A few years ago, Andy Milam, of West Lafayette, Ind., was in the market for new windows. He decided to do some Internet research. His intention was simply to arm himself with product information. Instead, Milam ended up buying his 12 double-hung Alside windows from an online company called TheWindowSite.com, based in Centennial, Colo. The price was $5,691.45 — about half what a local company had quoted him.
“I never dreamed I'd find a Web site where I'd be able to plug in my approximate window sizes and get an immediate installed price quote without speaking to someone,” he says.
Online Options In fact, several sites now offer such a service. John and Sharon Chipman launched TheWindowSite.com as an extension of their bricks-and-mortar operation, Carefree Exteriors. Buyers phone in measurements, are quoted a price, come to an agreement by phone or e-mail, and one of the four manufacturers the company represents does the installation.
Another site, Custom Order Online, based in Aurora, Ill., strictly targets DIY homeowners. Owner Partch Shah says that homeowners with the skills to install windows are often at a loss when it comes to being able to custom order them for their home. He supplies a private label window line and ships to their door. Both sites offer information about window types and sizes as well as details about how to measure.
How many people have bought his windows? “A lot,” says John Chipman, a former Sears Home Improvement sales rep and trainer. The appeal, he says, is low-stress buying.
“I want them to buy what they want. To have the information to make an intelligent decision without thinking that if they don't make that decision tonight, they're going to lose out on anything and everything.”
Just Want a Price Angie Tima, in St. Paul, Minn., liked that idea. In November 2004 she bought nine windows from TheWindowSite.com for $3,500 after having window reps out to her house on two occasions that she describes as “worse than a trip to the dentist.”
Steve Russell, in Lansing, Mich., bought 10 windows from TheWindowSite because there were “no hassles” and he liked the lifetime product warranty and one-year warranty on labor.
The eight windows that Jodi Lund, in Richfield, Minn., bought six years ago were, in her recollection, “much more affordable” than another quote she received.
The ability to get a price right away is also a big attraction for customers using these sites.
“We don't ask for your name,” says Shah, who plans to add a deck package to Custom Order Online's offerings in 2007. “You can save the quote and talk about it at dinner. The majority of our sales happen after dinner.”