Ed: This post was updated with additional information from Redbeacon on 1/28/2013.
Three-year-old startup Redbeacon is making bold claims in the contractor-finder market. That market, which in the past has been dominated by Angie's List, connects consumers with home improvement contractors. (Visit 's own Find a Contractor portal.)
For many, the existence of such services is reason enough to celebrate the birth of the internet, as any progress towards easily and confidently hiring people to work on our homes can be easily appreciated.
Angie's List, which began in 1995, is a paid subscription service through which consumers find and rate contractors. It's the market leader and a trusted brand. To compete against it, upstarts will need to make the process even simpler, even more transparent, and even more reliable-a struggle that may ultimately prove to up the ante in this robust and important niche.
Redbeacon has a stable of contractors (plumbers, electricians, yard workers, house cleaners, etc.) vetted to the company's satisfaction (though not, perhaps, to yours). And Redbeacon stands behind those contractors' work with a $1,000 guarantee.
The service is paid for by contractors, not consumers, a fact that may raise credibility questions, but Redbeacon says any business that “falls short” three times is consequently dropped. (The company defines “falling short” as pro no shows, poor quality work, and terms of service violations.) All consumer issues are handled by Redbeacon's dedicated support team.
Beyond the three-strikes provision, Redbeacon scores contractors on four different factors:
- Work quality
- Level of detail in the contractor's Redbeacon profile
- Customer rating
Even as it holds contractors to a standard, Redbeacon simultaneously places responsibility on customers, who must follow the company's terms of service to the letter. Among those provisions is one stating that customers must use the service's scheduling feature and disclose project details and price. Failure to do so nullifies the Redbeacon guarantee.
Some important caveats:
• Redbeacon does not stand behind much of a contractor's profile information, including licenses, insurance, and bonding. Consumers have to run those down for themselves. Redbeacon does check for criminal and sex-offender status twice yearly, but only for that of principal owners.
• Redbeacon, available in 13 major metro areas nationally, is a newcomer. While it does allow contractors to upload photos of previous work and third-party reviews, actual consumer ratings and comments will be the key to making it a more useful, trusted service over time.
• The information you share with Redbeacon may be shared with contractors and Redbeacon partners. As with any internet service, be sure you know how the information you provide will be used, and by whom. Contractors need your information of course, but what are the contractors' privacy policies?
So let's welcome Redbeacon, but as in dealing with any find-a-contractor service, cautious optimism is advised.
For more on hiring contractors and managing construction, consider:
Being Your Own General Contractor
How To: Hire a General Contractor
Radio: Surviving a Remodel