I’m the home expert at HomeAdvisor, but I’m also a regular user of the service, which connects homeowners with home service pros, everything from plumbers and handymen to architects and designers.
Case in point: a few weeks back I was getting the rental unit in my Brooklyn home ready for a new tenant when I discovered a few bum dimmer switches. Sure, I could’ve dealt with the problem myself, but it would’ve sucked up most of my Saturday family time.
So I dialed up the HomeAdvisor app, tapped in a few details about my project, and submitted the request. Within seconds, I had a call from a local HomeAdvisor electrician who, it turned out, was just finishing up a job right around the corner. “Give me thirty minutes,” he said.
It didn’t even take him that long to get to my house, and only took maybe another twenty minutes to replace the switches. I don’t know the record for completed home repair projects, but that experience has to be close.
On-demand finds its way home
This is what the digitalization of home services looks like, and it’s making life so much easier for consumers, the way it already has for many other industries. Think about it: you don’t hail a taxi anymore, you call an Uber or Lift. You don’t drive to the bank to take out cash to pay your friend back for dinner, you hit them up on Venmo or PayPal.
Home services have been slower to adapt. In fact, the vast majority of transactions still happen by word-of-mouth. We all know that drill: your toilet clogs or your water heater goes out, you ask your neighbor, friend or brother-in-law if they know anyone good.
The approach works, but it’s very inefficient. Something like my dimmer project would’ve taken days, no doubt, between the calls and voice mails and waiting around to see if someone actually shows up. Today’s digital model isn’t just more efficient, it’s empowering.
No wonder consumers are embracing it in droves. Late last year, HomeAdvisor partnered with Nextdoor, knowing that 20 percent of posts to the popular social network have to do with recommendations around home services. All told, Nextdoor members have made more than 40 million such recommendations, with that number growing annually by about 70 percent.
The Nextdoor partnership is a way to simplify the search process for users on the site. It’s also a way to connect pros with new customers in their local communities, helping them grow their businesses.
The next big thing: upfront pricing
Digitalization is a huge win-win for both home service professionals and the homeowners they serve, and there’s still so much more room for growth. That takes us to the next big evolution in our digital business model: the move towards upfront pricing.
To go back to the ride share model, consumers get a lot of peace of mind knowing precisely how much a trip is going to cost, before they even step into the vehicle. Compare this with the old way, where you’d be anxiously watching the taxi meter tick higher and higher during long trips. Sure, you’re still paying the Uber or Lyft driver the same amount, but it’s human nature to feel better knowing beforehand precisely how much a transaction is going to cost.
That experience has finally come to home services. Through the HomeAdvisor app or website, consumers can now peruse, purchase, and book projects at a set price across more than 100 categories—install a light fixture, mount a TV, clear a clogged drain, and so on.
This removes a major pain point for the consumer, the worry over how much a project is going to cost. And for service pros in our network, it means we’re able to give them a guaranteed job, not just a chance at one. Again, it’s a total win-win, and it’s one more reason why the digitalization of home services is here to stay.
Making the most of the technology
The move to digital, on-demand home services is a boon to consumers and pros, but both camps need to follow best practices to get the most out of the experience. Here are the essentials.
3 Tips for Homeowners
- Check the reviews for quantity and quality. This is a case where quantity does matter. A pro with a lot of reviews is running an active business. That likely means they’re in demand and keeping up with industry changes. So look for frequently reviewed pros first, then dive into the details to get a sense of their work quality, business style, and more.
- Know the various booking options. Some projects are more time-sensitive than others. If it’s an emergency repair, like a clogged toilet or leaking dishwasher, you might want to take advantage of instant connect, which puts you straight through to available pros. For less urgent matters, consider instant booking, which lets you schedule an appointment on a pro’s calendar that fits with your schedule, all through the website or app.
- Meet multiple pros. I was fine going with the first pro who called on my dimmer switch fix, but for larger, more complicated projects, like a kitchen or bath remodel, it’s important to meet with at least three contractors. You’ll learn something new with every meeting and the multiple view points and cost estimates will help you settle on the best pro for the job.
3 Tips for Professionals
- Spruce up your profile page. It’s often the first impression a homeowner has of your business. Don’t rely on a single-line description of the company. Liven up the page with photos of recent projects, current company promotions, quotes from 5-star reviews, and other engaging content. You can also embed HomeAdvisor ratings and reviews on your own website using the HomeAdvisor Review Widget.
- Diversify your marketing plan. Your HomeAdvisor profile should be one part of a multifaceted strategy for reaching new customers. There’s also your company website and directory listing. In addition to that, social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are easy, cost-free ways to educate customers and enhance your brand’s exposure.
- Don’t forget the people skills. Yes, home services is becoming more digital, but interpersonal skills are still critical to business growth. Especially with large projects, it’s important to pitch in person, rather than over the phone. The face-to-face interaction will let you answer questions and clarify confusing aspects of the job. It’s also a chance to make sure the chemistry is right between you and your prospective new customer.
UPDATE: How to hire pros post COVID-19
Editor’s note: in May of 2020, we revisited this topic with Dan to review how hiring a pro could change in a post COVID-19. Here’s what we learned.
Dan DiClerico is the HomeAdvisor Smart Home Strategist and Home Expert, and an experienced speaker and thought leader in the real estate, remodeling and home product space. DiClerico joined HomeAdvisor in 2017 as the company’s smart home strategist, overseeing all content related to smart homes and the internet of things.