DIY : Homeadvisor vs. Angie’s List vs. Houzz vs. Porch vs. Thumbtack

You are either a homeowner looking for the best place to find a contractor, or a contractor looking for the best place to be found by homeowners.

This article will shed light on the world of online home improvement marketplaces and give you a complete understanding of how each one works, the pros and cons for homeowners as well as contractors, and which one is right for you.

The problem these days is that there are so many options. Not only that, but they are constantly changing. When it came time for me to figure it out for myself, I discovered that most of the other articles out there are outdated and contain misinformation, simply because these companies are changing rapidly.

This article will be updated regularly as things change. (Last updated May 30, 2018)

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Formerly known as ServiceMaster, Homeadvisor is the largest player in the world of online home improvement marketplaces. In October 2017, they acquired their biggest competitor, Angie’s List.

Homeadvisor offers various ways for homeowners to quickly connect with contractors. Some of their services bypass the need for phone calls to set up the first meeting.

While the service is free for homeowners, contractors must pay on a per-lead basis.

Homeadvisor is popular amongst homeowners, but very unpopular amongst contractors.

Pros for homeowners:

  • Contractors are pre-screened for criminal and financial background checks.
  • It’s free to sign up.
  • It takes some of the due diligence out of having to reach out to multiple contractors and check their referrals.
  • Appointments can be scheduled online without the need to directly contact the contractor.

Cons for homeowners:

  • Upon signing up, personal information is sold to multiple contractors, often within minutes of completing the form.
  • Some homeowners complain about getting too many calls and emails as soon as they submit their information.
  • Sometimes matches are made with contractors that aren’t local.
  • The pre-screening process can result in a false sense of security for homeowners and lead them to believe they don’t need to run their own screening process. — Fox News Denver, CO.
  • Contractor reviews on Homeadvisor are cherry-picked by Homeadvisor per their review guidelines and are not always objective.

Pros for contractors:

  • There have been reports of good leads being purchased from Homeadvisor.
  • Building a Homeadvisor profile can help unestablished businesses get found on Google searches even if they don’t have their own website.

Cons for contractors:

  • You have to pay for leads even when they don’t turn into paying jobs. ($50 + per lead)
  • Leads are sold to multiple contractors so the competition is heavy. The job often goes to the first caller (see Homeowner Con # 2).
  • Since the service is free for homeowners, a lot of leads are people who aren’t serious (tire-kickers).
  • Homeadvisor is notorious for having terrible customer service.
  • Canceling your subscription can be difficult and refunds hard to get. There are many reports of contractors being charged after canceling. — Review from 5–10–2018
  • Homeadvisor shares leads with Angie’s List, so if you subscribe to both services, you may buy the same lead twice.

Conclusion on Homeadvisor

The sentiment on Homeadvisor is split between homeowners and contractors. Homeowners tend to like it because it takes some of the work out of the equation when it comes to hiring a contractor. The main complaint is that sometimes homeowners are contacted by too many contractors at inconvenient times, even when the “no-calls” option is selected.

Contractors tend to dislike Homeadvisor because of the bad customer service they experience, paying for useless leads, and the fact that so many contractors are competing on the same leads at the same time. The consensus is that it’s a waste of money, but as business owners, they have to go where the customers are.

From the outside looking in, it’s apparent that the reason companies like Homeadvisor exist is for the convenience they add on the homeowner’s side. It’s unfortunate that there isn’t as much value offered to the professional side. Overall it seems to have a negative impact on the industry as it promotes contractors handing over their marketing to a company that doesn’t have their best interests in mind. This giant marketing machine then competes with businesses that are trying to market for themselves online, making it more costly and challenging.

Homeadvisor Reviews by Homeowners: Average Rating: 4/5

Homeadvisor Reviews by Contractors: Average Rating: 1.8/5

Homeadvisor Reviews by Employees: Average Rating: 3.7/5

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Angie’s List

Angie’s List is the oldest of the home improvement marketplaces. In October of 2017, it was acquired by Homeadvisor, it’s then largest competitor. The way the platform operates is now almost identical to Homeadvisor.

