For homeowners faced with the never-ending list of things to do around the house — scheduling maintenance appointments, locating receipts and contact info for handymen, even paying monthly bills — Hinged just may be the solution.
The Westport company’s signature product is a cloud-based professional property manager that can oversee an entire property’s needs. Homeowners sign up for a complimentary home inspection, after which data about a given property — not just the size and specs of the house but also types of appliances used, extra accoutrements like swimming pools, and other facts — are used to create an online profile.
Hinged then can be used to schedule maintenance and repairs, suggest fully vetted professionals — plumbers, electricians, landscapers and the like — and maintain a tracking and analysis of spending.
The company began about 18 months ago, according to Hinged co-founder and CEO Tye Schlegelmilch. Relocating to Westport from New York City, Schlegelmilch thought “there had to be a better way, from a technological standpoint, to manage the household and let you spend more time enjoying your home,” he said.
Schlegelmilch’s business venture followed a 16-year career in finance, where his most recent position was as co-chief investment officer for Fortress Investment Group. The move from Manhattan “was for the usual reasons,” he said, “a desire for more space for my growing family — I have three boys — a backyard for them to play in, good schools and so on.”
“That all worked out well. What I didn’t anticipate was the massive amount of time that it would take to manage a house and property. Between my daily commute to New York City and trying to spend time with family, I found it nearly impossible to find the time to play telephone tag with contractors, schedule them, pay them, etc. That’s when I had my light — bulb moment and decided to completely pivot in my career, to leave the world of finance and draw on my technical background to solve this problem for myself and other homeowners once and for all.”
Realizing the need for input beyond the tech aspect, Schlegelmilch turned for input to area homebuilder Bill Green, who had built the Hinged mastermind’s house. A short time later, Green was hired as co-founder and chief operating officer.
“The idea made sense,” said Green, “but how to do it was still something of a mystery.”
Many first-time homeowners suffer from “a kind of paralysis when they move in,” Schlegelmilch said. “It’s a case of, ‘I know what needs to be done, but how do I go about doing it?’”
With homeowners able to sign up and use the system for free, Hinged makes its revenue from its service providers, all of whom receive thorough background checks and are fully insured. Schlegelmilch said the company receives “a nominal percentage” from each service provider after each order is completed.
Homeowners can input their own favorite service provider or avail themselves of Hinged’s suggestions. Green noted that for many services, three to six suggestions are generally available; for less specialized tasks like house painting, several more may be listed. All listings include average costs to the homeowner.
“It’s like LinkedIn, but for your house,” Green said.
“This is about providing solutions for homeowners,” Schlegelmilch said. “We don’t want to overwhelm a homeowner with dozens of listings — that’s something you can get from the Yellow Pages.”
Providers are expected to schedule an appointment within a two-hour window, which they’re encouraged to update via text or the customer’s preferred means of communication as their schedule allows. “Having them show up on time is critical,” said Schlegelmilch.
Customer feedback through a rating system also tends to cut down on scheduling mishaps and other errors, Green added. “Every single time so far they’ve been on time,” he said of service providers.
Hinged also handles invoicing and the payment process, “so the homeowner hears from us if payment is due,” Schlegelmilch said. “For the service provider, we’re freeing up someone on their staff to focus on growing the business rather than invoicing.”
With an office at 49 Riverside Ave., Hinged employs five full-time staff and has more than 100 service people covering Fairfield County. Following a soft launch in January, the company now has a couple of hundred homeowners signed up, according to Schlegelmilch, and is expanding into Westchester County from a satellite office at 777 Westchester Ave. in White Plains.
Ultimately, Schlegelmilch expects to expand into the Hamptons and further into New York and throughout the Northeast. “We anticipate having homeowners in the thousands in the next six months,” he said. Typically it takes Hinged eight to 12 weeks to open a new territory, he added.
The company is seeking to form strategic partnerships with insurance and mortgage companies to improve home maintenance and preserve a property’s value, and with Realtors. Brokers can offer a free Hinged membership in advance to househunting clients early in the process and perhaps help them avoid that “paralysis” of new homeowners.