Home Advisor Pro Review: What You NEED to Know

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by Dan Perry on March 17, 2013

Home Advisor PRO is an easy way to start growing your business right away.  However, it’s a very controversial subject with contractor’s.  Some businesses are experiencing massive success with the service while others trash talk it to no end and describe it as a scam.

Should you use the service for your handyman business?  Good question.

In this post, I’m going to discuss the controversial issues surrounding Home Advisor as well as the pros and cons.  I’ll also share my experience and some tips for maximizing ROI with the service formerly known as ServiceMagic.

Why the Controversy?

Issue #1:

At the time of writing this article, they had 575 closed complaints with the Better Business Bureau.  Despite the fact that they have an A+ rating, that’s still a lot of complaints.

This doesn’t bother me considering the fact they have been in business for so long and when you deal with as many customers as they do, you are going to have complaints.  It’s just the way it is.

Issue #2:

Several contractor’s and handymen have found out the hard way that Home Advisor actively builds links in their business’s name pointing back to Home Advisor.  Not only does HA build links back to their own site in the small business’s name, but they also list HA’s phone number.

So, if you sign up for HA, you are giving them the right to use any information on your profile to actively direct people back to their service!  I couldn’t believe it myself until I read their terms of service and then did a quick google of my business name.

Sure enough, I found that my YP.com listing had all of my business information, but the wrong phone number.  Upon dialing that number, I was connected with Home Advisor!  Wow.  Not only that, but they spelled my business name wrong.

Have you ever received an exact match lead?  Then the same thing is likely happening to you.

This is a pretty big issue for me and it definitely hurts Home Advisor’s image in my eyes.  Although it is clearly explained in their terms of service, this is not something they explained when I signed up.  It’s a little deceptive.

However, this issue can me mitigated by simply doing some cleanup work online.  I’m actively seeking these listings out and changing them to reflect my business’s correct information.

One thing I recommend doing before signing up for HA is creating your own online listings.  By doing so you reduce the risk of this happening to you.

Issue #3

Home Advisor recently changed their name from Service Magic.  Why?

Many say that it’s to hide from their bad reputation.  I mean, why else would you throw away years of building a well known brand?

Taken from the Home Advisor Website:  “We changed our name to reflect our commitment to being the #1 resource for home improvement tips, advice and connections.”

I have to admit, it’s a much better name and it will help them resonate with home owners.  They are now branding themselves as an advisor which is more authoritative than just  a magical service provider.

Whether or not they have a good reason to change their name, it still looks bad to those who have had a negative experience working with HA.

The Pros and Cons of Home Advisor

Pros

  • It’s effective.  There’s one majore reason that HA is still in business and that is because it works.  With more and more people turning to the web to find service providers, having a strong online presence is critical.  Home Advisor has an incredibly strong web presence. 
  • Good for new businesses.  Before you can start getting word of mouth business, you need to actually have customers.  HA allows you to leverage their brand to gain trust and get your first clients.  It also allows you to reach customers that you otherwise wouldn’t have the marketing abilities or funds to reach.
  • Easy to manage.  Once you’ve set up your account, it’s very easy to manage.  You can even turn your leads on and off whenever you choose.  This allows you to only use the service when you are slow or trying to expand your business.

Cons

  • Giving up some rights to your brand.  In the terms of service, it clearly states that HA can use any information on your profile to direct links to their site.  This essentially allows them to use your name to promote their business.
  • Bad leads.  I’ve received several leads that were just people price shopping with no interest of actually hiring anybody.  Sometimes, leads won’t even answer the phone.  In some cases a refund will be granted, but I’ve still paid for several bad leads.
  • Can get expensive.  Leads for bigger jobs are expensive and often cost more than $50.  However, for a handyman this isn’t as much of an issue as we usually only sign up for small job leads.

Should You Use Home Advisor?

If you have been reading my monthly reports or have signed up for my newsletter, you probably know that I recommend using HA as a way to jump start your handyman business.

I still believe that it’s very effective and have personally had success using the service.  In my first year of business, I spent $1,152 advertising with HA and gained $4,425 in business directly from leads received.  That doesn’t include the amount of business I received from referrals and return business from these leads.  HA obviously played a significant role in the success of my first year.

