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Need a Plumber? Now That’s Another Thing Google Will Do For You

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Google is partnering with IAC's HomeAdvisor to better match homeowners with contractors like plumbers, electricians or landscapers, the company said Friday.

As of Friday, homeowners searching for contractors on Google will be shown results that are "HomeAdvisor screened and approved" and come with profiles, price estimates and the ability to "book now" or schedule an appointment to compare estimates for work. HomeAdvisor helps by screening all the contractors listed on its site — rejecting 15 to 20 percent of applicants. It charges an annual fee of $300 to be included in its listings.

"There are millions of local businesses, many of which are not marketing online. We think local advertising is probably around a $50 billion opportunity and only a small portion has gone online. This is why Google and Amazon and possibly Facebook (down the road) are getting more serious about this," said Mizuho Securities analyst Neil Doshi.

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And indeed, other tech giants are interested. Amazon, for one, launched Amazon Home Services earlier in the year, in an effort to get a piece of this potentially lucrative market. (Also, showing just how hot this space is now, on Wednesday IAC announced a bid to acquireAngie's List for $8.75 per share. IAC said the board rebuffed the proposal. No comment from Angie's List.)

"Obviously, Amazon and Google are deeply embattled on multiple fronts and home services is no different," said HomeAdvisor CEO Chris Terrill. "Google realized that they don't want to let Amazon get too far out there and so they partnered with us to bring a technology that truly no one else has and I think would take them a very long time to build themselves."

At Amazon, customers looking for services are offered the option to book at checkout for a flat fee. That, said Terrill, is an important difference. "That's problematic because the service provider doesn't know how complicated the install is so they have to quote, literally, the highest price they can to cover all their contingencies."

It's not the first time Google has shown an interest in the decidedly unsexy offline home services market, and the company is by no means placing all its bets with IAC. In August 2014 Google Capital led a $100 million investment round in home services start-up Thumbtack and in September made a follow-on investment in the company, now valued at more than $1.3 billion.

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