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The Custom Residential Architects Network (CRAN®) Knowledge Community develops knowledge and information to benefit architects who are engaged in, or who are interested in learning more about, custom residential practice. CRAN® presents information and facilitates the exchange of knowledge and expertise to promote the professional development of its  members via discussion forums, national symposia and conventions, publications, and local activities.

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  • 1.  HOUZZ

    Posted 03-04-2017 00:22
    Has anyone on this list ever receive a HOUZZ inquiry from a woman by the name of Camile Dipson, About a week ago, I received an email from this woman looking for someone to stage an apartment for her and her very young family that were moving to the states from London. The request required work to be complete by a very compressed time schedule. In one of her early messages she sent a description and several photos of her family as well as a bunch of catalog cuts of furniture, lighting, window treatments, carpeting, and electronics plus a floor plan of her future home. This message asked for my design fees and the city of my business. She also asked if she could pay me with a certified check. Long story short, the email correspondence I received from her was very disjointed but the payment inquiry was the same. She requested my personal information; "name in full, front door/mailing address in full and a number we could reach me at". She never supplied the address of her future home nor did the floor plan description match what was shown on the floor plan that she attached. This experience was very disconcerting from what is meant to be an online professional community.   I am very disapointed in all of the leads I've received from HOUZZ.

    Does anyone have any similar experiences with Houzz?  Does Houzz block deceptive and/or malicious activities?

    Thank You,

    Kathy Prochnow AIA
    Ocean Springs MS

  • 2.  RE: HOUZZ

    Posted 03-04-2017 08:49
    Kathy, that story is very disconcerting - it sounds like a scammer.

    Thanks for the warning - I've never heard of somthing like this happening before but it is good to be aware it is out there.

    As far as I know, Houzz does not monitor the personal messages sent to people on the site. However, I'm sure they will be responsive if you bring this abuse (assuming it is abuse) to their attention.


    Enoch Sears AIA
    Visalia CA

  • 3.  RE: HOUZZ

    Posted 03-04-2017 15:42
    Hi Kathy and Enoch,

    Yes, I have had a similar experience with HOUZZ.

    Last November 6, 2016, I received a text message from a "Wendy Wilson" asking me if I would be interested in an interior design job and saying that she had found me via HOUZZ.

    I thought it was suspicious as I had not been active on HOUZZ since 2013, though my profile and portfolio were still there.

    And I was shocked that she had found my mobile phone number there.

    I replied to her text, asking her to send more details about the project to my professional email address.

    She did so via an email account "wendy She claimed her husband had found a lucrative job in Katy, TX and they were relocating from London and needed me to "stage their new apartment." 

    I could not find the apartment via a google search and I thought it was odd that someone would want to spend time and money on a mere apartment staging.

    I researched and found the name Wendy Lydia Wilson associated with that email address.

    I, too, was very upset about the situation but did not feel it was any fault of HOUZZ's. ?

    In doing a Google search just now, I came across a blog addressing this new phenomenon of people/scammers targeting home stagers. I'll post a link to it subsequently.

    I have screenshots of the texts and emails from "Wendy Wilson" but I hesitate to share in case it might be a violation of "Wendy's" privacy.

    Anyhow, I agree, this is disconcerting and bothersome and needs to be addressed.

    I will mention it to the HOUZZ rep who contacts me periodically for marketing efforts and let you know what they say.

    Thank you for your courage, Kathy, in bringing this topic to everyone's attention so we can be aware of what's going on and take comfort that we were not alone in being what seems like "targeting".

    Sincerely yours,

    Tara Imani, AIA

    Tara Imani AIA, NCIDQ, ASID, CSI
    Tara Imani Designs, LLC
    Houston TX

  • 4.  RE: HOUZZ

    Posted 03-04-2017 15:50
    As mentioned in my previous response to Kathy Prochnow, AIA, NCARB, NCIDQ, here is a link to the blog post on the new problem of scammers targeting interior designers/home stagers:

    Email scam targets home stagers

    If you read the 69 comments, you'll see others who have had similar experiences with people using other aliases and as recent as 2/8/2017.