However, I don’t agree with some of their marketing tactics, namely how they use a companies name to direct leads back to their website.  This bothers me, but it’s clearly stated in the terms so I can’t be pissed off.  It was my decision to use their services.

That being said, I still view HA as an effective tool to grow a new handyman business and will continue to inform handymen of it’s existence.  Whether or not it’s right for you, that’s something you’ll have to decide.

Quick Tips to Maximize ROI

If you do decide to use HA to grow your business, here are some insights that I’ve gained that will help you close more leads and make more money.

#1:  Call leads immediately

This is the single most important factor to making HA work for you, even more so than having good reviews.  I’ve found that 9 times out of 10, if I call within minutes of receiving the lead, I get the business.  Some customers have even told me that they always choose the first person that calls.

#2:  Only sign up for small job leads

Leads for big jobs are expensive at $50 and up.  With price shoppers all over the place, this can eat into your profits really fast.  Thats why I recommend only signing up for leads for jobs under $15.  You will still get your foot in the door and can bank on the return business.

#3:  Eliminate leads that don’t pay

After you’ve been using the service for a while, it’s a good idea to go back over your leads and see which categories pay off and which one’s provide mostly junk leads.  I did this in April of last year and was amazed at the results.

What are your thoughts on Home Advisor?  Please share in the comments below!

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Tim March 20, 2013 at 5:10 am

I got listed on Angie’s List early on, and that provided some leads, though I must say they are a mixed bag. There is nothing like real word-of-mouth. When I get that, new clients trust me right away, and I can usually trust them based on the referral.

I wouldn’t even THINK of signing up with Service Magic or any of those types of services. You are better off posting a flyer in the kinds of stores you go to, which will lead you to the kind of people you will get along with.

Early on, a friend asked me what percentage of jobs you go out to look at really turn into work. I’d never thought of it before. I paused before I said “All of them,” because I had never considered that they wouldn’t all turn into work. Then came Google Local Business, a free listing based on my area. Phone calls increased somewhat do that, and it was helpful, but I was spending more time on the phone and a then I, only occasionally, had visits that didn’t turn into work.

When I was able to change my phone message to say that I wasn’t taking new clients except those referred by existing clients, it freed up a lot of phone time, and increased the goodness of fit with my customers. There is only one way to get to that point: do impeccable work, don’t overcharge, make sure they know you will come back and fix it for free if something goes wrong. Having a level of expertise that they will call you first for everything in their home helps, too.

Signing up for Service Magic is like contracting for Home Depot. Why would anyone who can run a decent business and has a good reputation do installations for Home Depot? Why? Because they can’t find the work themselves. Why? Because they don’t do good work. That is why everyone who has ever used a Home Depot contractor says the same thing: “Never again!”

Yes, it took a few years until I felt I could depend on the money, and a few more before I was turning away work. It is worth it, though, to have a set of core clients who call me again and again, who depend on me, treat me like one of the family, and call me first.

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Big D March 20, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Hi Tim,

Thanks for your sharing your thoughts. I understand why Home Advisor (Service Magic) wouldn’t be useful to you as you have been in business for a while and have a steady stream of return business already.

However, for a new business that needs to get their name out there, Home Advisor does a great job at that. period. You may deal with some bad leads along the way, but that’s better than not having the phone ring at all. Additionally, you can still build the same long term relationship with these customers that you have built with yours, just faster.

I’ve been running my handyman business for a little over a year now and have the proof that Home Advisor is effective. If it’s not for you, I understand. But I don’t appreciate you saying that Handymen who use Home Advisor do lower quality work than those that don’t. Sure, there are many bad handymen using HA, but to say that advertising with HA makes you less of a handyman, that’s just not true.

