Homebound homeowners pursue remodeling projects
| June 10, 2020
Like other sectors of the housing industry, remodeling services have experienced a substantial drop in demand as a result of health and safety concerns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, being confined to home has given owners plenty of time to think about improvements they’d like to make.
Now with parts of the country beginning to open up, remodelers in some areas are seeing an increase in inquiries and project scheduling, suggesting activity may resume fairly quickly once conditions allow.
Although gaining momentum at the start of the year, demand for remodeling services began to slide toward the end of March when the first stay-at-home orders began to take effect, then tumbled in the following weeks. According to a new report from Buildfax, existing housing remodel volume plummeted 33.83% year-over-year in April.
More than 90% of remodelers surveyed by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in April said concerns about the coronavirus had notably slowed homeowner inquiries and their general willingness to undertake home remodeling projects. In total, 84% said homeowner concerns had resulted in project cancellations or delays, including nearly half (46%) who said the impact on their business was major.
On the positive side, a survey of 1,000 homeowners conducted by Houzz during the last week of April found more than half of homeowners who were in the midst of a home renovation or design project when the pandemic was announced in mid-March were able to continue with the project. Only 1% said they had cancelled a project. Of the remaining 47% who decided to put their project on hold, 40% said they intended to resume work at a later date.
As might be expected, homeowners in parts of the country not as severely impacted by the virus as others were more likely to continue their projects. Projects with the highest priority were home offices and master bedrooms, followed by kitchen and bath remodels, reflecting the change in lifestyle resulting from home confinement. Among those who chose to continue with their project, 75% worked with a professional.
Even more promising for the industry, nearly four out five of homeowners surveyed said they were considering future home remodeling and design projects now that they have spent a considerable amount of time in their homes, with about one in three contemplating major outdoor, kitchen and bathroom projects. Others are planning minor upgrades and improvements to the interior, such as new décor or improved lighting.
Research conducted by the Farnsworth Group and the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) in mid-April shows nearly two-thirds of homeowners had started on a new home improvement project while being confined to home, and others said they were likely to do so in the coming weeks. These homeowners primarily planned to do the project themselves, in part because they had concerns about having a contractor working in their home. That sentiment could change depending on how the impending recovery proceeds.
Results from the latest National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) Pulse surveys indicate an upturn in homeowner interest during the past couple of weeks. More members are reporting an increase in demand for design and builder services, and fewer are reporting a decrease in demand.
The NKBA attributes the rise in activity in part because where states have begun loosening restrictions on businesses remodelers and contractors have been allowed to resume work in people’s homes — a trend that is likely to continue in the coming weeks.
Business is far from normal for most firms still. Yet, these findings suggest that the industry has turned a corner and can anticipate growth in demand during the third quarter.
Owners are eager to make improvements to their homes to take advantage of the summer weather and before the next school year and flu season start. If home sales recover as well, that will give an additional boost as sellers and buyers increase demand for renovations and upgrades.
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