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You started that DIY project only to realize that you may be in over your head. When you find yourself in the position of needing a contractor, how do you go about finding one? If you’re like us, you probably start with family or friends, but where do you turn if they don’t have a referral? Don’t pull out the phone book and hope you’re lucky when you close your eyes and point to a name. Nerds On Call has some great online resources to help you find just the right person or company to help you get the job done!

• Get the Skinny from HGTV: Check out the website created by HGTV and DIY Network, www.kudzu.com. Let’s say you need to replace your roof. You start at the “What it Costs” drop-down tab and choose “Roofing.” There you will learn how to estimate costs, check out the types of roofs you can choose from and even get a list of questions to ask to determine if the roofer you choose is right for the job. You can watch videos from the experts at HGTV to help you learn about shingles, gutters, and more. Once you know what you need, simply fill in the blanks at the top of the page for a list of local service providers. Their database is not yet large enough to offer a wealth of reviews, but we’re sure the popularity of HGTV will draw enough traffic to make this your go-to spot for your big projects in the future.

• Call in the Experts: Like a traditional referral service, www.contractors.com can help you get bids on your project. Select the type of project you’re doing and click on “Get a Free Quote”. You typically hear from at least 3 local contractors, often within 24 hours. It’s free for homeowners because contractors who fit the licensing and insurance qualifications of the site pay yearly dues to become certified. Don’t worry about getting what you pay for: if the contractor is late, the site representatives will call for you, or if you have a problem their live operators will help you and your contractor work it out.

• Membership has its Privileges: Once you’ve got a couple contractors in mind, head to a service review site to help you make your final decision. One of the most well-known is Angie’s List www.angieslist.com. It’s a nationwide, user-generated referral and rating system. It costs about $50 a year to become a member, but there you’ll read detailed reports of other homeowners’ experiences with contractors in everything from gutter repair to carpentry. Angie’s List uses an easy, A through F grading system. Contractors don’t pay to be listed (unlike that dusty phone book where the guy who shells out the most cash gets the biggest, snazziest ad!), so they can’t buy a top ranking or preferential referrals. If you have a problem with the contractor that you hire from the site, Angie’s List will help to mediate the dispute.

• Not all Reviews are Created Equal: A review site is only valuable if it has a lot of people voicing their opinions. One disgruntled customer who posts an angry rant on every review site they can find doesn’t mean the company is going to scam you. I am sure you know that someone who’s had a negative experience is more dedicated to cry it from the rooftops. When you have a good experience, you’re less likely to yell. Thirteen glowing reviews mean a lot… right? Maybe. What you want to look for is variety in the content and details of each reviewer’s experience. Some less popular service providers will supplement their reviews by writing their own glowing service accounts (sad, but true). If you are still unsure, check out the review history of the person who wrote the review. Be suspicious if they’ve only posted one review, ever.

If you have a great experience with a contractor you found on one of these sites, don’t forget to help your fellow friends and neighbors by posting your own experience. You can be the town who’s who with just a few mouse clicks!

About The Author: Andrea Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, a computer repair company that specializes in on-site and online service for homes and businesses. Andrea is the writer of a weekly column, Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight. She prepares TV segments for and appears regularly on CBS, CW and FOX on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, More Good Day Portland, and CBS 13 News, offering viewers technology and lifestyle tips. See Andrea in action at callnerds.com/andrea/.
About Nerds On Call: Established in a spare room in Redding, Calif., in March 2004, Nerds On Call offers on-site computer and laptop repair services to consumers and businesses. Nerds On Call provides trouble-shooting for PCs and Macs, home and office networks, printers, iPods® and MP3 players, handheld devices and cell phones, home theaters and game systems, and virtually every other form of digital entertainment. In 2009, 2010, & 2011 the company was named to Inc. magazine’s list of 5000 fastest growing private companies. With 7 locations across California and Oregon, Nerds On Call serves more than 40,000 satisfied customers per year. For more information, visit callnerds.com or call 1-800-919-NERD.