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“This seems way too good to be true. Is it legit?!”

by Prince Of Petworth April 18, 2016 at 3:45 pm 22 Comments


“Dear PoPville,

I recently bought an unfortunately pink house in Northeast DC that I am looking to have painted. I received a job quote from a reputable company for $14,000 and from a local handyman for $4,500. Paintzen, a NYC startup that was cast as the Uber of house painting by a Wall Street Journal blogger, quoted me $2,200. This seems way too good to be true. I’ve been scouring the internet/Yelp/house blogs for evidence of a scam but am coming up with nothing but rave reviews. Paintzen requires a 10% deposit at booking, but they won’t provide me with a contract or invoice prior to payment other than the initial quote that was embedded in an email. Has anyone else used this service? Is it legit?!”

  • Timebomb

    I don’t know anything about Paintzen, but venture capital-infused startups often sacrifice profitability for marketshare. “Disrupting” the painting services market using a software-streamlined platform seems like a pretty good idea that could capture a good deal of marketshare before needing to turn a profit, so this is all pretty rational (and being an early adopter can be a great deal).
    But that’s just a possible narrative for why this could be a good deal. It might still be a bad experience for you. Companies like this are a mixed bag. The service might be awful and/or they may fail to pivot to profitability and go under. Those are basically mutually exclusive hurdles.

  • Jack

    If the wood is in good condition and you used a high quality paint with built in primer such as Sherwin Williams you are getting a steal at $4,500 in DC. If the wood is in bad shape and requires lots of filling, replacement, etc…the price would be higher.
    You could paint that house for $2,200 with low quality paint , no primer and minimal to no prep-work and it would look god for 2 years tops. Then the peeling, bubbling and cracking would start.

  • anon

    definitely doesn’t look like a scam, but that doesn’t mean they’ll do a good job. i’d be curious as to their customer service, as it’s easier to mess up an exterior paint job than an interior one. but then again, you can hire them about 7 times over before you get to the cost of the more reputable company (which does sound way overpriced, btw). i’d be curious for you to follow up with your experience if you pull the trigger with them.

  • Formerly ParkViewRes

    It’s not a scam, but as they say: you get what you pay for. The $14,000 quote seems insanely high, whereas $2,200 seems really low. And as anon points out I’d be a little pickier about the painter since it’s the exterior and not quite as easy as interior. When getting quotes for home renos, maintenance, etc I usually get 3-5 quotes and almost always go with one of the middle of the road quotes.

    • Timebomb

      Since they’re working on an Uber model, they’re just sourcing from other providers, including possibly the service providers who gave the other two estimates. Since they’re trying to gain marketshare and are mostly funded by super-rich investors, and their platform is predicated on immediate on-demand service, they probably pay whatever they have to to get a person in there to paint on the requested day.
      So, you aren’t really getting what you pay for. Paintzen may very well take $2200 and then turnaround and pay $4500 or $14000 on the back-end to get the work done. Startups are crazypants that way. It’s basically how “disruption” works; once the company has a good deal of marketshare, it can raise its prices a bit and put the screws on providers a bit to reach some equilibrium and eventually profit. If they’re successful.

      • Formerly ParkViewRes

        That makes sense. But personally I’d rather pick the paint company myself. So basically you’d be trusting Paintzen to pick a reputable, good company.?

        • Timebomb

          Yup. In exchange, you get convenience and a huge discount. Definitely a risk. I bet you could get a great deal one day and an awful one the next and there’s no way to know what you’ll get.
          This argument could probably be made for a lot of these services, though. I could post a Craigslist ad for someone to make a grocery run for me, and vet the person. Or I can use Instacart and let technology do all the work for me (and possible get a crappy Instacarter). The one big diff with Paintzen is that it’s already a service area that people readily offer and give quotes for. And it’s something you need done very infrequently. Maybe there’s a company that would be more analogous than Instacart, but I can’t think of one.
          Incidentally, this might be why Paintzen fails.

          • Timebomb

            I should note, on the topic of risk, I bet Paintzen would refund you entirely if the experience was bad enough. So the risk is mostly about time.

