Fixed-Fee Home Repairs Are Here
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Fixed-Fee Home Repairs Are Here

A new feature from Angi to bring price transparency and standardisation to booking household services.

By Ann-Marie Alcántara
Wed, Jul 7, 2021 10:19amGrey Clock 3 min

Angi Inc., the home services company formerly known as Angie’s List, is rolling out a feature that allows consumers to browse and buy common household services at set prices. Its goal is to offer tasks such as mounting a television, painting a room or repairing a roof in a format that mimics models in industries already transformed by tech, like ordering a taxi via a ride-share app.

The new option, which is available first for certain Angi subscribers, supplements the current system for booking services on Angi in which consumers browse vetted professionals or submit a project request, then take up details such as cost estimates directly with contractors.

Angi executives said they are trying to bring the price transparency and standardization of other businesses to home improvement.

“There’s all these barriers in buying service that we’ve been breaking down piece by piece over the last nine years, pretty much to get to a place where we’re now able to offer a productized service experience across hundreds of different service categories across the country,” said Oisin Hanrahan, chief executive of Angi. “And that’s the big shift that we’re making, so that you can essentially go and buy home services the same way you can buy products for your home.”

The feature comes amid a housing boom as well as a surge of growth in home improvement. Sales of home improvement materials, such as tools, lumber, paint and lawn and garden supplies, totaled $86.4 billion in the 12 months ending this May, an increase of $8 billion from the year before, according to NPD Group, a market research firm.

The Covid-19 pandemic opened consumers’ minds to digital services in areas that had still been largely analog, from car sales to home improvement, said user experience designers, who focus on product usability.

“More people across the board, not just millennials and Gen Z, are going to be more comfortable just going online and using an app to find a service,” said Janvi Jhaveri, founder and chief executive of Jack Strategy LLC, a product design and strategy studio.

Angi added language to the booking process to ensure people understood they weren’t scheduling an estimate with a contractor, but actually employing their services, said Mr. Hanrahan. The layout, designed to resemble an e-commerce store for more traditional goods, also helped, he said.

“The more we can merchandise and display to the user in a visual way, like the same way you’d scroll an Amazon or a Target catalog online, the more we can make it easy for people to digest,” said Mr. Hanrahan.

Other companies have taken different approaches to modernizing home contracting.

Home service platform Thumbtack Inc. in February introduced a feature that lets consumers book professionals for small service jobs like a television installation or to receive estimates on larger projects. The company previously offered information on professionals and their services but left it up to customers to schedule a day and time for the project.

It has stayed away from a model like Angi’s for larger, custom projects because the company believes it is impossible to reliably price many home jobs remotely, said Marco Zappacosta, co-founder and chief executive of Thumbtack.

If a professional arrives at a home and a customer asks for additional services, such as mounting two televisions instead of one, Angi will update the price, the company said.

Not all services lend themselves to pricing ahead of time because every home and homeowner is different, said Liz Young, founder and chief executive of Realm Living Inc., a home property analysis company.

But for tasks that don’t require extensive financing or massive renovations, some homeowners will forgo a human touch, or vetting process, she said.

“For the smaller projects, like a paint job or an installation of a ceiling fan, all consumers care about is this relatively accurate price instantly,” Ms. Young said.


Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: July 6, 2021


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Wild cities and concrete corridors: How AI is reimagining the landscape

A new AI-driven account by leading landscape architect Jon Hazelwood pushes the boundaries on the role of ‘complex nature’ in the future of our cities

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Drifts of ground cover plants and wildflowers along the steps of the Sydney Opera House, traffic obscured by meadow-like planting and kangaroos pausing on city streets.

This is the way our cities could be, as imagined by landscape architect Jon Hazelwood, principal at multi-disciplinary architectural firm Hassell. He has been exploring the possibilities of rewilding urban spaces using AI for his Instagram account, Naturopolis_ai with visually arresting outcomes.

“It took me a few weeks to get interesting results,” he said. “I really like the ephemeral nature of the images — you will never see it again and none of those plants are real. 

“The AI engine makes an approximation of a grevillea.”

Hazelwood chose some of the most iconic locations in Australia, including the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, as well as international cities such as Paris and London, to demonstrate the impact of untamed green spaces on streetscapes, plazas and public space.

He said he hopes to provoke a conversation about the artificial separation between our cities and the broader environment, exploring ways to break down the barriers and promote biodiversity.

“A lot of the planning (for public spaces) is very limited,” Hazelwood said. “There are 110,000 species of plants in Australia and we probably use about 12 in our (public) planting schemes. 

“Often it’s for practical reasons because they’re tough and drought tolerant — but it’s not the whole story.”

Hazelwood pointed to the work of UK landscape architect Prof Nigel Dunnett, who has championed wild garden design in urban spaces. He has drawn interest in recent years for his work transforming the brutalist apartment block at the Barbican in London into a meadow-like environment with diverse plantings of grasses and perennials.

Hazelwood said it is this kind of ‘complex nature’ that is required for cities to thrive into the future, but it can be hard to convince planners and developers of the benefits.

“We have been doing a lot of work on how we get complex nature because complexity of species drives biodiversity,” he said. 

“But when we try to propose the space the questions are: how are we going to maintain it? Where is the lawn?

“A lot of our work is demonstrating you can get those things and still provide a complex environment.” 

At the moment, Hassell together with the University of Melbourne is trialling options at the Hills Showground Metro Station in Sydney, where the remaining ground level planting has been replaced with more than 100 different species of plants and flowers to encourage diversity without the need for regular maintenance. But more needs to be done, Hazelwood said.

“It needs bottom-up change,” he said. ““There is work being done at government level around nature positive cities, but equally there needs to be changes in the range of plants that nurseries grow, and in the way our city landscapes are maintained and managed.”

And there’s no AI option for that. 


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Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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