The year is 1998. Your furnace is dead. Who do you call?
Well, you’ve basically got two options: either call the HVAC company your friends/family recommend to you or pick a random company from the Yellow Pages. Neither one leaves you with a whole lot of confidence.
We’ve come a long way since then. The Internet has created a platform for homeowners to read and provide real, genuine feedback about the service companies they use. It’s a lot easier to separate the good from the bad, and if you do end up with the bad, you can at least prevent others from making the same mistake.
HomeStars is a new entrant in the world of online reviews. Unlike sites like Yelp, HomeStars focuses exclusively on home professionals, and it operates exclusively in Canada (the American site HomeAdvisor is owned by the same parent company.) It also has a clean user interface and a functional mobile app.
Question is, is HomeStars trustworthy? Can you trust your four-figure HVAC equipment to someone who comes recommended by HomeStars?
Based on my experience with the site so far, my answer is yes; but let’s take a closer look at what the HomeStars ratings mean first.
How the Rating System Works
Rather than giving companies a star rating, HomeStars assigns companies with a percentage (100% being a perfect score and 0% being the worst). This percentage is calculated based on numerous factors, including:
- Aggregate of user-submitted reviews (which give a score of between 1/10 and 10/10)
- How often the company publicly responds to user reviews (either giving thanks for positive reviews or attempting to explain or resolve negative ones)
- Company’s transparency, such as providing HomeStars with proof of insurance and certification (which leads to ‘HomeStars Verified’ status)
Those are some of the main factors, but there’s more to it than that.
For one thing, user reviews are weighted based on how recent they are; a positive review from last week has a greater impact on score than a positive review from last year, for example. Even the best HVAC company in Toronto has to continually receive positive reviews in order to maintain its standing.
Another interesting point is that companies with a score of 80% or less don’t receive any leads from HomeStars. In other words, if you go looking for an HVAC company in Toronto on HomeStars, you’ll only find the cream of the crop in the search results. There is a strong incentive for companies to maintain their rating.
To me, these standards set the bar a lot higher than a site like Yelp, which is based solely on user reviews. Reviews can be faked; transparency, consistency and responsiveness cannot.