Contractor/estimate problems

What am I doing wrong?
A recent refinance has put cash in my pocket which I plan to use on several home improvement projects- new roof, pool refinish, some outdoor room screening... I contact what looks to be a decent company in the Yellow Pages- I am careful not to call anyone too far away, I look for years in the biz, license/insurance info, an ad not too large not too small, maybe a trade association relationship. I call three carefully chosen contractors and speak with an answering service who takes name and number etc. and promises to either have someone return the call or sets a day for an estimate. I never get called back, and no one ever shows up to give me an estimate. I call again- lather, rinse, repeat. And so on.
Why would someone pay good money to advertise if they don't want to work? How can I get someone to actually show up? I am not price shopping per se but need to get a feel for a company by speaking with a representative. I realize that giving estimates is an aggravating endeavor with little financial return, but this is the way it works, no? So shouldn't they at least say "we're booked call someone else"?
I'd assume that different parts of the US are better/worse in this regard and that my area (South Florida) is one of the worst. But I don't have the time to drive around looking for contractors on other jobs, and don't have many people to ask for referrals.
Is there a magic word? Any online referral sites that screen participants?
--
Toni
http://www.irish-wolfhounds.com
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"Toni" snipped-for-privacy@nada.noway wrote in message 8IOpb.7852$ snipped-for-privacy@newsread1.news.atl.earthlink.net

1-800-Contractor
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clipped

Giving bids - detailed, on paper, signed, etc., is part of legitimate contracting business. Even a one-person operation can buy some printed forms (or Xerox some) and write out a decent bid. No reason not to expect one.

You must have neighbors - talk to them. There have to be pools and screen rooms all over the place. Look for trucks in the neighborhood, and stop in for a chat with the owner. If you don't know your neighbors, it's time - ask 'em over for a cook-out :o)

The size of an ad in the yellow pages is not a guage of quality of work. A sign they have money to spend.
Magic word (for me) is check work the contractor has done for somebody you know. A good use for neighbors (otherwise generally useless :o) Have an idea of the product you want (shingles, etc), and features of the project; talking to an informed homeowner will, likely, get a tad more respect from the contractor. It isn't his job to educate you, but his expertise should help you make informed choices. Many contractors in my area, especially small ops that work outdoors, are not availble during the day - they are out working. Larger ones, large enough to have a real office, are more immediately accessible. Roofing and paint companies have contractor referrals, and some have certification for contractors. If you have unusual conditions try to find out what special implications they have in advance.

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Good contractors are busy, and booked.This time of year they are scrambling to finish projects before winter sets in. They dont mean to be rude by not returning your call, and probably will. The guy you have to worry about is the one out of work. Keep calling, but understand this is the busiest time of year. Everyone is doing things they have put off all summer.
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Not that you are doing anything wrong but the best way is (as mentioned here) to get the name of some one that has worked for a neighbor/relative etc. and you liked their work. I am a contractor I return calls from new clients only if they mention the name of an existing client or job. (I don't bother advertising) I find word of mouth the best way to do business. I don't waste a lot of time of giving bids to people that just want a price to compare with others so they can get the best price. I don't ever get those jobs. I sell my work on references and quality not price. So a "cold" call asking for a quote goes unanswered.
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calhoun wrote:

I know, guy like you never runs out of work. I agree, word of mouth and check with BBB. If anyone asks large sum of money up front, stay away. Don't go for the best quote, go for the quality of work.(the difference in cost is not BIG). And put everything in writing. I am lucky. I happen to have a friend who is contractor. I can do things with shake of hands with him. never let me down. He just finished gazebo in my backyard. 110% satisfied. Now he is working on a recessed wall closet in my kids' condo. for more storage space. Tony
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Toni posted for all of us....

Look around, there might be a contractor picking up stuff, usually in the morning.
--
Tekkie

Politicians & diapers are filled with it & both should be changed regularly.
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Yeah, but... These people advertise, they drop flyers in the mailbox and leave business cards in the door. The assumption is that they *want* work -- why should one have to track them like homicide detective and snare them at a watering hole?
BTW, for the OP, this is also true in Virginia and California. I'm *still* trying to get a tree removed from my roof a month after a written proposal was accepted, and part of the work done and paid for. I'd taken to calling (leaving a msg) every day. No calls returned; no appearances. Since the fellow lives a block away, when I called yesterday, I said I'd be at his house in an hour or 2. Got a callback within 5 minutes.
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