I Used HomeAdvisor to Find a Contractor and Got More Than I Bargained For

HomeAdvisor seems like the ideal resource for homeowners; it’s an easy-to-use directory of vetted and reviewed professionals who can take on nearly any project. But one surprising—and concerning—detail made me think twice about using it.

By Meghan Wentland | Updated Oct 6, 2022 1:41 PM

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HomeAdvisor Review

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Keeping a home well tended is a big job, and for busy homeowners—even those who are comfortable taking on repair projects and large jobs—the effort and energy necessary to plan, purchase supplies, execute, troubleshoot, and clean up from some projects is just too much to fit into the rhythm of daily life. And for larger projects or those that require specialized skills and knowledge, hiring a professional is simply the best choice from the get-go. But how does one find a contractor or other professional who is reliable, trustworthy, affordable, and has the skill to do the job right? Anyone can search the internet, but there are services that put this type of information all in one place. HomeAdvisor is one of those services. HomeAdvisor is essentially a database of home service professionals organized and searchable by project category and ZIP code that promises to ask a few questions and connect customers to vetted professionals. By tying the research, contractor search, quote and hiring processes, and payment together in a straightforward system at no charge to the customer, HomeAdvisor promises to help customers find the best professional for their needs. But is HomeAdvisor legit? And if so, is HomeAdvisor any good? I conducted two searches, one for cooling and one for yard drainage services, to find out.

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At a Glance

HomeAdvisor Review
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Our Verdict: HomeAdvisor provides a helpful series of questions to guide homeowners who are less certain of what they need through the process of searching for and hiring a professional. It provides a platform that is educational and organized to streamline the hiring and payment processes. While customers who know exactly what they need and simply want to browse vetted professionals can do so, this option isn’t as easy to find as it could be, and the intensity and immediacy of contact from professionals—even before requesting a quote—may be off-putting for some customers. The Fixed-Price Service option further streamline the process and may be attractive for customers who aren’t interested in seeking and comparing quotes and contractors, and just want the job completed as quickly as possible.

SPECS

  • Service area: Nationwide
  • Scheduling: Online
  • Certification: Varies by professional
  • Residential vs. commercial services: Varies by provider
  • Services offered: Varies by professional
  • Emergency availability: Varies by professional
  • Customer service: Email, phone, live chat
  • Guarantee or warranty: Varies by professional

PROS

  • Potential clients can filter by project and choose from local professionals
  • Website is streamlined and user-friendly

CONS

  • Name, phone number, and email address are required to browse local services
  • Customer information is shared with contractors prior to quote request
  • Website does not typically include info about third-party certification

HomeAdvisor Review: Claims

HomeAdvisor claims that it can match customers with screened local professionals and centralize the entire process of completing a project all on one website. The site also promises to provide information about various projects so customers can educate themselves about what they really want done and how much it’s going to cost. HomeAdvisor offers connections nationwide and in parts of Canada, and it will make these connections free of charge for customers. Customers can choose to join a loyalty program housed under the umbrella of ANGI Homeservices, the parent company of both Angi and HomeAdvisor, for a small annual fee. This earns them access to discounts and other services not otherwise available.

Service professionals can choose to join HomeAdvisor’s Pro Network. Accounts are free to create and allow professionals to create an informational profile that will be entered into the database. In order to become a HomeAdvisor Pro, service professionals pay a subscription fee and submit to a background check. In addition, a tiered fee schedule is applied to each “lead,” or connection to a customer whose request has matched the professional’s service offerings, that HomeAdvisor provides. The fees are based on the classification and exclusivity of the lead, and are guided by parameters that the professional selects in their account settings.

HomeAdvisor vs. Angi

HomeAdvisor was founded in 1998 with a goal of bringing service professionals and customers together while providing key information to help customers make decisions about products and services. In 2017, Angie’s List acquired HomeAdvisor. The merger resulted in both companies falling under a parent company called ANGI Homeservices, Inc., capitalizing on the name recognition of Angie’s List. In 2021, Angie’s List rebranded as Angi, and HomeAdvisor’s landing pages rebranded as HomeAdvisor powered by Angi. Angi the website is still considered a separate service.