    Email scam targets home stagers
    Home Staging Business Report remove preview
    Email scam targets home stagers
    In case you were still wondering how many people have heard of home staging, here's further proof that this is a well established field. It seems the scam artists are starting to crawl out from under their rocks to see if they can con home stagers into sending them money!
    View this on Home Staging Business Report >

    Tara Imani AIA
    Tara Imani Designs, LLC
    Houston TX

  • 5.  RE: HOUZZ

    Posted 03-05-2017 00:32
    Tara, Enoch -

    Thanks for the replies and for the scammer link.  Many of the posted messages match, even down to the exact wording, to the email inquiry I received from HOUZZ.  With this experience, I have lost my trust in HOUZZ for being a viable source for my business.   If HOUZZ is unable to filter out this kind of malicious activity from happening, what good are they.  I am very disappointed that I wasted my time on such a scam.  This reassures me that the best clients are found at the local level and not online though social media.

    Kathy Prochnow AIA
    Ocean Springs MS

  • 6.  RE: HOUZZ

    Posted 03-05-2017 14:51

    I completely agree with your assessment. I'd like to take it a step further and call HOUZZ what it is: thinly-veiled usury of the talents and magnanimity of interior designers and architects to become yet another "Joss & Main" or "Wayfair"- an online retailer- to the sole benefit of themselves at the expense of our industry's beneficence.

    For example, they draw us in by encouraging lay people to pose their most difficult design dilemmas- and who among us can resist solving a design problem?! Not me, on many occasions. Only, this is for free, at the expense of our time, effort, focus- further diluting our industry's integrity and professionalism.

    Secondly, they have created the nebulous "Best of HOUZZ 2016" (or any year)-- based on the online efforts of any designer who takes the time to post good pics of their work and garner online reviews and recommendations from clients and others. This, too, draws us in and yet offers no return on investment; a sheer exercise in futility.

    Thirdly, HOUZZ reps send us (this has been my experience) countless requests via email to "set up your preferred profile" or "learn how HOUZZ can help you find clients." (loosely paraphrased.

    I have been reticent to take advantage of these email offers or to even speak with a rep because I've heard nothing but "sob stories" from other innocent interior designers, one of which said - in a continuing education seminar- that she "spent $3,000.00 on ads with HOUZZ and received zero ROI."

    It concerns me that the AIA leadership would align our professional organization with a company that seemingly has no intention of helping our members -- but have primarily succeeded in profiting by pilfering off of our free services and time wasted online to build their website with our 'holographic' landing pages.

    If anyone has had a good experience with HOUZZ, I would like to hear about it.

    Thank you,

    Tara Imani, AIA, NCIDQ, ASID, CSI
    Registered Architect + Interior Designer

    Tara Imani Designs, LLC
    10333 Richmond Avenue, Suite 170
    Houston, TX 77042

    Work/Mobile Ph: 832-723-1798

  • 7.  RE: HOUZZ

    Posted 03-06-2017 08:48
    I am responding in defense of Houzz which has been the most lucrative marketing platform for my office over the past several years.  My practice is in an affluent, suburban Maryland county just outside of DC and at least 90% of my clients are at minimum, casual users of Houzz.  I would also say that 15 to 20% of my homeowner clients have found me on Houzz and contact me after viewing my site and reading my reviews.  These clients then create and share their "Ideabooks"  with me which is extremely useful in understanding their ideas and what makes them generally feel good.

    My Houzz rep contacts me once a month to review how the site is working, makes recommendations, reviews my dashboard and informs me on what new features are available on the platform.  She does an awesome job for me.

    Although I have not had a malicious contact through Houzz, We all deal with similar scams through email, through our websites and through calls to our offices,  Obviously, we all need to be aware of these predators but we cannot blame Houzz.  They are not only good for us an individuals but they are a good supporter of CRAN.  

    John Lehman AIA
    Lehman Associates, PC
    Highland MD

  • 8.  RE: HOUZZ

    Posted 03-07-2017 17:30
    I agree with John.  I am one of the early adopters of Houzz.  It has been the most effective marketing for my firm than print advertising and other social media.  I have gotten several jobs in areas outside of my normal practice area.  I've even been told from clients they hired me because I was very responsive to questions asked of me on Houzz.  One thing that did bother me was people asking what color a room was painted.  My Houzz representative informed me to tag the color so they won't bother you.  But I still put a disclaimer that particular color can look totally different based on tree cover, orientation, etc.

    I also use it with clients.  They can search the site and send me idea books which are very helpful when designing custom homes.

