Referral Service Pairs Contractors With Home Owners

April 16, 1992|By Donna Weaver | Donna Weaver,Staff writer

Sometimes, it's difficult to find dependable people to mow a lawn oradd a room to a house.

You flip through the Yellow Pages, trying to find a reputable contractor or lawn service. Then you spend more time searching for someone who charges reasonable rates.

Diane Lewitus of Annapolis doesn't worry. Whenever she needs her lawn mowed or her gutters cleaned, she calls on Richard Ellis of Senior Referral Services.

She knows Ellis will find a dependable, reputable person to do the job.

"He's the person to call when I need something done," said Lewitus, one of Ellis' regular customers.

Ellis, 70, runs a referral business for people who need home maintenancework. Just tell him what you need, and he'll send the right person to your home. He has a roster of 50 licensed contractors he regularly checks on through the Maryland Home Improvement Commission and the Better Business Bureau. Any blemishes and the contractors are taken offhis list.

Contractors pay Ellis 10 percent of each job's cost. Inreturn, contractors bypass high advertising costs.

"He saves a lot of advertising money; he's a big help," said Oliver Ward, owner of Boss Home Construction in Edgewater, a licensed home improvement contractor. "I get four to six jobs a week. It's more work than I had before his business arrived."

"We're filling a need for people and contractors," said Ellis, who runs the business from his Edgewater home. "We're acting as salespeople for the contractors. And the work we do is reasonably priced. People don't have to be afraid of getting ripped off."

Many homeowners in the Annapolis area believe him. Sincestarting the business in February 1990, Ellis has been swamped with job requests. He handles about six home improvement and five maintenance jobs a day. His business is open six days a week, year-round. Spring through fall are his busiest seasons.

His profits have surpassed his expectations. The retired real estate broker made $39,000 in 1990 and "slightly more than that last year," he said.

"I was just looking for some extra income, something to supplement my Social Security," Ellis said. "But it has turned into a little bigger project than I figured."

It may get even bigger. Ellis has convinced severalradio stations, including WTOP and WBAL, to agree to run "good neighbor" radio spots, which would link people needing home improvements to licensed contractors. He just needs a program sponsor.

"I envision one radio station running half a dozen spots each day," Ellis said. "Half the spots would ask for people needing work to call in, and the other half would ask neighbors who could provide the work to call.I'm hoping that this program would generate enough calls so that we could drop our fees by 5 percent and contractors would reduce theirs by 5 percent. Homeowners would save more money."

Ellis realizes that people are suffering through tough economic times.

"Right now, people are hurting," he said. "There are so many people out of work who could perform home improvements or do yard work. And there are people who can't afford to get repairs, especially seniors on limited incomes. This business and this radio program could help them."

For information on Senior Referral Services, phone 956-6888.

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