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Angie’s List: Any Good?

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Longtime readers know that while I live near San Francisco, my wife and I own rental properties in Boston. We didn't set out to buy them as an income stream. She owned her place before she met me. I bought my place soon after we started dating. While neither one of us intended to move to San Francisco, my wife's career stood to significantly benefit from relocation.

As you may have heard, it's not a good time to sell homes. Having bought out homes in 4 and 7 years ago at near market highs, there wasn't a lot of money to be made by selling. In fact, my condo would sell for about $20,000 less than what I paid for it. As such, we decided to keep the properties and instead rent them out. My theory is that in 30 years, we'll have no mortgage and a nice income stream - even if things look "break even" today.

Unfortunately being a landlord 3000 miles away isn't easy. While we've been blessed with good tenants, the place is going to need maintenance from time to time. Bath tubs don't caulk themselves. It's not very economical for me to fly back, so I'm in the search of a good handyman in the Boston Metro West area.

This is when I saw an ad for Angie's List. I'm already a huge fan of Craig's List, so why not give Angie a shot? When I got to Angie's website, though, there was a surprise. It wasn't a free service like say 1-800-Dentist as I suspected. You have to pay monthly fees to be a member and find a handyman. The first month they even hit you with set-up/activation fee. I've joined a lot of websites in my time, and I can't imagine what set-up/activation they have to do. It seems clear to me that this is a way to get someone to spend around $25 up front when they just want the name of a handyman (as in my case).

I'm not against paying for something, but give me a demo or something so I can see what the service does and how it works. Let me know how many handymen are in the area that I want. My wife's place is close to Worcester, MA which is a good hour from Boston. Angie's List's Boston community may or may not be helpful in that case. They should at least tell me that up front.

To Angie's List credit, they offer a 110% price protection... if you are not satisfied you get your money back... and then 10% on top of that. However, I'm always skeptical of those deals. It seems like there would be a lot of hoops to go through and if they decide not give you your money back, are you going to hire a lawyer to recoup your $25? Of course not. It's much easier to keep the $25 in your wallet until you know what you are buying.

I'm starting to think that Angie's List isn't very helpful and that I should look other places for my handyman. Before I give up, I thought I'd put the question out here. Do you use Angie's List? Where do you find a good handyman if word of mouth fails (as it has for me)? Perhaps Craig's List is the answer for this too?

Last updated on December 4, 2008.

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32 Responses to “Angie’s List: Any Good?”

  1. Lev says:

    I am in a similar situation – rented out my house when I moved in with my soon to be wife. Although we don’t live far and I don’t mind doing small things like replacing a toilet lever I don’t have time for anything major. I use servicemagic.com – no fees, you describe the job, get 3 matches right away, can check out their ratings, etc.
    Regards,
    Lev

  2. tom says:

    I use Angie’s List and I’ll swear by it. It’s completely worth the money you’ll save, and the hassle of finding a reliable service provider. It has a very loyal following and a very detailed rating process. I found my home inspector, my termite inspector, and my hardwood installers all through Angie’s List. It’s the first place I start looking before calling for estimates. Of course you still want to get references, etc.

  3. I’m glad to see that comment from Tom. I’ve looked at Angie’s List in the past as well but never used it because of the fee.

  4. L.A. Daddy says:

    I’ve always had good success with ConstructionDeal.com. It’s free and you can choose how many calls you want.

  5. ryan says:

    i have never used angies list. i always use the better business bureau, you may want to at least cross reference that. i start with registered members, then get a couple of quotes.

    at least you know if someone has been a member for a decade, they may not be the absolute cheapest, but they will do what they say.

  6. CVOS the man says:

    Craigslist may be cheaper alternative than angieslist, but angie has an affiliate program that pays out $50.

  7. Lazy Man says:

    Sweet! I didn’t know that.

  8. Sue says:

    Here in the UK, the easiest way to be an absent landlord is to go to a local estate agent and ask them to rent out the property for you. They then take care of all the problems from handymen to finding new tenants when your current ones leave.
    There is, of course, a price to be payed for this service, but for a lot of people it’s worth it for the peace of mind they get.

  9. Lazy Man says:

    We have that option in US as well. That price makes the property not so profitable any more.

  10. Jimmy @ MoneyRemix says:

    In the grand scheme of things, $25 is a drop in the bucket – especially if you’re getting a significant amount of work done. By skimping and hiring a less proven contractor, you’re sort of rolling the dice…twenty-sided ones.

    I hired a contractor that I found on Angie’s List last year to do my kitchen backsplash, and he did an absolutely phenomenal job and came in under his initial quote.

    Ordinarily, I’m 100% against registration and setup fees, but in this case, when you’re in a pinch and can’t get a recommendation from a friend or coworker, I’d definitely recommend Angie’s List.

  11. Lazy Man says:

    The cost of our repairs (at this point) has been really minimal, so there’s a chance that we end up sending more on Angie’s List than actual contractors in a year.

