Marianne Schaefer in Bricks & Bucks
Chad Schlegel lives in a large co-op on the Lower East Side and works in digital marketing. When the hot weather moved in, he decided to install a ceiling fan in his apartment.
“I think of myself as a handy guy,” Schlegel says, “but I had to find out the hard way that I’m really not as handy as I thought I was.”
Schlegel turned off all of his circuit breakers, but somehow he touched a wrong wire and his whole apartment lost electrical power. He had no idea how to fix the problem. His co-op has its own community website, and he remembered that people were constantly asking if any of the neighbors knew of reliable contractors. But when Schlegel turned to the co-op’s website he found, to his frustration, that there was no helpful information.
“There was no search function for past answers or any recommendations from my neighbors, nothing,” Schlegel laments. “I gave up on the co-op’s website and finally found an electrician through Yelp. I got so frustrated with the co-op’s website that I decided to fix it.”
So Schlegel created Chadslist – a spreadsheet in Google Docs that makes it possible for all of the co-op’s residents to recommend contractors. “The spreadsheet will tell you what kind of work was done, how well it was done, and which contractor did it,” Schlegel says. “I also encourage people to allow visits from their neighbors so they can judge for themselves how well a certain job was done. Having several recommended vendors at your fingertips also allows for competitive pricing.”
Chadslist has grown to such an extent that Schlegel had to add listings for specialists, including plumbers, electricians, handy people (small jobs and repairs), and installers of windows, balcony enclosures, and flooring. There are also listings for dog walkers and cleaning personnel.
“We were remodeling an entire apartment in Chad’s co-op,” says Chingis Selvin, manager of the general contractor Phoenikx NY. “As soon as we were recommended on Chadslist we were asked to go and look at another apartment in the co-op. Most likely we will begin to work there in September.”
Ellen Silverstein is the shareholder whose apartment Phoenikx NY was gut-renovating. “Chadslist is a great way to get personal recommendations from people within your community,” Silverstein says. “Because the list is used by neighbors living in your building, you can conveniently make arrangements to see the contractor’s work. And a contractor who has experience working in your building becomes familiar with the building’s construction, the maintenance department personnel, the office managers. A contractor who’s familiar with the construction of a building can give his client a more realistic estimate of what the job will cost because the contractor knows what’s behind the walls. There will be fewer surprises.”
Why shouldn’t shareholders use an established service such Craigslist, Yelp or Angie’s List?
“Well,” Schlegel says, “every building has its very own needs, restrictions, and bylaws. People should be able to talk to somebody who has pretty much the same apartment, the same tiles, the same floors, and the same regulations. Every building should have its very own list of contractors who know the building well.”
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