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Could HouseFix become the CarFax of homes? Controversial idea

HouseFix launches to mixed reviews

As illustrated above, HouseFix.com aims to bring social recommendations to the home repair industry, giving homeowners a place to opine with known social connections about contractors in context rather than blindly reading strangers’ recommendations of repair professionals. The service also seeks to give contractors a way to have a stronger web presence, but more importantly, scores them based on user input and gives them a tracking mechanism for their projects.

HouseFix.com recently launched at the TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield and immediately the challenge of competitors became clear to the online audience. What about ServiceMagic? What about Angie’s List? The questions of “what about” flew in the face of the project, but HouseFix has continued to respond by noting the differences, mostly surrounding social recommendations adding desperately needed trust to the transaction and adding context. In recent history, web users have flocked to peers for recommendation and trust their opinion over any other, even that of a professional. There is an inherent obligation to make good recommendations to friends so as not to hear, “but you told me they were good, they blew up my house!”

The founders formed the company out of frustration with their own process of buying a home and seeking contractors, a business history some point to as a poor foundation for a startup, given that they have no experience in the field. It is our belief that companies born out of frustration are often fueled by passion which can, in some cases, give a company energy to survive that a typical small business does not have. The service is currently free, but a freemium model has been mentioned; we suspect contractors would foot the bill rather than users.

What no one has figured out about HouseFix

HouseFix is not unique in their recommendation idea, but what is unique is the tracking mechanism for home repairs. If HouseFix were to be acquired by a Zillow or a Realtor.com for their repair tracking mechanism, homes could theoretically have a CarFax repair history attached to their home, viewable before a purchase.

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This concept would most likely be adopted by a more controversial company like Zillow and Trulia which have home value estimates that can be influenced by a homeowner’s input of updates, repairs, renovations and the like. If a major company with the bulk of existing addresses were to add an element of home repair history in an attempt to provide the public with a CarFax-like option, not only would the concept be extremely disruptive (which always means a wave of press), but would add transparency to any transaction. It would be complicated, full of legal liabilities, and a hairy mess for the real estate industry, but one that is possible if HouseFix was acquired by Zillow (or Trulia, Realtor.com, Homes.com or others).

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

51 Comments

51 Comments

  1. Joe Loomer

    September 19, 2011 at 7:32 am

    "full of legal liabilities" indeed…. It did strike me, however, that someone who wasn't looking to start a social media referral site for real estate contracting could start a site that does exactly what you mentioned. It would be a reach to dig far enough in MLS records to get disclosures from previous sales, or work permits from county recording offices, but not impossible. Easier in some states than others, I assume.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  2. Sheila Rasak

    September 19, 2011 at 10:53 am

    While I like the idea of transparency, it's a scary idea in terms of determining a home value. So many more important factors are evident when doing an accurate CMA that a history of home repair could be irrelevant because of improvements rather than the buyer visualizing a laundry list as repair bills.

    If Realtor.com or Zillow is courting this company, this is a recipe for disaster as these websites are based on the owner's inflated sense of value and the numbers will continue to be skewed.

    • Lani Rosales

      September 19, 2011 at 11:39 am

      Sheila, it is pure speculation on my end that anyone would even think about looking to acquire the company, to be clear, they probably didn't even know who/what HouseFix was before today, it literally just launched.

      I actually think that adding more layers of transparency increases the need for a Realtor- the more info a person has, the more translation is needed for all of the data. Win-win.

  3. jim fay

    September 19, 2011 at 11:17 am

    Let the buyer beware or keep the buyer blind? A double-edged sword indeed. Is it more beneficial to tell a prospective buyer of all the IMPROVEMENTS made to a property or sell it "as is" with no indications made?
    You can say that a house has a new roof but should you say why? Perhaps the old roof was blown off in a gas explosion. To whom do we owe the truth?

  4. jim fay

    September 19, 2011 at 11:17 am

    Let the buyer beware or keep the buyer blind? A double-edged sword indeed. Is it more beneficial to tell a prospective buyer of all the IMPROVEMENTS made to a property or sell it "as is" with no indications made?
    You can say that a house has a new roof but should you say why? Perhaps the old roof was blown off in a gas explosion. To whom do we owe the truth?

  5. Jason fox

    September 19, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Another peer review site to keep track of. I suppose they could have a chance as they are basing the model on a niche of "home" contractors. Excuse me Mr and Mrs Client, if you liked my service could you please visit these 10 websites and write a posituve review for me….Ugh.

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