A little over 10 years ago, if you needed to hire a roofing contractor, you would open Yellow Pages, and there, in plain view, you would see plenty of quality contractors servicing your area.
Today the Yellow Pages print edition is almost obsolete. Over the past decade it has lost almost 90% of its print advertisers. Other forms of printed advertising, such as local newspapers became the dinosaurs of today’s market place, and are becoming extinct. Today most homeowners looking for a roofing contractor turn to the Internet.
Does the ongoing shift from Print to Digital make it easier to find a quality roofing pro?
It may seem at first that the Internet has made it much easier and faster for homeowners to find a far greater number of roofing contractors.
However, as noted by the makers of the remodeling decision engine 150points, conventional online search engines such as Google and Bing haven’t delivered on the promise to help a homeowner find and distinguish trusted and reliable roofing pros from fly-by-night scammers. The same is true for online review sites like Angie’s List and Yelp.
Potential pitfalls of searching for a roofing contractor on the Internet
Home service companies that come up at the top of search results, often pay for their placement. This means that top rankings in Google are not necessarily a reflection of their quality as roofing contractors. Companies that show up at the top of the page in a colored box marked as “ads”, are the ones that paid for their placement in the search.
It is certainly easy for the new and unproven roofing contractors to write fake customer reviews for themselves on their websites, as well as on Google, Yelp, and other online destinations. This means you should take all the reviews with a grain of salt and investigate further.
Did you know? Many online scammers, after their scams have been discovered, can simply close down the shop, and open up a new business under a different name in the same town, and buy their way back to the top of the internet rankings.
Changing a website URL for advertising campaign on Google is certainly not difficult. — Compare that to Yellow Pages print edition, where advertising costs upwards of $5,000 for a full page ad, with new Yellow Pages edition coming out only once a year. It’s easy to see that pulling off company reputation scams used to be a lot more difficult.
With the advent of online search, many reputable roofing contractors were slow to establish their own websites and many scammers bought up similar sounding domain names (website names) and used similar looking logos to pretend to be a competing well – established company. This practice is still well-alive today.
What about Angie’s List, Home Advisor, and Yelp?
Angie’s List, which is now free to homeowners, prioritizes contractors who are willing to pay for their ads, so homeowners often end up choosing a better advertiser, not necessarily the best contractor for the job. Now, Angie’s List has, recently been acquired by HomeAdvisor.
Home Advisor (HA) is a pay to play marketplace for contractors. It’s free for homeowners, however, HA pay to play model greatly reduces the pool of quality roofers you can find on their system limited; only contractors who are willing to pay for HA membership and homeowner leads can be found and hired. — This means that many reasonably-priced quality contractors are neither discoverable nor visible to most homeowners trying to find a pro on HomeAdvisor.
They all look the same!
Furthermore, as if finding, vetting and hiring a quality company was not difficult enough already, the amount of 5 star reviews on Angie’s List and Home Advisor is quite overwhelming, with every company looking almost exactly the same! In other words, these platforms make it nearly impossible to tell which company would be the best fit for you the homeowner.
Furthermore, many contractors paying for leads from HomeAdvisor often complain because they’re are frequently categorized for services they don’t even offer. This creates bad experience for both homeowners and contractors.
Now, Yelp, which is a great review site for restaurants, has a very limited number of roofers on their platform at present. Oftentimes the reviews for listed roofers on their platform are fake or written/manipulated by the contractor’s friends.
So, even in the digital age, finding and hiring the best and most reasonably-priced contractor for the job is still a major pain for many homeowners
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In fact, as more and more roofers discover that they can gain access to clients via the Internet and put up company web pages, as well as pay for advertised listings in multiple home improvement directories, it is becoming more of a challenge for homeowners to find the right contractor in this sea of alluring advertisement campaigns.
And yet, while the methods of finding a roofing contractor may have drastically changed, the fact of the matter remains that hiring an experienced professional for your roofing installation is the single most important determinant of future longevity and durability of your roof.
