If 2015 was the year contractors had to sit up and take notice of new online home services, experts says 2016 may be the year they can no longer afford to ignore them.
Already, several new offerings have joined the likes of upstarts Google and Amazon and stalwarts such as Yelp and Houzz in looking to take a piece of the $150 billion replacement contracting market. The latest group includes Super, Nextdoor, eRenovate and possibly the largest player to join the fray yet — Facebook with its billion-plus users.
Like other services, all but one of the new offerings aims to connect contractors with consumers largely through online reviews and background checks. Here’s a look at each of the new offerings:
Facebook Services: This new offering from the world’s largest social network lets users find the top-rated and reviewed local businesses in their area. Listings include home improvement contractors. The service doesn’t appear to be fee based, but Facebook is an ad-supported site, and it’s likely Services will be no different.
eRenovate: Calling itself the “Uber for Contractors” eRenovate is a Canadian mobile app that connects homeowners with contractors. With the app, customers can take photos or videos of their projects and receive estimates from contractors. Contractors must pay an annual fee ranging between $25 a month to $125 a month.
Nextdoor Now: This service aims to connect neighborhood service providers like handymen with neighborhood customers. It’s currently testing in San Francisco, Austin, Cincinnati and Boston. The company plans to roll the feature out gradually in new cities throughout 2016. It is free to sign up as a provider.
Super: This subscription-based service stands out a bit from the crowd. Rather than connecting contractors with consumers, Super aims to replicate the rental experience of having a maintenance super for homeowners. The company only wants to work with a select group of contractors. So far, the service, with subscriptions ranging from $20 to $120 per month, is limited to Washington, D.C. But the company expects to add more cities as the year goes on.
If the growth of such services is starting to feel overwhelming to you, you’re not alone. “They are diluting the market,” said Robert Criner, president of Criner Remodeling. “When there’s 50 lead generation services, one doesn’t stand out.”
Criner said the best bet is to pick one or two services that best match your business and do a good job with those, “rather than a lukewarm job on many websites.”
And while it’s tempting to ignore such sites all together, it’s not advisable, said Kermit Baker, program director for Remodeling Studies with Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. “Contractors need to be aware of them,” he said. “At least on a pilot basis, they should participate in these emerging services to see how they can adapt their current service approach. Because the way you have traditionally reached consumers in the past is going to be outmoded.”
Baker said it’s especially tempting to ignore sites such as Nextdoor, which focuses more on handy man services. But he said that would be mistake. “Not a lot of contractors are excited about appliance repair or gutter cleaning, but it may be that more traditional projects are going to start flowing through these channels, and they may get locked out of that market if they don’t participate,” he said.
Still, even in this new high-tech world, tried and true low-tech business practices will pay off. “Do the best job you possible can, and provide a high-quality experience to consumers and good things will come in the new world we’re moving into,” said Jorey Ramer, founder and CEO of Super. “And the more you adopt new technology into the process, the more able you’re going to be to engage with new services coming to the market.”