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HomeAdvisor’s loyalty program ended in 2018 and is now Angi Key, part of the Angi network. Several of the links a customer might click for more information, such as links under “About HomeAdvisor” and many of the links for service professionals, land on pages that are branded as Angi, not HomeAdvisor powered by Angi. In addition, the HomeAdvisor mobile app is the Angi app—the branding does not indicate that it’s a HomeAdvisor-connected product. Because the networks are combined, this isn’t a problem in terms of service, but it may be jarring for customers who are searching through HomeAdvisor or choose to search for the HomeAdvisor app and suddenly find themselves in an Angi-branded area. This kind of overlap is to be expected in a company where two brands have come together. While it makes more sense to simplify the structure of a website so information is easier to find rather than to clutter the landscape with repetitive pages differing only in the branding, it’s important that customers know that Angi and HomeAdvisor are part of the same parent company.

HomeAdvisor Review

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What You Can Book on HomeAdvisor

Name a home-and-garden service or improvement, and there’s a good chance HomeAdvisor has a list of professionals ready to help. Connections and quotes are available for indoor projects large and small, exterior improvements and replacements, and outdoor work, as well as hardscaping and landscaping, pool installation, and maintenance such as lawn care and housecleaning.

HomeAdvisor is not limited to large-scale projects. While professionals are available for big projects such as additions, full remodels, and whole-lawn grading and replanting, there are plenty of options for jobs that a renter or homeowner might prefer not to handle themselves but may not think to hire someone to take care of, such as wall-mounting a television, removing a small shrub, or updating and connecting a computer network.

How It Works

Customers can create a free account with HomeAdvisor, but they don’t have to in order to search. The HomeAdvisor site offers three options to search for professionals, and the first two options work similarly. The first option lets customers enter their ZIP code, then they can choose to browse a directory of professionals organized by the type of service. For the second option, customers can type in the kind of service they’re seeking and be guided through a series of questions to let HomeAdvisor’s ProFinder Technology identify the best and most qualified professionals for their needs. Once the type of job has been identified through one of these options, customers must input their phone number and email address, and then HomeAdvisor provides a list of contractors with basic contact information and relevant qualifications, along with links to reviews of each contractor that have been posted by previous customers.

Customers can then select contractors from whom they’d like to receive quotes, and can expect a telephone call or email (or both) in short order. The customer’s interaction with the professional is handled via email or telephone. For customers who use HomeAdvisor’s Angi app, payment can be made through the app as well.

The third option is HomeAdvisor’s Fixed-Price Services. This is an ideal choice for customers who don’t want to contact different professionals and haggle over the cost: The customer simply chooses the service they need and fills out additional information about the job. HomeAdvisor will recommend the amount of time needed to complete the job, which the customer can adjust, and then the customer selects the date and time they’d like the professional to come do the work. The customer will then be given a price and can click to book the service right then. Fixed-Price Services are streamlined and quick to set up, but they don’t offer the customer the ability to choose the company that will provide the service.

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Contractor Background Checks, Insurance, Training, and Certification

HomeAdvisor protects its customers by completing a background check on the owner or principal of every business in its network. The background check is performed by a third-party vendor and includes a criminal records search in the state in which the professional does business. HomeAdvisor lists a range of offenses that will exclude businesses from its network, including violent crimes, property crimes, any felony convictions within the past 7 years, and contracting without a license in the past 7 years. HomeAdvisor’s explanation notes that in order to merit exclusion, the criminal conviction must rise to the level of a felony. It also points out that the background check is limited by state restrictions, noting that felony disclosure in particular is restricted in certain states. In addition, HomeAdvisor verifies local and state licensing and state business registrations. Once a business has accrued customer ratings on HomeAdvisor’s site, it must maintain an average rating of two out of five stars or higher to remain in the network.

HomeAdvisor notes that while all professionals are screened in this way, only the owner or principal is screened; individual workers will not be screened, though all workers are required to abide by HomeAdvisor’s Code of Conduct. The company recommends that customers do their own research to supplement the screening process before hiring a professional.

Membership and Cost

HomeAdvisor is free for customers, and while it’s strongly suggested, customers don’t need to create an account to use the service. For those who anticipate hiring several professionals over time, signing up for the free membership will allow customers to keep all of their quotes and information about various jobs in one place. HomeAdvisor’s rewards program is run through Angi and is called Angi Key. For $29.99 per year, Key members receive members-only perks and discounts, a standard 20 percent discount on all Fixed-Price Services, and access to a personalized Home Specialist via text message for help with questions, hiring, scheduling, and other tasks. Key members are also covered by the Happiness Guarantee: For services booked and paid for through HomeAdvisor, the job is covered up to the full purchase price plus limited damage compensation if there are problems and a claim is filed appropriately.

