Home Repair Listing Services Raise Consumer Bills

Home repair bills should be lower now that everything can be found online. After all, finding someone to do work around the house would should be easier in the age of online searches. Good luck with that. Search for any service and what you’re most likely to find are a new crop of intermediaries, go-betweens and middlemen who don’t actually know how to paint or plumb, but who surely get a fee for every “referral” they gin up.

Search engines are little help. Look up “deck repair” or “painter” or other home repair provider in your community and see what happens. The results are invariably filled not with local deck repair companies or painters, but with listing “services” that no one wants, an additional cost inserted between the consumer and the home repair professional.

Home Repair Helpers?

The idea that intermediary services provide any value is unclear. How are local trades people screened? Are they screened at all? What criteria are used? Are service providers constantly checked? Are the criteria used to rank repair services important to you? As far as I can tell intermediary services add no value whatsoever to the repair process.

I tried one listing service and asked an apperently well-regarded¬†carpenter¬†to come out and estimate a job. He did — and his estimate was 50 percent higher than the local guy who ultimately got the business.

There is a cost to the assorted directories and “helpful” sites that dominate the search results. They have to be paid somehow, usually by a membership subscription or a piece of the action. This is not an improvement over the Yellow Pages — you remember the fat book you got for free that listed businesses by the services they offered. With the Yellow Pages businesses paid for year-long ads, not for the charges associated with individual jobs. The Yellow Pages are still with us, online and off, and still provide a useful service.

“Local” Companies

The current system gets even worse when the directory company points you to a “local” service which is not actually local. It has an 800 number and has gathered up the names of local trades people. Now there are two intermediaries — the directory company and the mythical local service provider who likely has never seen your community.

What’s the solution? Find a local person you or your neighbors now uses — a plumber, gardner, electrician, roofer, painter or whatever — and ask the repair professional about local recommendations for contractors within five miles of your home. You’ll find local people — and you won’t have to pay higher costs because there will be no intermediary involved.

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