Remodeling Referral Services: Why You Shouldn’t Use Them

I’m a proud supporter of small business.  After all, for two hundred years it’s been the backbone of American growth and innovation.  I was  involved in the remodeling business myself.  So I know the hard work and long hours that’s required to make a go of it.  And that’s true in not just contracting but just about any business.  So I get a bit miffed when I see the ads for referral services.

Referral services typically advertise on television.  They usually have friendly-sounding names.  That’s to make it easy for you to think they’re just a concerned man or woman who wants to help you from getting ripped off.  But they’re also part of your local big box home improvement store business model.  Some even charge fees to you, the consumer, and then promote their own paying advertisers first.

Remodeling Referral Services:  What They Do

No matter whether it’s the ones that have tons of television ads or the operations of big box retailers, the real mechanics are simple.  They hook you up with a local contractor.  And they can skim off ten to twenty-five of the labor charges as a “referral fee” that comes out of the contractor’s pay.  You don’t ever see that part of the transaction, but that’s how it works.  On the surface, they may either claim or appear to be doing their service out of the goodness of their hearts.  It might look like there is  no cost to you.

What’s happening is that this “middle man” is getting paid for being a middle man.   And the contractor is seeing his or her profit margins cut significantly.  For a contractor, it can be the difference between just making a living and being the owner of a successful business.  Personally, I’m all about helping people achieve success in their small business ventures.

There are some contractors who legitimately use these referral services to keep their calendar full.  But if everyone stopped using the referral services and went directly to the contractor, their calendars would be just as full.


What To Do Instead

Let’s say you want to remodel your bathroom.  Don’t call up the referral services or let the big box store provide one.  Instead, invest a few minutes and find your own contractor.  With the amount of consumer ratings and recommendations that are easily found online, you can do pretty much the same thing the referral service does AND help keep the profits where they belong:  In the pockets of those who do the work.  So you’ll want to

  • Check the Better Business Bureau
  • Search for consumer ratings, both negative and positive, online.
  • Check with your local city, county or state for proper licensing.

Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to find materials you like.  Taking that bathroom as an example, break it down into pieces and make categories of items to shop for.  You’ll have the following:

  • Cabinets.  The new cabinet may be big or small, or you may decide to forego it altogether and go with a minimalist theme.
  • Tile.  The bathroom retile can be the messiest part of the job.  But it will be part of the central focus of your new room.  There are virtually hundreds of kinds of tile, including porcelanosa tile, true porcelain, ceramic, and even natural stone.
  • Fixtures.  Gone are the days of just a handful of drab choices.  Today’s fixtures can be as exotic or futuristic as your imaginations and desires, like those offered by Zuchetti USA.  

bathroom awesome


There’s no reason you cannot achieve that same luxurious look you’ve seen in resort suites.  And once you have your material and a contractor selected, you’ll be on your way.  And, you’ll be helping small business and your local contractors to keep doing what they’ve been doing for hundreds of years.  Making and keeping the American economy vibrant and strong.


Image credits

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Jackie LaMar

Beach lover. SoCal dweller. Life is never over unless you surrender. Keep going, the prize IS out there.