    Christopher Rose AIA, ASID
    Christopher Rose Architects, P.A.
    Johns Island SC

  • 9.  RE: HOUZZ

    Posted 03-08-2017 18:09

    Our experience has been similar to John Lehman's and like Chris Rose, we were early adopters of Houzz.  We have found it to be a great tool in marketing our experience, portfolio, services, etc. - and quite useful in interacting with clients through the creation of ideabooks as a visual aid.  Certainly, we get some interesting questions from time to time about finishes, fixtures, furnishings and colors, but all-in-all we have no regrets about our relationship with Houzz.


    Scammers are everywhere these days and one must be cautious about blaming the vehicle exploited by the scammer to conduct his or her grift.  The parental guidance, "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is" should always be in the back of your mind when dealing with prospects and the public.


    John Robert Edwards,  AIA, NCARB 

    Associate Principal  I  Studio Leader

    LS3P | Neal Prince Studio

    110 West North Street, Suite 300, Greenville, SC 29601


  • 10.  RE: HOUZZ

    Posted 03-07-2017 17:41

    I am also responding in defense of HOUZZ.  Not only has it provided me with many clients but those clients have done their research (on HOUZZ) and are able to communicate their ideas to me so much more effectively!  I also ask my clients (if they haven't already) to start an Ideabook to gather their thoughts and ideas.  This enables us to get inside their head and more fully understand their goals.  I have also used it myself as a communication tool if I want to convey a concept that is hard to explain....I can pull up an image relatively quickly that can more effectively communicate it. 


    In a few short words.....HOUZZ has taught our clients the LANGUAGE of building and design.

    Suzie Van Cleave, AIA


    Revised email template


  • 11.  RE: HOUZZ

    Posted 03-07-2017 22:47
    Thanks for all of the replies on your HOUZZ / online network experiences. I never gave any personal information to Camile since she never replied to my very basic design questions. So I am glad that this scam ended early. Now that I know that these scams are typical, they will be much easier to spot. For my other HOUZZ contacts, they were really just wishful dreamers looking for some free advice. Each one of these leads I meet in person and I agree that this is required to seal the deal. Body language says a lot about a client. I agree with Edward, most people really interested in hiring an architect are through a local acquaintance and these acquaintances are totally unaware of HOUZZ.

    In general there are far to many misconceptions on what an architect does. The first impression I get from people is that if you hire an architect you have to be rich and they believe that the sole purpose of an architect is to make something look good and looking good doesn't really matter too much anyway. Teaching the public seems to be a constant and sometimes arduous task in this profession.

    Kathy Prochnow, AIA

  • 12.  RE: HOUZZ

    Posted 03-08-2017 09:42
    I second the "defense" of Houzz. 
    I am a solo-practitioner and a lot of my clients use Houzz as a resource for sharing ideas. Also, even through my free profile, potential clients are able to see my portfolio, read reviews and even ask questions of particular project or products.
    Yes, I may have gotten a scam email thru their platform but the same has happened through other platforms. Fortunately, it's pretty easy to tell if the email is a scam or not. 
    Even if i have doubts, I just reply with a short email and leave it at that. 
    For those starting in the architecture practice, I would encourage to use Houzz with the same caution you would use any other online tool. 

    Ileana Schinder

    My website is here! 

  • 13.  RE: HOUZZ

    Posted 03-08-2017 14:10
    I am in my second year working with Houzz. Working with them has made a difference. More this year than last. I've already closed 5 contracts this year based on Houzz profile contacts. Prior to actively working with them, it was a place I felt a need to have a presence, but I never received any work. You do have to load photos, you do need to get reviews, and you do need to answer questions sent your way about your work. Your profile isn't going to manage itself! It is rapidly becoming the most effective marketing platform that I've found to date. If you don't want to dive into the freeloader questions then don't!

    Robert Ross, AIA
    Ross Design, Inc.


    Website Email      

  • 14.  RE: HOUZZ

    Posted 03-07-2017 08:50
    At least he/she didn't say she was a Nigerian Prince... Scams abound.  A close personal friend who has worked for Microsoft for over 20 years told me there is more illegitimate than legitimate emails in cyber space.  So as a qualified President once said " trust but verify"

    Stephen Ruben
    Business Development
    Manhattan Renovations
    New York NY

  • 15.  RE: HOUZZ

    Posted 03-06-2017 23:34
    "This reassures me that the best clients are found at the local level and not online through social media."
    Hi Kathy... do make a strong statement.
    I just wanted to say that "online through social media" may not be the boogie man broadly viewed here.

