One-stop maintenance for the homeowner?
March 8, 2019 7:52 AM   Subscribe

Is there a service that provides multiple types of maintenance/repair/replacement for homeowners with a single call?

Long-time renter here. Sometimes I daydream about purchasing a house; I'd be financially able to do so if I wanted to. One of the things that holds me back is the ease of maintenance and repairs in apartment living.

An example: several months ago my water heater started leaking. This was resolved, from my perspective, with a single call to my leasing office. They replaced and installed a new heater, and even brought in a blower to dry the area where water had seeped under my carpet. I did not have to decide on which new water heater to get; I did not have to find a plumber on my own; I did not have to rent or buy a blower. (In this instance the carpet didn't have to be lifted up from the floor to be dried, but in other cases they've done that too, and reattached the carpet afterwards.)

All things that, as I understand it, most homeowners would arrange for on their own in a similar situation. I don't want that. Is there such a thing as a service where any problems with HVAC, plumbing, household electricity, large appliances, and probably other things I'm not thinking of, can all be resolved with a single phone call to a single office, for homeowners?

When I try to Google, I get a lot of results for insurance for repairs, where one pays a monthly fee, then the insurance reimburses the homeowner for those types of repairs, but it's still on the homeowner to make all the arrangements. That's not what I'm looking for. I'm agnostic as to whether payment would be a fixed monthly amount regardless of how much you use it, or a pay-as-you-go thing where you pay for material and labor; the convenience of getting everything done with a single call is really the thing I'm looking for.

(When I say "a single call" I don't literally mean that only one call is ever necessary for any issue; I understand that some back-and-forth communication may be necessary depending on the specific issue. I mean that one call gets everything started, and I only ever need to talk to the one service.)

I'm in the Indianapolis area if you know of specific services here, but I'm mainly interested in the general case so don't limit your answers based on region.
posted by DevilsAdvocate to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
The closest thing I know of is a general contractor, who organizes all the subcontractors on a job, but they don't do maintenance stuff that I've ever heard - even a handyman is usually just a guy with a specific skillset (plumbing, usually) and some rough carpentry/general tool use skill who can handle minor repairs on his own.

My wife manages a piece of property for her folks, and if this service existed, she wouldn't have to - this is exactly the sort of thing she does for them. Calling all the different services, coordinating visits, etc. I suppose you could try to talk to a property management company, but the fee is usually something like 8% of the monthly rent - and that DOESN'T cover the actual cost of services, just the management.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:01 AM on March 8, 2019

Look into home warranties. They can be pricy, but they usually can cover all the services (or at least can with enough add-ons), and you call the home warranty company, and they dispatch a tech.
posted by deezil at 8:01 AM on March 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have a home warranty for this sort of thing. I pay a monthly premium (~$50) then a flat fee ($75) for each service call. When something is wrong, I call the warranty company and they send contractors out to do any needed work for covered items/issues. So last year when my hot water heater died, it was covered, so my new one cost me $75, installed. The contracted company did all the work and took the old water heater away.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 8:13 AM on March 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

You can get an awful lot of these services via Home Depot, but it's generally different people/departments you'd need to talk with in the store, and they work with different local contractors to do it all. Some services are more closely connected to the store (appliance delivery and installation), some are more like third parties who do consultations and advertising in-store (HVAC installation).

Home warranties sound like a much better way not to have to think about this stuff.
posted by asperity at 8:16 AM on March 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Home warranty might work for things that break, but I'm guessing that after you call the company, you still need to deal with the individual contractor to arrange a time that's good for you. And a home warranty outfit is only going to fix things that go wrong, and not when you need contractors for optional things, like replacing a kitchen faucet because you don't like the old one, or painting a room, or updating a bathroom. So you'll need to deal with various kinds of contractors anyway, unless you never upgrade anything in your house. In my experience as a homeowner, optional upgrade work is 90%, necessary repair work is 10%.

