Chief of Content

Erika Taylor is the Chief of Content for Professional Remodeler. Contact her at etaylor@sgcmail.com or 972.803.4014.

It's Day One: Technology and the Search for a Pro

As an increasing number of small projects come from online referral services, the companies that work that way will reap the benefits of that small job that turns into a much more extensive remodel

May 04, 2016
Erika Taylor weighs in on referral sites and small jobs leading to bigger projects

Taxi, travel, hotel ... There’s a growing list of industries that have seen radical change by technology that helps consumers find professionals. So far, that hasn’t happened in remodeling. But it will. 

There are a number of established websites that offer somewhat similar services: Houzz, HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, Porch, Pro.com, Amazon, Thumbtack, and, to some extent, Google. All of these companies are in the home improvement space and all use technology to facilitate consumers’ selection of professionals. Today, it’s estimated that about 10 percent of all home improvement jobs in the U.S. come from these types of sites. That number is expected to triple in the next five years. 

There are two components to the growth of these sites that are important to remodelers. 

First, the future belongs to Millennials. Thirty-seven percent of this demographic will buy a home in the next year, and this group doesn’t want to look at endless websites and make phone calls. They want a seamless, mobile experience. 

Second, is something I hear a lot that I think is a mistake. “These sites mostly deal with commodity services,” remodelers say. “I don’t do small jobs and no one is going to book a high-end kitchen remodel online.”

While that may be true, it’s also true that 20 percent of handyman-type calls end up leading to larger jobs. As an increasing number of small projects come from online referral services, the companies that work that way will reap the benefits of that new door installation that turns into a job for a whole new room.  

The home improvement industry is very fragmented and, up until now, large tech companies have for the most part stayed away. But recently we’ve seen household names such as Google and Amazon enter this market. 

Today, Amazon has $100 billion in revenue with about 45 percent of that from small businesses using the platform to sell products. The company has changed retail forever. No one would have predicted it. The same profound changes are going to take place in the home improvement industry, and as Jeff Bezos famously says, “It’s day one.” 

Comments

I love the idea of making it easier for homeowners to find good contractors and tradesman. The problem so far is the technology has not solved any real problems. 

At best these lead gen sites are glorified phone books, at worst they are more like Tinder.

I've been using most of the sites and apps you mention above for well over a year and have yet to get a quality lead from them. What I do get are dreamers and price shoppers. I would be ecstatic if these sites really worked, but for me they just don't. 

To ask a contractor to take on handyman work in the hopes of scoring a big job later is just plain silly. It would be like asking a Heart Surgeon to start a family practice because he'll meet more patients that way. Its also very wrong to think a handyman is qualified or licensed to do a larger project. 

These sites also add cost to the contractor, which of course gets passed on to the consumer. Some sites cost up to 10 or 15% of the project cost... Do you want to pay 15% more for the convenience of using an app?  That might make sense for low cost items, but for big ticket items like a remodel it does not. 

Perhaps the real problem is tech people have little to no understanding of construction or contracting and what makes a particular contractor right for a customer. Contractors are not interchangeable like shoes or prescription glasses. A well run project is as much about compatible personalities as it is about quality work. 

So far it seems no one has identified any real solution, hopefully that will change.  

Paul McManus

McManus Ktichen and Bath Tallahassee

www.mcmanuskitchenandbath.com 

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