Should You Use HomeAdvisor?

HomeAdvisor, formerly ServiceMagic, is a Golden, CO-based contractor-matching service that connects homeowners with professionals who can help with home-related matters, such as carpentry, electrical, plumbing, as well as maid services and lawn care.

How Do Contractor Matching Services Work?

The Internet is a wasteland of failed contractor matching services; they come and go with the wind. But HomeAdvisor has been in business since 1999.

As an example of how fast and thoroughly these things change, the second most popular contractor matching service in the 2000s,, has gone out of business.

HomeAdvisor makes its money primarily by charging participating contractors fees for each qualified "lead" they receive through HomeAdvisor.

In other words, if a contractor gets a good lead about a homeowner in the area who needs windows replaced, he or she pays HomeAdvisor a certain amount. Lead generation is a standard arrangement in the home improvement industry.

What Was ServiceMagic?

In 2004, ServiceMagic was acquired by IAC/InterActiveCorp.  Afterward, the company changed its name--domain and all--to HomeAdvisor. For a company that does all of its business online, a domain change is quite a big deal.

Brooke Gabbert, Director of Public Relations and Social Media at HomeAdvisor told me in an interview that both "service" and "magic" no longer reflected the company's aims. It was implicit that ServiceMagic's professionals would provide "service," so there was no need to include this term.

"Magic" was an entirely different matter. Based on a year of market research, the company concluded that homeowners didn't want magic performed on their homes; they wanted solid, real work.

Microsoft had owned the domain but kept it parked. ServiceMagic picked it up for "well under six figures," according to

ServiceMagic's Problems, HomeAdvisor's Changes

With ServiceMagic, home service professionals complained that they were handed weak leads. Homeowners felt they were handed incapable professionals.

Over time, ServiceMagic instituted practices to make it easier for pros to return bad leads. For homeowners, ServiceMagic set up better screens and filters to make sure that the homeowner got the right professional for the project.

With the HomeAdvisor name change and IAC acquisition, major overhauls on the contractor side were instituted. 

On the homeowner side, one change was the TrueCost Guide that spans over 300 different types of projects.

What's the cost to remodel a kitchen? If you go to something like Remodeling Magazine's well-known Cost Vs. Value Report, you get solid numbers from over 150,000 people. But who are these people? Real estate appraisers, sales agents, and brokers.

HomeAdvisor's cost estimates are "derived from surveys based on actual project costs as reported by HomeAdvisor members." In other words, as soon as the project is completed, the cost is entered and instantly is added to the Cost Guide. Not only that, these are actual project costs.

With the Hanley Wood data, you have to wait a whole year for costs to come out. And, while I do trust Realtors' expertise for many things, why are they estimating the cost of remodeling a small bathroom?


  • Largest and oldest contractor-matching service.
  • Greater number of contractors doing business on HomeAdvisor than with other services.
  • Easy interface allows you to solicit bids within minutes.


  • HomeAdvisor's pre-screens, which search for things like state-level trade license, liens, bankruptcy, etc.--filter out only the worst of the worst.  Homeowners may interpret a clear pre-screen as a stamp of approval.
  • Some sub-categories of work are entirely missing.
  • Spotty call-backs from contractors.


HomeAdvisor is a cut above most other lead generation programs and is worth trying.

Yet HomeAdvisor still is not as good as having a recommendation from a close friend or neighbor.