Ken Lyons had a suspicion that he was paying too much for his weekly landscaping service.
At first, Lyons, who is the visual director of The Penny Hoarder, was more than satisfied with the lawn work. The person he hired was just starting his lawn business and had some good reviews on Nextdoor, the hyperlocal social media site that connects users to goods and services. So Lyons thought the price of $ 200 a month was more than fair for better service.
For the first few weeks, the service was better. But after that, the quality declined and it wasn’t any better than it was before. It was easier to accept a lower level of service when I was only paying $ 125 a month.
Rather than chat with a neighbor at the end of the driveway, as would be done in a more analog age, Lyons decided to turn to Nextdoor for advice. He wanted to poll his neighbors and find out how much they paid. Sure, lawn sizes differ, but most lots are similar in size.
“How much do you pay for landscaping service each month? This would include shrub pruning and some weed control in the beds, ”he wrote on Nextdoor. The survey offered four tiers: between $ 100 and $ 125, $ 125 and $ 150, $ 150 and $ 175, and more than $ 175.
Lyons thought he had paid more than most, but the results surprised him. 69% of respondents said they paid the lowest level, 23% paid between $ 125 and $ 150, and 8% paid between $ 150 and $ 175. But no one paid as much as Lyons: 0 percent paid more than $ 175.
Armed with those results, Lyons texted his gardener.
“My budget just can’t keep paying $ 200 a month, and it really is higher than what my neighbors pay,” he wrote in a text message. “Can we talk about that?”
The owner of the landscaping service agreed to lower its price to $ 140. The Nextdoor survey saved Lyons $ 60 a month.
He continued to use the site for advice on other home repairs. You recently learned from Nextdoor that several of your neighbors were able to get insurance coverage to replace their roofs after a windstorm in your neighborhood that was strong enough to lift shingles.
He decided to go through the process himself and see if his insurance covered his roof. At the same time, he found a roofing contractor who had good reviews online peppered with some bad reviews. He attributed the bad guys to construction: there will always be someone unhappy with the job. But in the two to three months it took for the insurance claim to be approved, Lyons learned that the company had received about 50 complaints with the Better Business Bureau.
Turns out the company had recently expanded into his neighborhood and he was looking for door-to-door work. They hired subcontractors to do the roofing work, and more than one of their neighbors had a new roof that already had leaks. Worse still, the company would not come to fix it.
Lyons learned all of this online. It meant you were able to cover your roof first and then find a better company to do the replacement.
He advises people to use Nextdoor for other services, not just at home. See posts recommending auto repair shops and doctors. He even sees tips for fixing things yourself and saving the consumer a couple hundred dollars.
And now Lyons is a true believer in the power of Nextdoor because of his personal experiences.
“He said, ‘Hey, this is effective. In fact, I can do this, ‘”Lyons said. “It’s giving me some power as a consumer to do my own research and not even trust something like Angie’s List. In fact, I can go and get data from my neighbors about what they are paying. “
Elizabeth Djinis is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.