Angie’s list started off as a paid-only service which helped improve the integrity of the system as a whole. In late 2016 Angie’s List changed their model to be free to join, but pay to play. What this means is that contractors can have a profile for free and pay to rise to the top of the list on page one.

Pros for homeowners:

  • Background checks are performed on contractors.
  • It’s free to sign up.
  • Some contractors have been using this service for over a decade which provides a long history of reviews.

Cons for homeowners:

  • Though free to sign up, you must provide your personal information in order to read reviews and contact contractors.
  • You may be bombarded with phone calls from service providers as soon as you tell Angie’s List what you’re looking for.
  • The calls have been known to last for days. — Review on Consumer Affairs Website
  • Though “verified”, there are reports on occasional fraudulent reviews.
  • You must be at Gold Level membership tier to receive customer service regarding contractors you hire through Angie’s List. — Angie’s List Website

Pros for contractors:

  • Once in a while, you might get a good lead!

Cons for contractors:

  • You must pay to have your profile show on the first page.
  • Many contractors report paying for years without receiving a single lead.
  • There is very high competition as leads are sent to multiple contractors immediately as they come in.
  • Profiles are owned by Angie’s List.
  • Customer service is notoriously terrible.
  • Angie’s List shares a lead-pool with Homeadvisor, so if you’re paying for both services you might buy the same lead twice.

Conclusion on Angie’s List

My research shows that Angie’s List is on a similar level to Homeadvisor, though less popular amongst homeowners due to the pay to play model and poor customer service.

Contractors have similar complaints to Homeadvisor, in that they typically pay a lot of money for nothing. When they go to cancel, they find the process to be very difficult. Many reports having charges continue even after they decided to cancel.

Of the online home improvement marketplaces, Angie’s List has the worst reviews.

Angie’s List Reviews by Homeowners: Average Rating: 2.2/5

Angie’s List Reviews by Contractors: Average Rating: 1.4/5

Angie’s List Reviews by Employees: Average Rating: 2.8/5



Porch is a little different than the other home improvement marketplaces. Here, homeowners sign up and post their projects, budgets, and timelines, then contractors can pick and choose which ones they want to pursue.

Contractors pay a subscription based on their service and service-area.

Porch offers additional features such as an app that offers ideas and photos of home improvement projects similar to Pinterest. This can be helpful in communicating to the contractor what the homeowner is looking for.

Porch has numerous partnerships with companies such as Lowes and the BBB that help it bolster its offering to consumers and improve the quality of the information its site.

Pros for homeowners:

  • It’s free to use.
  • It’s good for finding professionals to complete smaller jobs that larger contractors might not be interested in.
  • Background checks are conducted on service providers in certain areas.
  • Contractors can be found on Porch through a local Lowes store.

Cons for homeowners:

  • Even with background checks, there is no guarantee that the contractor you’re matched with will perform adequately.
  • Some report being overcharged for services.
  • Not all areas provide background checks.

Pros for contractors:

  • Useful for small contractors who want small, handy-man type jobs that only take a couple hours to complete.
  • Can sometimes ask for a refund for bad leads.
  • Can pay a premium to be featured in local Lowes stores.

Cons for contractors:

  • Poor customer service.
  • Can be difficult to cancel the subscription and stop payments.
  • Porch offers the “Porch Guarantee” which is their version of a background check. One of the requirements is a strong online presence which can be a challenge for companies that are just getting started or have always found business offline.

Conclusion on Porch

After conducting my research, I’ve found Porch to be similar to the other home improvement marketplaces. The reviews I read lead me to believe their customer service might be a step above the others.

Porch is a younger company but has secured partnerships with large, established companies. Its partnership with the Better Business Bureau allows their website to display more accurate and verified information on contractors. Their partnership with Lowes expands their advertising capability beyond the internet into Lowes stores.

For homeowners, it might be worth looking into. For contractors, proceed with caution. Check out the reviews and decide for yourself if you think it’s worth a shot. If you do give it a try, pay close attention to how much your paying so you don’t get ripped off.