  12. Dan says:

    I’ve had very good luck with Angie’s List. I’ve used them to find handymen to fix some wood rot on my house and install if vinyl flooring in my basement. I’ve used them to find a tree trimmer, chimney cleaner and a PC tech to fix a computer problem. Worth the subscription price, especially to avoid the potential hassle of a botched job by a shady company. Plus if a company does screw up, you can leave a negative review for them to warn others.

  13. Cathy says:

    I’ve used Angie’s List for just over a year now, and with the coupons that a lot of repair companies offer, I end up breaking even.
    I’ve also found that a lot of the mediocre people I’ve had work on my house have generally mediocre reviews on the site, so it really helps me pin down people who will do exceptional work at a reasonable price.

  14. John Small says:

    I have found Angie’s List to be the most unreliable company there is. It’s NOT TRUE that they refund your money. Once you join it’s almost impossible to cancel — look at their website: there is NO WAY to cancel online. It has been reported that when you call to cancel, you are kept on HOLD for a very long time. I guess they hope you get tired of waiting.

    ONE MORE THING: THEY DO GET PAID BY CONTRACTORS AS WELL AS THEY CHARGE THEM TO STAY ON TOP OF THE LIST. THEY DO NOT VERIFY THE ACCURACY OF THE PEOPLE WHO RATE A COMPANY OR WHAT KIND OF RELATIONSHIP THEY HAVE WITH THAT COMPANY. THE NEW YORK TIME HAS CALLED THEM “NOTHING MORE THAN A GLORIFIED YELLOW PAGES”…..

    Sorry for writing in all caps……I hope that this simply tells you how passionately negative
    I feel about this outfit. I hate to see people getting blatantly and arrogantly ripped off because, in my opinion and experience, Angie’s List sucks.

  15. FSBO ads says:

    nice… but i don’t know about it. i have never used Angie’s list. At least you know if someone has been a member for a decade, they may not be the absolute cheapest, but they will do what they say.

  16. My opinion is not etched in stone yet.

    I’ve moved from neutral, to thinking it may be a farce. But one advantage I can see with a fee, is that it adds a commitment hurdle, which may be good. I’d wager that people who are willing to pay a bit of money each month are probably more reliable than average.

    So far, I’ve been reviewed once there, and the review is accurate. Not because the review is good and I like it, but because the review matches the references listed at my own website’s background page – many of which are from professionals. And referrals from similar professionals hold a lot of weight.

    I think the greater value in Angie’s list will build as reviews multiply. That will show trends, and trends tend to erase the ambiguity of mere opinion.

    Cheers,

    MDV
    Oregon

  17. Hi im on the other foot im the handyman that you want to hire. but to connect the dots is a little hard. I advertise but I do not have trust with all people. I try to sell myself, as applying for a job I have refferences and show jobs that I have worked on. Those referal sites are my competion I even rank higher than they do half the times. Just ask neighbors, get references from your handyman at least two. look at the person and judge him,look at what his driving get it writing, does he have cards a website, and then make a decision.
    Terry yourbesthandyman.com

  18. Rychedelic says:

    I realize the original post is now two years old but I wanted to chime in anyway.

    I joined Angie’s list June 2009 because we were moving out of an older home but needed to have repairs done to help us sell. I thought Angie’s list would be a useful resource, far from it. Very few listings and even fewer reviews/ratings. I have been checking the “list” every time I need any kind of service and still I can’t find much of anything. So I decided before my annual renewal I would cancel.

    WAIT A MINUTE…..I can’t seem to find an easy way to do this. I can’t even delete my credit card info, see when the membership will renew, or even an email address to cancel.

    I used their “contact us” form to send my request for cancellation. Let’s see how long this will take, because I have read enough nightmares on how difficult it is to cancel.

    As for all the work I have scheduled since joining Angie’s I have not used any of their limited info, instead the Better Business Bureau is what I have relied on and it’s free.

    Not worth joining Angie’s List…I just hope
    I can cancel without too much of a headache.

  19. Had a bit more experience with Angie’s List since my last posting …

    My company got two reviews on there by users. A person who hired my company after meeting face to face, gave an “A” rating. Then a few months later, a person who only emailed, and never got an estimate or work done, or even talked to us, gave an “F” rating.

    That’s phase one of this story. Here is phase two:

    Another person uses Angie’s List and sees those two reviews. They get an estimate from us, and from one more Angie’s List referral. I answered the potential customer that it will take two full days to prune 17 trees. The second company says it will take only a couple of hours. So the customer picks the first company, because from experience, he knows it takes days, not hours.

    Now can you imagine reviews and results more widespread than that?

    There were even screen shots taken of these reviews to show how radically different they can be. I’ve been sharing those with other arborists and landscape contractors on a few forums so they can see verbatim what is written on Angie’s list and what the report forms look like.

    M. D. Vaden of Oregon

  20. Mary says:

    I have tried Angie’s List in Boston twice. I live less than an hour north of Boston, in a bustling suburb full of people needing to hire contractors – but there were so few contractors in my local area reviewed on Angie’s List, it made it worthless to me.

