Basic Elements of Service Provider Determinations
Updated: Feb 8
In real estate transactions & outside of real estate transactions, it can be helpful to know how to find service providers. While no referral is foolproof, even the best-reviewed companies have their problems, & someone who served you before might no longer be in the business, taking the steps below can help to mitigate the likelihood of issues.
How to find potential service providers/places of business:
Check online reviews
Google Maps is a great place to start since it's free for businesses to join, you can easily see the proximity to the location of a job, the phone number, the hours, and in many cases the website as well as the number of reviews and ratings. If someone gave a # star review but didn't say anything, treat it suspiciously and try not to count it in your determinations. Sort by the lowest review.
Look at multiple sources rather than just 1.
Check the Better Business Bureau.
If you look at a location that doesn't seem to have many options in cities that aren't major, skip it. For instance, if I'm looking in Hampton, I see that Zillow has places for home improvement professionals, but a very low number of businesses with reviews. With Zillow the same low volume providing reason to skip it is true of Home Builders, & real estate photographers. With home inspectors, Zillow appears to have a bit more, but still skip it. All those listed in Hampton on Zillow with reviews at the time of this writing are based in Virginia Beach, the biggest city of the region.
There are specific sources that can be beneficial for certain businesses. For instance, if looking for hotels, things to do, or restaurants throughout a particular city/county, Tripadvisor is a good resource (& for restaurants), & I particularly like US News for hotels, restaurants, and things to do when in a big enough city for them to have a list compiled.
Beware of places that charge businesses/individuals to be listed on the platform. A common example for home-related businesses is Houzz, which requires fees to be listed. The best business available may simply not want to pay to be listed there, or pay extra for a "Premium Profile", and the charges to be listed in certain sources can be as high as 50% of the total proceeds from you using them (in the case of hiring a real estate agent). Also, beware of sources where someone can pay to be put to the top of a list. For instance, notice where it says "ads" here, meaning no matter how well-rated a business, it won't be listed at the top here if it's not paying for it:
Image courtesy Google.com
Likewise, to have "license verification" on Yelp costs $365/yr at the time of this writing.
Image courtesy biz.yelp.com
If you can't find reviews for a place that someone else recommended, Google them.
Get a referral
Get a referral from a friend, family member, someone in a related field (i.e. your real estate agent) or coworker, as long as the person you're asking advice from wouldn't exert too much of a controlling influence in your decision where if you didn't go with that person's recommendation, you would hurt your relationship with that person & they would be offended. For reference, if you ever avoid going with someone that I recommend, I take no offense.
Referrals are a way to sometimes get people who you might not know about otherwise because they may not be aggressive with requesting reviews after doing a fantastic job with people.
If someone won't provide you a referral due to liability, try not to take offense. It's possible someone held them liable (financially or refusing to do future business with them) for a previous referral even when that person was receiving no compensation for that referral. I've had people do both with me after I provided a referral where I was receiving no financial compensation for the referral. In one of those cases, I even provided a liability release disclaimer along with the referral and 4 service provider options (along with when each would be available and the cost of each), but they didn't care and still wanted to hold me liable to the tune of more than twenty thousand dollars. While a request like that is unlikely to go in the favor of someone seeking to hold me liable in court, sometimes people aren't looking for something fair, but something they think that they can get away with.
1. For instance, the person I used to have cut my grass I got via referral, though they had nowhere online with reviews, and they did a much better job at the same cost vs a few others I had before them. After they did such a fantastic job, I went to review them, and couldn't find anywhere to do so. When someone does a fantastic job, one of the best ways to give them a "tip" at no cost to you is to spend 5-15 minutes on reviews for them. That little bit of time could be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars to them.
2. Some of my favorite photographers for real estate, like ARC Imaging based out of Williamsburg & Art Louis Photography, don't have practically any reviews online. If I was only looking on review websites, I would have never found out about them. I typically skip those with only one or no reviews online when going through r