4 Minnesota-made home maintenance apps make it easier to make … – Star Tribune
If you’re not a do-it-yourselfer, or just don’t have time to commit to a household project, calling a professional is a likely solution.
Unfortunately, navigating the internet to find reputable professionals can be challenging, especially when trying to determine the best price for your budget. Calling contractors and service companies, one by one, for availability and quotes can require hours of one’s day.
There are some ways to alleviate the headache of finding contractors online. Through the Better Business Bureau’s site, homeowners can check a contractor’s licensure, see the business rating and read customer reviews and complaints.
The nonprofit also recommends asking for references from contractors you know, or using the pro-finder tool on the National Association of Home Builders or the National Association for the Remodeling Industry, though you should still conduct your own background check.
To add, some contractors can have instant quoting systems, or prices, available on their websites.
A few Minnesotans, however, have taken matters into their own hands to help other homeowners with maintenance reminders, tips, scheduling service and hiring contractors.
Help document maintenance history
In 2015, Kate Shahan bought a home in the Twin Cities, unaware of the property’s full history of remodel and repair work.
She wished she had asked. She didn’t — and created an app to help others document work on their homes.
The previous homeowner repaired and modified the home without the service of professionals. Correcting the do-it-yourself work cost Shahan around $25,000 — on top of the cost of buying the house.
“I was super upset,” Shahan said. “This is one of the biggest investments that you make as a person or family.”
Shahan sold the home in August. She gave the new owners a full history report of what she did to the house, using an app she designed in 2019 based on her experience.
Within the app, called Yarlow, being used by homeowners and owners of multifamily properties across the U.S., people can also set reminders and receive alerts to switch out various filters, drain their water heaters or winterize a sprinkler system, and receive tips on how to take care of their home throughout the year, Shahan said.
“We try to be a whole homeownership guide and assistant,” she said.
Outdoor services on demand
In fall 2020, Jack Jorgensen and his business partner began developing Lumberjack, an administrative and concierge app for homeowners and property managers to schedule snow removal and lawn service.
Like Angi (formerly Angie’s List), homeowners or property managers tell the app when they need snowplowing or lawn work done. Similar to Uber or Lyft, the app then gives them a list of options.
The app also processes payments and helps the contractors plan their routes for the day, Jorgensen said.
In addition to providing homeowners and property owners expected arrival times, Lumberjack handles pricing models, quotes and processes payments.
Each property is individually priced based on its measurements. The company uses publicly available satellite images of properties through sources like Google Maps, and plugs that data into its algorithm to determine pricing, a solution that’s proved to be more accurate than the standard that exists today, Jorgensen said.
Typically, a homeowner or property manager would call multiple service providers to find a price that meets their budget, assuming the company responds in a timely manner, Jorgensen said.
“Combining all of these things into a technology platform that can facilitate these transactions between the service provider and the consumer, it makes a huge difference,” said Jorgensen, adding sales on Lumberjack grew 1,000% in 2022. “We take the administrative burden.”
Half of Lumberjack’s users are single-family homeowners or those renting a single-family home, Jorgensen said. The remaining half are landlords or those ordering service on someone’s behalf, like a person who wanted reliable service for their elderly parents who want to age in place.
The recent heavy snowfall in Minnesota has led to above-normal demand for snow removal and plowing services at homes and properties through the app, Jorgensen said, but spring, summer and fall lawn mowing and cleanup services are the busier seasons for businesses.
Making bid process faster
In 2021, Nate Custard started using Matterport, a 3-D camera system for virtual real estate tours, for his home construction company, Aequo Builders.
As a former contractor, he quickly realized an opportunity existed to bring the technology to contractors serving homeowners, where contractors can use virtual images and predetermined dimensions of homes to form cost projections, alleviating a contractor’s need to visit a home in person.
“How do we bring this to the residential market to save time for homeowners?” Custard said.
Called Aequo, homeowners place requests for services at their house, from roofing, paving, painting, floor cleaning, kitchen and bathroom remodels, to finishing a basement, duct cleaning or junk removal, Custard said. Aequo provides a template for filling out the request.
To expedite service, homeowners upload existing scans and images of the home, most likely from previous real estate listings, along with accompanying documents, photos or videos describing the kind of service needed. For specific dimensions and virtual images of areas needing service, Custard and his associates can visit the property with their Matterport camera, for free, and offer outdoor images provided by aerial imaging companies.
To avoid a homeowner being bombarded with emails, only four companies per trade can respond to a project, on a first-come basis. Some projects require professionals from various trades, from electricians to plumbers to asphalt laborers.
The homeowner’s information, like the address and contact information, is hidden from contractors until the homeowner accepts the bid.
For the homeowner’s peace of mind, contractors undergo background checks before being allowed to use the platform, and must have general liability insurance, Custard said. Contractors can include links to their bio, company website and resume for homeowners in the bid documents.
Services for emergency repair
Similar to Aequo, HomesRunner, another Minneapolis-based app, allows Twin Cities homeowners to book service for urgent repairs, including emergency hours between 5 p.m. and 6 a.m. when most businesses are closed, or place bids for services to take place at future dates. To operate, users upload videos and photos of areas, or equipment in the home, that requires repair, and schedule certain times of the day for providers to arrive.
Some of the services available on the app include plumbing, floor repair, moving and packaging, electrical and cleaning.
Launched two months ago by Twin Cities IT professional Carsar Addo, HomesRunner is fully integrated with a payment system and lists hourly rates for providers on the platform. In the app, users can also search for service companies based on a specific price range, Addo said.
Like Shahan, Addo created a platform based on a personal experience. He purchased a home in the metro in late 2022 and needed a professional to repaint the interior. Searching online yielded few results.
“When you need to get something done in your home as soon as possible, how do you get that done?” he said. “There’s not a lot of resources out there to get that done effectively.”
Nick Williams is a business reporter for the Star Tribune.
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