Property Grunt

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Lay The Hammer Down

I still love this show!

Cityhammer is New York's #1 Remodeling Directory which not only lists home improvement providers but also provides ratings for these providers.

Cityhammer is the brainchild of Josh Brown and his amigo Ryan Perrotti who created this site after realizing the need for people to find the best qualified professionals and to avoid the worst ones.

Before the New Year, I had the chance to do an interview with Josh.

1. What motivated you to create City Hammer?

I had a baby in March of 2006. We spent January through March looking for help in turning the dining room in our upper east side junior four into a nursery. We needed a temporary wall guy, a painter to cover the walls, an electrician to do outlets in the new room, a handyman to assemble the crib and changing table, and a baby proofer to make sure the rest of the apartment was safe.

We had the "Big Yellow Book" which is just names and phone numbers,recommendations from friends (wrong numbers, no reliability) and the super/ maintenance guys in the building (the literal definition of "last resort").

Everything online was totally generic, like a digital phone book. Or worse, a lead-generating site for contractors, meaning 3 pages of forms to fill out, then waiting for the highest-bidding contractor to buy your name as a lead and call you when they get around to it (I'm from New York, I don't think so!).

Basically, I felt that in a city of 8 million people, it was about time that somebody built a directory of home improvement providers that was by New Yorkers, For New Yorkers. I developed the site with my best friend and a veteran of the residential Real Estate and Lighting Industry Ryan Perrotti....and was born.

2. What is the objective of your site?

Our goal is to provide a true directory of customer-ranked Home
Improvement Professionals for people in the New York Area. We know we're doing something important every time we see a person who needs remodeling help emailing or calling one of the 500+ contractors and designers who have listed themselves on the site so far.

3. Do you have a construction background?

I call myself "the least handy guy in NY"; I call the super to change the batteries in my remote! My background is actually on Wall Street, but Ryan is definitely more construction-oriented than I am. Basically the site is built for people like me.

4. Since creating the site, what are the craziest stories you have heard?

Where to begin...people moving into brand new condos and ripping out 50 grand worth of kitchen cabinets and appliances for a redo (leaving vikings and subzeros on the curb!) people calibrating the distance from chernobyl to the town in spain where their tiles were made before purchase, lonely housewives complaining about phantom leaks to get a plumber to visit one-bedrooms outfitted with soundproofing for a recording studio, roof-top gardens commissioned and Hell's Kitchen parents in the midwest or on the west coast hiring top shelf interior designers for their recently-graduated sons and daughters' new apartments, sight unseen.

5. What are common mistakes people make in hiring a contractor?

I am constantly amazed at how much thought and time people will putinto researching a movie or a restaurant that will cost them under 100 bucks, compared with how little time the average person spends finding a remodeler or designer to help them create the space they're going to live in for years to come. I would say that a casual recommendation from a friend is not enough when it comes to fixing and redoing a home. Another reason to read up on a Pro is to verify that they are
licensed and insured to do the work you are requesting.Plenty of people will take a job, but not everyone is qualified to complete it.

6. What steps would you recommend people take in dealing with contractors?

I would say get multiple estimates, take a hand in picking out the
materials (wood flooring, tiles, paint colors etc.) and realize that sometimes, "cheap" is "expensive". You may be doing yourself a big favor by going with the mover or electrician or general contractor that comes highly rated and recommended, rather than the lowest bid. The cheap option can cost a lot more emotionally if you're unhappy with the outcome, or financially if the work needs to be redone.

Thanks again Josh!