Business: THE HAMMERING HEADACHE OF HOME REPAIRS

As housing prices climb and mortgage loans become costlier and scarcer, more and more people find themselves forced to stay in older houses for longer than they would like. Sooner rather than later, pipes crack, paint peels—and homeowners have to face up to the often traumatic experience of calling in that new aristocrat of the U.S. labor force, the repairman.

Accelerating demand for the repairman's services has turned him into a big businessman; estimates of his yearly volume range up to $12 billion. His business is also the leader in consumer complaints, which...

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