Porch Reviews by Homeowners: Average Rating: 4.1/5

Porch Reviews by Contractors: Average Rating: 1.7/5

Porch Reviews by Employees: Average Rating: 3.4/5



The way Thumbtack operates is similar to Porch in that homeowners post their projects and contractors are able to pick which ones they want to pursue. When the contractor wants to make contact with the homeowner, they must purchase and use Thumbtack credits. The credits are used when the homeowner responds to the contractor’s communications.

This way of operating has been known to be wasteful when a homeowner contacts a contractor to tell them they are going with someone else.

Pros for homeowners:

  • It’s free to use
  • You can sometimes find good contractors to complete your project.
  • There are a variety of services you can search for besides home improvement.

Cons for homeowners:

  • No background checks. There have been reports of unlicensed contractors and felons being part of the program. Thumbtack will remove the accounts of convicted felons if it’s brought to their attention.
  • There have been reports of homeowners being connected with professionals that don’t offer the service they’re looking for.
  • Homeowners can inadvertently cost a contractor money just for sending them a message.

Pros for contractors:

  • There have been reports of successful connections with homeowners that lead to profitable jobs.
  • Thumbtack’s Instant Match feature will automatically send quotes to homeowners for pre-selected job types.

Cons for contractors:

  • It’s been reported that fees and charges can occur without due reason or explanation.
  • Bad customer service.
  • There have been reports of paying for messages from fake customers.
  • Prices continually rise making the system less profitable.
  • You pay for communications, not leads. If a customer replies to tell you they are going with someone else, you still pay for the message.

Conclusion on Thumbtack

In researching Thumbtack, I found it to be an interesting business model. Charging professionals for communications rather than leads allows Thumbtack to profit even when no value is being transferred. I wasn’t able to find many positive reviews on Thumbtack from anyone. The positive reviews I could find were written by homeowners for the contractors they hired through the platform, not the platform itself. This is unfortunate for the contractors because Thumbtack is getting credit for their hard work. Those reviews would be incredibly valuable on their Google Maps Listing, for example.

There were a lot of professionals saying the platform used to be great, but has recently changed their model and is no longer profitable for them. There are some very interesting stories scattered amongst the reviews. It’s worth taking a look through the links below.

Thumbtack Reviews by Homeowners: Average Rating: 3.9/5

Thumbtack Reviews by Contractors: Average Rating: 2/5

Thumbtack Reviews by Employees: Average Rating: 4.4/5

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Houzz is a Facebook-like environment where contractors can create profiles for their businesses and showcase their work and testimonials.

Homeowners can create profiles and browse large catalogs of pictures and products aimed at helping them plan and carry out their remodeling projects.

The platform is free, but contractors can also pay to advertise, which will push them to the top of the list for people in their local area.

Since Houzz makes its money from advertising and selling products, it’s different than the other services which sell leads and communications.

As far as online home improvement marketplaces go, Houzz is in a league of its own. I include it in this list because it’s one of the main ways homeowners are connecting with contractors in 2018.

Pros for homeowners:

  • There is a large database of information and pictures that can help with remodeling ideas.
  • Can buy home products directly from the site.
  • Can browse contractor’s profiles for free.
  • Contractor profiles offer a lot of valuable information about the business. Most include tons of pictures.
  • Idea boards can be created and shared. This provides a creative experience where homeowners and contractors can communicate ideas for the project through pictures and notes.

Cons for homeowners:

  • Can be hard to return or exchange items purchased through Houzz.
  • It can be hard to leave an honest review of a contractor if it doesn’t meet Houzz’s review guidelines. They like positive reviews. This skews the integrity of the review system.
  • The idea board system can be very useful.

Pros for contractors:

  • A free profile can be created and built up with pictures and reviews to help advertise your business on Houzz.
  • Contractors can pay to advertise and boost their profiles to the top of the list.

Cons for contractors:

  • Advertising contracts can require large cancellation fees to end the service and payments.
  • There have been numerous reports of terrible customer service.
  • Even if a contractor has a great, built-up profile, other contractors can pay to get ahead of them.
  • Paying for advertising doesn’t guarantee jobs. Contractors must still put a lot of time and effort into building and keep their profiles consistently updated.
  • There have been reports of getting negative reviews from non-existent customers.
  • Houzz owns everything on the contractor’s profile, including the pictures posted there.

