So in the quest to find a roofer or landscaper who can provide a happy ending, thousands of Hoosiers let their fingers do the walking through Angie's List each year. And now homeowners in Texas, Florida and New York can do the same.
The Indianapolis-based company launched city-specific versions of its home-service business directories in New York and Miami this spring, and more are on the way. By summer, Angie's List expects to offer the customer-based ratings in its 40th market and is on track to hit its goal of 50 cities within a year.
Founded 10 years ago in Columbus, Ohio, namesake Angie Hicks and her mentor Bill Oesterle later moved the company to Indianapolis. They bought Carmel-based Unified Neighbors-a similar service Angie's List was modeled after-and started growing, launching in one Midwest market a year.
The rest is history.
"Our Midwest footprint has become a national footprint," Hicks said.
And the growth spurt isn't just geographical. The company, owned by a group of private investors including Indianapolis-based White River Ventures LLC and Cardinal Ventures LLC, posted $9 million in revenue last year, up nearly 35 percent from 2004.
The Big Apple was an especially exciting milestone.
"New York is a big symbolic moment for us," Hicks said. "If we can do New York, we can go anywhere."
Hicks declined to disclose financial details, like how much it costs to launch the list in a new market, but said going live in New York City was "just like putting a bunch of small cities together at once."
Angie's List will have some competition in New York from a similar product called The Franklin Report, which also is offered in four of its other markets-Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco.
The New York-based Franklin Report prints its directories once a year and sells them in bookstores for about $23. Businesses that have been nominated by customers are included in the directory.
An online component lets businesses pay up to $525 a year for a Web-based portfolio highlighting their services.
Angie's List takes no money from businesses. Subscribers pay about $50 a year to have access to the Internet-based list in their city and a monthly newsletter. At last count, Angie's List had 150,000 subscribers.
Where each Franklin Report includes 1,000 businesses, Angie's Lists average 6,000 businesses. Some cities list more than 10,000 businesses.
It's possible Angie's List does so well because it was the first to offer such a service in many of its markets, said John Galvin, an assistant professor at Indiana University Kelley School in Indianapolis.
And given the work involved in submitting reviews, most consumers aren't likely to support more than one service in most markets, Galvin said, which limits the competition.
He thinks Angie's List can compete with The Franklin Report in the larger markets because those cities likely are large enough to support both.
As cities are added to the Angie's List portfolio, so are employees. Most of the 180 staffers work from the company's East Washington Street headquarters, where a call center supports all but a half-dozen markets and the monthly newsletters are produced.
Bill Corbin, owner of Carmel-based UN Communications Inc. and founder of Unified Neighbors, isn't surprised at the company's growth.
"They're aggressive," Corbin said. "I have to admit it pleases me personally to see that concept make its way around the country since I thought of it in the first place."
And hitting its 50-market mark?
"Beyond 50, there are lots of options," Hicks said. "Maybe international even."