someone who loves helping people and giving advice. neighbor2neighbor gives me an appropriate venue to get the advice giving out of my system so I don’t drive my friends and family crazy!
Everyone has contractor horror stories, what do you think is the biggest mistake homeowners make when hiring a repairman/vendor to work on their home?
The most common problem I hear from our readers is people thinking they can save money by going with the cheapest contractor or bid. Almost always, they end up paying more when the contractor “finds” problems during the job, or when the work is done incorrectly and needs to be redone. It is true, particularly with older homes, you never know what you will find when you open a wall, but a good contractor will take these “surprises” into consideration. Moreover, someone who charges a proper rate will pay for worker’s comp insurance (which protects you, the homeowner) and he or she will pay their employees a living wage in accordance with their experience and work ethic. We all want to save money, but in the end a deal that looks too good to be true probably is. Also, over the years I’ve grown to really appreciate how important well-run small businesses are for the local community overall. When you spend your dollars wisely on first-rate services, you’re contributing to a healthier local economy.