By Joseph F. Schuler Jr.. Chris Paquette says an online referral service has been a boon to his business. It outdistances similar services because people, not computers, match clients with contractors, according to the Philadelphia-area remodeler.

Paquette, who usually does $350,000 annually in kitchen, bath, and cabinetry work, says he has contracted for $415,000 worth of work through HomeNet Solutions this year.

What makes HomeNet work is its personal approach. Homeowners can place job requests at, and then the company interviews them by phone and matches them with 300 well-rated contractors in eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and northern Delaware. "It's more of a matchmaker service than a referral service," Paquette says.

Steven Adler, who founded the four-year-old HomeNet Solutions with his wife, Jamie, says this year his company has brought contractors nearly $10 million in jobs from 4,700 clients. His revenues, which doubled in the past year, come from a 3% to 10% sliding scale fee on projects, with the lowest percentage for jobs over $40,000. After a year, no "repeat service" fee is required for second-time clients.

HomeNet has worked with more than 7,000 homeowners and is geared to higher-end clientele. The contractor screening process is rigorous, and HomeNet checks as many as 10 references or former clients. HomeNet requires $1 million in liability insurance, a signed customer service policy, competitive prices, and excellent service. The company surveys clients to make sure they're satisfied.

Adler hopes to franchise, but, he says, that's a year away.