HomeAdvisor is partnered with Affirm, a company that allows customers to finance payment for their projects over time. HomeAdvisor links directly to Affirm’s website, which takes basic financial information and provides a real-time decision on financing options without formally requesting a credit report, so there’s no effect on the customer’s credit rating. Projects financed through Affirm and booked through HomeAdvisor also qualify for the Happiness Guarantee.

Customer Service

A robust suite of Frequently Asked Questions (and answers) is linked at the bottom of every page as customers work their way through the HomeAdvisor process. Customer service is accessible through a toll-free telephone number. The Customer Service landing page also provides corporate contact information and media contact information via telephone, email, and post. Also at the bottom of each page is a series of resource links, cost guides, and information about how HomeAdvisor’s service and technology work.

Putting HomeAdvisor to the Test

Our home has an unusual feature: Rather than traditional ductwork or radiator heating, the home is heated by radiant heat in the ceilings of both the first and second floor. This heating was installed when the home was built in 1949, and because the heat is provided through a network of small copper tubes filled with heated water from a boiler, it’s long past the time to replace it. Also, we’d really like to replace the aging window units that provide summer cooling. Our next big project, therefore, is HVAC, but we’ve had a problem finding a contractor through word of mouth who was willing to take on the oddities of the home’s absent ductwork, odd piping, and low ceilings. In addition, our home is located on a slope and surrounded by heavy clay soil, so drainage is a perpetual problem. I researched professionals who could take on these very different projects.

Searching for a Professional

HomeAdvisor’s home page steers customers immediately toward using the ProFinder Technology, with a large search bar front and center. Typing in “HVAC” as my initial search brought me to a request for my ZIP code, followed by increasingly specific multiple-choice questions about the project. On one hand, I realized that this was making the search more specific, but in several instances the options weren’t what I needed them to be: For example, I could choose either “Air Conditioning and Cooling” or “Furnace and Central Heating,” but I actually need both. I chose “Air Conditioning and Cooling” because that’s the greatest concern right now, and because I assume that a contractor who is proficient with air conditioning can also handle heat. For a customer who’s less certain, this could be disconcerting. The system asked if I was looking for installation or repair, but then again posed a question with only two answers: Do I want installation of a ductless mini-split, or do I want installation of central air conditioning? The problem is that, as I am not an HVAC technician, I don’t actually know—that’s why I need the professional. The next question inquired as to where I am in the process: Ready to hire? Planning and budgeting? When do I need the job done? Then I was offered a text box in which I could type specifics about the project. I did, explaining the challenges, and clicked Next, anticipating a list of potential professionals.

HomeAdvisor Review

Photo: homeadvisor.com

HomeAdvisor had other plans. I had not chosen to create an account, so I wasn’t logged in. Before showing me the matched professionals, I needed to enter my street address, phone number, and email address. This is understandable; HomeAdvisor is, after all, a business, and it makes money by charging its listed professionals a fee for membership and per lead. Professionals won’t pay for membership if their information is being given away without contact information. Because I need the work done (and was in the process reviewing the website), I put in my information—but in all honesty, if I’d just been casually exploring to see how many companies in the area might take on this kind of work, I would have closed the window at that point and moved on.

HomeAdvisor returned two professionals from this search. One was Angi A/C services, which is essentially the Fixed-Price Service option. The listing noted that there was financing available and that this contractor was backed by the Happiness Guarantee—I could price and book the service immediately. This looks like a good option, but because the job has some unusual requirements, I wanted to see which contractors would be awarded the job and discuss their recommendations before hiring someone. If the job was simpler, I’d have picked that option because of how streamlined the hiring process was. The other option was a national corporate account, which wasn’t really what I was looking for, so I went back and tweaked some of my answers to the questions and was rewarded with a few more services and professionals that were small local businesses. I stopped short of requesting quotes because I wanted to dig around a little and see if my neighbors had recommendations before I committed.

HomeAdvisor Review

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A Strange—and Concerning–Surprise

Here’s where things got a little strange: Because I wasn’t quite ready to reach out to the contractors listed, I hadn’t yet requested quotes. Still, I anticipated that I would probably receive a welcome email from HomeAdvisor and possibly some job-specific outreach—which I did. What I did not anticipate was a near-immediate series of telephone calls and emails from the recommended contractors. This means that before I even asked for quotes, my information was given to the professionals that HomeAdvisor recommended.

