My painter franchisee, who I got from Angie's List, must have found some shmucks on the corner to paint my house. I specifically said I wanted stain. First my house was painted the wrong color, Then it was painted with LATEX paint- not stain. Estimates to 'undo' the damage is around $10,000 and its not a guarantee that it will work. The work is at best amateurish. Many underpainted or not painted spots, drips, etc. They did the entire outside (scraping?, priming? caulking?, painting), cleaned up and left within the time I left for work and came home. There were thee of them (my neighbor told me) This was two years ago and I am still upset. Can't be fixed.
I disagree with your criteria to hire a painter. A prompt returned call is nice but does not indicate the quality or fairness of the painter. As far as a written estimate, that should be more of a qualifier for the bid versus an evaluation criterion. I'm not sure one would have favorable results by hiring a painter on this basis. As far as the bidding process, change orders should ONLY be used if the customer requests additional scope (PMP 101). Angie's list should consider asking reviewers if/how much they were told to pay compared with the estimate. Unfortunately, there are a lot of contractors that are unethical and need to be accountable.
The Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule establishes requirements for firms and individuals performing renovations, and affects contractors, property managers, and others who disturb painted surfaces. It applies to work in houses, apartments, and child-occupied facilities (such as schools and day-care centers) built before 1978. It includes pre-renovation education requirements as well as training, firm certification, and work practice requirements.