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For as long as there have been homes in need of improvement, an imbalance has existed between customers and contractors: the former’s naivete has left them at the mercy of the character of the latter.
But the CEO of the Long Island City-based clickandimprove.com said his company seeks to right the scales by guaranteeing customers that an honest price will be paid if and when they are satisfied with the completed job.
“Let’s say you need a plumber or an electrician. You call one, and in most instances people aren’t aware of how much the job costs,” said CEO Avi Zikry, who learned the home improvement industry while working for his father’s business, the Glen Cove-based New York Construction Co.
“Most people will take their word as is without knowing whether it’s right or wrong. Ninety percent of the time that reliance has empowered people to take advantage,” he explained.
Zikry said often times contractors base their prices not on the specific job, but on the customer, and sometimes try to raise their prices half-way through a job.
“The homeowner loses all protection. The wall is open and they can’t keep it as it is. The homeowner has no recourse. They either stay with the hole in the wall and lose their deposit or shell out more money than initially agreed on,” he said.
Clickandimprove.com is based on a practice learned from NYCC, which set up an escrow account guaranteeing that subcontractors would not be paid until a customer signed a completion certificate stating he or she was fully satisfied.
“This way, a customer has no claim against us as to not completing the job — that’s very important — and customers don’t have to worry about anything else because the funds are not wired or transferred until the contract is completed,” he said.
Clickandimprove.com started by comparing rates of hundreds of home improvement jobs and then set fixed rates customers are aware of from the beginning.
They can browse the site and choose from city, Long Island and Westchester County contractors such as painters, cleaners, locksmiths and electricians — all of whom have been pre-screened.
“We do a background search on them and they must be in business for more than five years. If they have lasted through this recession period, they must have been doing something right,” he said.
Both parties agree that a clickandimprove.com engineer will inspect and arbitrate any disputes as to the quality of a job.
“It’s hassle-free, basically. We pre-screen the person for you and ensure that a proper job is done, then we administer the funds so that at no point the contractor has the upper hand,” said Zikry.
Clickandimprove.com also sets up a window — say, seven days for a plumbing job or 30 days for a locksmith — to ensure that the job was done properly.
The window, though, does not apply to cleaning jobs.
“Obviously, stuff shows up in seven days,” Zikry said.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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