Big D

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BroC April 19, 2014 at 8:15 am

Just a thought on the New businesses. When I started I went out and charged less then the going rates for the first year. I found the high end shop of materials in my area and offered to do installs, resurface, etc. at around 40% less, and instructed all this would be for my first year only. I found that the Doctors/ Lawyers/ Business CEO’s/ etc. who are well known in my community would go to the high end shops to get their materials, and once I proved my expertise in my work the word was out that first year in business. I went from 8k gross 1st year to 17k, the second, 34k the third, over 70k in the 4th, and over 100 after the 5th if I recall correctly. In other words, if one is as excellent in service, ethics, craftsmanship, etc. then no need to pay others to show your work of services, just give the local high end shop your portfolio and go to their clients with the discount of work you perform acknowledging that it is a limited time offer, once all their colleague’s see your work the phone will ring off hook as your prices climb as you get busier. Have to say, I knew my experience in my services are above average and have been blessed in life to have mastered my trade and service. I am still learning though, and anyone that state they know it all, stay away from them including those that pedal services like Service Magic/ Home Advisor/ Angie’s List/ etc. Good Luck to all that are beginning, it is quite the ride;0)

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Raleigh Handyman March 20, 2013 at 7:55 am

Good tips here. I would add one additional item. Anyone in the home service industry would gain long term if they put in place a system to stay in connection with past clients. As repeat business and referrals are the best source of new business any company can have.

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Big D March 20, 2013 at 2:03 pm

That’s a really great tip. Thanks!

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Big Red April 26, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Hi there.

I am looking to register with the various free online advertising companies but i do not want to use my own address. I read that using a PO BOX will not work or you can get penalized for it.

Have you any suggestions on this. Did you use your own address. Would you worry about bad customers showing up to your home.

Thanks

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Big D April 30, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Hi Big Red,

I recommend getting a mailbox at a local UPS store or other mailbox rental service. This is what I did as I don’t want customers to know where I live. It looks like a real address, too instead of just a PO Box.

It costs about $120 every six months and is well worth the cost. I don’t recommend getting a PO Box, however. A PO box looks less professional to customers and possibly google.

I actually wrote a post on this here: http://www.handymanstartup.com/5-reasons-to-get-a-handyman-business-address/

Big D

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BroC April 19, 2014 at 8:22 am

I have a shop with an address, so not worry about customers showing up since I no longer stay there, just work out of. When I first started business though, I stayed lived there. I would get phone calls from do it your self people looking for supplies cause the ran out on there projects. I would go ahead and help out on the supplies and give them free advise on how to get project completed. They would find out I gave great advise and tell their friends how hard it was for them to do their own Hardwood Floors and tell them about my free advice but consider hiring my services instead, so I got work from helping out those that could not afford my services;0) Just a thought for others!

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Glen Betts April 30, 2013 at 3:58 am

Big D,

Having recently moved to a different state to be close to my children and grandchildren, I am effectively starting all over. Your comments about HA relieved my mind as I was facing those same issues you mention above as I was beginning to wonder what I was doing wrong.
In a phone call with their customer service I strongly recommended they set their system up to only let a “client” click on one contractor a day for a specific task instead of hitting three or four and playing the “cheapest route” game.
I’ve had only two successful leads out of two dozen so far, so I’m not impressed at all, but I’m going to adjust my leads with your suggestions for now to help get my foot in the door locally.

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Big D April 30, 2013 at 7:22 pm

Ya, you need to play with it to see which leads are getting you good customers. One category that didn’t pay off for me was the handyman/random tasks or something like that. I got only price shoppers looking for the cheapest option.

Let me know how it works out for you.

Big D

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MR January 18, 2014 at 8:57 pm

hmm, 2 successes out of 24, thats close to 8% lead to sale. Its not bad IMO. You gotta realize there are other handymen in the industry too and are probably bidding on the same project. So if the consumer wants to go cheap, they’d go with the cheapest option available to them.

I think in general handymen are not very business savvy .. businesses run on numbers. Not everyone walking through the door will be a buyer. But overtime you will see a trend where a given % of those who walk through the door will be buyers. And it all depends on how much you get out there.

Like D said, if you are starting out, your first 2 years are crucial .. you pick up jobs, do em cheap if you have to, do em well, and make sure you get repeat business and referrals from them.

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Maria June 3, 2013 at 1:54 pm

I am not sure about the process of homeadvisor can you please explain me. What do you means by Lead???

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Big D June 4, 2013 at 7:17 pm

A lead is basically a job opportunity with a specific customer. When somebody goes to HomeAdvisor looking for home services, they fill out their information and the type of work they’re looking to have done.

