One of the most frustrating things that homeowners go through is finding a contractor to remodel the kitchen, replace the roof, or add a new room. We’ll ask our friends for recommendations, check Yelp or Angie’s list, but it’s still hit or miss. Contractors generally specialize in particular areas of expertise and sizes of jobs that often aren’t a good match. Rarely do we find the best option.
So I was excited to learn about how a San Francisco based company, BuildZoom, was addressing this problem. I heard about it from my daughter, who has wanted to remodel her bathroom for almost two years, and was struggling to find a contractor. Many of those that she talked with found the job to be too small or not a good match for their expertise. She stumbled upon BuildZoom and has found it to be a great solution.
BuildZoom was founded by two entrepreneurs, Jiyan Wei and David Petersen, experts in data science, to help you find the best contractors for your particular project, based on their expertise, interest, location, and experience.
The company bases their selection on the huge amount of data it aggregates from a number of sources. For the past three years, from its inception in 2013, the company has been acquiring and analyzing public data on contractors and the projects they do, with the goal of creating a comprehensive database of for the entire country. The data comes mostly from contractor licensing information and building permits that are issued by state and local governments. They also use U.S. Census data to identify the demographics of the projects.
The information they collect includes: the types and costs of projects they do, the type of neighborhoods where they work, customer reviews, years in business, worker’s compensation history, criminal checks, and much more. They also solicit additional information from the contractors themselves to develop their recommendations.
From the more than two million active contractors in the U.S., their database of recommended contractors totals about 100,000.
So, how do you use the service? Simply go to buildzoom.com and describe in a few words your project and provide your zip code. The company will analyze your project and neighborhood and, using its algorithms, will identify 3 to 5 contractors that are the best match.
BuildZoom will reach out to the contractors with your request and make an introduction. They provide a phone contact for them to reach you, not your number, but one that they create. That provides them a way to track to insure contact is made and moving along, while ensuring your privacy.
You’ll be able talk with and meet with the contractors of your choice, all prescreened to ensure that your job is of interest to them and that they are competent to do the job. BuildZoom doesn’t stop there. In my daughter’s case, they reviewed the five quotes she received to be sure there was nothing out of line. They also are working to add additional capability to follow the project once it gets started.
The quotes and details of each contractor’s proposal is uploaded on the BuildZoom’s site, so you can easily make a comparison and an informed decision.
In my daughter’s case, within just a few days of contacting the company, she’s met with four contractors after speaking with five, and is now choosing one. She told me that each one was much better than the others she’s spoken with over the years, and the hardest part was picking one, since they are all well-qualified.
There’s no charge for this service. The company gets a small commission from the contractors, which varies from 1 to 3 percent. Of those that have submitted requests to BuildZoom for recommendations, a majority moved forward and completed their project, a reflection of the quality of both the contractors and the matching process.
The service is available in many metropolitan areas across the country, particularly on the East and West coasts. It’s most effective in those areas that have the most comprehensive licensing and permit requirements, so that good data is available.
I tried it out as far as submitting a request for a quote to install a new roof. I received a personalized response from the company in about five minutes to let me know they would be contacting the most suitable contractors in my area.
BuildZoom, seems to be addressing a real need: they’ve been responsible for over $1 billion in projects this past year, ranging from an electrical installation to major home renovations.