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Free Alternatives to Angie's List: Sites for Hiring Home Contractors That Don't Charge You

I have used Angie's List for years and I always found it to be a very helpful resource for finding and hiring good quality people for home contracting projects. Unfortunately, Angie's List costs around $50 - $60 per year, and during times when I'm not hiring any contractors (which is most of the time) it seems silly to be paying this kind of subscription fee.

Since then I've come across some newer sites that also let you research and hire home contractors but which don't charge you a subscription fee. Instead, most of these companies charge the contractor for the connection to you as a customer, if you do sign up with them. This seems to make more sense to me, from a business standpoint, but that's besides the point. What really matters is whether you can actually find quality contractors through any of these sites.

I've tried each of these sites, and overall I found that they each have a good roster of high quality contractors - in general I got good work done for a reasonable price. Each site is better for some people than others, so here's the quick summary of what I found:

CalFinder

CalFinder is my favorite alternative to Angie's List. CalFinder has thousands of licensed and bonded contractors in almost every city across the US. CalFinder's website is the best of its kind - its perfect if you're still researching your remodel project and need ideas and inspirations. You can click on their guides to kitchen remodels, bathroom remodels, window replacements, and home additions and browse through hundreds of project ideas and design concepts.

CalFinder then allows you to describe your project and get free estimates from several qualified contractors in their database. I got 6 responses to my basement remodel project. Each vendor has a detailed profile where you can see images of their past work, detailed qualifications, and customer reviews.

The bids I received were detailed and the rates were reasonable. I hired one CalFinder contractor for this basement project and the results were excellent. It was a large project and went smoothly (as smoothly as major remodeling projects can go, that is).

Estimate Magic

Estimate Magic is another good site for getting free estimates for qualified contractors. I found that it works well in the Dallas area, they seem to have a good number of qualified contractors - I received 4 bids for a window project within 24 hours of placing my bid. I've heard from friends that Estimate Magic works well in larger cities and surrounding areas, but the company is still building up its database of providers in smaller towns and regions.

I liked Estimate Magic's site for being very simple and no-nonsense. You simply enter in some basic project info and hit enter, and within a day you'll get detailed estimates. I found the contractors to be professional and courteous and all were licensed and had long-standing reputations and good references from prior customers. I hired one fellow for my window project and I must say I was impressed by his speed and efficiency - the new windows were installed in a day and look great now one year later.

Service Magic

Service Magic is similar to CalFinder and Estimate Magic, but has been around much longer, having been founded back in 1998. That's good as the company has built up a good reputation for providing quality contractor leads for over 10 years. Service Magic is also very large and has thousands of contractors in every location in every specialization, from windows to painting to plumbing to electrical repair. 

You get a lot of bids back for your project requests on Service Magic. I was impressed that I receive 8 bids for a lighting job within one day. One small gripe I had was that a few of the contractors who submitted bids did not return my emails back, not sure if they got busy or what, but it would have been nice to get a contact back. However, I did find a very good contractor for my lighting job who I continue to recommend to friends. If you don't mind wading through more estimates and value having more choices to less, Service Magic is a good option.

Overall thoughts

Overall, I found that the free alternatives to Angie's List are more than adequate for the occasional remodeler who just needs to hire a contractor once in a while. The quality of contractors is good on any of these sites, since they all have staffs of people who verify the qualifications and work quality of their contractors - the chances are low that you'll get a bad apple, which is often the case with unmoderated sites like Craigslist. If you do, however, hire contractors frequently, or hire other types of service providers, Angie's List is still an invaluable resource, as the quality of the reviews is higher and the depth of provider background information is far greater. Think of Angie's List as the higher end solution, albeit more expensive, for those who frequently need to research and hire all types of service providers.

Sources: http://www.calfinder.com, http://angieslist.com, http://www.servicemagic.com, http://www.estimatemagic.com

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Comments (6)
eBlue Collar

Angie's List's core value is perceived value. Their core value proposition is credibility. They have left the door open for service pro marketing services that can provide valuable information and resources at no cost to the customer.

eBlue Collar

Angie's List's core value is perceived value. Their core value proposition is credibility. They have left the door open for service pro marketing services that can provide valuable information and resources at no cost to the customer.

Gloria F Tarazon

Well, i could not get the very nice but expensive range out of display mode.

Steve from Big jacks and sons was more concerned if and how he could get paid for the service call. Lowes gotSoBellas from El paso Texas to come out and they did a great job. It took several tiems for this service tech and electrolux to get it right, but they finally did. Thank you

Gloria

I appreciate the list and have some experience with a couple of these.  For those interested, I note the absence of Thumbtack (at the expecte URL with a .com extension), which seems very similar to Home Advisor, the new name for Service Magic.  I\'m curious if Tom or anyone else has seen reviews on the screening practices that various sites use on submitted reviews.  After all, what good is reading reviews that are biased, one way or the other.

Angie's List does aggregate feedback for decision making, despite all of their faults.  The problem with some of these other sites is they sell you as a lead to multiple providers and you have little visibility in the quality of the service professional.  While not all of the project reviews for my Interior Design firm advertises that advertises on Angie's List are accurate we do connect with interior design clients who are a great match for online design services.

Angies list is a scam. I had to pay a fee, and then I couldn't get off their auto pay system. I just wanted to report a crooked contractor named Randy Clouse of Artisan Exteriors in Round Rock Texas. His work was not up to code. He lied, cheated and stole. I am reporting him tho the Better Business Bureau BBB. He has lots of consumer complaints, but he disapears every time the polce come looking for him. Avoid Randy Clouse the scam artist. He loves to rip off people.

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