Home Advisor then sends that information (the customers name, phone number, address, and job needs) to 3 service providers. These 3 service providers can then contact the customer and try to get the job.

When I say call the lead immediately, I’m referring to the customer who is looking for help with their home.

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Eric June 7, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Big D!!! This is an awesome article but I thought you were way to lenient on Home Advisor. Glenn mentioned above that consumers should only be able to post one job request per day. That is a good idea but the problem is on the backend, HA shares every lead they get with as many prospective sellers as they possibly can. This causes three things to happen. First, the consumer ends up getting bombarded with calls IF they gave a real phone number so they get annoyed. More importantly, the contractors paying $50 for the lead are competing with each other right out of the gate. Third, HA get rich by reselling leads, annoying consumers and having their clients compete for jobs that very rarely close. I also didn’t realize that they require access to profile info AND placed their phone numbers and links on their clients’ profile pages. Thanks for sharing this. I’m going to advise some of my clients of this that are still using these guys. I can’t believe these guys have built a billion $ business operating this way but I am thankful because how we solve this problem is so fair in comparison.

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Big D June 9, 2013 at 11:51 am

Eric,

Thanks for the comment. However, I have no evidence or have seen nothing to suggest that HA sends the leads out to as many people as possible. According to their claims, they send regular leads to 3 home service providers and no more.

As for the issue with the customers getting bombarded, that’s why it’s so important to call first. As long as you aren’t rude or aggressive and are simply trying to help the customer, I don’t think this will have any negative affect on your branding.

Big D

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Ravis August 13, 2013 at 10:41 am

Thanks for the great article. I have been using HA since 2007….glad I did when the crash hit in 2008 is AZ!!!! Yes I get some price Checkers and bad leads but over all the only business for 4 years came thru them. I win 2 out of 3 contracts all the time. I also ‘cleaned’ sites to my number as you did. Now I have a client base and still get leads. In the design business every drafter out there now does side work and HA is one way to continue to show them up.

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BroC April 19, 2014 at 8:35 am

Sounds like one needs two different names of business, one to register with HA for their leads and the other so HA can not override your business name/numbers with theirs. Have to say, that is enough for me to never do business with HA.

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Jeff Richard Morrison August 25, 2013 at 8:57 am

What’s Going down i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I have discovered It absolutely helpful and it has aided me out loads. I’m hoping to contribute & help other customers
like its helped me. Great job.

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carpet cleaner Potton November 8, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Great blog you hav here.. It’s difficult to find
excellent writing like yours nowadays. I truly appreciate individuals like you!
Take care!!

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kemccull256 November 12, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Its not necessarily what HomeAdvisors does, its what the lie to you that they don’t do. They will lie to you about what exact match is and what they do to attract exact match leads. they will basically steal your market identity then feed it back to you at 150% of a market match lead. In other words, they will insert (somehow, I dont know how) their contact info in seemingly every place you have contact info for you company. So, anyone that looks you up gets their contact info. So rather than contact you directly, they contact HomeAdvisor. Then HA bills you 150% of the market match price for this. If you have paused your leads, you dont get the info.

Its not what they do, its what they lie to you to get your business. this is fraudulent. And needs to be reported. Oh, by the way, now they have a “listing” that clients can review and call you directly. For $30 per month flat. No choice. Ask them to produce what this is? they cant. Another rip off.

this needs to be report to you state Attorney General.

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Gabe Kis November 17, 2013 at 11:25 am

Your 100 percent correct. Companies like this are destabilizing the economy with their propaganda. It’s only good for them and their day is
coming real soon . They are being investigated and a stoke of a pen in a reputable paper will go national once the AP gets ahold of it.

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Gabe Kis November 17, 2013 at 8:19 am

FTC and FBI complaints were filed in NYC against Home Advisor and ehardhat of Woburn Mass. Ehardhat steals business identities extracts commerce across state lines via the Internet. It lists business names with photos and bios without the business owners consent and redirects the calls to Home Advisor. It’s false advertisment,fraud, fraud by deception. Both companies simulate relationships with companies that they have absolutely no affiliation with to lure the consumer into their vast network. Liutenant Weston checked out ehardhat and said it looks like they left in the middle of the night. Prosecutor Casey Silvia located the owner Fabio Espindula and he claims he is still in business with nearly 3 million contractors
In his network. Leads are generated falsely and sold to Home Advidor. The consumer feels duped and won’t pick up the phone. Contractors credit cards are charged weekly. I smell a rat and media exposure coming real soon . The complaint was filed by renowned celebrity contractor Gabe Kis.

