Would you ever liken shopping for a home-improvement contractor to the ease of buying a pair of shoes online?

Me either. But a Trevose start-up is out to make it so.

ServiceWhale Inc., afloat since April in the Philadelphia region, expanded to New York in November and plans to offer services in Boston and Washington by the end of 2016.

"We're kind of like a combination of a Priceline and Angie's List," said Aaron Rovner, vice president of business development and marketing for the company of 15 employees, half of whom are in Russia and Denmark.

Its ServiceWhale.com platform includes pricing from nearly 200 contractors. "It's really creating that full e-commerce solution for home improvement that has not been done before," Rovner said.

With $2.5 million in backing from an international group of six angel investors, ServiceWhale.com enables homeowners to get instant custom quotes and order projects at fixed prices from only contractors who are licensed to do business in their state.

While the genesis was consumer-inspired, ServiceWhale's developers have found that contractors - most of whom are small businesses - also are enthusiastic about the matchmaking help, citing the benefit of promising leads without the typical hours-consuming process of visiting potential customers to provide estimates that often don't result in actual work orders.

Digital advertising can also be fruitless, yet it costs contractors $12 to $25 a click, they say.

ServiceWhale, not yet profitable, aims to cut through that wasted effort and expense with an online marketplace of contractors providing immediate quotes.

"It started as my own personal frustrating experience with home improvement," said founder Dmitri Saveliev.

The 45-year-old Princeton resident, who has an extensive Silicon Valley background in information-technology development, needed a new heating and air conditioning system for his 2,000-square-foot home.

His search for contractors to install one - compiled from neighbors' recommendations and big-box stores - required meetings at his home that would last an hour or more, often with a salesperson rather than someone who would actually do the work.

With quotes ranging from $13,000 to $15,000, Saveliev said, he wound up putting the project on hold for a few months before ultimately finding someone to do the job for $6,500.

Unlike the abundance of opportunities for online comparison-shopping for televisions, cars, and hotel rooms, "I realized there is no true market for home improvement," Saveliev said.

Thus began much research and development before Saveliev was satisfied with the patent-pending quoting technology at the core of ServiceWhale.com and MyServiceWhale, a subscription-based widget that allows contractors to instantly generate job quotes directly from their websites rather than solely relying on visits to ServiceWhale's site.

The model is applicable to a range of projects, including HVAC, flooring, roofing and painting. It also offers contractors who aren't confident enough to give instant quotes based on ServiceWhale's pricing models an opportunity to have direct conversations with shoppers before sealing any deals.

Consumers don't pay to use ServiceWhale.

From contractors, the company collects 10 percent of each completed job resulting from a match through ServiceWhale,com but not from the self-service MyServiceWhale. The widget costs $300 a month, available month-to-month with a 30-day, money-back guarantee.

Disputes arising between customers and contractors will be between them to work out, but ServiceWhale will "do everything in our power" to help ensure jobs are completed and payment is made on time, Rovner said.

Air Done Right L.L.C., a small five-year-old HVAC company in Germantown, is using both ServiceWhale options. They are valuable help in connecting with potential customers in ways that any fledgling business would have financial difficulty doing on its own, said Racqueal Howard, who co-owns Air Done Right with her husband, Jermaine.

Winding up as just one among many contractors providing quotes for a particular job on ServiceWhale.com is not a turnoff, Howard said: Without it, "we wouldn't even be at the table." Three to five customers a month are coming to Air Done Right through ServiceWhale, she said.

To further help bring consumers and contractors together in home-improvement matrimony, ServiceWhale plans to offer financing through a partnership with Lending Club by the end of March.

dmastrull@phillynews.com

215-854-2466@dmastrull