Based in the Chicago area, this is a contractor
referral service. Homeowners call The Home Improvement Network and tell them
what they are looking for - cement work, windows, waterproofing, etc. - and they
are referred, at no charge to the homeowner, to a prescreened contractor.
"We do background checks and meet with all of
the contractors personally," says Pete Thomas, president of The Home Improvement
Network. "We try to get to know them. We haven't visited everyone's job sites,
but we try to get to as many as we can. If the company has been around and has
a fleet of trucks, well, that tells us more than just a guy in a rickety old
Launched three years ago, The Home Improvement
Network has approximately 115 contractors on board. "On board" means the
contractors have signed up to be a part of the service, have passed the
screening process, are willing to pay $30 per referral, and are able to handle
at least 10 referrals per month.
"We keep tabs on these companies for as long as
they're involved in the program," Thomas says. "We can terminate companies at
any time. We can also mediate disputes. If a homeowner says they're having a
problem, we'll call them and find out what's going on. Because the companies
want to stay involved in the service and get referrals, they feel a pressure
from us to get things resolved.
Thomas says that The Home Improvement Network
has helped 4,500 homeowners since 1998, and that it adds 350 to 375 homeowners a