As the battle for brick-and-mortar home improvement centers heats up, so too does a similar battle in cyberspace. A new entry into the arena is offering construction tradespeople the opportunity to interact with anxious homeowners looking for qualified repair and improvement contractors.

In late 1999, the Home Service Store (HSS) announced its intentions to bring a new type of service to homeowners and businesses. According the group’s Web site (, “HSS is a uniquely comprehensive property improvement service, providing virtually any type of home or small business repair, maintenance, or improved service.”

There is a membership fee for homeowners, which gives them access to “top-notch” tradespeople and a “tested management system for matching the right skills with our members’ needs.”

Benefits of being an HSS member are said to include:

  • Local, responsive service;
  • Quality craftsmanship;
  • 24-hr emergency service;
  • Competitive pricing and seasonal specials;
  • The HSS safety net of follow-up and follow-through on all work performed;
  • The HSS Member Protection Plan;
  • Flexible payment options including MasterCard, Visa, and Discover; and
  • A range of financial services, including up to 100% financing.

HSS president Douglas D. Sinclair said he is welcoming trade affiliates to come in on the ground floor. He stated his company “is looking for professionals with a long history of experience in their area of expertise — professionals of every kind, including general contractors, electricians, plumbers, roofers, landscapers, etc.

“We’re offering services to the consumer [that includes] room additions and full-scale renovations. No job is too small or too large, and HSS manages the relationship with the customer, including collecting payment.”

HSS has a marketing agreement in place with Sam’s Club and is working on other national marketing relationships.

“We recently announced a marketing agreement with True Value Hardware Stores,” added Dennis Johnson, business development president. The agreement with True Value includes a total-installed sales component. Sinclair noted the specifics:

“When a customer purchases a specific home improvement item in a True Value store, they can arrange for installation by HSS and pay for it at the register,” he said. “You can buy it at True Value, and we’ll install it if you want. And we guarantee the work.”

HSS is in 14 major metropolitan markets right now and plans to be in more than 200 by the end of 2000. For that reason alone, it needs to sign up many more affiliates. The group is using some tantalizing numbers to draw in prospective businesses.

The company stated that “Linking up with HSS will enable trade affiliates to grow their businesses by 30% or more without the hassle and expense of advertising or soliciting new customers.”

HSS offers affiliates the following benefits:

  • Group rates on health, property, and liability insurance;
  • Payroll, pension, and legal services;
  • Advertising and marketing support; and
  • Simplified billing with centralized invoice processing.

According to Johnson, HSS has been doing well in addressing a very important concern of homeowners: finding a credible contractor.

“The third-largest complaint among homeowners is finding reliable businesses,” he said. “This venture has been extremely successful for the consumers.”

If all goes according to plan, the venture will also be extremely successful for home improvement contractors.

For more information, call HSS at 877-477-1020 or visit their Web site at

Sidebar: Home improvement facts and figures

The Home Service Store Web site features some interesting industry facts and figures. Did you know that:
  • Total spending on home building and remodeling was up 9% in 1998, to $300 billion.
  • The blistering pace of home sales generated about $2.2 billion in additional spending by homebuyers making improvements to their newly purchased homes.
  • In the past four years, the number of homeowner households has grown by 5.4 million.
  • Most homeowners undertake some sort of remodeling projects within 18 months of buying their homes.
  • The overall aging of the population favors rising home ownership rates and remodeling activity.
  • About 43 million U.S. homes are more than 40 years old, and the median age of approximately 70 million homes is 28 years.
  • The residential remodeling market is expected to grow at a steady rate of 3.5% per year through 2005.
  • Home improvement product sales reached $149 billion in 1998, a 5.8% increase over the revised figure for 1997.
  • The median price of a typical remodeling job during 1997 was $18,000. Regionally, this median varied from $12,000 in the Northeast to $30,000 in the West.
  • The nation’s top 100 companies that specialize in home improvement work claim only a 6.5% share of the remodeling business.
  • Within two years of having a child, more than 75% of homeowners undertake some sort of home improvement project.
  • Women influence 80% of home improvement purchases among married couples.
  • Of the almost 800,000 remodeling contractors in the United States, an estimated 70% are self-employed.