          • JoDa

            I think the real risk here is that they do *just* good enough of a job that you don’t complain/demand a refund/etc., and then the paint starts peeling 2 years from now when Paintzen is belly-up because they could only get “marginal” contractors, and you’re out a *total* of $6700-16,200 to get the job done right on the second go-around. There are many reputable “middle men” companies out there that can negotiate better deals by bringing volume to their contractors (the one I always rave about is eMove – run by UHaul – which has a really good set-up to deliver you high-quality moving help at a very reasonable price (including picking your service provider and only accepting reviews from clients who have booked and paid for the service through their website)). This one doesn’t have enough of a track record that anyone can say with much confidence whether it works.
            Given the expense to even do this once (even at Paintzen’s “deep discount”), much less have to re-do it, I’d avoid for now. If you’d be willing to chalk that $2200 and your time up to “experience” if it goes poorly, maybe your answer is to give it a crack. I guess it depends on whether $2200 is money you’re willing to 100% risk. I tend to cap my “nothing ventured, nothing gained” amount below that, but that’s a totally personal decision.

  • transplanted

    Paintzen, a NYC startup that was cast as the Uber of house painting by a Wall Street Journal blogger, quoted me $2,200.
    The bulk discount on a billion gallons of “hipster grey” is no joke.

  • gonzodc

    my friend angie (she has a list, you know) has only two reviews. both positive, so huge grain of salt.

  • madmonk28

    I wouldn’t expect a lot of attention to detail at the lowest price level. I would expect the scraping and prep work to be minimal. I also get about 3-5 bids for work on the house and there is always that one price that is too good to be true and experience has taught me that it always is too good to be true.

  • ke

    Wow, that’s interesting. It looks like you’re hiring PaintZen’s contractors, not PaintZen itself…. I generally believe in the “you get what you pay for”/”if it looks too good to be true, it probably is” schools of thought. And $2200 seems awfully low. Will they provide information on their and their contractors’ license and insurance coverage? I also think it’s kind of sketchy that they won’t provide a contract prior to the deposit.

    If you’re really curious and have another room to be painted, maybe you could try PaintZen for something smaller, so your risk is minimal. If you do use them, please report back!

    • Timebomb

      Good idea to test out, but they’d probably send a totally different service provider out the second time. Maybe you book a small task and get the card of the person actually does the job, then just call them directly next time and tell them what Paintzen is quoting you.
      Depending on how Paintzen is handling compensation, giving them Paintzen rates directly on a slow day might be a welcome deal for the service provider. Or it could be a terrible one. I’d be curious to know.

  • Jamin Jimmy

    I painted houses during college. My boss priced things really low and paid us shit and barely trained us. You get what you pay for.

  • A

    You know outdoor paint is around $50/gallon…you’re probably looking at a grand just on materials

  • Uber of house painting? That seems like a really stupid analogy for them to use. The concept of using subcontractors is nothing new.

  • Julie

    Can’t you just ask for a reference?

  • Anonymous

    The company is clearly “legit.” But that doesn’t mean you will be satisfied with the paint job.
    I would ask for references. I would also ask whether the job is warranteed and if so for how long and for what kinds of issues.
    It’s hard to categorically say that any of the other quotes are unreasonably high in an absolute sense (they are certainly high relative to Paintzen’s quote) without some info about the house being painted. A freestanding home with latticework, shutters, and window trim is going to involve more work (and presumably cost more) to paint than an attached rowhouse.

  • HaileUnlikely

    How does this model compare to when you pay Home Depot to “Get it Installed?” I know far too little about PaintZen or Uber or how painting contractors do business to know whether this is even a reasonable question, but my understanding of the Home Depot model is basically that they quote their customer a fantastic-sounding price and then find some poor sucker who will work for that price. I don’t have any idea the size of Home Depot’s cut or even if Home Depot might take a loss sometimes in the interest of getting the work done, but in my experience, both “Getting it Installed” and reading reviews, that this often yields an unspectacular result.

  • v

    painted my house for about $2000… Pink is lovely, just saying


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