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Online match-maker seeks joint venture with RIBA

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Improveline.com, the online client and contractor match-making service, is planning to approach the RIBA over a possible joint initiative.

The London-based company wants to tap into the RIBA's contacts with architects to increase the practices winning work through its service.

Improveline.com's approach could boost the RIBA's own struggling client/architect matching system - the Clients Advisory Service.

The service fell £150,000 short of its budget last year and has come under fire for running at a high cost, while failing to match most enquiries. Plans for its future are due to be set out officially in July and include a proposal for greater use of the Internet.

'There are areas where there could be joint initiatives using Internet tools, ' said Improveline. com marketing director Charles Pearce. 'We can bring our expertise using Internet-based tools to the RIBA. We're promoting our service aggressively and they are not - it's a funding issue. It would be constructive if they would embrace the idea that we are giving architects work.' The company plans to approach RIBA president Marco Goldschmied in the coming months.

The Improveline. com site allows homeowners to find an architect or contractor by submitting their project details to a central database of professionals, which then matches the job with architects or contractors in their area. About 600 enquiries are made each day.

But architects last week told the AJ that Improveline. com overcharges in return for matching them up with clients. Architects pay Improveline. com a fee depending on the value of the job and this could mean that about half of the architect's fee is taken by the website.

Altrincham architect Neville Wadsworth, who received an unsolicited approach from Improveline. com to pitch for a loft conversion earlier this year, branded the idea of paying for work 'nonsense'. He said: 'From the cheeky attempt to get me to agree to pay it £1000, it seems that it hopes to join the dotcom millionaires' group. It would be getting paid more than the architect.'

Pearce admitted that the fee structure applied to architects might be wrong and said: 'We can certainly improve on how this is communicated.'

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