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Green Building News

Web Giants Look to Home Services Market

Routine jobs like installing new faucets and television sets are part of a $400 billion industry that's just waiting to be developed

Ordering the faucet plus an installer is the idea behind a growing home services industry — one of the remaining "pots of gold" on the internet.
Image Credit: Thinkstock

Installing new faucets, fixing balky electrical switches, and a variety of other routine household chores are part of a giant home services market that could be worth more than $400 billion and an area of growing interest for big internet powers like Google and Amazon.

That’s the gist of an article published on April 12, 2015 in The New York Times.

Young companies such as Thumbtack, Pro.com, and TaskRabbit connect homeowners who need work done with vetted service providers for a cut of the fee. Angie’s List, an established company that provides online reviews of tradespeople and their work, is expanding its scope with a mobile app called SnapFix that lets homeowners take a picture of something that’s broken and get bids from people who would fix it, The Times said.

Thumbtack co-founder Marco Zappacosta told the newspaper that there’s nothing else as lucrative still left for mining on the internet — and that has powerhouses like Google and Amazon eager to jump in.

Amazon has launched a service called Amazon Home Services, which makes it as easy to get your gutters cleaned as it is to order a book. Google, which invested $100 million in Thumbtack, is now looking into getting into the same business itself, the newspaper said.

Sites are easy to use

TaskRabbit seems typical of home services available on the web. Jobs are divided into categories, like “moving help,” “cleaning,” and “handyman.” Pick the task you have in mind, and answer a few questions, and you’ll get a list of hourly rates from “taskers” who are willing to do the work.

Payments are handled online once the work is done. TaskRabbit takes a 20 percent service fee, and promises thorough background checks on anyone homeowners hire. It’s currently available in 19 big metro areas, including New York, Seattle, London, San Diego, and Denver.

The company’s pitch is simple: “You outsource errands you don’t want to do.”

The Times uses a woman named Deborah David as an example of how much easier it is to deal with a web-based service provider than an actual tradesperson. The details related in the article went like this: When she discovered a faucet at home was leaking, she used Google to get the names of plumbers in her area, then went to Yelp and New York magazine for recommendations. She made telephone calls, left messages, and eventually talked with a plumber who gave her a “convoluted price estimate.”

So she gave up on the repair and decided to buy new. While ordering the faucet from Amazon, she saw a small icon on the screen that eventually led her to a list of businesses that would install it, plus their prices.

She said that she was delighted with the result.

For service providers, the jury is still out

The company that replaced the faucet was Homlux, which was founded only a year ago and offers home services in all five New York City boroughs. Its founder, Matt Feldman, was approached by Amazon because he had favorable customer reviews. Homlux was eventually added to Amazon’s home services list of providers.

Feldman said that he had to cut his rates to compete with other Amazon providers, but he also has a lot of new business.

“I look at it as an opportunity — it’s Amazon,” he told The Times.”I would say it’s early days still. We are trying to make it work. It’s a little difficult adjusting with the new prices, but there’s definitely volume there. We’re interested, but a little nervous about the low prices.”

One Comment

  1. DAN VANDERMOLEN | | #1

    No profit for web giants or contractor
    Apparently Angies list has never made a profit. It is one of these companies that relies on the stock market to stay a float. They claim to be independent while taking advertising fees to bump up the position on the search results.
    These web giants don't follow the business model like the average small contracting business. For the web giants it is all about increasing stock prices and some how making a profit doesn't matter as long as the social networking bubble continues. We had the tech bubble and housing bubble burst is this the next one to go?

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