If you're buying a high-end property and can afford it, the picture may be different — there are caretakers, property managers and personal assistants who can do this for you. Your high-end neighbors could make recommendations.
posted by beagle at 8:26 AM on March 8, 2019

This is called property management. PM companies offer a range of services targeted towards absentee landlords, from just repairs, to collecting rent and even finding and managing tenants. Do some research on local PM companies and see if any offer a facilities maintenance service that is essentially "one call fixes it all" which it seems like you want.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:30 AM on March 8, 2019 [4 favorites]

You might be able to get this through a property management company (maybe for a monthly fee). Things will be expensive as they won't compare quotes from repairmen, they won't compare brand to see what will last longer or perform better.

Basically, you might be able to get this service, but will be expensive in the long term.
posted by WizKid at 8:34 AM on March 8, 2019

If you just want to become a homeowner but aren't wedded to the idea of a house, you could buy an apartment. Depending on the type (coop vs condo), you can avoid the vast majority of home maintenance coordination and many of the surprise expenses (though apartment ownership sometimes comes with a different set of surprise expenses) .
posted by snaw at 8:46 AM on March 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thirding “Property Manager”. I have a property manager for a rental property I own, and the tenants contact them to say “sink broke” and the management company handles it from there. I could pick out the replacement sink, or I could just let them do it.
posted by OrangeVelour at 8:56 AM on March 8, 2019

Triple A has added a new service in some areas called House Manager. It sounds like an expanded Home Warranty service. I have not tried it but am thinking about it. I do have a Home Warranty currently that I really like from American Home Shield. Annual fee and then $75 a visit. Just used it for my dryer that completely burned out--took three visits to fix-- basically a new motor, belts, complete cleaning lint removal, etc. All for that one charge of $75. I use a handyman for other small stuff, but am thinking it would be nice to have it all under one plan.
posted by agatha_magatha at 9:08 AM on March 8, 2019 [5 favorites]

We have a home warranty and our experience has been pretty mixed -- we call or put in a service request, they put in an order to one of their providers and that company calls us to arrange a time to visit. It's definitely not as smooth as calling maintenance in an managed apartment complex can be. The home warranty can also have limitations on what they are willing to fix or replace. What in theory sounded great when we bought our home (the seller paid for the home warranty) just didn't work well in practice, but that could be specific to the policy and provider perhaps?

There was a startup a few years ago that offered this exact thing -- calling it a "home manager" or "house manager" versus a property manager-- it wasn't a viable business model for them but maybe there are others out there willing to provide a similar service. Maybe try googling those terms?
posted by sm1tten at 9:10 AM on March 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I do not recommend home warranties, especially not from American Home Shield. It seemed like a great idea, but in practice, they sent us service people from companies with terrible customer service who did not do particularly good work — and weaseled out of paying for pretty much everything that was supposed to be covered.

We had a major leak in the main water line — theoretically covered as long as the break is within the footprint of the house. Their plumber glanced around for five minutes, said he thought it might be under the slab or might be in the yard, he wasn’t sure. Based on that, AHS said “It’s in the yard so we won’t cover it.” I tried to tell them that the plumber had said he did not know the location, but they got an attitude with me over the phone and just kept repeating that the leak was in the yard and they would not cover any further work. I had to pay out of pocket for a leak locator to come and prove that it was under the slab (which it very definitely was).

Then AHS begrudgingly sent another plumber to fix the leak. This plumber was condescending; kept randomly showing up to do work without telling me when they were coming (and then called to scold me for not being home); and left a giant hole in my kitchen drywall. For this I still had to pay $4k out of pocket. I don’t know what AHS paid, but I sincerely doubt it was as much as I did.
posted by snowmentality at 11:56 AM on March 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

One of the difficulties as soon as you move beyond repair is that there are more and more trade-offs between options the longer your expected involvement is. E.g., what kind of replacement furnace? And no-one but you can decide what trade-offs you want to make. Services tend towards either the cheapest or the most expensive upfront cost, depending on their incentives.
posted by clew at 1:30 PM on March 8, 2019

We are not handy at all and use Handyman Connection for this kind of stuff. You book online and someone shows up and either fixes it or gives you a quote and makes an appointment if it's a bigger job.
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 2:18 PM on March 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I live in Austin and several friends of mine have used PreFix, which is like having a property manager on retainer - I think it's $50 a month, and covers routine maintenance (though you pay a small copay) as well as preventive maintenance. They LOVE it. You might see if there's something like this in your city.
posted by devinemissk at 7:16 PM on March 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

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