    True there are scams everywhere. We each must be diligent in our own vetting of project opportunities.

    The issue, in this case may be more truly related to the unfettered, or unfiltered net the Houzz site casts to their viewing public.
    A professional business (well any business at all) must target very specific and narrowly focused groups that fall within their own control.

    Not only do you want to introduce the viewer to who you are – your brand. You want to speak directly to that tightly focused audience from which you want to hear.

    Most businesses today have an online presence in the form of a website. Architects typically have a “portfolio” website (like Houzz) showing pictures of projects they’ve completed or are in the process of completing.

    I will venture to say almost all, if not each and every one of These Sites Have Absolutely No Way Of Knowing Who Has Come and Gone To Their Web Pages.

    You need to CAPTURE LEADS, the leads you want, and build a list of interested visitors.

    Hope Is Not A Strategy...and scammers tend to feed on it.

    Stephen Seitz AIA
    Seitz Architecture
    Springfield IL

  • 16.  RE: HOUZZ

    Posted 03-06-2017 17:51
    On the surface Houzz looks like a great marketing tool for residential architects and designers.  My experience is that, while it is good for a design professional to have a Houzz presence, very few people do online searches for architects!  And very few people select architects based on portfolio and expertise - the way WE would go about hiring an architect.  At best, architects get personal referrals from previous clients and builders.  But, in many cases we get hired because were someone's neighbor's nephew!  Which means a lot of people put NO THOUGHT into hiring an architect!  For example, I got  hired to design a restaurant.  I had never designed one. When I asked how the client got my name, He said, "My dad is retired and works part time at the golf course doing maintenance.  He knows Kenny D ( a contractor) cuz Kenny golfs there.  Kenny D gave your name to my dad, and that's how I got it"  He didn't look at my portfolio.  He didn't ask if I had ever designed a restaurant before.  But he hired me! 

     Beware of Houzz and Home Adviser.  In my experience, very few people hire architects through these avenues or other online searches.  

    Edward J. Shannon, Architect

  • 17.  RE: HOUZZ

    Posted 03-07-2017 12:56

     Here is a message from Liza Houzman at Houzz regarding the scamming issue: 

    Hi everyone - you are not alone in your frustration. There are internet scammers from other countries targeting businesses of all kinds who have a public presence online. These scammers mention strong brands like Houzz for credibility. 


    Houzz has systems in place to try and stop messaging that comes through the Houzz platform (messages in your Houzz inbox) but can't control texts and emails that don't come through Houzz. 


    If you are concerned that a person contacting you is a scammer, you can report that person to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center

    If they mention that they found you on Houzz, let the Houzz Legal Operations team know by contacting us at We do file complaints in response to these issues, but they are a far higher priority if the person that received the text or email files the complaint directly with the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

    There is a discussion thread we've started in the pro-to-pro section of Houzz discussions with this information. You'll need to be logged in to your Houzz account to access it.  

    Liza Hausman

    VP Industry Marketing, Houzz

    Also something to be considered that Houzz has given us a free webpage to show off our work and a huge audience. They also are a partner of AIA and do a lot for CRAN by videoing all or our Symposium and live streaming it all over the world. They also sponsor some of our events. I get scammed all the time. We must be diligent in looking at things that are sent to us and reporting abuses when they occur. 

    Thanks, John L Stewart AIA 2017 CRAN Chair

    John Stewart AIA
    Stewart Associates Architects
    San Carlos CA

  • 18.  RE: HOUZZ

    Posted 03-07-2017 14:22
    This is awesome info. Thank you. And I especially appreciate the links.

    Best regards,

    Tara Imani, AIA, NCIDQ, ASID, CSI
    Registered Architect + Interior Designer

    Tara Imani Designs, LLC
    10333 Richmond Avenue, Suite 170
    Houston, TX 77042

    Work/Mobile Ph: 832-723-1798
    Twitter: @Parthenon1

  • 19.  RE: HOUZZ

    Posted 03-06-2017 18:00
    I had a recent inquiry from a "Tony Richard"; a similar request except that he needed help designing a house.  He too was hearing impaired (hence the lack of a means to reach him personally), bad speller, etc.  The clincher was that he asked if I took credit cards. I haven't heard back since I told him I didn't.  I'll know in the future not to take any time answering.

    Tomas Hart AIA
    Hart STUDIO llc
    Denver CO