This was a concern for me on several levels. Obviously, once you’ve entered information into a website, the company has it—there’s no real illusion of privacy. On the other hand, I did not request—or allow—that my information be passed along to the professionals, and yet I had four phone calls and several emails in less than 3 hours, directly from the contractors. From the professionals’ perspective, this is also a potential concern: In addition to their annual fee, professionals pay HomeAdvisor per lead (the rate per lead varies based on the type of service and several other factors, including the potential size of the job). Had these professionals been charged for a lead when I had not actually requested a quote? I returned the calls of two of the contractors, both of whom were friendly, happy to discuss the job, and willing to send someone to evaluate the existing system, the space constraints, and make recommendations within a few days. Neither was able to tell me, when I asked directly, if they had been charged for the lead. While HomeAdvisor offers some credits to businesses for leads that don’t pan out, in this situation there was no reason to expect I’d call back, as I hadn’t yet requested a quote. The likelihood that the lead would result in an irate customer angry that they were being contacted was far greater than the chances the professional would reach a receptive customer looking for information. This is a potential problem, and I’ll think carefully about whether or not I put my information into the system going forward.

Know Who You Hire

HomeAdvisor’s home page also offers the opportunity to browse by category and click through popular projects, as well as a series of options for projects popular during the current time of year. For my landscaping project, I wanted to try browsing through professionals without the ProFinder questions, so I clicked on the landscaping category. This brought me back to ProFinder. I eventually found the option to “Browse Pro Directory” at the bottom of the page under a menu titled Homeowner Services. This took me to a page that offered me the option to choose a type of service and enter my ZIP code to browse, or click on the ProFinder. Other options were to click on a city to find reviews and ratings, or to choose a category to do the same. I selected “Landscaping” as my category, then selected my state. HomeAdvisor populated a list of select landscapers in my state, along with an option to choose a specific city or enter my ZIP code, which I did. This presented a list of Featured Service Pros, Service Pros, and Out of Network Service Pros. The card for each professional included tags such as “Best of Winner,” “Warranties,” “Free Estimates,” and other keys to the services provided. The ratings for each professional are displayed as stars, and links to more ratings, along with a button to request a quote, view pricing and schedules, and call the businesses directly, are aligned underneath a snippet of a rating.

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In small type underneath the rating stars, HomeAdvisor includes a link to browse the business’s full profile—and therein lies a wealth of information. This is where customers can see that a business is screened and approved by HomeAdvisor, the percentage of HomeAdvisor customers who have hired the business and would recommend that others do so as well, and how long the company has been in business, along with hours of operation, areas of expertise, licenses, and other information such as languages spoken and cost and payment details. HomeAdvisor offers a series of badges to high-performing businesses, and those are on display in the full profile as well. I scrolled through quite a few of these profiles, requested quotes from several businesses through HomeAdvisor, and spoke with several wonderful professionals before making a decision.

HomeAdvisor Review

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A notable item is that one of the tags available in the full profile is “Small Jobs Welcomed.” The uptick in home projects over the last few years has led to many home service professionals being overbooked, and in some cases, customers who have smaller jobs that need to be done may have been passed over in favor of larger, more profitable jobs. HomeAdvisor’s choice to offer businesses the option of using this tag makes it easy for customers to see which professionals are more likely to take on their smaller projects in a more timely fashion.

HomeAdvisor’s Redeeming Quality

A truly outstanding feature on the HomeAdvisor website that is somewhat undersold is the cost comparison section. The home page works hard to direct customers to search for professionals to hire, but while some customers may have a good idea how to evaluate their eventual quotes and compare pros, others may not. For those who are unfamiliar with the terminology of the field in which they’re hiring a professional, how will they know what a good price is or what questions to ask? Accessible by clicking the three vertical dots in the upper right-hand corner of the banner, the True Cost Guide has a raft of useful information that customers will want to consider consulting before they request quotes. Why? Because the guides outline common cost ranges, explain factors that affect the costs, and define terminology and questions the customer will want to ask professionals they’re considering hiring before agreeing to a price, especially on larger jobs that may have a lot of different components. The guides are clear, nicely laid out, and written for an audience that has a rough idea of what they’re looking for but needs help with the details. Whether customers choose to use HomeAdvisor to book their home services jobs or not, the cost guides are a fantastic resource that are available at no cost.

HomeAdvisor Review

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Using the App

HomeAdvisor doesn’t have a branded app, but the website directs customers to the Angi app, which features the same network and many of the same services. It’s handy and is perhaps a bit easier to navigate than the HomeAdvisor site, but the cost guides are long-form pieces that are much easier to read on a laptop or monitor screen. The app is ideal for keeping track of projects or searching on the go, but the guides are worth sitting down to really read in a larger format.

