Facebook, Google, and Amazon are all jumping into an already crowded field, leaving many to wonder what the future will bring.
By Elizabeth Mack
December 09, 2015, Professional Remodeler
For someone drowning in remodeling projects on a 1905 farmhouse for two long, grueling years, the allure for an immediate price quote to hire a professional on our next project was too good to pass up. After a short Facebook message to Pro.com for a bathroom tile bid, I received an immediate message asking for my ZIP code. A cheery response with smiley emoji introduced my home project manager, who offered what she referred to as a “pre-estimate” if I could give her the total square footage and if I would be installing ceramic or porcelain. Simple enough.
After a three-minute wait, I received a message with my pre-estimate labor cost. I knew my floor was uneven, and when I pulled up the linoleum, I could see the room below through cracks in the rotten boards. How could they possibly give me an accurate estimate? My project manager asked what times work best to get a pro scheduled.
Whoa! After I rattled off several questions, my home project manager explained that pre-estimates are collected from several similar jobs in my area, but the final price is determined by my pro. I wasn’t comfortable having a pro hired for me, or scheduling a job before I had met the pro or signed a bid, so I said my Facebook good byes, inserted smiley emoji, and logged out.
A Widening Field
Online home-service marketplaces are popping up faster than dandelions in spring, and with a market of around $300 billion annually, it’s no secret why. Angie’s List recognized the need and a way to fulfill it—charging the homeowner a membership fee for quality pro referrals—20 years ago. Today, competitors looking to topple Angie’s List are flooding into the home-services market with their own business models, generating revenue not by charging the consumer, but by charging the home-service pro in the form of membership fees, a fee per online referral, or a commission on the total cost of the job.
Porch.com and Pro.com came on the scene two years ago and have been upping the ante ever since. Porch, a Seattle-based startup, is now in partnership with Lowe’s, which offers terminals in stores where shoppers can find a local pro for anything from replacing a toilet to building a deck. Porch’s latest move links Better Business Bureau ratings in the results. For the tech and social-media savvy, Pro.com offers “Text-a-Pro” and Facebook Messenger, the main selling point of which is instant, flat-rate estimates and scheduling on home-improvement projects right from your cell phone or Facebook page.