Finding the best contractor for your remodel

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One of the most frustrating things that homeowners go through is finding a contractor to remodel the kitchen, replace the roof, or add a new room. We’ll ask our friends for recommendations, check Yelp or Angie’s list, but it’s still hit or miss. Contractors generally specialize in particular areas of expertise and size of the job that often aren’t a good match. Rarely do we find the best option.

So I was excited to learn about how a San Francisco based company, BuildZoom, was addressing this problem. I heard about it from my daughter, who has wanted to remodel her bathroom for almost two years, and was struggling to find a contractor. Many of those that she talked with found the job to be too small or not a good match for their expertise. She stumbled upon BuildZoom and has found it to be a great solution.

BuildZoom was founded by two entrepreneurs,  Jihan Wei and David Petersen, experts in data science, to help you find the best contractors for your particular project, based on their expertise, interest, location, and experience.

The company bases their selection on the huge amount of data it aggregates from a number of sources. For the past three years, from its inception in 2013, the company has been acquiring and analyzing public data on contractors and the projects they do, with the goal of creating a comprehensive database of for the entire country. The data comes mostly from contractor licensing information and building permits that are issued by state and local governments.  They also use U.S. Census data to identify the demographics of the projects.

The information they collect includes: the types and costs of projects they do, the type of neighborhoods where they work, customer reviews, years in business, worker’s compensation history, criminal checks, and much more. They also solicit additional information from the contractors themselves to develop their recommendations.

From the more than two million active contractors in the U.S., their database of recommended contractors totals about 100,000.

So, how do you use the service? Simply go to buildzoom.com and describe in a few words your project and provide your zip code. The company will analyze your project and neighborhood and, using its algorithms, will identify 3 to 5 contractors that are the best match.

BuildZoom will reach out to the contractors with your request and make an introduction. They provide a phone contact for them to reach you, not your number, but one that they create. That allows them to track to insure contact is made and moving along, while insuring your privacy.

You’ll be able talk with and meet with the contractors of your choice, all prescreened to insure that your job is of interest to them and that they are competent to do the job. BuildZoom doesn’t stop there. In my daughter’s case, they reviewed the five quotes she received to be sure there was nothing out of line. They also are working to add additional capability to follow the project once it gets started.

The quotes and details of each contractor’s proposal is uploaded on the BuildZoom’s site, so you can easily make a comparison and an informed decision.

In my daughter’s case, within just a few days of contacting the company, she’s met with four contractors after speaking with five, and is now choosing one. She told me that each one was much better than the others she’s spoken with over the years, and the hardest part was picking one, since they are all well-qualified.

There’s no charge for this service. The company gets a small commission from the contractors, which varies from 1 to 3 percent. Of those that have submitted requests to BuildZoom for recommendations, a majority moved forward and completed their project, a reflection of the quality of both the contractors and the matching process.

The service is available in many metropolitan areas across the country, particularly on the East and West coasts. It’s most effective in those areas that have the most comprehensive licensing and permit requirements, so that good data is available.

I tried it out as far as submitting a request for a quote to install a new roof. I received a personalized response from the company in about five minutes to let me know they would be contacting the most suitable contractors in my area.

BuildZoom, seems to be addressing a real need:  they’ve been responsible for over $1 billion in projects this past year, ranging from an electrical installation to major home renovations.

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UPDATE

Below is an email from my daughter containing the email received from BuildZoom’s concierge, as she continues to make a selection from the three contractors. This is part of their free service to analyze the bids.

I thought you might find this interesting – this is part of the service that BuildZoom offers – they have a contractor on staff to review the bids. I already had eliminated #3 due to some issues I had with them but I’m leaning toward #2 but scheduling a call to see if there are some areas I can reduce costs. They seem to offer the best service and communication and have offered to give me their contractor discount where they can on ordering supplies, which may help make up some of the costs.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Levi Taylor <support@buildzoom.com>
Date: Thu, May 19, 2016 at 12:28 PM
Subject: Re:  Proposal

So my contractor looked at all three bids and has ranked them in this order…

#1. V— Construction: $15,815.00
#2. A— Construction: $21,500.00
#3. Ar— Construction: $24, 789.00

Major things you have to consider when looking at these bids are total price, timeline, labor costs, and materials provided/not provided.

As far as bids go, they were all organized well and they were itemized, which is the most important thing. All three companies are reputable and we wouldn’t feel bad recommending either of them, that being said.

V— has the most realistic price range, but we do also have to consider that you will be buying more of the materials with them (toilet, tile, vanity with countertop, faucets, paint, medicine cabinet/mirror, fan, light, trims, shower niche). That can sometimes be a hassle, but even then, they are thousands of dollars below A— and Ar—.

AAA is only needing you to order and schedule delivery for the vanities, cabinetries, and tile, so that’s a little better. And their bid was pretty reasonable, just a little higher-priced than Valex. You could ask for a more itemized bid from them, but it is still in good shape.

Archeon was just too high. My contractor specifically mentioned the sheetrock prices, the plumbing, and labor as being way above what it should be. And their timeline seems a little long, although we do know permitting can take a while. But his major problems were with the labor costs ($14,535.00).

If you have any other questions, just let me know! I think Valex’s bid is the best, but again, if you feel more comfortable with the other two, that is not a problem!

Best,

Levi Taylor
Concierge, BuildZoom

 

UPDATE 2
A further update on my daughter’s project to remodel her bathroom. Finally a selection was made. Note the personalized service and how BuildZoom not only provided a list of recommended contractors, but helped my daughter to assess and compare the proposals

K—

That is great to hear!! We are so happy things are moving in the right direction and I hope that the project goes well. Let us know if you need anything else in the future, I will definitely help you out. And we loved the article your father wrote about us! Thank you for that.

Best,

Levi Taylor

Concierge, BuildZoom
————————————

Hi Levi,

Just wanted to let you know that I made a decision to go forward with AAA Construction. We scheduled the work to begin Aug. 1. Thanks again for all your help! If there are any other tips you have, please let me know.

Thanks,

K—

——————————————
K—

It is my pleasure! We appreciate all your feedback and support and we just want you to have a great process with this remodel! I don’t believe you could go wrong with either A— or V—. It will come down to personal preference and who you feel most comfortable with! Again, let me know if you need anything else and definitely when you make a decision.

Best,

Levi Taylor

Concierge, BuildZoom

I——————————————————
Thank you Levi – this is super helpful. Such a great service.

I had a few other issues with A— so I’m definitely ruling them out, especially now that your contractor has concerns on costs and timing (as I do).

I’m going to speak to the other two with some clarifying questions to better understand the differences, etc. I’ll let you know when I make a decision and be sure to provide reviews on your site for all of the contractors I met with.

Again, thanks for all your help – I love this service and plan to tell all my friends about it!

Thank you very much for the opportunity to provide you this proposal!

 

by Phil Baker

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