A new website connects homeowners with pool service providers, promising quick quotes to the customer and less hassle for the contractor.
Homely.co (and yes, it is “.co” not “.com”) launched earlier this summer. So far it’s netted about a dozen new customers for five pool professionals in Phoenix, where the Internet start-up is based. Co-founders Zach Hamilton and Charles Lee (above, L-R) said the service will be available in other parts of the country as more contractors come on board.
For now, Phoenix-area service technicians can grow their client bases through Homely, which also handles much of the administrative burden, such as scheduling, invoicing and processing payments.
Hamilton, a former landscaper, knows how pesky those tasks can be. “I was knee-deep in paperwork, printing out hundreds of invoices, trying to figure out which ones weren’t going to the right addresses and hearing ‘your check is in the mail,’ ” Hamilton said. “All of that stuff we want to eliminate with Homely.”
Here’s how it works: An approved contractor inputs the amounts he or she charges for services based on a variety of factors such as pool size and filter type. The homeowner enters the ZIP code and selects services desired, then receives quotes from qualified service techs.
Homeowners pay by credit card through Homely’s bill-pay system. Monthly payments are deposited in the contractors’ accounts.
Unlike other referral services, contractors aren’t on the hook for jobs they bid on, but don’t get. Site founders said that’s the beauty of Homely.
For homeowners, it’s free to use and risk-free. Homely guarantees all work performed by contractors up to $10,000. Because Lee and Hamilton have money on the line, they personally meet each Homely applicant to filter out less reputable pool pros. Candidates are considered based on referrals from colleagues and online reviews.
“They’re hand-selected not just by us, but by their peers,” Lee said. “It seems counterintuitive why a pool company would refer another pool company to this service, but one of the things we’ve found in this industry is that contractors like helping other great contractors. … What they don’t like are these fly-by-night [operations] because they create headaches for everybody.”
Initially, the start-up charged contractors $10 a month per customer. But that will change to a $100 one-time fee. The co-founders also are exploring the option for contractors to roll their existing clients into Homely so that they can utilize its back-end services. They’d pay a monthly tiered rate based on the number of customers they transfer over.
“They not only see the value in Homely bringing them new customers, although that’s tremendous in itself, [but] they also see extraordinary value in automating their entire operation,” said Lee, who’s been involved with several e-commerce projects.
Brandon Bush, owner of Aqua Shine Pool Service, was sold on the idea after Lee and Hamilton assured him that he wouldn’t be competing against undercutting amateurs. “They told me, ‘We just want to put high-rated pool service providers on our website and bring you customers,’ ” Bush said. “They do their homework on companies prior to bringing them on.” Homely found him a new customer within two days. “Now I have this separate entity bringing me business,” he added. “I’m doing no legwork whatsoever.”
One Phoenix pool pro who has reservations is Kurt Schuster, owner of Badger Pool Service. He sees Homely’s potential as a paperwork eliminator, but is concerned that a homeowner could request service for a 10,000-gallon pool when, in reality, it’s double the size. “The fact is, most homeowners have no idea how big their pools are,” Schuster said.
Contractors have yet to be deceived, Hamilton said. “We worried about that from the beginning,” he said. “We assumed people would put in a smaller pool to get a better deal, but so far we haven’t run into that.” Plus, a disclaimer alerts customers that normal pricing applies if the job doesn’t fit the description.
The twentysomething founders see Homely eventually expanding to include other contractors who provide routine maintenance services, such as lawn care. “But no matter what, pool care will be No. 1 for Homely,” Hamilton said.