Overall, HomeAdvisor is providing a good service for customers who need work done inside or outside of their home, and it’s connecting local businesses with customers and supporting small businesses alongside national and corporate clients. The ProFinder Technology will appeal to some customers, while the ability to browse in a more free-form manner will be preferred by others, so there are options—although it would be easier to access the browsing option if it was presented up front as clearly as the aided search. The fact that customer information is being shared before a quote is requested is a concern, and recognizing how expensive it could get for professionals to pay for and spend time following up on leads that aren’t quite leads yet made me uneasy. However, the cost guides are a trove of useful information, so this is a site worth checking out and exploring.

HomeAdvisor Reviews by Customers

HomeAdvisor ratings by customers are mixed, which is understandable, as any review posted by a customer will include their review of both HomeAdvisor and the contractors they hired, which are not one and the same. That said, many customers complain about the overabundance of emails after requesting a quote, sometimes even after the job has been completed, or about being contacted by HomeAdvisor affiliates. Other complaints indicated that customer service was fine initially, but that when problems escalated, the higher levels of customer service failed to follow up appropriately. Beyond that, most of the complaints on sites such as ConsumerAffairs, Trustpilot, and Sitejabber focus on dealings with individual contractors and HomeAdvisor pro reviews, not with the service in general. For the most part, customers appear to be pleased with the simplicity of the service and the ease with which they can search for, contact, and hire professionals.

The Better Business Bureau indicates that professionals who work with HomeAdvisor feel that there are frequent problems, misunderstandings, and concerns about fees and charges. HomeAdvisor contractor reviews on the previously mentioned sites support this concern: Many professionals who have paid for memberships and leads do not feel they got what they were promised. It’s notable that HomeAdvisor clearly devotes time and energy to responding to concerns from its customers on both sides of its platform, as each complaint lists a prompt response from HomeAdvisor and many problems have been resolved to its customers’ satisfaction. However, the Better Business Bureau currently has an open investigation about a Pattern of Complaint regarding billing and customer service issues for which it is awaiting responses.

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How HomeAdvisor Stacks Up to the Competition

The merger of Angi and HomeAdvisor eliminated each company’s biggest competition, though the way each service is set up may attract different customers (we reviewed Angi as a service directory, for comparison to HomeAdvisor). Porch, Thumbtack, and Houzz, and to a certain extent Yelp, are now HomeAdvisor and Angi’s biggest national competition. Porch and Thumbtack’s smaller networks can’t quite compete with the combination of Angi and HomeAdvisor, although both have better ratings with the Better Business Bureau. Porch’s partnership with the Better Business Bureau connects users to accurate information about the contractors on its site, so for customers who aren’t thrilled with HomeAdvisor’s admonition to make sure they do their own research, Porch’s focus on security may be a comfort. Houzz is more focused on product sales and inspiration than contractors, and Yelp, which does offer an opportunity to search for providers, seems to have a wealth of rather angry and mean-spirited reviews—and neither validates nor denies them. Because each of the companies has a slightly different audience and purpose, it’s difficult to rank them side by side; for customers who are looking for helpful information about their project in the guides and resources and are willing to wade through more phone calls and emails after typing in their contact information, the sheer size of the HomeAdvisor powered by Angi network is likely to present more options than the competition.

Should You Use HomeAdvisor?

For those interested in hiring a professional to work on a home project, HomeAdvisor is a useful resource. The question isn’t so much whether you should use the service, but how you should use it. For research prior to hiring a contractor for a job, HomeAdvisor’s information bank is nearly unparalleled. The ProFinder Technology is questionable: It can guide you to think about distinctions between different categories of services, push you to consider aspects of the project you had not yet thought about, and result in a super-focused list of professionals who will absolutely reach out to you—again and again. For customers who are more familiar with what they need, the browsing function will result in a larger list of potential contractors without requiring information until you actually request a quote. If I were a service professional looking to join HomeAdvisor’s Pro Network, my experience as a “lead” along with reviews at the Better Business Bureau’s site suggest that reading the terms and conditions of the membership agreement very, very carefully before signing is a good idea. As is the case with any other service of this type, HomeAdvisor is providing a great opportunity for customers and service providers (especially smaller local companies who don’t have massive advertising budgets) to connect, and it provides useful information to help customers make decisions about the hiring process. And as long as everyone involved understands the commitments they’re making, the relationships that result should be fruitful.

We independently reviewed this service by weighing the company’s claims against first-hand experience with its professionals. However, due to factors such as franchising, human error, and more, please note that individual experiences with this company may vary.

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