A new website aims to top other online remodeling matchmakers by adding a performance payment and warranty bond to the project--an addition that it believes will eliminate the anxiety both a remodeler and customer feel about a project.
Bolster officially launched in New York State this month and intends to be available in every major U.S. market within the next year.
“I've seen the remodeling process continuously trip everyone up, with huge inefficiencies and projects gone wrong for both contractors and homeowners,” says Bolster founder and CEO Fraser Patterson, who was formerly a contractor in London. “What Bolster does is help level the playing field for everyone.”
Homeowners pay for the service, with fees ranging up to 5% of the project's cost. They initiate the process by creating an online “dashboard" for their project. This includes a place to describe the scope of the work; learn about the various stages of construction to ensure the most accurate bids; and access standard contracts, lien waivers and other key documents.
Homeowners then invite contractors to be vetted by the site. Contractors, who are not charged to enroll, must provide documentation on their financial strength, "core competencies," and overall track record to show they will be able to complete the job, according to Patterson.
Once the contractors are approved, homeowners can use tools on the site to evaluate their bids and select the individual or firm for their renovation.
“When you're on Bolster, all contractors are bound by the bids they give, so homeowners know the true cost of the project,” Patterson says.
Bolster agrees to provide a performance bond for vetted contractors, under which homeowners can make claims for defects, unnecessary delays and other issues. The guaranty bond is brokered by National Financial Partners and underwritten by Capitol Insurance Cos.
If Bolster upholds the claim, the original contractor may be asked to return to complete a job or fix a mistake, another contractor may be provided, or the homeowner may be given funds to hire someone else of their choosing.
The startup also has teamed up with the American Institute of Architects to bring its members into the official mix. “We are very keen to place the architect in the remodeling process, and let the homeowners know the value of an architect, should they require one,” Patterson says.
However, Bolster isn't just meant for a high-end job.
"If homeowners feel like [a project] may not be completed to a high-quality standard or the budget could be abused, then Bolster is as useful on a $5,000 project as it is on a $500,000 project," Patterson says.—Robert DiGiacomo is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. Follow Remodeling on Twitter at @remodelingmag.