Conclusion on Houzz

I was surprised to find so much negative sentiment on Houzz. I have used this service successfully as a contractor, though it was very expensive. I ended up canceling it because it wasn’t as profitable as marketing for myself.

I have met some contractors who have built their entire business on Houzz and swear by it. Since the platform doesn’t charge per lead, it’s possible to get a steady flow of leads at a very affordable rate. Performance is determined by the quality of the profile and the competition on the Houzz platform.

The majority of negative reviews for Houzz are left by homeowners who are angry they cannot return or exchange a product they purchased through Houzz.

I grouped these reviews together because there was no clear distinction of who was leaving reviews on any site.

Houzz Reviews: Average Rating: 3.1/5

Houzz Reviews by employees: Average Rating: 3.5/5


Overall Conclusion for Homeowners

In the world of online home improvement marketplaces, homeowners are the customers, so they are treated the best. All of these services provide easy ways for homeowners to find contractors to complete their projects. The unfortunate side of things is that contractors get the short end of the stick. As they are forced to go where their customers go, they are taken advantage of by these massive companies for millions of dollars per year.

My recommendation for homeowners is to find their own contractor. Start with Google. In the last few years contractors have become a lot better at marketing for themselves. With tools like Google Maps, homeowners can easily see star ratings and read honest reviews from customers. They can browse contractor websites to find the one they like the best. With tools like Google Maps Messenger, it’s never been easier to reach out to a contractor and request a meeting and referrals.

I think it’s best to reward those contractors who have invested in their own marketing by building websites and advertising on Google. This shows that they are established and committed to their business, and will likely provide a positive experience for their customers.

A decade ago, Companies like Homeadvisor, Angie’s List, Porch, Thumbtack, and Houzz played an important role in connecting homeowners with contractors. As the internet has matured and more and more contractors have created their own online presence, the need for these companies has diminished. The only reason they still exist is that they got so large that they could afford to advertise more than anyone else in this industry. They now create a large barrier between homeowners and contractors and charge millions of dollars to let the two connect. In 2018, there is no need for this.

If you’re a homeowner looking for a contractor, start with Google and go from there. If you see companies on these matchmaker sites, run their name through a Google search. Likely you’ll find a website and a Facebook profile in which you can connect with them for free. Everybody wins this way. The contractor wins because they have managed to attract customers with their own efforts, and homeowners win because the cost savings of not having to pay these large companies is transferred to the price of the projects.

Conclusion for Contractors

This is an easy one. Stay away from these companies. If you do decide to try them out, proceed with caution. In 2018 it’s very easy to find someone to build you a website and a proper marketing system that YOU OWN. There are tons of ways to generate leads without turning to these crooked companies for help.

Don’t get me wrong. These companies did offer some value once upon a time, but nowadays they have grown too large and are funding their growth by raking contractors through the coals. It probably sounds like I’m biased, and I am. But, I had no opinion until I conducted thorough research. The conclusion is that these companies are a ripoff and should never be the first choice for contractors looking to get leads.

If I had to pick one, it would be Houzz. I have met a few people that have had a lot of success with Houzz. They post pictures daily and make sure every single customer they get leaves a positive review. They also pay to advertise. These three things put together can create success on this platform. The downside is that Houzz owns everything on your profile. It’s always dangerous to not be in control of your own business.

The promises these companies make sound great to contractors who just want to pay someone to handle their marketing so they can worry about other things. The fact is, this is not good business practice. The best thing a growing company can do is hire a good marketing manager whether it be in-house or outsourced. Dig deep with this manager and flush out your goals and the roadblocks that might keep you from reaching them. Create a plan that fits your company, and roll with it.

Take a little time to research the various free options there are for getting your name out there. Start with a Google My Business Profile and get on Google Maps. Get a website that features all of your business information and showcases your successful projects. There’s nothing better you can do besides learning a little bit and taking control of your fundamental marketing. The next best thing is finding a trusted partner to help you build your marketing assets over the long-term.

Please leave a comment below with your thoughts or any information you think should be covered in this article. Thank you for reading.

Find out how other construction companies have successfully found leads on their own:

Case Study: Kile Construction

Case Study: Murrayhill Remodeling


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