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Gabe Kis November 17, 2013 at 9:37 am

Big D ,
The previous comment is correct. Contractors are recruited by Home Advisor via Crsigslist. They are told that consumers contact HA. That’s a blatant lie. All my ratings with Service Majic were 5 stars. When I bailed is when they switched to Home Advisor and jacked up their fees by 80 percent. I’m not paying that kind of money for worthless leads . HA refuses to let their contractors leave. They keep wanting to update credit card info and also strong arm contractors into paying for leads they did not turn on.
They turned me into collections and then dropped it when I threatened to go public. I was clearly under the impression the Home owners
Contact HA. Look at the bottom of your invoice. It clearly says
helping you build your business 1 homeowner at a time. Home Advidor formerly Service Majic has about 84,000 contractors in its network after 13 years. They now fraudulently get there leads from ehardhat
Phony directory that boasts it has 2.800.000 contractors in their network
With all the calls going to HA. It’s called Fraud. Ask reporter Amy Woodward
at the Golden Transcript in Colorado why the CEO Chris Terrell of HA
paid her editor a visit to squash the story. Going to an attorney is a waste of money. Home Advisors business practices need to be made public.
That’s what they don’t want. They make money out of lies and
steal money from working people’s credit cards weekly. I have an excellent reputation and HA is a company that is an online thug. Get a piece of all the action. It needs to be regulated by Federal authorities. Time to call the BUNKO SQUAD.

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BroC April 19, 2014 at 8:50 am

Filing with your attorney general is free and a help to weed out Companies like HA!!! Sometimes the Attorney General will do a class action suit where one can be compensated for damages along with others that businesses like HA damaged!!

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CAS December 29, 2013 at 6:53 am

I just signed up and will give it a try for a couple weeks but if I decide to stop the service, will HA still have rights to all my company links as you say is in their contract? And to top that off…I never received anything written from them stating their terms???

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Dan Perry December 30, 2013 at 9:09 am

I’m not sure whether they will still have rights or not. You do have the ability to clean them up yourself and correct the info at anytime, though.

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jana March 3, 2014 at 11:42 am

kemccull256 is correct. I just got off the phone with a customer service rep at HA. Their sales rep flat out lied to me in his initial phone call, neglected to tell me about “auto accept” and I am being billed for leads that I declined. Ironically, our company happens to be remodeling the home of an FTC attorney :)

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Dan Perry March 4, 2014 at 8:58 pm

Sorry to hear that Jana and thanks for sharing it here on the blog. Let me know how that ends up working out for you!

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Dave King March 5, 2014 at 11:44 am

Got another call from an HA “telemarketer” last night. I’ve talked with these guys/gals off and on for the last three years, even before the name change.

Funny thing about this call compared to the one in December 2013: the “agent” politely apologized for calling me, noticing that his records revealed HA had not recently received any requests for window cleaners in my area. The person who called last time mentioned nothing about that and was actually a bit rude when I said I was not interested in working with HA.

Dave

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Robert March 6, 2014 at 5:32 am

Hello, home advisor has , and is servicing me well, there’s always something about anything you might not like, there’s some customers who may not like your work, but that doesn’t mean everybody feels that way, good day

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BroC April 19, 2014 at 8:59 am

What is your Position at HA Robert? I can see that HA needs to get people they have on their Payroll out and about to squash the real thoughts of their services!

