Sean Zobaa learned the hard way that all contractors are not created equal. The McLean resident needed some work done on his house and he randomly chose a name out of a telephone directory.
"He did $3,000 of damage on a $500 job," said Zobaa. "I didn't take the time to research the contractor and I got burned — and it's not just me. I'm not the only person out there who has had this experience."
That is when Zobaa decided that there had to be a better way of doing things.
"Originally I wanted to put together a consortium of experts that would deal with all kinds of issues, but then I found Contractors.com which had been around since 1997," said Zobaa.
Contractors.com is a free Internet service that provides homeowners with information about various contractors in their area. The site offers information on contractors' licenses and insurance information, as well as personal testimonials from past customers.
"Our goal is to help homeowners make good decisions and hire good contractors," said Zobaa.
He added that people do not always think to be wary of who they are allowing into their home.
"Some of these guys have felony records or are unstable," said Zobaa.
Contractors.com is a national site, but Zobaa, who is vice president, operates out of McLean. In the last year, he has expanded the business to include a weekly Saturday morning radio show on Fox 1160 a.m. Homeowners can listen to advice from experts and call in and ask questions. In addition, Zobaa is preparing the company's first home building and remodeling show, which will take place at the Vienna Community Center on April 1.
"We're going to have builders there, remodelers — different people from trades and businesses," said Zobaa.
THE IDEA FIRST came to fruition when Contractors.com partner First Horizon Bank and Home Loans decided that there was a lack of local home shows in the Vienna and McLean area.
"There are a lot of big home shows and tours, but they serve a much larger geographical area," said Zobaa. "This is tailored to people in local communities."
Marty Valentine, marketing director for the show's advertising agency Advertising Your Way, says that First Horizon wanted to find a creative way to market and advertise local contractors. What started out as a small concept quickly turned into an event that will feature 35 local businesses.
"It's going to be a jam-packed two-hour session that provides questions and answers for homeowners," said Valentine. "It really has grown into a big show and we've just had so much interest."
Carole Wolfand and her husband Bill Kramer, who co-own Vienna Paint & Decorating, will be one of the exhibitors at the show. The Vienna-Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce has previously ranked Vienna Paint & Decorating as Business of the Year, and Wolfand as Business Person of the Year. Although Wolfand and Kramer have been involved in many other home shows, and have been operating their business for the last 20 years, this will be the first time that they will be participating in one that takes place in Vienna.
"I got a phone call about it, and I asked who were some of the other exhibitors and builders and contractors, and I thought it was a great idea," said Wolfand. "We do lots and lots of homes, and our products are geared toward homeowners and finish coats of homes, rather than commercial businesses. So this is really the perfect venue for us."
The show is sponsored by Contractors.com and First Horizon, and is free, although a $5 donation to Habitat for Humanity is encouraged. In addition to the exhibitor showcase, there will also be a Custom Building Seminar which will feature state Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis and Fairfax Consumer Protection Agency Chief of Investigations Susan Jones. A walking tour of several Vienna homes will be offered at the end of the exhibit.
"The show is localized," said Zobaa. "It's fine to bring your kids, there are no high pressure sales."