    The first time I used the List, I dove in headfirst, deciding to give it a try. The second time, Angie’s List actively recruited me back, saying that they now had a lot of contractors in my area – which was not true.

    To be fair, I believe they gave me my money back both times I signed up. I would love to love this service, because it’s badly needed in our area. Unfortunately, it seems that too few people use it actively enough to make it worthwhile.

  21. Dave Dunn says:

    I used to love Angie’s List and often recommended it to others. I have multiple rental properties and use many vendors.

    My biggest concern is that hey no longer hide the identity of the reviewer. They claim this is to help the vendor improve their practices, but in reality, vendors can now intimidate reviewers into changing their reviews. Angie’s List claims to police this, but in fact they have transferred any legal liability from their company to the people doing the reviews. They have also put reviewers in danger by releasing the names of who they are and where they can be reached.

    I changed my last two negative reviews, then quit Angie’s List. I don’t need desperate vendors hassling me on the phone.

    Second, I have suggested for years that AL reduce the annual fees for people who submit reviews. This seems so logical, but they refuse to do this. Why should I crank out writing, now putting me at risk, so they can make a profit?

    Finally, I had several friends write bogus positive reviews about a given company to prove that AL can provide totally bogus data. All of those fake reviews were posted.

    Angie’s List has lost all value. Boycott them.

  22. Sarah L. says:

    COMPLETELY disagree that Angie’s List is a good thing. I work for a company that does home remodeling. A third party tried to hire my employer to do work on a house that they don’t own. When my employer stated that for the company to do the work they would have to have authorization in writing from the home owner the person became irate. Then the person requested that my employer deliver building materials for a $25 fee (normal delivery from the store in question is $75). In the interest of good-will my employer did that and then just out of pure spite because my employer refused to do work on a property without proper authorization this person went on Angie’s List completely slamming my employer. My employer NEVER knew Angie’s List even existed and has an “A+” rating with the BBB for over 15 years. Long story short, Angie’s List is a way for crack-pot type people who hold grudges to pay money and then attempt to ruin others when they don’t get their way.

  23. Dave Dunn says:

    I used to love Angie’s List, but now they tell the vendor who you are when you post a review. Needless to say, it can be pretty disturbing when an angry vendor calls you or in one case I heard of lands at your front door.

    In the old days, the vendor could only figure-out who you are by the date and price or description of your job. They they get your personal info.

    So, I quit.

  24. bill keiser says:

    I’ve had pretty good luck with AL for 7 years or so.
    But I just noticed that they padded our original $35 membership fee to $70 by adding their health providers, a separate service, with no notification.
    Extremely inappropriate.

  25. Troy says:

    I was looking into Angie’s list; think it is not a viable service. I went to the site and was surprised it cost money and as a subscription based as well. I can’t see people plunking down this money just to write reviews. It should be strictly advertisement paid as they already advertise.

  26. Cindy says:

    I Trust Angies list — I recently used them to find an HVAC man when my heat system was not working properly in my 4,000 sq foot office– My staff got 5 estimates– and they were outrageous and the companies weren’t sending in their insurance etc, I gave them my Angiess list login — they found 3 reputable grade A companies– we hired one the next day who fixed my system for literally 1/10th of what the other guys wanted to charge. I hired them to maintain our whole system on a contract – great deal for $25 membership fee. I saved $1,300 on one repair!

  27. John Kicks says:

    As I business owner I was VERY disappointed with Angies List. They notified us that we had a complaint against our store. When they showed us the location it was across state lines where our franchise isn’t even allowed to go. When told this they said they would call the customer to reconfirm and stated the customer still insisted it was us. We then searched the address of the supposed customer and it was the location of company in the same field as us in that town. Even sending them that address and offering phone records they still refused to do anything but call the person and “reconfirm”.

    If that is what they consider “reliable” reports then I don’t think I can trust anything on that site.

  28. s montgomery says:

    I’ve had issues with angies list, yelp and city search. I actually go to http://www.natcpb.org to get reviews on any business. I would recommend just taking a look at it and seeing if its for you..whether your the business owner or the consumer.

  29. Tyler says:

    I always just look to the BBB for my reviews, plus since 95% of Angie’s List is contractor/handyman work anyway I always use Safepact.com to hold my money and make sure that the guy does the job right.

  30. Angie’s list is trying to do what Consumer’s Union (publisher of Consumer Reports Magazine) has been doing for years, on a smaller scale and via internet. But I don’t think it can work. Consumer Reports is the only one I trust (but of course one cannot get individual handyman-type business names locally, etc. from them). The reason I trust them is 1) They take NO ADVERTISING or money at all from any businesses and are funded entirely by their subscribers, and 2) They will NOT ALLOW their reviews or their name to be used in any advertising, such as when a product gets a great overall review from them – the maker of that product is not allowed to claim that great review in any public way, i.e., an advertisement. Consumer’s Union polices this very carefully. They are the ultimate trustworthy reviewers and the only ones I go to when looking to buy anything important to me. By the way, I think their magazine is really interesting to read – I always learn a lot and it holds my interest for the most part.
    –Juliel

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