A Referral Service for Home Improvements, Remodeling & Building.

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Lakeland Newspapers:

Service helps homeowners

Pete Thomas, president of The Home Improvement Network in Mundelein, in the business of taking the worry out of hiring a contractor.  He'll give you the names of several reliable contractors - all established, prescreened and eager for your business.

And the service is free.

Thomas is a 28 year old entrepreneur who saw a need in the construction industry and found a way to fill it.  

Thomas' idea was to connect reputable contractors with qualified customers.  To date, he has more than 115 contractors on his referral list, specializing in everything from interior remodeling, to room additions, to roofing, siding, and even landscaping.  His territory spans the Chicago area, including Chicago and the northern, western, and southern suburbs.

All of his contractors are carefully evaluated.  Thomas verifies references and insists on proof of insurance.  He or one of his company representatives interviews them personally.

Contractors must give two assurances: to service ten homeowners a month, and to return all phone calls.  In return, his membership contractors pay a monthly fee based on the amount of referrals they receive from the service.  His membership contractors do not raise their costs or fees because they use The Home Improvement Network. 

"There is a great deal of distrust between consumers and contractors," says Thomas.  A lot of it is simply lack of communication.  Thomas' staff talks with each of the homeowners so they can understand the full scope of the project.  Then they can match them up with the right contractors for that type of job."

"We only refer contractors who have the capacity to take on new work. Construction is still largely a mom-and-pop industry-which means a contactor can only handle so many projects at once.  When they're already busy, then tend not to return phone calls."

The Home Improvement Network is rather unique in Chicago.  While there are other contractor referral services, most them are national and Internet-based.  They can't necessarily evaluate first-hand, or offer the level of personalized service that Thomas can, he said.  

Yet Thomas never planned a career in construction.  A graduate of Northern Illinois University, he specialized in cardiology rehabilitation, while working part-time as a franchise manager for College Pro Painters, a franchise painting business that recruits students to run painting businesses and paint houses in the summer.  

Thomas became so proficient at it, from 1993-1995, that while still in school, he had his own franchise.  During his internship at Aurora's Mercy Hospital, he came to a blinding realization: he was more passionate about business than "cardio rehab".  

Upon graduation, he became a General Manager for College Pro Painters.  By 1998, he was ready to strike out on his own.  After listening to legions of frustrated homeowners, he had identified a niche to fill - matching consumers with quality contractors.

"It's like anything else," says Thomas.  "You want someone you can communicate with, and someone who is going to live up to his promises."

To reach Thomas, call 1-800-553-1810, or log onto thehomeimprovement.com

 

 

 

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