Even the best (most expensive) roofing materials will fail shortly after a poorly executed installation job.
Some roofing materials such as asphalt shingles can be installed by fairly inexperienced roofers, and also do not require expensive equipment.
However, if you choose to go for more premium products such as metal roofing, cedar roofing, clay or slate tiles, PVC single ply roofing, you should only entrust these jobs to roofing contractors who have specialized knowledge, training and equipment for the particular roofing material you have chosen.
So how can you find these top-notch professional roofers on the Internet?
Tips to ensure that you find the right man for the job on the Internet
- Look for midsize, local, owner-operated companies. There are many national roofing companies pretending to be a local company, especially in residential metal roofing. These large companies are not owner operated and often hire sub-contractors to do their work.
These subs get paid on performance, not by the hour, which means that they get paid for the number of square feet of roofing installed, so it is in their best interest to the job as fast as possible, with quality often being a secondary concern.
Therefore, it is best to hire a smaller owner-operated company, since the owner is usually the best employee and cares the most about the quality of the job.
- Look for contractors that specialize in a particular roofing material that you want to install, and are approved by the manufacturer to install this product. AVOID the “we do it all” type contractors.
On the website, look for pictures and project details of recent jobs. If you see many pictures and detailed explanations of the projects, it is most likely been completed by this contractor. By contrast, scammers typically buy one or two stock photos or steal one good-looking picture from another site to display and portray it as their own work.
Look for specific roof installation or repair details the contractor implements that pertain to your roof. For example, chimney, skylight, valley and roof to wall flashing details. Scammers and inexperienced roofers usually do not go the extra mile of explaining these specifics on their sites.
Look for videos that were taken on the job. We always take videos of all the work we do. I find video to be a great medium to quickly showcase our work and to educate our prospective clients about different installation techniques that we implement, as well as to discuss other roof related topics.
Once you find 3-5 companies you feel comfortable working with, contact them and request as many relevant references for jobs in your area as they can provide.
Make sure to ask for both recently completed jobs and ones that are a few years old. Call up the references and talk to them about their level of satisfaction with the contractor, whether the job was done on time and professionally.
It would even be better to drive out to a number of houses to take a look at the jobs. When you are investing a lot of money into your roof, it is well worth it to take the time to do thorough reference checks.
In case a contractor is unable to provide you with 3-5 references, then you should be cautious about working with them.
As a side note, do understand that before going into business for themselves, most roofers (myself included), usually spend a number of years working for another roofing company. This means that you might find a very experienced roofer who just started their business and may not have enough references at the moment.
Lack of references is not necessarily a sign of being unprofessional, and you need to investigate this particular contractor’s work history if you are considering hiring them. Use your judgement and ask smart questions to see if the roofer is knowledgeable, professional, and pays attention to details.
- If you are into the James Bond 007 or Mission Impossible mood when looking for a contractor, you can search the company name, as well as the contractor himself by his name to find out if they are licensed, if there has been any litigation, and if any existing customers are complaining about this particular company on web forums.
You would be surprised as to what kind of information you can sometimes find about the people you are considering doing business with. Note that sometimes competitors post false information under fake names to discredit competitors, which means that you need to really do your homework.
- Overall, the presence of detailed information about past roofing jobs, technical details, videos, educational articles, etc., all go to show that the contractor takes pride in their work, really cares about their customers and works hard to deliver top quality installation.
Also remember that finding the right roofing contractor is only half the battle, as you also need to get a good deal on your roof roof installation.
Note that I DID NOT say the best (lowest) price, but a best deal, which in my mind is a combination of acceptable TOTAL price for all materials and labor furnished, best installation quality, and best roofing materials for your specific roof conditions, as well as acceptable warranty, which your roofer will stand behind. To find out how to get the best deal on a quality roof installation check out this article.
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