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Amy March 21, 2014 at 4:32 pm

I have to say home advisor also known as service magic is a true scam. You would think since the service
Professional
Pays to keep this thing in business they would defend you when you have an unhappy customer, think again! I also know for a fact they do not do a fu
Check of your business as they state to help ease the mind of homeowners as I am off that. After spending thousands in advertising with home advisor, we received two bad customer complaints, mind you out of hundreds of leads , dropped us like a bad habit. Went to rejoin with our new company name and two years later I called about something and saw my cell phone number associated with the old account and they dropped the new company. Who are these people and company? They need to be stopped and service professionals and consumers beware! You can do
The homework yourself and switch to Angie’s list! They double dip on leads they give that are supposed to be exclusive! I understand not eveyone is going to be happy but if I could help just one person stay away from
This scam company I am happy! They have bad reviews all over the Internet and anyone who likes them
Does not fully understand the way they work but you will find out as I liked them once as well until you need them to defend you, their customer as a service professional!

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vince March 24, 2014 at 7:17 am

Truly a waste of time and money. Tried them as Service Magic as a handyman and only landed one job. Tried them again as Home Advisor and landed zero jobs. Their business model is built on non-verified leads and people looking for free information. Over half of the leads I received had bad contact info. Their CS reps are rude and you have to fight for every lead replacement. I have much better results prospecting leads via my local chamber of commerce, BNI, and other networking groups.

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Mike April 1, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Okay i just Got on phone with a representative at home adviser, and he gave me some info on how this Home Adviser Pro Lead program works. I am not sure this is the best fit in Plumbing field. They get less than hundred leads on monthly basis and there are probably 50 and above plumbers listed in the area. So each plumber gets about 2 leads. Now an average lead that a company might get could be even more than that, so what is the reason being listed in their directory? just to get 2 leads? a month? you wont get all the leads and probably you wont even earn the money you paid. I would really recommend having a directory and just letting people add their business there such as Yelp.

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BroC April 19, 2014 at 9:03 am

Excellent evaluation of HA, Angie List, Service Magic to Yelp!!! I have found my customers to put positive on Yelp about my services, so great way to get referrals!!

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Dan April 9, 2014 at 12:31 am

I’m the owner of an AC company in the Phoenix area, after realizing home advisor uses your company name to attract business, I dropped them, they are still using my company information without my permission, and also have a CPM. (Google ad campaign ) using my company information, basically I am competing with Home Advisor for my own name, we are a $1mill company with 35% of our customers coming directly from google, do the math on that! If you are using home advisor, what ever you currently generate from online or organic searches, home advisor gets that same dollar amount using your name! Think about that! We track every lead! I made my third and final call to home advisor, tomorrow I’m going over the initial terms of service, contacting the attorney generals of both states, filing complaints at every outlet possible, including the corporate commissions, I’m then starting with this state, going to research every contractor in my field using Home advisor then personally inform them how it works, what they stand to lose. I informed home advisor for the last time today, I am devoting 100% of my time and I have Two office employees I will have working on this matter when it doesn’t interfere with normal business. If you don’t mind, I would like to post updates on this forum

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Dan Perry April 10, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Thanks for sharing, Dan. By all means, please post updates here and let us know how it goes.

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BroC April 19, 2014 at 9:09 am

You might consider also to tell your prospective clients that your competitors use HA (if you know this for a fact), Service Magic, Angie list, etc. and that they need to go online and see how deceptive their practices are through reviews. I bet you will find them wanting your services. Hope you can get HA to cut loose your listings/ phone numbers/ association. What a nightmare. Glad I checked out this site on all, shows one needs to build their own reputable business and not let these internet companies get ahold of your business identity!

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Phillip Howell April 9, 2014 at 9:40 am

I started using ServiceMagic in 2002 and at first it was great, it generated a ton of leads and I was probably at a 90 percent win ratio but over time and as ServiceMagic developed it morphed into a way to rip off contractors andshandyman providers I personally have generated leads to test the quality of leads that I was receiving, I generate a lead as a customer I accepted the lead as the handyman then as the customer I remove the lead and ServiceMagic kept th leade fee. ServiceMagic has always done a poor job of educating their customer on that we the handyman pay a fee for their information they’ve always done a great job of finding ways to collects fees.I was even charged fees from work done by repeat customers that had posted a job to get the competing price quote. I didn’t except the lead so the customer contacted me directly. Servicecmagic did a phone follow up with them. When they found out they had use my company they charged me. Its inthe ttons. So if you are using these people be very mindful of all there charges and fees. They are sneaky.

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