Do you know what you’re really getting when you search online for a contractor? Maybe a whole lot more and less than you bargained for.

I’ve been in the house painting and remodeling trade for over 20 years, and I really love what I do. Over the last few years, I’ve noticed the online market has been flooded with painting franchises and lead companies.

These lead companies and franchises specialize in online marketing, taking top search engine results away from local house painters and related contractors to the point that the local contractors have to pay these guys out of pocket to reach homeowners.

If, say, a real house painter wanted to get to the top of Google or Yahoo or the many other search engines, they have to wade through all the lead companies that are springing up every day.

What happens is that you click on a search result because it’s at the top of the search, but that may represent more marketing work than a good reputation of quality work from the contractor. You may be clicking on nothing more than a lead generation company that is selling leads to local contractors, like Thumbtack or Homeadvisor.

They benefit from selling to the highest bidder, not from screening and sorting the legitimate contractors from the fly-by-night companies. The only question they ask contractors is their credit card number. So the more so-called contractors they send to you the more money they make.

All these lead companies do is increase the cost of business, which results in a higher cost for your job. When you hire the cheapest companies, it’s more likely you get the cheapest end results. We personally get calls to fix such work and believe me it would have been better if we could have been called in the first place.

We have used lead companies in the past like Homeadvisor and have found that most of the so-called competition is made up of inexperienced people pretending to be professionals. When we went to Homeadvisor and looked to them to fill in some gaps, all they needed from us was a credit card number. It really makes me wonder.

Don’t put your faith in a lead operation. They’re not there to advise you; they’re just there to sell your contact information to the next contractor in their advertising pool.